With minimal Spanish skills, we ventured into Costa Rica for its Cloud Forest, beaches and its active volcano. This is a favorite destination for eco-trekkers and surfers.
Our first test was after our plane stopped at a landing strip in Tambor, on Costa Rica’s west coast. Before the pilot would let us aboard, he weighed us. Groan! There were four of us, another man and the pilot. The plane was crop-duster-size, like the one that chased down Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”
We’d barely landed when the fifth passenger bolted from the plane, leaving his baggage and heading for the only car there. He tried to snag our ride. Good thing I’d called ahead.
Our driver, Gilberto, gave us a quick tour of his community and the school where he learned English. On our travels, he stopped and showed us a huge iguana sprawled across a tree limb high above the road. The iguana turned his head slowly, gazed steadily in our direction as if to acknowledge us, and then ignored us as we continued on our way to Montezuma, a village on the Pacific Coast.
Our hotel, Amor de Mar, had a view of a tide pool bigger than some swimming pools. But no one ventured into it to swim other than a dark, moving mass of crabs. The hammocks beckoned, promising a blissful snooze. After lunch, we did just that.
By dinnertime, we took a leisurely stroll to an open-air restaurant. Food was cooked outside over a wood-burning grill. Dave, always the adventurous one, had shark. The rest of us had honey-glazed chicken. Our dinner was lit by candles, a fire and the stars.
The next day, after breakfast, we went horseback riding with Deanne Sharer, a Florida State University grad and former St. Petersburg resident. Her Catahoula, Leona, kept pace with us as we trotted thru the village, up into a wooded area and down onto the beach.
Her horses rested under shade trees while we scaled rocks to get to a waterfall and pool. At the top, Deanne sliced open fresh pineapple and speared a slice for each of us. The juice trickled down our faces, and I can’t remember having one sweeter than that – ever.
We stayed a day or two at our hotel before Mauricio drove us to Monteverde Lodge near the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had to wait in line for the ferryboat. It took 1½ hours to cross, another 2 hours on the road after that. The ride was torturous because it was over rocky road.
The highlight of our ride was when Mauricio spotted an iguana crossing the road and a black Toucan in a tree. The memories of that jarring ride just melted away when we got to the hotel, relaxed in its jacuzzi, and basked in the hotel’s first-class cuisine and service..
The next day, we toured the tropical forest. It was raining, but the forest’s canopy acted like a huge umbrella. One of the guides spotted a Quetzal, an exotic bird, the most beautiful in Central America. It has a green crown. Its top almost looks like a brush cut. Its chest is red. The males have long, green and blue tail feathers.
We heard monkeys, but I was the only to see one scramble down a tree. Hummingbirds were also fluttering about around the feeders. Our guide, an ex pat, apparently didn’t know the names of many of the plants and referred to them as “houseplants” or “in the family of.” We still chuckle about that.
Back at our lodge, seven white-nosed Coati foraged around the grounds for insects. They didn’t seem to be fazed by our presence. They walked up the hill and went by us like we weren’t there.
On the road again. This time a four hour ride to Arenal Lodge, a private reserve, about 5 miles from Arenal volcano – which is active.
Theoretically, our rooms and the dining area had an unobstructed view of the volcano. We heard rumbles and thought we saw orange flashes – indications of seismic activity. But, heavy, persistent cloud cover prevented us from seeing the cone-shaped volcano
During our 18-hour visit there, our thoughts were always on the volcano. I recall this was our only disappointment when we vacationed in Costa Rica that December.
Some day, I’d love to go back to have a clear view of the volcano, revisit the places we’d been, and again talk with the friendly people who live there.
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Video – Arenal Volcano Eruption at night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkwT_EK_xh4
Photo – Costa Rica – Arenal volcano at night – taken April 7, 2006 by Scott Robinson (Clearly Ambiguous) from Rockville, MD, USA http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/83/Arenal_at_night.jpg/640px-Arenal_at_night.jpg
Photo – Costa Rica – Quetzal bird – Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – A male Resplendent Quetzal photographed in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa – taken Oct. 19, 2008 by Dick Bos http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Bosfoto_Quetzal.jpg
Photo – Costa Rica – Green Iguana up a tree – taken Feb. 17, 2013 by Charlesjsharp http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/44/Green_Iguana_Arenal.JPG/640px-Green_Iguana_Arenal.JPG