Saturday, June 2, 2007

20. The End (6/2/07)

Saturday, June 2, 2007
Oh, no! We have to go home today. We brought our packed suitcases when we went to breakfast so that Enrique could get them loaded on top of the bus. Breakfast was gallo pinto (you knew that was coming!) with cilantro, and scrambled eggs. We were scheduled to depart at 8:30 AM, but since we were all ready, we left before 8:00 AM. Completed our bird list on the bus - we had seen over 200 species of birds on this trip!
Took Highway 32,
Highway 32
the major route between San Jose and Limon, a port city on the Caribbean coast. Passed a palm plantation where palmitos (hearts of palm) are harvested. Intercropped with Melina Trees (Gmelina arborea - wood used for wooden pallets).Today we would travel from an altitude of 100 feet above sea level to 9,000 feet over the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range). We would be passing through all the climate zones of Costa Rica, all encompassed by the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo (Braulio Carrillo National Park), named for the first president of Costa Rica (1910).
Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo
Went through the only tunnel in Costa Rica.
A very large tunnel
The weather was clear and sunny, not the usual for the wet season where fog, rain, and thus landslides are expected. Passed where clear and brown waters of two rivers merged. Saw a double waterfall. Knew we were at 4,000 feet because of the Poor Man's Umbrellas.
Once over the mountains we entered the Central Valley
Central Valley
with its pines and Mexican cedars. 
Passed the National Soccer Stadium.
National Soccer Stadium
Arrived at the outskirts of the capital city of San Jose.
San Jose
The tallest building in the city is the National Bank, built to withstand earthquakes.
National Bank to the right
Saw a huge domed building, can anyone identify it?
Mystery domed building
At a stoplight, there were beggars and someone selling lottery tickets in the street.
Dangerous business
Saw McDonald's, Burger King, Domino's Pizza, Church Chicken, and Papa Johns.
McDonald's and Domino's Pizza
We arrived at the airport at 9:30 AM.
Distributed our tips to Jimmy and Enrique as they passed us our luggage. In the terminal we followed signs to the right to pay our departure tax of $26 each, in our first long line of the day. Didn't realize there was a shorter line if we had turned left!
Joined the long line for check-in. Got halfway through when Jerry called us forward to make sure his whole group got on an earlier plane. Our scheduled 12:00 PM flight was delayed until 1:35 PM, but we were put on the 12:30 PM American Airlines flight.
The man checking boarding passes and passports gave Brynne the eye and a big hello. But then I got a big "Hello, Lady!" Okay, so he's just friendly! Next the security line.
Thanks to leaving earlier than planned, we had plenty of time for lunch. Went to Schlotsky's for smoked turkey sandwiches and sodas. Can't even get Schlotsky's in Jacksonville anymore!
Window shopping, restrooms, then the mass crowding to board the plane. After having our boarding pass and passport checked again, they had us open our carry-ons in the jetway. Couldn't take any bottles on the plane. As we boarded we were given a brown paper bag: snack of a muffin and dried fruit mix. Since we had changed flights, we had assorted seats throughout the plane.
Arrived in Miami about 5:00 PM local time. We had to wait in a line immediately after de-boarding to have our passports checked in the hallway. Then the wait for baggage before going through passport control and customs. We went through security once again to head for our gate for the 8:35 PM flight to Jacksonville. We also had time to grab a Pizza Hut dinner.
Back in Jacksonville, said goodbye to our wonderful group trip-mates, and drove home arriving before midnight.
And that's the end of this saga.

Friday, June 1, 2007

19. Charla (6/1/07)

Friday, June 1, 2007
We had a short siesta at Selva Verde Lodge
Brynne on our balcony
before meeting at the Learning Center
Learning Center
at 5:00 PM for a Charla or "chat" with a local artisan. Again Grant translated, this time for Lida, a Nicaraguan immigrant
Grant introduces Lida (Photo by Linda)
who was grateful for the opportunities the Learning Center provided. She had some training as an artist and did paintings on canvas, on linens, and on recycled paper she made herself.
Lida shows her artwork
With the earnings from selling these items, she is able to buy supplies to do more paintings. She told about herself (her husband and children work on a pineapple plantation) and that they came to Costa Rica for a better life because of the war in Nicaragua. She answered questions, then provided refreshments of coffee and rice pudding. Many of us bought her wares.
Back at Selva Verde, a cooking class there was just ending in the outdoor classroom area. We were able to sample a tortilla filled with chopped hearts of palm, chiles and cilantro, and they also had patacones.
We had a group photo taken.
The group
Being the last night, Jerry & Linda had us write down our five favorite things from the trip. It was hard to choose only five things!
Dinner was vegetable cream soup, salad, fish with garlic sauce or meatballs in tomato sauce, potatoes, mixed vegetables, broccoli, and chocolate cake for dessert.
Kent & Brynne "in" the dining hall fish tank...
Next: 20. The End.

18. Tirimbina Biological Reserve (6/1/07)

Friday, June 1, 2007
At 1:15 PM we boarded the bus again and headed to nearby Tirimbina Biological Reserve/Tirimbina Rainforest Center.
Tirimbina sign
This center was opened in 1995 by the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Wisconsin Nature Center. The area was selectively logged in the 1960s and thus is an example of rain forest regeneration.
New growth
It is an active research and study destination; a 741,300-acre private reserve reached by two suspension bridges of 876 feet and 364 feet over the Rio Sarapiqui (Sarapiqui River).
Suspension bridge
Rio Sarapiqui
Between the bridges is an island. Looking out over the island, we could barely see Greater White-lined Bats (Saccopteryx bilineata) hanging on the underside of a large branch. Needed binoculars to see the white lines. Saw a breadfruit that was not a breadfruit because it has seeds and thus is a Breadnut (Artocarpus camansi).
Our guide was Sergio who carried field guides. We crossed rickety bridges
Rope bridge
(Photo by Linda)
and came to red marker on the trail.
A red marker means snake!
This meant there was a venomous snake. Huh? ...OH! As we made a detour around the marker, you could finally see the  (Porthidium nasutum) directly under the marker!
Rainforest Hog-nosed Pit-viper (Photo by Linda)
Guides go out early on the trails to find and mark dangers such as this. Thank goodness!
Made you realize how many venomous snakes we probably passed during all our hiking!
Sergio found a small tree with its large leaves sort of folded down. It was the home of tent-making bats. Some people saw something when they peered up into the dark undersides of the leaves - Tent-making Bats (Uroderma spp.).
Sergio with a termite nest
Came to the buttressed base of a Kapok Tree (Ceiba pentandra)
Base of Kapok tree
and circled it on a boardwalk. It was full of epiphytes
Dripping moss
and you could not see the top, nor could I identify which leaves belonged to the tree!
Along the path were parts of nuts with bright pink flesh from the Canfin Tree (Protium panamensis).
Canfin seed
Nicknamed "kerosene seeds" because the oil is flammable and they smelled like kerosene. Jimmy asked permission to light one up,
Jimmy lights a canfin seed (Photo by Brynne)
but they were on the dry side. However, they did flame up for an instant.
Termite trail
Stilt Tree (Photo by Linda)
Back at the entrance we went to the gift shop. Outside were several cages of parrots.
Returned to Selva Verde.
Next: 19. Charla.

17. Jungle Cruise (6/1/07)

Friday, June 1, 2007
Today we were birding at 5:30 AM.
(Photo by Linda)
I had definitive sightings of two trogons, the Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus)
Violaceous Trogon (Photo by Linda)
and the Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena). Also the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambigua), Brown-throated Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax), Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis), Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata), and even Brown Boobies (Sula leucogaster) which were flying high overhead towards the sea.
After breakfast of gallo pinto and eggs over hard, we went out to see a Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) in a tree near the dining hall! Awesome view through the scope.
Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Photo by Linda)
Feeding the fish while waiting for the bus
I purchased a wood carving of a sloth from a local woodworker demonstrating his craft at Selva Verde.
Sloth carving
We boarded our bus at 8:00 AM for our boat trip on the Sarapiqui River. 
Brynne saw a running basilisk from the bus window. These lizards run on their hind legs. 
In the town of Puerto Viejo we saw the Pali market which is owned by Wal-Mart. Yes, the employees have their pep rallies every morning, shouting, "WalMart, WalMart!"
At the other end of town we arrived at the tour boat dock
Boat dock
where we waited for a boat to come alongside.
Boarding the tour boat
(Photo by Linda)
We motored upriver to see iguanas in the trees. Every once in a while an iguana will fall out of the tree into the water, but they are good swimmers. We saw a couple swimming iguanas.
See the iguana head in the water? (Photo by Kent)
Saw ornamental banana trees with birds all around, the Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas).
Ornamental banana trees
Other birds seen were an Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), Mangrove Swallow (Tachycinetea albilinea), Green Heron (Butorides striatus), and the exciting find of a Sungrebe (Heliornis fulica).
The Sungrebe is hard to spot!
We turned around to head downriver
It's a jungle out there!
and passed a tree with several small Long-nosed Bats (Leptonycteris nivalis).
Long-nosed Bats (Photo by Linda)
The driver of the boat maneuvered the craft as close as he could and turned the boat around for the people on the other side to get a good look. Also saw howler monkeys (ho- hum!) and the back and tail of a Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) hidden in tall grass.
Small green fruits fell off the trees and floated down the river alongside us.
Floating fig
These were Chilamate figs, named for the area in which we were. Even fish eat these fruits and we saw a couple get snatched from the water's surface.
Chilamate Fig (Ficus glabrata) (Photo by Linda)
I was getting so sleepy, I just wanted to lie down across the back seat of the boat. I thought it was the effect of taking pain medication for my knee, but others were lulled into sleepiness as well. But then it was time to return to the dock and we went full speed ahead, kicking up a nice wake.
Speeding back
Dock is multi-level depending on water levels
Back in town (Jimmy pointed out his house down one side street), we stopped at a souvenir shop.
Typical town street
Souvenir shop
It was mid-morning and there were long lines at the bank.
First day of the month at the bank
The Group of Five went window shopping down the street, and we followed to the first import store which had appliances. Cute little washing machines, computers, cameras, etc. There were a dozen yellow-shirted employees who came up to help each of us. Sorry, just looking!
Learning the work ethic?
Lunch back at Selva Verde was salad, breaded fish or lamb, with mustard or tartar sauces, white rice, zucchini, spinach souffle with mushrooms, and flan for dessert.
Next: 18. Tirimbina Biological Reserve.