Monday, April 20, 2015

Visitors and good times, Orchids, horseback, lava, an accident...

It’s been about 3 weeks since I have posted an entry.  And that was on  

I have given up on the Live Journal site after wasting multiple hours trying to adapt to it's convoluted way of auto saving, handling photos and videos.  BUT, for those of you who have not read about building our hose and our first year of adventures in building a new home in Costa Rica, as well as many stories and information on places we have visited.  If you are interested in more things Costa Rica, give the old site a try. And be sure to come back here as we continue recounting our adventure, which will be posted here at from now on.

Arenal Volcano as sunrise begins to bring the world back to life...
And sunsets remind us of the beauty that awaits us tomorrow...

The last few weeks have been exciting.  First, a visit from John's daughter, Brenda that we wrote about last time, then a visit from Cynthia, a dear Saugatuck friend.  A week later,  with Susan’s daughter Shawn, her husband Jeff and our two granddaughters Emmy and Ally arrived for 5 great days. Finally, a trip to Nicaragua to renew our Visas. 


Cynthia arrived by small plane at a tiny airport near La Fortuna, only a 45 minute drive from our house.  The flight costs about $50 each way, but it saves us a 4 plus hour drive and at least $75 dollars in gas each way if we would have picked her up.  Perfect price for one or even two people.  Lots more time to enjoy each others company.  Lots less time in a car.  A great way to get a different view of this beautiful country.

We ventured to where the small nearby airport was supposed to be.  Not least not someplace we could see.  Drove by again.  There is the bar that is near the airport.  We stopped in.  The front of the terminal is a bar/restaurant, that we have driven by many times.  Had no idea there was an airport here as there is no view of the runways, and no indication of what may be behind the trees.  In the back of the building is a dance hall with tables, chairs and two ticket counters.  One is for Salas Airlines, the other for Nature Air, the one Cynthia arrived on. 

We got there 45 minutes early...Cynthia's plane arrived 20 minutes early.   The plane left 10 minutes early on the next leg of the journey.  Apparently the lesson to remember for these small Costa Rica airlines is to be sure you are there early or you might miss your flight.  Cynthia said the flight was fun…flying low, about 4000 feet, the scenery was spectacular.  There appears to be a 2 week flight package which allows you to take any flights you wish during that two week window for a set total fare.  Might be a great adventure.

The Arenal Butterfly Conservancy

Our time with Cynthia was great.  We started with the Arenal Butterfly Conservancy…still one of the best tours we have been on.  I know it does not sound that exciting, but trust is.  So much more than the typical butterfly cage that you walk around in.  There are 4 butterfly houses, each geared to a particular Jungle location,  Also excellently trained docents, who explain all about the lives of butterflies, reproduction, host plants, and more.  There is a frog house with Red eyed tree frogs, green and black poison dart frogs, and many others.  Great walking trails, beautiful plantings of native Costa Rica plants, all combine to provide an excellent way to spend a half day.  They propagate all their own plants, often from seeds or cuttings, and they are one of the few butterfly places in the world that raise all of the butterflies on site  that are part of their exhibits.  If you go early morning you will be able to see the newly hatched butterflies as they are released into the appropriate habitat. 

In addition to the butterflies, lizards and frogs, the grounds feature many special tropical plants.

One of the host plants for only one butterfly, the nickname for this plant is "Hot Lips"

The Beautiful Passion Flower

The Green and Black Poison Dart Frog

The Arenal Hanging Bridges

 We visited the Arenal hanging bridges, a beautiful three hour walk above and within the tree canopy tweaked to become even better with wildlife and floral sightings...

Spider monkeys paid us a special visit on the trails...

And flowers many unusual (at least to us Michiganders) treats.

It was good to see Susan and Cynthia together.  Friends for over 25 years, 
they were both smiling every time I saw them.

"Our" Waterfall

The walk to “our” waterfall is about a 30 minute walk in each direction, plus whatever time you wish to spend by the convergence point of two rivers.  It is within the National Park, and only accessible from the property that surrounds us…basically our house, the Parrot Hill Ranch B&B and Birdsong B&B.  It is a unmarked private place, secluded, and quiet except for river, waterfall and other nature sounds.  You are there alone.
Always a nice place to go.  The 3 of us ventured to the waterfall one afternoon, and spent good time near the rivers and the falls.   On the way to the falls, Susan’s rubber boot split open in the back, and her foot got soaked.  That should have been a warning sign we recognized. 
The path to the waterfall near our house.
                                                          Enjoying the quiet and the beauty.

                           Susan looked so happy in this photo I had to post it someplace.


On the way back, trying to avoid walking in the water because of the hole in her boot, Susan tried to step on top of some rocks to keep her foot dry.  She slipped, falling backwards.  I was positive she had hit her head or back on the rocks...she did not.  But her left arm flailed to the side, landing on another rock and hit hard.  Big bruise.  The next day was Saturday and the arm began to hurt more and by Sunday we felt it might be broken.  We put it in a makeshift splint till we could get to the city to a hospital with an X-ray which we did on Monday.  Yep…broken.  Saw an Orthopedic Doctor Monday afternoon and he put it in a hard cast for the next 4 weeks.  

 The Lava Fields...and an "Orchid Village"

The Lava field walk needs a bit more explanation.  We originally came to this lava field trail at the suggestion of a lady we met a few weeks before while eating ice cream in La Fortuna.  She was leading a group of German tourists and said the walk was wonderful but the Orchid bloom amazing…she was right. This is on private land adjacent to the Arenal Volcano National Park hiking trails.  There are two trails…one about 4 Km the other 8 Km.  We have only walked the short one.  It is long enough on a hot sunny day. The trail reaches the lava flow from the big eruption of 1996.  But it is not the kind lava flow I expected.  This field is one of the main flows and it is filled with Huge rocks that either shot out of the volcanic eruption or rolled from the volcano during the eruption.  And it is miles long.  After the eruption, all plant life in this entire area was destroyed.   It was barren.  But now, some 50 years later, life has returned.  There are trees and plants, flowering shrubs, and ORCHIDS.  Wild orchids appear from the rocks and what looks like bloom cycles happen.  On this walk, we saw four different kinds of Orchids, but just 10 days later when we took the same trail with the kids and grand kids, the orchid bloom was so different.  Ones that were rare on the first trip had hundreds of blooms scattered along the trail.  An amazing place and an amazing adventure.
                                                              The Tropical Lady Slipper

                                            Only a   few of these on this trip

                                                                        Many of these

                              And these tiny but beautiful miniature orchids are all over...

                  A glimpse of the huge lava rock formations that cover this entire area

Kids and Grand kids arrive

10 days later Susan’s daughter Shawn, her husband Jeff and the two Granddaughters Emmy (almost 14) and Ally (11)  arrived for 5 great days.

         Horseback riding at Parrot Hill Ranch   

Off to a two hour ride, up hills, in the Jungle and a visit to a secluded waterfall.

                 Milked cows and fed some of the animals at Parrot Hill Ranch as well, 
                                       a GREAT B&B for kids and families to stay.


 On our second trip to the Lava Field, the orchid bloom had changed.  The beautiful white (and shades of purple and pink)  Sobralia Orchid was everywhere…hundreds, maybe thousands, of blooms dotted the trails leaving everyone almost speechless.   Yes, it was raining for part of the trip, but the raindrops sure enhanced the orchid photographs.

 A Sobralia Orchid
 Sobralia Orchid tripdic
  A Sobralia Orchid in purples
 An Arundina graminfolia

The Guarianthe Skinneri, with its clumps of pink blooms had thinned a bit from the previous trip, but were still around. 

The one not in my plant book is the tiny orange or red orchid which seems to be everywhere in this area and these trails are no exception. 

The Phragmidedium Grande, the tropical Lady Slipper changed from frequent sightings just a few weeks ago to rare on this trip.

And of course, the youngsters went zip Lining with SKY...

 Great safety equipment and good training on how to do your zip...

A tram ride to the mountain top to start the 1.5 hour journey down 7 long zip lines, one is 1/2 mile long
Coming in for a landing...

Always a smile
We visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges, another of our favorite walks
A good combination of walking att the canopy top
And spending time on the Jungle floor
Seeing the size of some of the old growth timber

A visit to "our" waterfall is a critical part of the adventure

Walking on the trail

At the falls

A look at the river

A visit to Asis

A beautiful animal rescue place where Emmy and Shawn had a chance to help feed the recovering creatures and Susan having a chance to hold a snake was another highlight...

Kelly's and The Happy Place

We ate Home made meals of Costa Rica tamales, ate at Kelly’s La Ventanita de Kelly, a special small Costa Rica Restaurant near us in El Castillo, and visited a new Soda on the way to San Carlos, the Happy Place where giant wild Iguanas visit daily for lunch and one of the best Casadas (A typical Costa Rica Meal) we have had anywhere.  

This guy is at least 6 feet long when you include his massive tail.  There were at 5 of this size and larger having lunch and several smaller ones.

A major house update

Finally we can drive into the carport...

At long last, the carport is tiled and the lower turn-around part of the drive is in place and finished.  So much better for us and for our visiting friends.   Now there a bunch of little things to do, and one major part...the extension of the stone wall which will change the architectural look of the house significantly.  We hope that is started soon.


Each time I add to our blog, I close with a number of new photos...Birds, bugs, birds, volcano views...Hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them...

This little Collared Aracari  visited for the third or 4th time...taken from our terrace.  I love this bird as he looks like he is always ready to get into trouble.

Growing wild by "our" waterfall...
Does this bloom look like a parrot going to a party or what?

One of the prettiest Hibiscus I have our garden

 An ever blooming Iris-like plant in our garden

A shrub in our garden...called a Shrimp bush

A parrot that lives in the neighborhood posed for me one morning

We found this guy on the terrace one morning...he looked like a solid gold stick pin...

A wild flower arrangement from a nearby tree

A bloom from the Butterfly Conservancy

                                           Another of the many moods of Arenal Volcano
                    Thanks for spending some time with us today...hope you come back...
                    let us know what you can post comments on this site.

                                                           Susan and John