Monday, May 18, 2015

Nicaragua, friends, Visitors, The Springs, The Beach, Short trip back to Florida


Actually, we waited a bit too long to renew our Visas.  When you come to Costa Rica, almost everyone receives a visa good for 90 days.  But if you want to stay in country beyond that time, you must leave the country for 3 days, then re-enter and receive another 90 day visa.  Somehow our timing with visitors (that is just an excuse...we just did not pay attention to what needed doing) had us to the point where we had to leave the country and re-enter only a few weeks before we had to leave anyway to return to Florida.  Our favorite way to do this is to drive to Los Chiles, do the paperwork, hop on a boat for a two hour river trip to Nicaragua, pay some fees, and get on the 4PM boat back to Costa Rica.  The only problem with this plan is that when you get back, it is almost dark, and the road back is one I do not care to drive at night.  So, we needed a place to stay.  There is only one good hotel in Los Chiles, and amazingly, all 35 rooms were full.  But a friend of a friend took us under her wing and let us stay at her home.  We're constantly amazed at the generosity and compassion of the people of  Costa Rica.

Here a few pictures of the boat trip...

And a few from San Carlos, Nicaragua

 Canons still show from an old fort guarding the harbor.

Northern Jacana.  
Look at his feet.  His toes are so long he can walk on top of lily pads without sinking. 
We photographed him on the Caribbean coast last year.

A Magnificent Purple Gallinule 
Same general family, with similar feet...a treasure to see and photograph


Bougainvillea...everywhere in Costa Rica these amazing trees have been planted...the flowers are bright and colorful and light up the landscape. This plant is very close to our house and makes a wonderful greeting as we approach

Our volcano was waiting...
And the terrace was inviting and peaceful as well


Ryan and Rebecca were the operators of Tres Cabras, a restaurant within walking distance of us who started as an unknown and quickly became the number one eating place within 20 miles of us.  They had that fast rise because they were great people who cooked amazing food at a reasonable and fair price.  But they decided it was time to move on.  Back to Canada, then back to travel, probably someplace in Europe.  For some reason they kind of adopted Susan and I (think Grandpa and Grandma) and we all became good friends.  They stopped by with another friend, Nick, just before they left.  Not sure where or when, but we feel sure our paths will cross again.

Left to right...John, Ryan, Rebecca and Nick in our garden

The main visitors season is almost gone.  Next starts the "Green" season, a pleasant way of saying more rain.  Not yet the time of all day and all night rains...that will wait mostly  till October.  Now much of the rain will come at night, or for a small part of the day.  The world that surrounds us is green and beautiful.  Plants begin to show the results of several months of building roots.  They thrive.  We now have three banana trees building beautiful bananas.  Others are not far behind.  The bougainvillea we planted a few months ago that seemed to be doing nothing, but in reality were building powerful root systems, are now showing what they have been doing by sprouting new growth and starting to bloom.  (Did you know that bougainvillea is not a vine, but a tree?  I did not, but it is true.)  The daily winds are calmer now, the temperatures a bit warmer...days in high 70's and low 80's, evenings  high 60's to low 70's.  Still magnificent playing and sleeping weather.   But this is Costa Rica...Pura Vida!

The highlight of the last few weeks was a visit by dear Saugatuck friends, Dawn and George.  We had a wonderful time...hearing of their new home in Florida and of showing them what we have spent the last year creating here.  After arriving in Costa Rica, they spent a few days at Peace Lodge and gardens, one of the premier luxury spots for Costa Rica visitors.  That was followed by a few more days at The Springs between our home and La Fortuna.  We visited them at The Springs several times, ate together, explored together, enjoyed friendships together.  From there, they stayed with us for 3 days.   and then we all went to the pacific coast for three days as the last leg of their Costa Rica adventure.  Lets see some of the highlights.


An amazing place.  Rooms out of a dream world with a private warm water small pool for each room.  Spas and pools, hot water springs, over 130 acres of trails through the Jungle, professional plantings beyond belief, lots of wildlife, wonderful restaurants, a staff that is friendly and helpful beyond belief, golf carts to transport guests around the property and so much more.
Here are photos form just a few hours of walking around the grounds while Dawn, George and Susan were having what was described as an amazing massage...

   A few photos that give an idea of the floral treats that surround things at The Springs

 Yes, these bananas are pink...and eatable...and sweet
 Notice how they grow opposite of the green bananas...this stalk and the bananas point up...the traditional yellow ones point down...fascinating

Just as impressive are the various springs and waterfalls within the complex.  
Guest can have their choice of many places, each more unique than the last.  And these are just three of the very small ponds, all with natural heated water from the Volcano.

Other views from around the complex.

And of course some birds...
Another treat...The female Great Corassow...

And on the branch near by...the male Great Curassow.

This chestnut Mandibled Toucan came over to check me out

Always perky...always a joy to see.


After leaving the Springs, we spent several days at our house.  We ate home made Costa Rica Tamales wrapped in Banana leaves for dinner on the day they arrived, ate at Kelly's Little Window, still one of our favorite places to eat in this area, had another meal at the local "soda", cooked some meals at home, visited the Butterfly Conservancy, relaxed on the terrace, and talked a lot.  It was one of those special times with special friends.  No pressure, no agenda, no need to have an activity every moment.  We also prepared for our up coming trip to the Pacific coast.

One of the most fascinating creatures at the Butterfly Conservancy 
are the clear winged butterflies.
 Each has wings that are absolutely transparent allowing them to blend in with their surroundings and making them almost invisable to potential prey.

As with many places here, the grounds are covered with beautiful plants and flowers, 
all of which are propagated in their own nursery.

 The butterflies come in all sizes and shapes and colors, 
and each species seems to have something in their shape or color that provides safety

This vine, once established, seems to grow ever larger 
with these beautiful orchid-like blooms covering the vine year-round.

Take a guess...the answer is in the final paragraph...


We started the 4 hour drive to the Pacific coast as Dawn and George's last stop before heading back to Michigan, as well as our return to Florida for a few weeks.  We had beautiful weather for a drive, minimal traffic and headed to Tamarindo, one of the first tourist developments in this part of Costa Rica.  Known for surfing, it is also a tourist town.  Lots of resturants, shops, surf board rentals, and pretty much anything else one could want is there.  We stayed at Cala Loma, a beautiful resort that Dawn had booked for all of us to stay.  We shared a beautiful 2 bedroom 2 bath Villa, with a private heated pool in the back yard, and only a short walk to the beach.  There was also a large heated pool, with a hot tub and several outdoor bars and great dining.  A special place.

The beach by the hotel is not really a swimming beach, although some people did.  it is more of a Volcanic rock, deserted wild beach.  It is a great place to take pictures, watch the tide, see birds, and relax kind of place.  The surfing is really a few miles back in Tamarindo or a half mile in the other direction to a place where a river runs into the Pacific.  But the waves and surf are combine in a sensory collision of peace, crashing waves, and visual mind painting.  

Pounding Surf is a part of the Pacific scene.

A high tide hides much of the volcanic lava formations
But at low tide, the extent of the lava  becomes apparent.
This is taken from almost the same spot
 Storm clouds move in

A couple watches a peaceful sunset on a deserted beach.

Constant wind and hot temperatures make even beach front trees fight for survival

An Oyster catcher peeks from behind a volcanic rock formation.

 A beautiful Wimbrel...I must be migrating.

Desolate beauty creates a special place.

The Geckos  lead a hard life here with many predators looking for them constantly.

There are many Geckos of every imaginable size on the beach.

A Great White Heron joined us as he ate lunch.  Bad manners...he did not offer to share.

The resort is beautiful.  Amazing rooms, beautiful grounds, plenty of space to do most anything, close to town...

The dining facilities as well as the grounds are beautiful, 
the staff amazing, the experience special.  

A perfect place for breakfast...and lunch...and dinner.  every meal was delicious.

This White Breasted Magpie Jay was constantly at someone's table.  A pest, but you have to admire how strong his survival instincts are...notice that his left foot is missing.  He is surviving quite well.  If you turn your back when he is near your table, he will fly in, grab a piece of food and fly off.  But he did not eat the food...he had a place nearby that he could stash it.  He dropped it off, and immediately came back to the restaurant.   He learned that there was food there for only a limited time, so he did not take the time to eat...just to steal...knowing he could eat his plunder later. 

We ate most of our meals at Cala Luna, first because the food was very good, and breakfast was included.  And it was hot outside as the coast always is...all the restaurants were outdoors.  We could have room service and eat in Air conditioned comfort while the world around us was sweltering.  

We did, however, eat one evening meal out, and had amazingly good food at the Langosta Beach Club.  Great service, interesting food, fun place.  Had hoped for a table at the beach, but as fate dealt the cards, there was a wedding there that evening and the beach front seating was not available. 
 We were blessed with a large family of Howler Monkeys that passed through our "neighborhood" daily.  Once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.  One afternoon, we all got out our cameras and spend 30 minutes taking monkey pictures.  Somehow, no matter how often you see them, they are still a treat.  And this family had three very small and young babies making the event even more special.  Look at the titles for the pictures...remind you of your kids when they were just discovering life?


Mom watching, protecting from behind

Short attention span

"I have an Awesome Mom!"
 "What's out there mom?"

The grass is always greener


Shortly after Dawn and George headed back to the states, Susan and I came back to Florida for a bit of R&R.  Had some shopping to do, some meds to pick up a doc visit, new eye glasses, a restock of Chocolate and a few other things to take care of. 

Florida presents many great photo ops, so we will close today with a few Florida birds...

 A Tri-colored Heron in Breeding colors...

A Skimmer...skimming as only they can do.  These birds feed by flying close to the water and dropping their lower beak into the water as they fly, scooping up small 'things' near the surface.  The only bird that has a massive underbite.  The only way this would be possible.

Here he is with his beak out of the water so you can see the underbite.

A stork dropped by last evening, just before sunset.

A beautiful Great White Egret, also at sunset.

 A Laughing Gull flies by...

This small diver is fun to watch, and right now abundant.  But I have not yet found out what he appreciated...

That's it for now.  We will be back in CR soon and will write next from there.  Our first few days in Florid were wonderful, but suddenly the temperature rose and we both longed for the cool evenings and pleasant days of our new home....

Susan and John