Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Monday, February 27, 2023

Day 10 : Costa Rica and Panama…

Today we splashed around in water. A lot. And found a secret beach. 

It was always going to be a rest day today. And as we are in a nice eco lodge right on the coast we thought we’d grab a book, hit the bar, and see if we could get those toes in the sand. 

The lodge didn’t seem to have its own beach however we hear rumour at breakfast of a hidden beach somewhere - completely cut off at full tide so timing was everything. Our interest was piqued. 

To warm up water-wise, as it were, we jumped into the hotel pool (which of itself was surrounded by jungle) for Stuart to practise his butterfly and me my doggie-paddle. Let’s put it this way, I’m not sure we’ll be competing in Paris 2024. 

Then we started to explore along the coast looking for this mysterious beach. We found a trail that lead through dense jungle. The path rose up and fell away as we navigated all the surface roots and various trees (and animals) barring our way. After about half a mile we came across a very steep descent and we heard the crashing of waves. Sure enough we’d found it. All but deserted, a beautiful tropic sandy beach cut off from the outside world. The water was the warmest we had every experienced. 32C or more. The waves lapped our toes and we splashed around in the water in the sunshine. 

We found a cave too with crabs climbing the walls. They scurried away as we approached. Fabulous. 

After an hour or so the belting heat of the sun got the better of us so we climbed back up the steep incline from the beach into the jungle and retraced our steps back to our lodge. 

Not content with our dips in both swimming pool and sea we had also heard there was a third place to go and swim. A ‘posa’ (basically a river rock pool) with cool clear fresh water. Sure enough we found the trail to that too and dived in. Bracing at first but then deliciously cooling in the tropical heat we swam and splashed about. An idyllic spot. 

Having sated ourselves in chlorinated, salty, and fresh water we did eventually head to a bar. Not least to actually drink some water. We were parched. And have some food. 

The afternoon was restful. The cocktails cool. And the sunset as glorious as the previous night. 

Time for bed. For tomorrow we head further south still. 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Day 9 : Costa Rica and Panama…

Today was a travel day. Leaving the lush green behind us we made the dramatic decent from the cloud-forest, across the continental divide, and down to the Pacific coast. 

The Pacific coast is hot. Very hot. Sunny and hot. 😎

We were travelling south. Right along the ocean front of the Pan-American Highway - for hundreds of miles - passing beach after beach. 🏝️ 

We stopped off to stretch our legs at Rio TΓ‘rcoles for the opportunity to see crocodiles swimming in the river below. Boy, there were some whoppers. 4-5m ones. We stayed way back. 🐊 

Eventually we reached Uvita - our home for the next couple of days. Where we intend to do…. absolutely nothing! 🍹 πŸ“– πŸ₯˜ 😴 

It turns our hotel is a bit “White Lotus”. Well, off-white Lotus. Sadly no Leo Woodall yet though. 

Great sunsets too!

Day 8 : Costa Rica and Panama…

This morning we were back exploring the rainforest - sorry, correction - the CLOUDforest. 

The distinction is important. The forests in this area are high up. So high up in fact that they are literally in the clouds. So the water vapour that makes up the clouds swirls around the flora and fauna. So it’s a lush, wet, misty green wonder. In the clouds. 

The particular forest we headed to today was the relatively young (and reclaimed) Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. I say reclaimed. It used to be dairy land, but just 47 years ago the government bought the cow land back and let it go wild. Which makes it slightly younger than Stuart. Yes, I got a side-glance when I pointed that out. 😁

The forest sprung back up really quickly though - proving how quickly reforestation can happen when nature is allowed to take its course. And the apex predator in these parts, the jaguar, came back too. Which proved to all and sundry the forest is ´viable and healthy’. 

So bathed in the mist and alive with dangling vines and wide-girthed tree trunks, we explored the relatively new cloudforest Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. 

And we sure saw loads of wildlife - much of it endemic (ie uniquely Costa Rican):

Yellow stripe-sided palm pit-viper 🐍 
Red tailed wood creeper 🐦 
Costa Rican warbler 🐦 
Summer tanager 🐦 
Blue jay 🐦 
Pygmy flying squirrel 🐿️ 
Thrush 🐦 
Grey-breasted wood wren 🐦 
Prong-billed barbet 🐦 
Slate-throated redstart 🐦 
Collared restart 🐦 
Tufted flycatcher 🐦 
Red-faced spinetail 🐦 
Silvery-fronted tabaculo 🐦 
Ruddy treerunner 🐦 
Azure-hooded jay 🐦 
Northern Emerald-Toucanette 🐦 
Ochre wren 🐦 
A rather sexy looking stick insect 🦯 
Black Guam 🐦 
Yellow wish flycatcher 🐦 
And last but not least the Olive flycatcher 🐦 

Midway through our trek we were above the clouds and it sure got windy up there. We had to hold on to our hats. And our glasses. 

Once back down in the lower areas we dried ourselves off, had some lunch, and planned our afternoon adventures. 

We hit on the idea of visiting one of the local sugar, coffee, and cocoa plantations. What’s not to like?

Sure enough we found one nearby. And had a couple of hours being schooled in sugar, coffee, and cocoa production.  

What we learned…

Sugar: Comes from cane (around here). It’s related to bamboo. It’s invasive. It gets cut down when it’s 5m high. It is fun to watch it being crushed and it makes great caramel. 

Coffee: They plant two coffee plants next to each other - the competition for water, nutrients and light mean they both grow faster. 
Ripe coffee berries are red. When dried black. When shelled, white again. When roasted back to being black. 
The best coffee beans are the peaberry (only 1 bean per berry). 

Cocoa: the fruit looks weird, it’s fermented, dried, roasted and ground in a similar method to coffee. It makes very nice chocolate brownies. 

After we had sampled all they had to offer we headed back to our favourite gay microbrewery in the hotel grounds for gallos (cheeky yet yummy snacks) and a few pints. They had a local musical act on too. All very big-ho. We clapped along. 

Tired, we decided on an early night. 

Another super day of fauna, flora, and fun. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Day 7 : Costa Rica and Panama…

Today we left the volcano behind us and crossed the Arsenal lake in a launch to the beautiful Monteverde Cloud Forest area. 

Green rolling hills, rainforests, blue skies, glorious sunshine and we settled on a great Swiss-style hotel perched up on a hill with an equally great view.

The room was fab. And after a beer (and lunch) we wander around the grounds and luckily for us found the hotel had its own microbrewery. Not only that, it was running an afternoon beer tasting. Sorted. Eight lovely beers all brewed on site. Wait, but what’s this? It was a bone fide GAY microbrewery too! Cute barman Issac gave us a tour and a good tasting. And his partner fired up the playlist; Giorgio Moroder, Patrick Herandez, Cerrone, and Sylvester. We were in heaven. Well, Heaven circa 1978.

90 mins later when we came to pay it was all “No, no, no. All free. All free”  What a perfect afternoon. 

Suitable lubricated we, perhaps rather foolishly, headed out on a night trail to the Bosque Eterno de Los NiΓ±os searching for the creatures of the forest. Luckily the noise of our hiccups didn’t scare off the plethora of wildlife we encountered. 

Agouti πŸ€ 
Blue-crowned motmot birds πŸͺΆ
Big blue morpho butterflyπŸ¦‹ 
Bat πŸ¦‡ 
Orange-kneed tarantula πŸ•·️ 
Rufus and white wren 🐦 
Click beetle πŸͺ² (aka jeep bug)
Rainforest pygmy frog 🐸 
Wood thrush 🐦 
Albino tarantula πŸ•·️ 
MASSIVE orange-kneed tarantula πŸ•·️ 
Ground cricket πŸ¦— 
Wilson’s warbler 🐦 
White-eared ground sparrow 🐦 
Rat πŸ€ 
Yellow stripe-sided palm pit-viper 🐍 
Plain wren 🐦 
Orange-bellied trogon 🐦 
Leaf-cutter ants 🐜 
Coppery-headed emerald hummingbird 🐦 
White Warbler 🐦 
Golden brown chorophonia 🐦

Slightly giddy with what we had seen we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Which was top class. And there was live music too. 

Stuart and I finished the night off with some star-gazing. Which was the cherry on the cake of a perfect day. 

Almost a week in and we are really starting to enjoy this country! 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Day 6 : Costa Rica and Panama…

Today we had the opportunity to explore the lush Arenal Rainforest Reserve. It offered us spectacular views from the air of Arenal Volcano, the lake and the surrounding rainforest area. And lots of animals of course. 

First we took the 'Sky Walk' - a series of 120m high hanging bridges right alongside the canopy of tall trees, some of which have established themselves along the bridges. The rainforest canopy is home to a good variety of birds and wildlife, sometimes easier to view at this level compared to the forest floor. 

We saw loads of wildlife; tarantulas. parakeets, preying mantises, horny bees, passion flowers, variegated squirrels, army ants, leaf-cutter ants, the Santa Christa plant, Atlantic forest toads, black-cheeked woodpeckers and quite a few super fluffy white-nosed coatis. 

We learned a few interesting things too, not least that trees in Costa Rica don’t have rings. No seasons. They grow all year round. Fun fact. 

Then we took the ‘Sky Tram’, which is a slow-paced 20-minute aerial cable car ride, through the rainforest. The gondolas provided a smooth ride through the canopy, with extensive views along the way. A bit scary but fab views. 

Back on terra ferma we headed to a local town to seek out some comfort food; roast chicken, fried plantain, and some beers. A great opportunity to people-watch. Weirdly the local church was having a ‘Christ effigy refit’. Don’t drop him now. 

Another fun day.