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Trip Report GTG 2013 – a great time was had by all!!

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I can’t believe I’ve been home for three weeks and still haven’t posted a report or finished editing my photos. My hubby and I participated for the first time in a Fodor’s GTG and we had a fantastic time. I don’t think a more spectacular place than Bosque del Cabo could be chosen or a more fun, congenial group of people to share some time with exploring nature.

There were a total of 18 of us with 8 of us being Fodorites. Some of us stayed a week, while others came and went for 3 – 4 nights. The owners of Bosque had graciously agreed to give us a discount which we all appreciated very much.

We flew into SJO and were picked up by the owner of a small B & B we stayed at near La Sabana Parque. We chose this location in order to be close to Pavas for our Nature Air flight early the next morning. As is our tradition on arrival night, we met a Tico friend for dinner but this year we switched from Café Mundo to Machu Picchu which is located right off Paseo Colon. It’s a Peruvian restaurant and the food was delicious. We enjoyed ceviche and causa along with great conversation.

Next morning Nature Air was right on time, but our views were zilch due to clouds until we dropped down to stop over in Drake Bay. Wow, all you see is water and jungle and you hope there is a landing strip there somewhere! Landing in Puerto Jimenez I could see a small crowd of people waiting. As we taxied up, there was shillmac and costaricalover waving their arms with grins from ear-to-ear. I was telling Doug who everyone was, waving back and everyone on the plane was laughing at our excitement. Big hugs were exchanged as we finally all met face-to-face. Tully, hipvirgochick, Mr. Shillmac and Mr. Costaricalover were all there.

A quick stop at the supermarket in PJ to stock up on snacks and alcohol and we were off to Bosque del Cabo. It was Doug’s first visit there although he’d been in Costa Rica on two of my other trips. I was surprised to see how good the road to Carate was – lots of improvements from last year and the drive is shortened by a good 15 minutes or so.

Six of us shared Casa Miramar which is just perfect for a group of friends. It’s a very open house with 5 separate “pods” for LR/kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 2 showers/toilets. There are no screens on windows, but the bedrooms do have bamboo sticks in them – maybe to keep the larger critters out? We loved staying there with its huge beautiful deck, our own plunge pool and gorgeous views of both the Pacific and the rainforest surrounding us. Many hours were spent chatting and laughing on that deck or running for cameras when toucans, scarlet macaws, parrots, monkeys and peccaries were spotted in the trees or the hillsides around Miramar.

During the night a major storm rolled in and, wow, did we have the light show! At one point I even saw a flash of ball lightning that turned the sky fuchsia – a first for me. The rain kept up all day long, 9” of it per Philip and his rain gauge. We all hung out at the lodge, swapping stories, chatting and getting to know each other.

The following days were filled with hikes and, once again, the Titi Trail proved to be the most worthwhile for me. I went out alone at dawn and stood as still as a statue while a band of peccaries passed in front and behind me. There were so many babies!

I never tire of watching the brilliant blue morphos dancing through the forest or the agoutis hopping along the lawn. There were more spider monkeys than I’ve ever seen before while the squirrel monkeys were as elusive as usual. They are so darn difficult to photograph!

Toucans were everywhere – in one tree by La Palma we counted 12 at one time, just amazing. White-faced capuchins were not seen very often, but a large troop passed in front of La Palma and Tucan and a few of us happened to be there and camera ready. I got some great shots of a mother on the ground with her baby on her back. There were so many babies with the spider, capuchin and howler monkeys – more than I’ve ever seen.

What makes Bosque del Cabo so special? First off, the wildlife sightings are incredible. Whether you are chilling out on your deck or hiking on the trails, you are going to see a large variety of wildlife. The staff is wonderful – very attentive, but never pushy or intrusive. They learn your name, your drink and are just incredibly nice, sweet young people – Heylin and Jorge are tops! The owners, Phil and Kim Spier, have done an amazing job to preserve this area of Cabo Matapalo while sharing the beauty of it with others. They have worked extremely hard to add luxurious touches to the various cabinas and houses to make their guests as comfortable as possible. The food is outstanding – tuna melts, chicken curry/avocado sandwiches, fresh seared tuna, mora cream cheese French toast – oh, yes, I’m still going through Bosque withdrawal!

Saying goodbye after a week, Doug and I and Tully shared the shuttle back to PJ and the Sansa flight to SJO. It was a clear morning and the views were excellent all along the coastline. Tully took off for Xandari, while we rented a car from Tricolor for our last few days. It was time for me to get my hummingbird “fix” in the mountains.

Tricolor picked us up from the Sansa terminal and we signed the paperwork and took off for Poas Lodge which is just a few kilometers before the entrance to Poas National Park. The views of Central Valley are gorgeous and it was wonderful to be above the clouds looking down. Jimmie and Stephan Griffith, two brothers from Texas, own the lodge and are friendly hosts. When they found out we were from Louisiana, they said it was like having family there since they were so familiar with Baton Rouge. It gets quite chilly up there at night, but with a fire roaring in the fireplace and warm blankets on the bed, it was very cozy.

We headed off to Varablanca to finally eat at Colbert’s, the French restaurant that I have heard so much about from friends. Darn – closed on Thursday! Who would have thought?! After a good lunch in Poasito, we visited the beautiful hummingbird garden directly across from Freddo Fesca’s – swarms of green violet ears, magnificents, violet sabrewings and scintillants were zooming around the plants, shrubs and feeders. I can stay at places like this for hours watching and photographing the hummingbirds.

The next day we were off early to drive to Bajos del Toro to visit Catarata del Toro, an off-the-beaten track destination that I’ve been trying to get to for years. A beautiful waterfall drops into an extinct volcano crater, surrounded by cloud forest and an amazing hummingbird garden that attract throngs of hummers. We drove past La Paz Waterfall and up towards San Miguel. Our GPS was totally useless in that it didn’t recognize the road has been rebuilt and reopened since the ’09 earthquake. It took us about 1 ½ hours or so from Poasito and upon arrival, we discovered we were the only people there. We walked the trails, admired the waterfall and then spent several hours in the hummingbird garden so that I could photograph them. In addition to the same species as in Poasito, we also saw the green thorntail, black-bellied, green hermit, green crowned brilliant, long-billed hermit and brown violet ears. This is an excellent garden for those interested in hummingbirds!

On the drive back we stopped at the soda in Cinchona, a well-known birding hotspot. I found it fairly difficult to photograph the hummers from where the feeders were placed but got some nice shots of the emerald toucanet and a silver-throated tanager. There was another beautiful waterfall across the valley and a coati wandering around below us.

Late afternoon found us back in downtown Alajuela staying at Hotel Los Volcanes, a historic home located near Central Parque. Our room was in the back, right off the courtyard and was perfect for our last night. We met some Tico friends for dinner that evening at Jalapeno’s, followed by our last bite of POPS ice cream – mora and coco for me. We sat on benches in Central Parque, watched people walk by and caught up on our lives during the past few years. We had hosted this young couple during the years they attended LSU and were their “American family.”

Hotel Los Volcanes served a wonderful breakfast the next morning – fruit plate followed by a fruit smoothie, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee. They provide a free transfer to SJO where all connections were smooth in San Jose, Houston and finally home to Baton Rouge. This was an unforgettable trip made so special by sharing the good times with new friends and visiting with old ones. Pura vida!!

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