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San Jose, Tortuguero, Cerro de la Muerte, Osa, Arenal Trip Report

San Jose, Tortuguero, Cerro de la Muerte, Osa, Arenal Trip Report

Old Jul 17th, 2004, 06:08 AM
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San Jose, Tortuguero, Cerro de la Muerte, Osa, Arenal Trip Report

My husband and I got back a couple of days ago from the most stimulating trip of our lives, and are in serious CR withdrawal. No howlers to provide our wake-up call, no exotic birds, no crazy adventures! I am already planning a return trip. Until then -

First stop, San Jose. We arrived at the airport around dinner hour, and as promised, our bandb had a driver with our name on a sign there to greet us. This was a relief as it was somewhat of a crowd scene with taxi drivers vying for business.

We were efficiently wisked to Cinco Hormigas Rojas {5 Red Ants} in the historical part of the city. This is an extremely unique place to stay. Our hostess,Mara Guell, has created a sort of miniature eco-system within the city {think Tarzan and Jane} with trees and birds and bugs and bats flying around. She is an excellent artist, with a penchant for nude paintings. She and I developed an instant rapport when I shared my admittedly peculiar affection for cucarachas.

At $35 cash per night for a clean shared bath {not very warm water, sigh}, comfortable room, and breakfast {a banana, coffee, cookies and a rather inedible sandwich left out in a breakfast box the night before, whose contents we couldn't clearly identify}, it was a bargain.We used this place as our base in CR, leaving our luggage between journeys. Mayra is a wonderful hostess; she was always there to greet us and hear about our adventures; we truely felt like we were returning home. We also appreciated how she helped to iron out any wrinkles in our plans,confirming reservations, lining up taxis, giving advise. We were very happy at this unusual place, but realize
that it may not be for everybody.

San Jose is a noisy, sometimes extremely conjested city, filled with sights and sounds. We stayed here our first two nights, so had time to visit the Jade Museum, Historical Museum, and, on one memorable occasion,get hopelessly lost in the heart of the city. Foolishly, in our excitement to explore the city, we forgot to bring umbrellas or rainjackets. After a fruitless hour or so of trying to get our bearings, we ducked into a soda, wet and weary. Our attempts to order were comical! Finally, we just said, "Combo tres, por favor". We had no idea what we had ordered, but it turned out to be tasty, huge plates of steak, salad, beans and rice, and fruit drinks, all for only $2 or so each!

We became instantly proficient at sign language. This, combined with our laughable attempts at Spanish, eventually got us directions back to our lodging. We were surprised by how pleasant and helpful people tried to be, in this big city.

Next - Savegre Lodge, Cerro de la Muerte area.
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Old Jul 17th, 2004, 06:59 AM
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Actually, meant to say, next - Tortugero.

On day 3, we were picked up early at our banb by Fran Watson, and, after picking up another couple, driven by shuttle and boat to Laguna Lodge. Fran's Nicaraguan husband, Modesto, joined us when we got to the boat landing. What fantastic guides!

We caught our first real glimpses of wildlife as we made our way by boat - a yellow tree viper, crocodile,caiman, monkeys, sloths, birds, turtles, bats, beautiful morpho butterflies. Our guides were extremely proficient at spotting creatures in the dense cover of the forest.

We stopped for a bathroom break. Our first lesson: bring toilet paper and cologne coins for the attendant. The bathrooms were dirty and stinky, but we were desperate!

Halfway to Laguna Lodge, it began not just raining, but pouring. We were given heavy-duty rain ponchos, but were still cold and wet when we arrived. A bad omen?

Laguna Lodge is beautiful,with exotic flowers and vegetation and it's staff is friendly and helpful. Rooms are simple but comfortable.

That evening we used the free kayaks to expore the lagoon - great fun!

After warm showers and a change of clothes, we joined our hosts and fellow travelers, a delightful British couple, for dinner and lively conversation. Dinner was buffet-style, and delicious. The fruit and fruit-drinks {we found this true throughout the country} were varied and excellent.After dinner, we watched a wonderful Cuban classical guitarist in the auditorium. Modesto assured us that the skies would clear the next day.

Dubious, we got up the next morning to heavy rains to meet Modesto at the sceduled time of 6 a.m. for a tour of the canals. No Modesto! After waiting for about 40 minutes the husbands were deligated to knock on their door. Now we were to learn the meaning of "Tico Time", as Modesto sensibly had decided to wait out the rain and go back to sleep!

Miraculously,as promised, the skies cleared, and we had a perfect morning and afternoon of wildlife viewing and trip to Tortugero Village. In the afternoon, in between swims in the lovely pool, we explored Laguna Lodge's butterfly garden, where we caught our first glimpse of leaf-cutter ants, as well as all sorts of exotic lizards and birds.

Tortugero Village was very interesting to visit. Homes are extremely simple, with lots of children and dogs playing on the narrow streets. There are several places to shop.

That night we lingered late with the Watsons and the British couple, talking politics over drinks and another delicious dinner. We learned that Modesto had fleed his native country and that he and Fran had met during her stint as a relief worker. Modesto is a gregarious person with a great sense of humor and many stories to tell. He and Fran make a great team. They clearly have deep respect for nature and people.

After another morning tour of the canals, Fran drove us all back to San Jose, a hot, long, difficult drive. She is a very calm person!

Our only disappointment - we were a bit too early in the season to view the turtles nesting, and beach erosion didn't enhance our chances. We shall return!

Next - Cerro de la Muerte - really!
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Old Jul 17th, 2004, 01:27 PM
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Molly2
Great stories! Can't wait to read the rest so we can find out about your time on the Osa and your experience with Marino at Savegre!
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Old Jul 18th, 2004, 04:41 AM
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Molly2, still waiting. Please post rest of your reports here so we won't have a problem finding each part. Thanks
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Old Jul 18th, 2004, 06:11 AM
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After a night in San Jose regathering our thoughts and luggage, we waited to be picked up by Savegre Lodge's shuttle and delivered to their lodge in the cloud forest.This lodge came highly recommended by Wildflower and others on this forum, so we were excited. The lodge is nestled in a mountain valley. The mountain, Cerro de la Muerte, translates to "Mountain of Death", and it is easy to imagine why. The Road is narrow, visibility is often severely reduced by fog and rain, and landslides are common.

We were to be picked up at 9 a.m. When noone arrived for us by 9:30 or so, Myra called them. It turned out that the driver, Fernando, was waiting at an entirely different hotel, one that we had cancelled way back in March! Luckily, we had the paperwork to prove this. Apologies all around.

The drive up was beautiful! Fernando spoke little English, and we speak "poquito Spanish", but our trusy sign language came in handy, especially when Fernando made the sign of the cross!

Even with motion bracelets, my stomach was churning by the time by the time we arrived over extremely bumpy roads. After more apologies from the front desk for the confusion about the pick-up point, we unpacked and headed to lunch. The inclusive meal plan included almost anything from their menu, including soup, salads and desserts. I ordered trout soup, knowing it would be fresh from their pond. "Excelente". Hubby ordered their special chicken dish, which he proclaimed "delicious".

I do not have enough superlatives for this place and their staff. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, with many hummingbirds which they draw to their feeders and trails winding through the cloud forest and along the river. Our rooms were simple, but very comfortable, and oh bliss, included hot-water showers! Nights were cool, so electric radiators were provided as well.

After we ordered our lunch, I went up to speak with the girl at the front desk about fly fishing, which I knew my husband wanted to try. She immediately arranged for a guide to speak with us after lunch. The guide, a young guy in his early 20s, asked if we wanted to fish in the pond or Rio Savegre. The river, of course - no weenie pond fishing for us!

Our personable young guide led us to three seperate pools of water, progressively more challenging to fish in. The last one, under a raging waterfall, had us scrambling by rope and ladder down a steep, slippery slope. We had some nibbles, but it was good that we didn't have to fish for our dinner.

Finally, as the sun was setting, we returned to fish near the lodge. I, the novice fisherwoman, was led out on a slippery rock to balance precariously {I think because their were few trees for me to get snagged in}. After awhile, it began raining heavily, but fish were finally biting, and neither Hubby nor our guide seemed in a hurry to leave. Now lightening was starting to come down. I glanced hopefully over at the guys, who seemed not the least concerned. "Uh, fellas, let's call it a night, shall we", I ventured? Good call, as the weather only got worse, and I barely made it off my slippery perch without tumbling into the river. "Tourists fall in all the time", our guide cheerfully told me as we headed back - gee, thanks for sharing!

Wet, but happy with our adventure, we headed to our room to change, when we recieved a surprise. Jill {shillmac on this forum} was waiting on the porch! We had arranged to meet since our visits coincided on this one day, but weren't certain we would find each other. Jill was returning fom bird-watching and we agreed to meet after showers for dinner.

Dinner was a blast! We were joined by Marino Chacon, who, with the rest of his family, owns the lodge and doubles as a birding guide, Jim, Jill's husband, and Mike, an ardent bird-watcher from the states. What fun we all had! Jim had elected not to bird-watch, but Jill and Mike's recountment had us pumped to go out with Marino, Jill and Mike the next morning.

Marino is amazing! My head was almost literally whipping from side to side to see all of the birds Marino spotted. He found us a quetzel in his scope, an immature one who had not yet grown a tail. Beautiful! The day before Jill and Mike even got to see one with a tail from several feet away, where it perched for a long period. Marino explained that it takes three years for an immature quetzel to grow its feathers, then, if it doesn't feel it needs them, it will shed them! Hubby and I are more general nature lovers then "bird-watchers" {a special breed}, but Marino nad Mike's enthusiasm was contagious.

Sadly, Jill and Jim had to continue on their journey. We said our goodbyes and continued with Marino and Mike. Marino drove us up a hill in his "mule" where we walked a stunningly beautiful rainforest trail in search of more birds. We saw many more, including quail.

After awhile it began raining, fairly heavily. Lesson number two: gortex, gortex, gortex! Mike was cozy in his dry jacket and shoes, while we shivered and slogged our way through puddles. It paid off as Marino somehow spotted a young hawk-eagle in a tree perhaps a mile across from where we were standing. Merino was beside himself with joy. Apparently, this bird doesn't show itself very often; the last time he had seen one was perhaps a year or two ago, Marino explained. Unfortunately, he had left his scope in the "mule", so he ran back to get it. In the interum, the bird flew off, but we all got to see it through binoculars.

After dinner,we went for another walk with Mike, who could be a guide himself, to see more birds, but there was little activity.

The next day, we enjoyed hiking on our own. We discovered that we could now actually identify many of the birds we saw. We had dinner that night with an interesting couple who were traveling for an extended period on an education grant. After dinner,Marino reviewed with us what birds we had seen the day before. We assured him that birding with him and the lodge in general was a great experience.

Next: the Osa



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Old Jul 19th, 2004, 06:10 AM
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The Osa, Part 1: Bright and early Savegre Lodge's driver,Fernando, picked us up for our long drive to Sierpe, where we were scheduled to catch a boat to Cabinas Las Caletas near Drake Bay. This time he brought his teenage son along to interpret. It was cold, so we wore fleece and long pants.

Fernando and his family live in San Jose, so they had to get up at 3:30 in the a.m. to make the drive! Despite their early rising, they were excellent companions,and we chatted most of the way to Sierpe. Fernano's son seemed excited to be making the trip, and videotaped along the way. They stopped frequently to view wildlife and photograph scenery, at one point pulling a false coral snake from the middle of the road, and holding him on a stick for us to photograph. That was one thing I noticed in CR - drivers think nothing of stopping in the middle of the road for whatever reason!

By the time we arrived at the boat landing, it was extremely hot and humid, and I was down to a halter top and zip-off shorts. David, from Las Caletas arrived to take us in his boat to our new home for six nights.

Along the way we picked up Doug and Jane, a doctor and nurse from Washington state, and Eric and Matt, two young men from New York. We drove through a mangrove swamp on the way to Paradise.

As the boat neared the shore, we couldn't believe our eyes - it was a scene straight from Gilligan's Island. All of these people running down a hill to greet us with white-faced monkeys at their heels, palm trees fluttering in the breeze, and exotic birds flying overhead. Wow!

This was my first experience with a "wet boat landing", and I don't like it! As the boat is pulled to shore, you have seconds to leap out and away from the propeller. David and his crew hastily yanked all our luggage out of the boat and on to the shore, where it was hastily retrieved and transferred to our cabins. Jolanda, David's Swiss wife, showed us to our secluded cabin on a hill {a lo-nng trek at night in the rain!} overlooking the water.

Our cabin was perfect. Very simple, with two stories. Upstairs was our our sleeping area, which was open at the side. We had a picture-perfect view of the cove. Downstairs was our bathroom with cold-water shower and a large porch with comfortable chairs. Jolanda told us that it was a good location for viewing wildlife.

Excited, we went for a short hike behind the cabin, and then down for a swim. As we neared the water, we noticed a lot of frenzied activity. Jolanda was hurrying to the beach, followed by Jane. In the water, a man in a kayak was paddling out to "rescue" Doug! Turned out that Jane saw her husband way out in the water, and thought he was drowning. Oblivious, to the commotion, Doug was having a grand time. Jane didn't live that one down!

At this point my husband decided that he was going to snorkle amongst the rocks, while I blissfully swam in the warm water with Jane and Jolanda. All of a sudden I saw a bunch of people pointing and gesturing, but no Hubby! Now what?

I ran over to see my poor husband rushing out of the water, pale and a bit shaken. Turns out that he was swimming inches from a deadly watersnake! We found out later that they {almost} never bite. Uh-huh!

At dinner that night we met Avery and Brian, a couple in their thirties fom Texas. Jolanda told us that it was unusual for us all have arrived at roughly the same time. This turned out to be a very good thing, as we became one big, happy family, sharing meals {very good} and adventures. This is a VERY informal, kickback-with-a-beer kind of place, no hurry, no worries. Lots of people floating around - Jolanda and David's six-year old son,Luca, some teen-age Swiss cousins, and playmates of Luca. One very charming little boy, Anthony, hangs out there all the time, because his own mother doesn't care for him. Jolanda explained that in this remote corner of CR, women have children very young, and rarely are supported by the childrens' fathers. The school system is poor, so Luca is home-schooled.

Exhausted from our day's activity, we went to bed early. Later that night we found the only real drawback to our cabin - it was quite a process to get to the bathroom! The door needed to be unlocked from the inside, then down some winding, very narrow stairs with a flashlight, checking all the time for spiders, scorpions, and other creatures we didn't wish to tangle with. Sure enough, we found a small bat with a fox-like face in the corner of our bathroom! "Batty" shared our bathroom for the six nights of our stay, and we grew quite fond of him!

We woke up bright and early to the sound of howler monkeys, raucous birds,and an impressive storm, which we all watched from the porch of the lodge. The rain relly comes down on the Osa! The rain let up by the afternoon, so we hiked most of the way to the small town of Drake Bay. Wearing bathing suits, we didn't elect to venture into town, having read that the Costarican people are rather conservative. This seemed to be the case, as a few men eyed us strangely.

The next day, Jolanda scheduled a night walk, which turned out to a highlight of our visit.









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Old Jul 24th, 2004, 07:17 AM
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ttt
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Old Jul 25th, 2004, 02:54 PM
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topping for Pumpy.
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Old Aug 1st, 2004, 07:03 AM
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topping for melissa
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 06:56 PM
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ttt for melissa
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