Out of Control

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Alajuela,
Monday, December 28, 2009

Hopefully you had a great Christmas and received a visit from Santa or at least somebody bearing gifts? Christmas Day brought an exciting announcement for the Middle family ….Steve (Sarah's younger brother) and Louise announced their engagement – Congratulations to them both and we look forward to celebrating with them in the summer.

Christmas Day was our last full day in Ocotal and a very different Christmas Day compared to normal. We started our day with a dip in the pool for Alex to play with his new friend, Elias. Then it was back inside to wake Daddy and check out just how good Santa had been….it was with much relief that the kids discovered that Santa had not forgotten them and had filled Daddy’s golf socks with candy and giftsJ After Daddys’ famous Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Buck’s Fizz breakfast, the day was off to a grand start. We walked into town hoping to find some of the local children we’d seen on previous walks. We thought they’d appreciate the gifts we’d brought for them and hoped that our kids would learn something that day. There are a few poorer areas on the way to Coco, and the little girls we came across were delighted with their unexpected gifts. While communication between us was stilted, the beaming smiles said it all.

Further down the road into Coco, it was the Canadians who wore the big smiles….we came across a large troop of howler monkeys in the trees. They were great fun to watch and as we watched we edged closer and closer until we were right beneath them….a big mistake! They started to throw things at us and I noticed something fall towards us, but did not see anything hit the ground….it was only upon closer inspection and a sniff test that it became clear what it was and where it had landed….a monkey had peed on Lauren’s head and shoulders. Welcome to Costa Reeka ;-) Cheeky monkeys! The good thing, though, is Lauren did learn something on Christmas day … don’t stand under a mischievous monkey.

They had warned us to wear our hats when out for a walk, but we thought it was for protection from the sun… dual purpose I suppose. Cap safety ziplocked away, we strolled on to the Internet café in town to video Skype with the grandparents for the first time and it was good to see/chat with them on Christmas Day. Our Christmas Dinner was back at Milane’s restaurant, where we knew the food would be tasty and authentic…it’s always a good sign when the other customers are locals (in this case "Ticos" as the Costa Ricans like to call themselves). It was then home to pack-up ready for our early morning departure…

So, we are on the move and beginning to feel that the trip is really beginning now as we transition out of vacation mode and into travel mode. We travelled 6.5 hours by shuttle from Coco inland to La Fortuna. This is only a distance of approximately 110km, but much of the distance is on windy, hilly, bumpy, and sometimes un-paved roads frequented by large potholes or subsidence!  We stopped en route to take pictures of a group of Pizote (Nasua narica) (also known as the White-nosed Coati) who were on the roadside being fed bread by some friendly (but negligent) passersby! There really isn’t an easy way to get from the Pacific coast to La Fortuna as you have to either go around or across Lake Arenal. We are staying at Hotel Gran Arenal, which is about 1.8km from the town of La Fortuna. The hotel is great, all of the rooms are individual cabins each with a view of the volcano (only briefly glimpsed thus far from our room due to cloud coverage, should clear up tomorrow) and we are about 20m from the pool.

Our first day in La Fortuna was fairly laid back as we surveyed the town to determine which of the many activities we should do while we are here. La Fortuna is very much a tourist town and every other store in the main square is selling tickets for the various activities and attractions and it can be quite the minefield to navigate through especially if you’re not sure what exactly it is you want to do. We have some tickets booked and look forward to the coming days…..

Today the (very helpful) hotel manager gave us a ride to Ecocentro Danaus – a small nature reserve about 3km from our hotel. We saw lots of cool creatures, including;

bats (and the neat way they bite and break the stem on the underside of a large leaf, folding it in half and creating a new shady home underneath);

butterflies (including Costa Rica’s famous Mariposa Morpho – a beautiful, if erratic, blue butterfly that can, without fail, pre-empt a speeding camera shutter!);

guatusa (looks rather like an overgrown brown rat with really long legs – imagine “pig-dog”);

poison dart frogs (tiny red frogs with blue legs);

lots of different birds (including Costa Rica’s national bird….a robin? Apparently, singing robins forecast the coming rain and this was historically very important to the Tico’s as they would dry the coffee beans in the sun and the robins would warn them when to cover or bring the beans in);

but, the star of the show was the sloth. We were shown a three-toed sloth who was about four feet up a tree right next to the path and seemed to be quite happy to pose with a lovable, if dopey, smile as we admired it and took pictures! Later, when Lauren and Derek went to check on it, it was on the move…. slowly ….and they were fortunate enough to see it “make its way” across the ground to another tree. Apparently, the leaves that they typically choose to eat are somewhat narcotic et voila! … the hippies of the animal kingdom. Watch the video and you’ll see what we mean.

Tomorrow we’re off to try ziplining (flying through the jungle along a rope) and will be hiking up the active volcano on New Year’s Eve…. Hopefully Mother Nature is not planning any extravagant fireworks! However you plan to bring in the New Year, we hope you will have a joyful and prosperous one! 'Til next year….
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countrybumpkin on

Hope you all had a magical roasting xmas. We are completely moved in now, but won't have web or phone access until 13th Jan, though will be skypeable from then on. However, I'm off boarding from 16-23rd.
Keep enjoying yoursleves, carry on blogging and hopefully speak to you soon.
What games did you end up with in SA? Are you able to swap them out with other people who have England games that they don't want?

Rob V on

Which one is the sloth?

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