Monday, September 03, 2007

Beach bound

Early on Saturday morning we met up with our friends Norbell and Amalia to travel to a couple of beaches on the Pacific. Our friends were very generous to offer to let us follow them on the way there so we'd learn the route. We now know we can make the trip without getting lost (there aren't exactly road maps in CR, but that's another blog entry in itself).

Shortly after we began driving we were traveling switchbacks through mountainous country. As we drove, the landscape became more tropical and lush, with amazing flowering trees, waterfalls, beautiful views, and quaint small towns. There's one short stretch of drive that had too many drop offs for my liking (and not a guardrail in sight), but to a non-height-phobic person, the roads were good and travel was fine. (Can't forget to note that at two points on our trip we drove around a pair of oxen pulling a cart. Maybe it was the same pair, actually; they're not exactly fast moving.)

In Orotina (in Alajuela province, about an hour west of San Jose), we stopped at a roadside restaurant for some breakfast. Lauren had toast, while the rest of us had eggs, bread, and some wonderful gallo pinto (spotted rooster), a very traditional Costa Rican dish of rice and beans that I'm going to try making myself this week.

While we waited for the food to come, Norbell and I made a quick stop at the pharmacy for some motion sickness medicine for Erin, who was green after our windy trip up and down the mountain roads. An interesting note about buying medicine in Costa Rica is that you can purchase it by the pill. I bought eight doses of medicine for Erin for about 50 cents. (Fortunately, Erin felt much better after a good meal.)

Shortly after leaving Orotina we pulled off and walked the bridge over the Río Tárcoles (on the edge of Carara National Park) where we saw massive crocodiles below, sunning themselves. We'd like to come back to this spot during the dry season when the water isn't so high, because we've heard you can sometimes see dozens of crocs at a time (we probably saw about eight).

As we were walking back to our car, we saw a flock of scarlet macaws flying in the park. This is something I have been looking forward to ever since I learned these lapas rojas live in Costa Rica. The birds fly in pairs (apparently they mate for life) and we could see the brilliant red in particular shining in the sun. Lauren noted that they have the primary colors. What amazing birds. I hope someday to get even closer to them and share my own photos on this blog.

After another 30 minutes or so we arrived at Punta Leona, a
resort built into the rainforest. We drove in on a brick road through gorgeous canopy, including a few areas where the dense growth of bamboo made a tunnel for us to drive through.

Our first stop was Playa Blanca (White Beach) which has tables under shade trees on a walkway and then the white beach below big, bending palms. Behind the palms the terrain goes up and you can see nearby residences on the cliffs which must offer an incredible view of the water and the Nicoya Pennisula which is across the Gulf of Nicoya.

We've heard that there is some fun snorkeling here during the dry season, though the water was murkier than usual because of the heavy seasonal rains. We were still able to see fish (though nothing too colorful) swimming around as we headed out into the water.
We saw a few hermit crabs and more macaws, too.

As we were leaving Playa Blanca we saw a white-nosed coatimundi at the table,
foraging a meal from someone's leftover table scraps. (I was actually shocked when I walked up to a table and saw this racoon/monkey-looking animal sitting on one bench eating and Lauren was on the bench next to him just watching. "Mom, look at this guy!" Thankfully she wasn't his idea of a good snack.)

After this we visited a beautiful swimming pool and then another beach where we had a pizza for late lunch (we were nearly joined by an iguana that we saw on our way to and from ordering the pizza). We left in late afternoon before the clouds really started rolling in. The girls and I think we saw a couple of monkeys in the trees on our way out of the resort, though Lauren started saying the monkeys were wearing shirts and boots and pants. (I think we all know who the real monkey was on our trip.)

Lastly, what trip during the wet season would be complete without a downpour?
We were in the rains (especially heavy as we entered the valley) from this side of Atenas to home. Still, the rains didn't dampen our day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Okay Beanie, I'm totally loving this blog, so you'd better keep up with it! The Coati is soooooo cute! I would flip if I saw one on a picnic table! MORE PICTURES please!!!!!!!
Justine :o )