Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tortuguero National Park

We awoke at 5 am in order to see the early rising fauna. Our boat captain, Ronnie navigated us through natural and man-made channels brimming with birds and flowers. We have 2 birders in our group, Nancy and Steve from Colorado, who are great at spotting and naming some of the birds. Steve has an excellent camera with which he get very high definition closeup shots.
Ronnie is amazing in his ability to spot critters. There were 2 types of lizards, ,so well camouflaged that I almost never found them. But Ronnie spotted them immediately.
Iguanas and monkeys were abundant, too. After lunch we toured the grounds of the lodge viewing more bird species and orchids. On our way back to the room we could hear a howler monkey, followed his call and enjoyed finding him. In the early evening another guide, Jeffery, took us out on the channels again. We were in a lot of black water with wonderful mirror like reflections. More monkeys, more birds and boa constrictors entertained us.

Christy and Wayne

Sarapiqui Day 2

We took a 6am bird walk into the botanical gardens across the highway from our lodge. The birds are too numerous and diverse to begin to name. Nacho is very adept at spotting and identifying them. We returned for breakfast and prepared to take a white water raft ride. There were 5 of us and our guide, Walter in the raft: Shirley, Vern, Carol, Wayne and I. I felt as if I had been transported back in time to The Little Missouri River. The Rapids were category 2 with occasional spots of 3 new were safe at all times. Lunch was again spent with the birds. There is a feeding station adjacent to the dining room. All the walls are open and you can sit with a view of the feeding birds.

Christy and Wayne

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


This morning we boated back through the canals to pick up our land transportation to Sarapiqui. Sarapiqui is still on the Caribbean lowlands, but not wet lands. The tree are somewhat different. The lodge is on a private preserve teeming with birds and plants. After a orientation to the grounds and safety (don't walk off the path!!!!) we checked into our room, which again is like an attached cabin only raised about 15 feet above ground. Nacho led us on a forest walk where we had to cross a very long and very high suspension bridge. Yowza! Our destination was a tree remaining from the primal forest. Beginning in the 80's almost 90% of the primary forest were cut. Now some secondary forests have been introduced. We found the grand daddy tree. Over 400 years old, it sores into the sky. The circumference is about 30' and the interior hollow. The path was quite muddy. Happy to have my waterproof sneakers. This evening our lecturer, Willy, explained the efforts to create bio corridors to assist wildlife and plants with migration and reproduction. Today large pineapple plantations are inhibiting that to a degree.

Christy and Wayne

Monday, January 19, 2015


We started the day with a five hour very bumpy bus ride. Along the way we stopped for lunch on some private grounds where the gate guard was excited to show us a poison red dart frog, all of about 1/2 inch, which he keeps in a hollow bamboo section. He also pointed out 2 3-toed sloths. On the grounds is a kook tree which is called the big belly tree by locals because of the enormity of the trunk and root system. It is also the tallest tree in the low lands. As re approached Tortuguero and the waterways we left the bus for a water taxi. It was an hour and half ride to the lodge. A beautiful ride in a warm humid climate.
Our lodge is actually composed of many small cabins some with multiple rooms, some single. We are in a complex with Romie, Vern and Shirley. After settling in, Nacho took us by boat to the turtle conservancy. There is really nothing to see except a video about the efforts to protect the nesting grounds and tag the nesting females. We walked down the black sand beach to the town of Tortuga, a single long street of small one person craft shops. Most things were crude coconut carvings or she'll jewelry. About 500 people live here totally dependent upon tourism.
After dinner we attended a lecture by a local gentleman whose father was one of the first settlers of Tortuguero. He gave the history of the settlers, the expansion of the lumber companies and finally the appearance of Archie Carr, an American who came to save the turtles. As a result of his efforts President ... took position of 25 miles of coast line, declared it protected. Carr also spent much time and energy convicting the locals to save their land. Now they are very vigilant in doing so.

Christy and Wayne

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Biodiversity with Java

This morning we met with our very likable group of 14, including us. They are all about our age and with similar interests. We met our guide Ignacio or Nacho as he likes to be called. He is young, handsome, like able and charmingly attentive and knowledgeable. He introduced us to our first lecturer, Luis, an ecologist. Highly educated he presented us with a through lecture on the climate, geology, and fauna and flora diversity. Costa Rica has the highest diversity of plants and animals in the world. After the lecture we took a bus ride to the Daka Coffee plantation. The tour covered planting, growing, picking, sorting, drying, and then drinking coffee. There was also s wonderful mariposa garden. (That's Spanish for butterfly) We had lunch in the plantation cafeteria and then left for the BioPark, a privately owned 400 hectare park which strived to preserve, educate and research the biological systems of Costa Rica. As we walked through the forests we saw sloths, beautiful birds, butterflies and plants galore.
Dinner was with our group at the hotel. Nacho provided more insight into the history and language of CR. Tomorrow's day begins at 6am with a bus and boat ride to Tortuguero on the Carribean Sea.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bienvenido San Jose

Our flight to San Jose was a mere 2.5 hours. The country is mountainous and green. It was 78 degrees and we are all smiles. Our driver, Jose, from Road Scholar met us which made the transition to the hotel very easy. We are in a Radisson with beautiful grounds. No one else from the tour has checked in. So we ate lunch and walked the grounds. The waitress was very funny trying to speak English. But her most difficult time was with tagliatelle, on the menu. Tonight we went to the lounge to eat. I had chifrijo and Wayne had chicken fajitas. Meetings begin tomorrow. 

Pool from our room

Friday, January 16, 2015

Miami Bound

This morning we were greeted with sunshine and warm temperatures. St Augustine was in her glory as we drove off through the old city. Miami was less than 250 miles but still took all day. There was a long stand still at one point and heavy traffic in Miami. It was around 6pm when we checked in. We switched out our bags for Costa Rica and stuffed everything else into the car trunk. The hotel will keep the car for 12 days. We ate at a Cuban restaurant across the highway. Wake up call is for 6:45am. Good night

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Saint Augustine Bound

It was another miserable day of driving through rain. I suppose that was better than ice, but we were hoping for sun by the time we reached the Carolinas. A high point was the South Carolina Artisans' Craft Center. We saw a sign on the highway and went for it. Our first encounter elicited groans of, "oh, no. What is this?" The place appeared dilapidated and belonging to a wacko. But we drove by a second time and thought, "What the hell? Let's look". The parking lot was as you see above. The inside was an artist's paradise with fabulous works. Our favorites were the carved duck decoys and the pottery. I bought a small pottery piece to use as a salt cellar.

It was dark when we pulled into St Augustine, well past when we planned to arrive. Thus, we opted to walk next door to our hotel to eat at Harry's Seafood restaurant. It was a New Orleans themed restaurant and good. No one was out in old town, so we just went back to the room.

Florence, SC, Not Italy

We left DC this morning in freezing rain. On the way out we passed a beautiful monument to the Airforce the 3 monoliths suggest the soaring of jets. Our drive was long and difficult with areas of ice. We are listening to Ken Follet's trilogy, Century, which helps pass the time. Tonight we are in Florence, SC for no other reason than it was the proper distance from DC. It did have the advantage of a BBQ joint (what Carolina town doesn't?), Wholly Smokin'. The ribs were very tender and moist but lacked a smokey flavor. There was a salt rub that I found much too salty. The stuffed potatoe salad was worth the drive.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Washington DC

Wayne in the National Portrait Gallery

With the entire day ahead of us, we walked to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  We arrived at 10:30; it opened at 11:30.  We briskly walked down to the Mall and the National Art Gallery, braving a wind chill of 27 degrees.  Our time there was spent in the Italian Medieval and Florence Renaissance rooms.  We saw many paintings that we've studied for our Florence trip:  Fra Anglico and Filippo Lippi Adoration of the Magi, Lippi's Madonna and Child,  Castagno's David with the Head of Goliath
National Gallery of Art
At the 11:30 opening time we walked through the sculpture garden where we stopped to admire Roxy Paine's steel tree.  We have seen another of her trees at the Crystal Bridges Museum.
Wayne with Roxy Paine Sculpture
At the American Art Museum I wanted to see an exhibit on birds in art and Wayne was interested in the Grant and Lee exhibit.  The Singing and the Silence:  Birds in Contemporary Art held a large variety of mediums.  The use of the materials intrigued me as much as the depiction of the birds.  Petah Coyne had two large pieces.  I don't really like her work at all.  It always looks dirty, dusty and ugly to me.  Other works were amazing in their detail and interpretation of our treatment of birds.  Particularly nice were the photographs of birds held by bird banders.  

A walk through the Modern and Contemporary Gallery gave us a look at a beautiful David Hockney piece that was painted on the floor and wall of a black gallery and changed with different colored lights projected upon it.  

David Hockney, American Art Museum
The Grant and Lee exhibit had wonderful death masks of both men.  Tonight is dinner at the Woodward Table around the corner on H street.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Florida Bound

On a dreary and cold New England day, we started out south to Miami where we will eventually fly to Costa Rica for 12 days.  On our return to Miami we will drive to Anna Maria Island and settle in for 6 weeks.  Today we drove as far as Washington DC where we planned have dinner with Adam and family, do a bit of sight seeing tomorrow and head out on Wednesday.  Adam emailed while we were on the road that he has the flu. Against my advice he intends to meet us tomorrow night to pick up his Moxie.  I'm not convinced he really wants to see us, just get his Moxie.  If we get the flu from him and miss our Costa Rica trip, he is definitely disinherited.  So this evening we ate a mediocre dinner in the hotel and kicked back in the room.  Wayne had a long, hard 10 hour drive in the rain.