Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Butterfly on my shoulder

Day 2 – We head north

We headed out of San Jose about 10 AM, knowing that it would take us about 4 hours to get to the area of Volcan Arenal.  Of course, there are the usual problems with Tican (short for Costa Rican) road signs:  either the signs are confusing (as in two signs for the same place pointing in opposite directions), or there just aren’t any signs.  We probably made some wrong turns at intersections, or followed the sign in the opposing direction – at any rate, we wandered through San Jose and eventually found our way to the highway; we wandered through the central highlands along very winding roads and some torrential rain; and eventually made our way to La Fortuna; and in La Fortuna, we found out that our hotel for the next two nights was somewhere back in the direction we had come.  Ah yes.  Of course.  Life on the road.

We stopped at a lovely bakery for lunch (sandwiches, iced coffee, pastry for Richard) and then turned around and, asking for directions from several people, eventually got headed in the right direction.  We ask various people for directions.  Directions for us in Spanish:  “This road directly blah blah blah turn left blah blah blah bridge blah blah blah right blah blah blah hill blahdy blahdy blah sign blah blah it is right there.”  We nod, we think we understand enough, but where to turn left?  Where right?  Where is the bridge?  FINALLY a nice gas station attendant explains in SLOW Spanish – 6 km ahead, then turn left in the town (puebla) of Tanque; go 3 km and turn right; then go to the road to Muelle and go straight on that, the sign is on the left.

We follow this.  We go.  There are three bridges, but apparently we turn right just after the first bridge, and the next two bridges don’t affect the outcome.

We FINALLY reach Tilajari Hotel – which is really a self-contained resort in the middle of very pretty nowhere.  We sign in, we settle into our room – an upstairs with a balcony and a garden view.  We are both quite disappointed to learn that there is NO view of Volcan Arenal from here, we’ll have to go back to La Fortuna to see the lava flow, and of course this is only if the weather (clouds = nebulas) permits.  Of course.   

So Richard goes off to the pool, I head out to the butterfly house – with a quick look at the river.  The river – on the opposite bank is a BIG crocodile.  I rush down the hill to the cliff overlooking the river, and yup, there is a big croc basking in the sun on the mud bank.  I can see the stripes in his tail.  I can see the scales on his tail.  I can see his legs, and his face seems to be half in the water!!!!!!  I’m so excited, I rush up the hill and find some people to tell – and soon we have a crowd of people ooohing and aaaahing over this crocodile.  One man, from Florida, says he thinks it’s about a 10 ft croc.  (I’d have said 8 ft., but who knows that far away?  I’m not swimming over to compare how big he is to me.)

Eventually I wandered off to the butterfly house, which is always magical – just walking into an enclosed garden, greeted at the front by a zebra longwing, then meeting a series of swallowtails, a few monarchs fluttering by, and of course the blue morphos (morphi?), that flash of fleeting blue out of the corner of your eye, wondering if you really saw it or if you imagined it.  I found the feeding station, a tiny shed with rotting bananas covered in blue morphos, who were having dinner.  I tried and tried taking photos of them, but they seemed to open and flash blue only between, before, or immediately after the camera click.  I finally gave up and just absorbed the magic of that iridescent blue.  I felt something nudge my shoulder, looked, and saw a butterfly, somewhat orange, sitting on my shoulder!!!!!!  OMG, a butterfly riding on my shoulder, how amazing!!!!!!!!!  Of course, he/she didn’t stay long enough for a photo, but I was just thrilled!!!!!!!!!

I did go to the front desk and report that a hummingbird was stuck in the butterfly house, and they said they’d go catch and release it.  The crocodile was gone by the time I got back to the room, and as the thunder growled overhead the power went out.  Came on about an hour later.  We’re kind of used to that, so no big deal.

Exciting beginning of the trip – blue morphos, a crocodile, and a butterfly on my shoulder!

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