Saturday, July 16, 2011

San Jose to Las Cañas

We drove from San Jose to Las Cañas - turns out Las Cañas does not mean anything about dogs like canines, nor teeth like canine teeth - nope, it refers to grey hair, and it means something about old people.  No idea why.

We stopped in Esparza for lunch - ended up at a Tican Chinese restaurant, which was interesting.  Richard had a doble hamburguese, while I had camarones fritos (fried shrimp) and rice - I asked for chopsticks, but had no idea how to say chopsticks, so I asked if I could have shi shi - the Cantonese word for chopsticks.  Our waitress understood shi shi and laughed, saying no, they didn't have any, in Spanish.  (She spoke no English.)  I love these little international moments.  So cool.

We continued on.  The route was mostly on the Pan American highway, which is predominantly a two-lane road that includes bus stops, school zones, small towns, and hardly looks the part of an intercontinental roadway.  The PanAm highway is one of the longest roadways in the world at approximately 27,000 miles - and yet, this part of it looks like just a normal county road.  It's known as Route 1 - and that's about what it looks like.  Hardly a highway, or "autopiste" in Spanish.  And yet, we could keep driving north and go through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington (say hi to my dad), and on into British Columbia and all the way to Alaska.  Or we could head south into Panama, needing to send the car by boat around the Darien Gap, and pick it up in Colombia or Equador, heading south all the way to Argentina or Chile, depending on which way one heads from Peru (and of course Machu Picchu).

Anyway, I digress.  You get the picture.  This is a world famous system of highways that connects cities and countries of legend, that links north to south in a way that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world - and yet it looks like Main Street pretty much anywhere.  It just doesn't seem to live up to its reputation.  And yet, the PanAm (or Intercontinental, as it is called in our guide book) doesn't disappoint, either.

Because the rest stop outside Las Cañas, about 20 km south, has howler monkeys in the trees, and macaws flying across the highway, inviting tourists and travellers in for some coffee, cake, ice cream, and photo ops.

Seriously.  We were driving down the road, minding our own business, agreeing that it was about time for our afternoon coffee and a bite - and two red macaws flew squawking across the highway - Richard saw the sign for ice cream, I saw the macaws, we agreed that this was it!  We both remembered this stop from three years ago, so I jumped out of the car with camera in hand and followed the family of monkeys as they climbed from tree to tree (of course they were mango trees, how could anyone think they wouldn't be?????) and ate their snacks and just did their normal monkey things.  With more macaws flying back and forth, squawking for their share of tourist attention and photographs.

The monkeys - there was the alpha male, who, when I made my howler monkey noises, stopped in his tree, turned, looked right at me, and made his own dominant male noises - a gutteral "hooo hoooo hooo" that comes from deep in the belly and echoes for quite a distance.  Every time a truck or bus would start up, the males would start with their distinctive "hooo hooo hooo" in response to the revving engines.  In fact, we could hear monkeys from across the highway responding with their own "hooo hoooo hoooo!"

Of course, I talked to the little monkeys in a nicer voice - they aren't ready to assert themselves, and so they don't do the "hoooo hooo hooo" thing.

There were two females carrying little babies on their backs - when the moms would stop, the little babies would climb down and climb around in the tree, but cautiously, since they really were very small.

There were also a few youngsters - not babies, but young enough to be younger than teenage - one was very busy hanging upside down eating leaves and generally showing off - he was supervised by one of the moms with a baby, but just kind of watched from a distance to make sure he behaved.  She also kept a very watchful eye on me, and all the other visitors who were watching and taking photos.

There were several families with small children who were entranced - and, being an international crew, the kids were saying either "Look!" or "Mira!" or "Regardez!!" - it was fun!

I went around the back to take a few photos of the macaws - one big red macaw flew over to the gate, and landed about 18 inches from where I was standing.  He seemed quite content to sit there and pose for me as I zoomed in and caught his profile, and then a three-quarter view.  Really, I've never met such a friendly bird who was willing to sit for his portrait!  I talked to him a bit, and he seemed to understand that I didn't want to use the flash and hurt his eyes.  He was a very friendly (and very handsome) guy!

There were two macaws in a tree, at a distance - the only blue and yellow macaw in the crowd - so of course I had to get their photos too.

We drove on to Las Cañas, and drove around a bit - we stopped at one place that was pretty dumpy, so we drove on and asked an older man on the street (in our abysmal Spanish) where was a hotel for small dinero - he directed us to Hotel Caña, where we parked and checked in.  The lady at the desk was quite giggly, she thought we were quite funny.

We have a room with one matrimonial bed (a normal double) and two twins - we managed to push the double and one twin together for a nice beyond-king-size bed, and are quite comfortable.  AC, TV, wifi, in the middle of a small town in Costa Rica.

Of course, it began pouring rain as soon as we arrived - Invest 94, a weather system with potential for development, is centered in the Gulf of Nicoya, which is just about 20 miles to the west - which means we have the rain, some wind, and early darkness.  A little lightning, some thunder - but hey, it isn't even a tropical wave or storm yet, it's just an area of interest.  So we have our rain shoes and rain jackets, we're settled in, and we'll see what the evening brings.

Tomorrow, the big cat refuge!  And maybe a hike in the neighboring park, where there is the only blue river in CR - more about that if we get there tomorrow.  Although, knowing me, I'll mostly have photos of animals!

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