Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Thursday, January 18, 2007


San Jose, Costa Rica

Ur-Spo has recently fretted about our upcoming trip to Costa Rica, and has presented a wealth of misinformation about the trip. I need to set the record straight (so to speak).

I’m really looking forward to the trip. We will be a good group: Leon and I, Spo and Someone, and our friends and neighbors John and Michael. This will be my third trip to Costa Rica. The first was for a butterfly farming seminar, which I have blogged about before. The second was mostly a vacation, and I expect it to be more like the upcoming trip.

The second trip was something of an adventure, and one of the few times that Leon and I have gotten grouchy with one another during the course of travel. The trip started out wonderfully. We were staying in Escazú, a suburb of San Jose. On our first full day of the trip, we hiked up into the hills above Escazú. After a wonderful lunch at a hotel/restaurant called the White House (not la Casa Blanca, but the White House), we wandered up a dirt track into the hills. We saw birds, orchids, and butterflies including a species of glasswing butterfly with completely transparent wings. Alas, I was unable to photograph one, but the scenery was stunning.

Our hike in the hills above Escazú

An orchid we saw on our hike

The second day was Disaster Day. It’s not an accident that I have no photos. Way finding in the country is difficult, and we were driving around the country in a rental car. The maps are next to useless. The highways dump you into the center of a town, and you are on your own to find your way through town to the road leading out the other side. We went for a drive to find a botanic garden. After getting hopelessly lost, we managed to get directions in a McDonalds (yes, I know, but they do wonders when you are feeling overwhelmed by being in a different culture than what you are used to). Then the botanical garden was a disappointment. We drove home though a winding mountain road in a diving rain in the dark, then got lost in San Jose. Most importantly, we did not divorce and managed to enjoy the rest of the trip.

Central Valley canyon on the way to Poas. The photp does not do justice to the size and depth of the canyon. What look like dead trees have actually just lost their leaves- it's the dry season.

We lay low the next day until afternoon, when I visited one of the folks who supplies the butterflies for my exhibit. He gave us excellent driving directions, and the following day we went to the Poas Volcano National Park. The route that we took to get to the park traverses an amazing canyon in the Central Valley, then up a long, winding mountain incline to the park. The volcano is still active and the crater lake steams ominously and smells of sulphuric acid. The parking lot adds to the excitement: everyone backs into their spaces in case a quick exit is needed. We hiked through cloud forest to a second lake that fills a dormant crater. The cloud forest is full of bird life, but has very few insects.

The steaming crater of Poas Volcano

Lush beauty: the vegetation of the cloud forest.

Bromeliads, ferns, and orchids. I've never seen such a high density of epiphytic plants as we encountered in the cloud forest at Poas.

The hike from the crater to the lake.

Lake filling a dormant crater at Poas

Having gotten thoroughly lost earlier in the trip, we decided to opt for a more organized canopy tour led by someone else and including transportation. We traveled by bus over to the Atlantic slope of the central cordillera. We passed through Braulio Carrillo National Park, full of gorgeous rainforest. The canopy tour involved skimming though the trees tethered to zip lines. It was lots of fun, though I was a bit disappointed that the tour emphasized the "adventure" aspects of the experience more than the wildlife. Still, we saw some cool stuff, including an injured iguana who was sitting right on one of the small platforms that we landed on. A boat trip to view wildlife on the Saraquipí River completed the tour.

The splendour of Braulo Carrillo National Park

Suspension bridge through the rainforest canopy

Leon on the zipline

Injured iguana- but he's ready for his closeup

The end of the trip was spent on the Pacific coast in the gay friendly town of Manuel Antonio. It’s a short flight from San Jose to Quepos, then a 45-minute minibus ride to our hotel. The hotel backs right up against the rainforest. I was blacklighting from just outside out cabana. The wildlife here is amazing. I have seen 3 species of monkeys gamboling about the property, mostly early in the morning. There is something marvelous about watching a bright blue Morpho butterfly sail past while you are having your morning tea.

White-faced capuchin monkey

Coatimundi. Apologies for the quality of the photo- these guys are adorable.

We took a lovely hiking the nearby national park. Here, too, the wildlife viewing is spectacular. We saw white faced capuchin monkeys, 3-toed sloth, and coatimundi. The hike ends at a beautiful vista of the Pacific Ocean. My only complaint is that it was beastly hot that day.

End of the trail in Mauel Antonio National Park

Out trip this year is about 2 1/2 weeks away. I’m hopeful that we have learned enough of the pitfalls that we can have a wonderful time in a country that I am growing to love.

Central Valley as seen from the air on the return flight from Quepos to San Jose

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At 08:45, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I am all contrite and taken whatever benzodiazepines were at hand and taken a chill pill and wrote a formal apology on my website etc.
Why does everyone in Costa Rica have purple heads?

At 21:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great trip! Beautiful jungle and lots of wildlife...I'm jealous!

At 10:25, Blogger Doug said...

Spo- perhaps we will take a canopy tour, and you, too will get to experience having a purple head.

At 16:22, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous! You guys will have such a great time! If Spo does a girly dance around a spider I want to see the pics. K? *L*

At 15:19, Anonymous Mark H said...

Hey Butterfly Man! What a wonderful trip writeup including the photos. Do you all leave together from Phoenix? I just sounds like a fabulous time to me...including the wildlife hikes, nature in its grandeur....volcanos to butterflies! This would be a trip of a lifetime to me. Are the helmets required ALL of the hike or just when passing over the deep ravines? Thanks for taking me on a beautiful mental trip.

At 07:14, Blogger Doug said...

Hi Mark,

The leaving from Phoenix together part is happening, but quite accidental. After we had made our respective plans, we found out that we were on the same flight together. The helmets were worn for the entire canopy tour. I believe that their purpose is to look fashionable on the way down in the event that you fall to your death.

At 11:36, Anonymous Mike Kessler said...

My husband and I will be spending about ten days in Costa Rica at the end of April. We've been trying to gather information on interesting and exciting things for gay couples to do there. Love this post of yours, and will have to read more of your blog! If you have anymore tips on Costa Rican travel for gay couples, feel free to send them our way.


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