April 3, 2008

Day two

We spent the first day flying, leaving at 7 am, which meant that most people had to get up at 3:30 am to get to the airport on time. We had planned to check our large luggage and then say goodbyes, but we were ushered through the security gates immediately. I was the lucky one chosen for a complete security check, including a full body pat-down (like a gentle full-body massage!). The guy in the line-up behind me had concealed a razor knife in his backpack which was of course found and confiscated, so I didn't mind the increased security too much, and the staff were very nice.

It seemed a bit prophetic that we were flying by a full moon, but I chose to consider that a good sign, rather than anything sinister.

The first flight was only a couple of hours, and then we had a lay-over of four hours in Pheonix - not enough time to leave the airport, and just long enough to eat lunch and then get really bored. The next jump was much longer, and the movie screens weren't working, so it was very long and boring for those passengers who were hoping to pass the hours watching a movie.

It was already dark whem we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, and we just had enough time to grab a quick supper and head off to our hotel rooms. The hotel we were staying in was right in the worst part of town, and we were warned not to leave the hotel anyway, so nobody really felt like they were going to miss anything by going to bed.

This is the view from the balcony of our hotel room first thing in the morning:

There are nearly as many hours of daylight as night that close to the Equator, so our days usually started with a 6:30 breakfast, and we were on the road by 7:00. It must make sense to people who are used to that rhythym, but we are from much farther north, where the days are short in the winter, and 18 hours or so in the summer.
Our first stop was the INBioparque, which is a natioanl research institute of biodiversity. The small park has nature trails through areas representing the different climate and land zones found in Costa Rica, and the trained guides are very knowledgable. The park is home to lots of birds, deer and turtles, and quite a few of these caymans:

We all anxiously watched these adult birds trying to protect their babies from the cayman (on the left in the photo). They babies were so tiny and fuzzy, and seemed quite oblivious to their impending doom.

Of course there were also quite a few iguanas for a more personal encounter than one would find in the wild:

Visiting the park before venturing out into the wild lands also enabled us to capture on film the incredible blue butterflies. We would see lots of them throughout our adventures, but they never sat still enough to see them through the camera viewfinder.

The most outstanding feature of the landscape that first day was the incredible color - banks of brilliantly colored flowers everywhere.

Once we completed our tour of the park, we were back on the road, heading to Poas volcano. We passed this oxcart on the road,

and our enthusiastic tour director stopped the bus to allow us to get pictures of the cart, and to bribe the owner into letting us sit on the ox for pictures. Note the width of the road - that is the main highway.The ox was quite a beautiful creature, and while they were tolerant, they weren't friendly. This type of cart and decorative headgear for the oxen are very traditional, and even celebrated with a festival once a year! I don't really get it, but it is a good thing if it encourages people to keep these lovely creatures.

More next post...

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