Heredia Province, Costa Rica – March 13, 2013
Once everyone was back on the bus after our hike on Mount Poas, we began our journey to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It was back up into the clouds. As if that were not enough, it was raining too. So when we got off the bus at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, we had to make a quick dash to the building. As we entered the building, we were each given a wrist band to show we had paid the entry fee.
The first building we were in was a gift store. They were doing a brisk business in rain ponchos. We did not need one because I had brought an umbrella for us to use. A brochure I picked up in the building touts the following:
“Nowhere else on earth can guests feed toucans and hummingbirds by hand, release newly hatched butterflies into their first flight, look straight into the eyes of a jaguar, or observe the brilliant colors of a red-eyed leaf frog from just inches away.”
Looking closer at the brochure, I could see we were in for a two and one-half hour, 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) walk through the rain forest. With just a couple of exceptions, the entire walk would be downhill.
Walking down the trail in the rain.
Our tour began by walking down to the bird aviary. I have been in several aviaries. I must say this is the largest. There were numerous species in the aviary; however, the stars of the aviary were the toucans. For those that wanted a photo, one of the guides would coax the bird onto a shoulder or arm for the perfect shot. Luckily, Leslie opted to “host” one of the birds.
Leaving the aviary, we shortly arrived at the butterfly enclosure. We had gone to a butterfly farm when we stopped at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The enclosure at La Paz was significantly better and more entertaining than the one in St. Thomas. First of all, it was at least four times the size. That meant there were hundreds of butterflies. Second, the layout of the enclosure helped make the experience much more enjoyable since it was built on the side of a hill the topography lent to the interest. Lastly, there was an area where there were dozens of cocoons; several of those had butterflies emerging.
We made our way through the rain and drizzle to the orchid display area. The orchid is the national flower of Costa Rica. I have never seen so many orchids in one place. Eddie, our guide, told us there are hundreds of varieties in his country.
We continued to the jungle cats area. I must say my least favorite part of our visit was the various animal cages such as the monkeys, sloths, and jungle cats. It did look like the animals received proper care, but I just thought the cages were too small and cramped.
Finally, it was time for lunch. We were starving after all of the physical activity. The Colibries Restaurant is roughly in the middle of the various exhibits. The architecture of the restaurant gives the feel of eating among the towering trees and waterfalls of the rain forest. It is a buffet-style restaurant. The food was much better than the touristy fare we were expecting. We had quite a selection including pizza, bean dip, and tortilla chips, fresh tomatoes, pork ribs (BBQ), and of course red wine.
After the enjoyable and relaxing lunch, we started for the first of five waterfalls. It was a beautiful stroll down several stone stairs. It had stopped raining while we ate lunch, so walking was a little easier. We finally made it to a bridge from which one could look upstream toward Templo Falls. We continued along, stopping to admire Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida, and lastly La Paz Falls.
Our final stop was the gift shop at the shuttle bus pick-up point. While we were on the bench waiting for our bus, we were surprised by a raccoon that appeared near the seat. It just sat quietly and watched everyone.
When the bus arrived, we all piled on, glad to be sitting. The road at this point is about half paved and half dirt. That is thanks to the last major earthquake in the area. I believe Eddie said that an earthquake happened on June 9, 2009. He went on to say the same bus in which we were riding had ended up at the bottom of the ravine. Just before the earthquake hit, the driver that day had dropped off the passengers where we had disembarked earlier in the day. On his way down to the shuttle bus stop (from which we had just departed), the earthquake struck. The bus went off the road and rolled numerous times, coming to rest at the bottom of the ravine. The driver was not badly hurt.
Eddie continued to pepper us with tidbits on our way back to San Jose. One I got a kick out of was his reference to speed bumps on the road as “sleeping police.”
At the hotel, we went directly to our room to relax for a while.
After two more days of the conference, it was time for us to head back home on March 16. We took a 04:30 taxi to the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. When we arrived, we found ourselves in a sea of tourists trying to get out of the country.
We took our place at the end of a very long queue at American Airlines. After about a minute, I remembered being told the day before to be sure I went through immigration control before checking-in. Immigration control is tucked away in a corner. I can only imagine there are several angry people every day that are denied assistance at the counter and sent to immigration control.
Once we made it through immigration control, we went back to the American Airlines queue. It was huge, with some 100 to 150 people waiting. I had Leslie stand in line, and I went to the first class counter. They said they would help us because of Leslie’s hip. So, thankfully, we bypassed all of those people.
With our boarding passes in hand, we went to the security queue. It was more than twice the size of the American Airlines queue. After winding through the rope line one or two times, one of the Costa Rican National Police spotted Leslie. They unhooked the rope and took us right away. They looked at our passports and then directed us directly to one of the scanning stations. So, once again, we bypassed a zillion people.
On the other side of the metal detector, I was waiting for my carry-on. When I put my hand on the bag, one of the police said something to me in Spanish. When he saw I did not understand, he switched to English. He said just one word, “scissors,” and pointed to my bag. It was then I remembered Leslie had put her cross-stitch in my carry-on. The offending scissors were of the three-inch variety. I gave them to the officer, and we were on our way again.
I sat Leslie at our gate, and then I began the hunt for coffee. I returned with a café and a café con leche. The coffee was terrific, the best we have had since we left Spain.
The agent at the counter knew we were going to pre-board, and she called us to the front of the queue after we had finished our coffee. We stood there waiting. Soon, a female flight attendant came by and scolded us for standing there. She said we would be there for a long time because the flight crew was not even on board yet. Neither of us said anything. We just looked at her.
We finally got on board and settled in for our relatively short flight to Miami, Florida.
Once we got to Miami, we made it through immigration and customs fairly quickly. I left Leslie at the customs exit and began the hunt for a wheelchair. As it turns out, the first place I found was the same stand we had used a week earlier. That was near concourse D. We went back to get Leslie and then made our way to the Caribbean Airlines ticket counter at concourse J. What a walk.
At one point in our stroll, the wheelchair attendant helping Leslie stopped, put on the wheelchair brakes, and ran a little way down a side corridor. I had no idea what she was doing. Then I saw her stop at a luggage cart, turn around, and she brought it back to me. It was kind of her to do that because I had been wrestling our two large checked-bags and the one carry-on.
After we checked our luggage, got our boarding passes, and made it through security, I gave the attendant a generous tip.
When she left us, we sat down for a meal at McDonald’s, something we have not done in a very long time. That hit the spot.
As we waited at our gate at the Miami airport, I talked with the gate agent. She said that since we did not have a transit ticket, we should be allowed to stay on the plane in Port of Spain.
Once we were on the plane in our seats, I noticed we had a reasonable amount of legroom. The seat in front of me was about four inches from my knees; pretty good for the coach section of the aircraft. I turned around and saw an exit row was empty. I asked if we could switch to those seats, to which the flight attendant replied, no. There was some problem with the exit window. The flight attendant did offer the row in front of the exit row. It was empty too.
Leslie and I switched. As soon as we did, the lady that had been seated beside Leslie had her friend sit with her. As soon as we sat down, we saw the error of our ways. The seat in front of me was touching my knees. The top of the chair was within four or five inches of my face. Our seats would not recline because of the exit row behind us. That soured our attitude and made for a long flight.
Our attitude took a turn for the worse when we landed at Port of Spain, and we found out we would have to disembark, go through security again, and then get back on the same plane. Not having a transit ticket made the experience even worse. The attendant had to handwrite a ticket for each of us. We took our tickets, went through security, then sat in the waiting area. The one good thing was we got our original seats back.
We arrived in Guyana at 21:45 and made it home at 23:00, a long day of travel.