Tag: Butterfly

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

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.

A structure below us in the mist.
A colorful tropical plant.

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.

Leslie and her toucan friend.
Two of the other toucans we saw.
Toucans are truly amazing birds.
A unique bird in the aviary.
Another view of the bird.
Some parrots in the aviary.
A very colorful parrot.

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.

There were hundreds of butterflies and moths.
Another view of the butterfly and moths.
People walking through the butterfly enclosure.
Enjoying the nectar from these flowers.
This blue beauty landed on Leslie’s shoulder.
Butterflies and moths seemed to be everywhere.
A pathway in the butterfly enclosure.
Another of the butterflies stopping for lunch.
These particular flowers were very popular with the residents.
Two butterflies flying while their mate rests on a leaf.
Several newly emerged butterflies.
There were dozens of cocoons on display.
Two new butterflies.

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.

One of the many orchids we saw.
A very dark orchid.
This was the brightest orchid we saw.

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.

Two of the three-toed sloths awakened from their slumber.
A very tiny poison frog.

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.

At lunch, the pause that refreshes…
Sitting in the treehouse of Colibries Restaurant.
The tree in the center of the dining area of Colibries Restaurant.

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.

A hummingbird stopping for a rest on the feeder perch.
A coiled viper.
A colorful tropical plant.
A purplish-blue flower in the rain forest.
Detail of the flower.
A multitude of plants in the rain forest.
Walking toward a 19th Century home.
Flowers seemed to be everywhere.
This reminded me of a bird of paradise. If that is what it is, I have never seen one with a single color.
Our well made-path to the waterfalls.
A colorful centipede on the path.
Various ferns and moss growing on the trunk of a tree.
A new fern will emerge soon.
The bridge by Templo Falls.
Templo Falls in the distance.
The top of Encantada Falls.
Encantada Falls is right beside the path.
A very tiny waterfall beside the path.
A weary hiker by Encantada Falls.
The people at the viewing platform are dwarfed by Encantada Falls.
The sign at the viewing platform.
The path winds away from Encantada Falls.
A smaller waterfall below Encantada Falls.
A red tropical flower.

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.

A furry friend at the end of our hike.

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.

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

Charlotte Amalie, U. S. Virgin Islands – January 7, 2013

***NEWSFLASH*** The U.S. Virgin Islands are officially beautiful!
I asked Leslie if she would like to retire there. She did not say no, but she did not say yes, either. Maybe there is a chance!
Sitting on the ship before we got off for the day’s adventure, we saw numerous yachts in the marina; they were mega yachts. We saw the Phoenix2, a 286-foot yacht built-in 2010; the Nirvana, a 290-foot yacht built-in 2012; and the US$103 million Vibrant Curiosity, a 280-foot yacht built-in 2009. They were all fantastic vessels. Photographs of them on-line confirm they are amazing inside too. The only yacht in these photos I might be able to afford is the rubber zodiac in the lower right corner of the panoramic photo…

The very large Vibrant Curiosity yacht.

The very large Phoenix yacht.
A panoramic view of the port at Charlotte Amalie.  Note the rubber zodiac in the lower right corner.

Our first destination was Blackbeard’s Castle. It is not a castle; in fact, the brochure even indicates “…it’s unlikely that Blackbeard himself…” was there. Regardless, it was a fun spot.
After we purchased our tickets, we listened to a brief presentation about Blackbeard and some of his antics. Then we were led into their small rum distillery. We listened to another short presentation on their rum-making methods. When that finished, we moved into the gift shop. We each sampled three different types of rum. We tried Blackbeard’s Castle Aged Rum, Bones Rum (complete with a skull and crossbones), and Virgin Islands Blend with peach flavoring. I suspect the last time I had rum at 09:00 I was probably in college!

A stone tower at Blackbeard’s Castle.
A pirate sculpture at Blackbeard’s Castle.
A pirate sculpture at Blackbeard’s Castle II.
A statue of Blackbeard in front of the tower.
Detail of the Blackbeard statue.
A view of Charlotte Amalie from Blackbeard’s Castle tower.
Some of the varieties of rum made and sold at Blackbeard’s Castle.
Some additional rums.

On this tour, once again, we were lucky. We had gotten out of the taxi at the front door, which was at the top of the hill. There are three other entry points; however, they were all at the bottom of the hill. That meant our self-guided tour was all downhill.
Shortly after exiting the rum distillery and museum we met a live “pirate” near one of the swimming pools. We took some fun photos with him.

Tyler dealing with a pirate at Blackbeard’s Castle.
Hillary dealing with a pirate at Blackbeard’s Castle.
Leslie dealing with a pirate at Blackbeard’s Castle.
I turned the tables on the pirate!!
The seaside of the tower at Blackbeard’s Castle, complete with a swimming pool.
A statue on the grounds of Blackbeard’s Castle.

Britannia House is on the grounds of Blackbeard’s Castle.  It is open for tours.  The admission is part of the price we originally paid.  It is a beautiful house with spectacular ceilings.  The views from the terrace are amazing.

A view of Britannia House including the unique ceiling.
Charlotte Amalie as seen from the terrace of Britannia House. The flag on the left is from Denmark. The flag on the right is for the U. S. Virgin Islands.
The view of the port from the terrace of Britannia House. Our cruise ship is the one on the left.
A street sign near Britannia House.

We continued to the World Caribbean Amber Museum. They have hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of amber on display. I found it unusual how lightweight even the most substantial pieces are. The other very unique item was the two-story-high amber waterfall.

A waterfall at the museum made entirely of amber.
Detail of the amber waterfall.
Closeup of the amber waterfall.
Flowers near the Amber Museum.
Flowers near the Amber Museum II.

Continuing downhill we next found ourselves at the Hotel 1829. The old kitchen is now the hotel bar. We took a break from our walking about and had a beer or two. Our two choices of local beer were the Blackbeard Ale and the Virgin Islands Summer Ale. They were both tasty, although I liked the Blackbeard Ale the best. The Island Summer Ale was a little too sweet for my taste.

During our beer tasting, Tyler and I discovered a backgammon table inside. He and I played a game while we drank our beer.

After all of the walking in the heat, it was time to sample some local lagers.
Tyler and I took the opportunity to play a game of backgammon.

Next on our list were the “99 Steps”. There are 103 by my count. It seems the U.S. added a few after purchasing the islands from the Dutch in the early 1900s. I am not sure exactly why; regardless, the stairs are still an attraction.

The famous 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie.

Once we made it down the stairs, we hailed a taxi to take us back to the cruise ship area. When we were dropped off, we made our way to the Butterfly Farm. It is at the south end of the port. It was a little pricey at US$12 per head, but it was a unique experience. By the time we left, I had adjusted my thinking. The experience was well worth the price!
Tomorrow, sea day and a behind the scenes tour of our cruise ship.

Our cruise ship docked near the butterfly enclosure.
My family under a pergola covered with flowers. They were watching some butterflies.
Detail of the flowers on the pergola.
A butterfly enjoying a yellow flower.
A unique flower in the butterfly enclosure.
Butterflies snacking on a banana that seems to be beyond its prime.
There were multiple types of flowers from which the butterflies could choose.
An unusual looking plant in the butterfly enclosure.
We had to watch where we stepped while we were in the enclosure.
A butterfly on the leaves of a water plant.
A butterfly relaxing on a bench.
Several butterflies in a tree.
Another banana feeding point.
A butterfly spread its wings while dining.
The same butterfly with its wings folded.
Another view of the butterfly with open wings.
A butterfly hanging on an unopened flower.
A butterfly in the hand is worth two in the bush…or something like that.
Another butterfly on the hand.
This butterfly spread its wings for all to see.
A visitor in our room bearing chocolates.