Tag: Frog

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.

Tunis Seminar

Tunis Seminar

Tunis, Tunisia – December 14, 2010

This trip marks my first time ever on the continent of Africa!  I am here to attend training on pest control at the embassy.

When I arrived at the airport it was dark, so it was very difficult to get my bearings.  An expediter from the embassy met me and helped me through immigration.  Once through, we collected my luggage and went to the car.

He drove me to the Ramada so I could check-in.  My room, 3138, overlooks the pool area. I can hear the Mediterranian Sea in the background. It is now about 21:30 and I am completely beat. I got up this morning at about 02:30 to catch my flight in Madrid, so it has been a long day.  My journey began early because I had to fly from Madrid to Paris.  In Paris, I had several hours layover at the airport before I could board my flight to Tunis.

Home away from home in Tunis.
The hotel swimming pool as seen from my room.
A sample of the local currency.
Relaxing with a glass of wine and a small snack.

My first full day was spent at the training. It was an interesting day. There will definitely be some things I can take back to Madrid to use there. On the evening of that first full day, we went to the restaurant Le Golfe. The name means “The Gulf’, referring to the Gulf of Tunis. The dinner was delicious. I had medallions of beef with two sauces; one, a brown pepper sauce and the other more of a white sauce. I topped it all off with an orange and lemon sorbet. The dinner was about 50 Tunisian Dinar, somewhere around US$35.

The swimming pool in the early morning.
The hotel swimming pool.
Pedestrians crossing as we drove to the embassy.
Morning traffic.
Driving to the embassy.

The training the next day was on the road.  Instead of sitting in a classroom at the embassy, we went as a group to several homes in the city to look at specific pest issues and learn how to mitigate them.  Periodically, we were able to stop to take in some of the local sights.

A roundabout with a mosque in the background.
A sign for the Tunisian Academy of Sciences.
The building housing the Tunisian Academy of Sciences.
Fishing in the Mediterranian Sea.
A feral cat.
Looking to the northwest along Avenue de la République.
Trees at the end of Avenue de la République.
A very calm Mediterranian Sea.
Ruins at Antonine Baths in the Carthage section of Tunis.
A tourist shop across from the Antonine Baths.
Some of my classmates looking over the items for sale.
At the Antonine Baths looking toward the Presidential Compound.
A wall at the Antonine Baths ends at the Mediterranian Sea.
A panoramic view of a portion of the Antonine Baths.
Many types of footwear for sale across from the Antonine Baths.
Another tourist shop near the Antonine Baths.

On that second day, after the seminar, my friend Gary and I went to the Carthage Museum. It was very cold that afternoon, but the museum was very interesting. The city the Carthaginians built was a real marvel for its time. Apparently, it so threatened the Romans that they came in and literally destroyed the town. Even still, the ruins were fascinating.

The house of the son of the President of Tunisia nearing the end of construction.
Looking east across the Gulf of Tunis.
The back of a tiled bench.
The Harbor Sidi Bou Said as seen from an overlook. The east side of the Gulf of Tunis is in the distance.
A frog or toad near the sidewalk.
Some flowers growing near a wall.
A beautiful bloom
A typical door in Tunis.
Yours truly posing by the door.
Same door, same yours truly.
A staff member looking out of a door.
Three amigos in Tunis for training.
The class photo.
A poinsettia plant.
A unique flowering plant.
A palm tree at the top of the stairs.
A very red Mini Cooper.
A hand-stenciled, wooden license plate.
Detail of a typical home in Tunis.
A garden statue.
Yet another garden statue.
The instructor sharing methods to deal with mosquitos.
Detail of a palm tree.
A Tunisian flag flying near the Carthage Museum.
Remains of columns at the Carthage Museum.
One of my classmates at the Carthage Museum.
Ruins of a Carthaginian city dating from as far back as the seventh century B.C.
The ruins are known as Byrsa Hill.
Another view of the ruins.
View toward the Carthage Museum.
Domes of the Acropolium of Carthage.
Detail of a mosaic.
Detail of a mosaic II.
Detail of a mosaic III.
A statue at the Carthage Museum.
A second statue.
A mosaic floor from an ancient building.
Posing with a very large head.
Posing with a rather large head at the Carthage Museum.
A map of the Mediterranian at the height of the Carthage influence.
A model of a portion of the city.
An artist’s rendition of what the Carthaginian city may have looked like.
Detail of a mosaic outside the museum.
Detail of a mosaic outside the museum II.
A panoramic view from Byrsa Hill.
Portions of columns.
The Acropolium of Carthage, a musical venue.
The entrance for the Carthage Museum.
A souvenir shop closed for the day.

When we were through, our friend Jim came to the museum to pick us up and take us to his home for dinner.  On the way to his home, he drove us through the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.  Interred there are hundreds from the North Africa battles of World War II. It was a moving sight.

The many graves at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.
A statue at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial. The inscription reads, “Honor to Them That Trod the Path of Honor.”
An inscription at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial. It reads, “Here we and all who shall hereafter live in freedom will be reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live.”

While I was at the training, Leslie’s birthday came and went.  As part of my gift to her, I had my classmates write a birthday wish to Leslie.  The only catch was that the wish had to be in their native language.  I thought it turned out well.

Birthday greetings are written to Leslie in several languages.
Birthday greetings are written to Leslie in several languages, page 2.

On the way home from Tunis, I did not have to go through Paris.  I had a direct flight from Tunis to Madrid.  At just a little over two hours, that made the return journey much more tolerable.

This trip really taught me to have a “plan B” set up whenever I travel. Just a week or two after departing Tunis, the Arab Spring riots began. Jim, the same man with whom we had dinner after our museum visit, had his wife and children evacuated out of Tunisia because of the unrest. At one point, he had a tank sitting in front of his house for several weeks.  I am very happy I was able to get out of the country before all of this trouble began.