Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, Key Largo, Florida

We enjoyed a special bonus during our Exploritas program; a visit to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. It's one of he things I most enjoy about these programs; you think the schedule and activities they provide are more than plenty and there always is at least one additional surprise item that really makes the program so special.

Take a look here at some of the shots I got of these characters...don't think for a minute that I am a great photographer...they were all posing patiently for me. It was practically impossible to get a bad shot.

The organization is a grass roots run bird sanctuary supported by private donations and a lot of sweat equity of the locals. I for one am very grateful for their efforts. Send a few dollars if you are so inclined. Here is their official link.
(Double click any photo to enlarge and really enjoy.)

This Great White Egret was posing perfectly for me. I love the wispy feathers.

How could you say no to this guy? He came close so I could give him a "noggin-rub"...amazing!

Do you think this Cockatoo is showing off just a little?

Here he is in a bit more dignified position.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's Okra?

Well that is the question that Chuck asked me over dinner this evening. When he asked I immediately had visions of the seedy and slimy center of the two inch vegetable that is so popular in Louisiana gumbo dishes. But rather than saying anything about that; I just said is was a vegetable. He said he KNEW that. Good enough.

But could I really tell him what he ordered to have with his dinner? No, I couldn't. He has already made it clear that he hates tomatoes. They have that gooey stuff and all those seeds.

No, he can't eat tomatoes.

He said he also cannot eat cucumbers for the same reason.

So when they delivered the fried okra, I said nothing.

To say I was shocked when he said the okra was good, would be an understatement. I just keep learning about his tastes.

Oh, by the way...I DO NOT eat okra!

Woody and Friends

So I have been on the road for a while and haven't seen my new birdie. But my cousin thought it might be nice for me to see the new friends that he has made since he has been visiting with her.

Isn't he just the social butterfly? Wait till he sees the red parrot I have for him at home!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

La Paz Waterfalls Gardens, Costa Rica

Our last day in Costa Rica was spent on a tour to a coffee plantation, the Poas volcano and the La Paz Waterfalls Gardens this was, by far, one of the top three things we saw/did on our visit. The area was full of lush gardens and of course the waterfalls, but what I enjoyed the most, was the hummingbirds and the frogs.
I guess I should confess, right here and now, that I was a bit disappointed on my two previous trips to Costa Rica. I never saw the frogs. They way they advertise them, you'd think you would be tripping over them! I mean really...in the advertisements they seem to be everywhere. That is not true. They are deep in the jungles and are pretty much visible only during the rainy season (not a time that I would like to visit) So I sort of reconciled myself to the fact that I would probably never see a live one. That is until today at La Paz...

I saw these green guys in a special jungle room of the very well laid out jungles and displays

You must know that I was incredibly disappointed to see that the only frogs there were these pale green ones. They look like blobs of green...well, ok, I won't go any further on that one! But I think you get my drift.

They looked like green blobs, until they decided to get up and move. Then they morphed into the beautiful multi-colored frogs that I have been looking for, for years. Oh...seeing one live and moving just inches away is too fabulous to describe! Take a look at these pics and see if you don't agree..
This little guy was really scared and was clinging to this fellow tourists finger for dear life. I guess I was too close to get a really crisp photo, but you can begin to see the beauty on this little fellow.

He managed to escape to a nearby wall and was heading for a big green leaf where he could become invisible again.

Thanks, little one...I really enjoyed spending some time with you!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hot Dogs in Santa Elena, Costa Rica

This may sound a bit odd, but we found this terrific hot dog stand in Santa Elena. We were really pressed for time between tours. The morning we were Zip lining in Monteverde and the afternoon we were scheduled to go on a horseback riding tour. We asked the tour bus to drop us off in town so we might find a quick bite to hold us over to dinner time. We got way more than we asked for and I mean that in a good way!

Look here, the menu is pasted to the counter top of the street-side store. It was really just a very small opening in the wall with a little counter space. The hot dogs were made in Costa Rica and were a blend of delicious meat and none of the fillers and chemicals that I have become accustomed to here in the states.

The dog itself was very tasty, but when all the additional items were added all I can say is that it was really the best hot dog I EVER had (and that means BETTER than my favorite hot Texas wieners!!)

One of the things that make these dogs so good is that there are some very unusual items added to them. Look at the menu above and you will get the idea. Again, sometime words just cannot describe the moment when it comes to food.

She has a nice little paper form that holds the bun and dog; then she just sprinkles the goodies on top. The dogs are heated in the microwave so no grease, no over-boiling, just good 'n hot meat!
Here is the finished product. Yes, those are crumbled potato chips on top of other items. Believe me, this was fabulous! As you may be able to determine by the enthusiastic bite that Chuck is having on his dog!

Heaven....pure heaven!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a visit to Arenal Volcano. So I made sure we included it in this whirlwind trip around Costa Rica. There is something magnificent about the view and the area that would be a sin to miss.

We arrived in the late afternoon and were scheduled for a visit to Tabacon Hot Springs. Now this is a place that you should really reserve the better part of a day for, since it is so beautiful with so many different hot springs that one can dip into and relax. The surrounding gardens are a treat for the eye and if you want a massage or mud pack treatment, that can be provided. They have a huge pool with a sit down bar. You never have to leave the healing waters for refreshment!
We arrived late so I was unable to get any decent pictures but suffice to say, this is a place that is well worth the trip.

We stayed at the Hotel Paraiso which is only moments from the hot springs and affords every room a magnificent view of the volcano...if you have a clear day!

At the Tabacon Hot Springs we also had a buffet dinner below you see an interesting arrangement of the dessert assortment one could pick from...or you could have all of them, no one is stopping you!

The salad bar wrapped around the area where you could make your selection from the many entrees available

You can choose from already prepared chicken, fish, beef or pork entrees or you can have your personal chef concoct your very own pasta creation. Here you can see the chef preparing two at the same time!

At last, our view of the volcano from our room...just a little cloud cover at the top!

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

After our wonderful white water rafting experience we were taken to the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo where we stayed for two days. Our purpose there was snorkeling the coral reef and hiking the Cahuita National Forest. That was all well and good but the things I enjoyed most were the colorful buildings and the beaches splattered with fishing boats. The area is definitely casual and people go about their lives with the least amount of energy that gets them a life style that works for them. It is a study in less is more and now is all. Maybe the pictures will show what I seem to be unable to explain...

Like right here, a fellow is carrying a swath of thatch roofing...obviously there is a hut somewhere nearby that has developed a leak. See how they attach the fronds so they are tight and all facing in one direction so the rain water easily slides off. So cool!

Just another splattering of fishing boats on the beach

Here is a tipical Costa Rican breakfast: toast, pinto gallo, eggs and a fried plantain followed with lots of coffee and at least three perfectly ripened fruits

This is the sign that points you to the bakery/breakfast place...anyone who stayed in the town for more than a day found this place and then would go nowhere else for breakfast!

This was our breakfast place before we found PanPay! It was fabulous too!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Green Creations Tour Company Costa Rica

We just finished a twelve day adventure tour of Costa Rica and while it is likely that I will make several posts about the adventures, food and experiences that ensued, I think it is really important to make a separate post about the people that put the package together for us. Green Creations handled everything for us.

We really did not know exactly what we wanted to do or what was available but after a few emails we had our adventure package all done and the price was very affordable. One of the things I really liked about this agent was they gave us so much adventure and still stayed within the budget that we set at the beginning.

We were a two couple group starting the trip together but they were staying for only 7 days while we were staying for 12 days. The first 7 days the four of us enjoyed white water (class 3 - 4) rafting on the Pacuare River, transfer to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast for a snorkeling tour of a coral reef and additional swimming and a hike through the Cahuita National Park led by a guide. We stayed in a nice rustic hotel just off the main street in town and went into town for tipical Costa Rican meals in various eateries. we discovered a bakery/breakfast located right on the beach on the last day of our stay here and that was very enjoyable.

We transferred by van to the Arenal Volcano area and visited the Tabacon Hot Springs and enjoyed a buffet dinner at the restaurant located on the property. We stayed at the Hotel Paraiso which was fabulous and every room is positioned so it has an unobstructed view of the volcano (that is if it is not cloudy!) The hotel property also has a series of hot springs pools that guests can enjoy..not as good as Tabacon, but still, if pressed for time makes a good substitute.
Our transport picked us up and brought us to the lake for a water crossing and van pick up on the other side for transport to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The ride was a bit rough since the entire road was unpaved but the experience is like no other...you ride past coffee farms, climb mountains and get a reverse view of the Arenal Volcano along the way.

We arrived in Santa Elena, just next to Monteverde and found delicious food in the small town for dinner. The following day we went to Monteverde and did a Zip Line tour that covered over 10,000 feet of distance. This was my second zip line experience and was much faster and exciting than the first. Afterwards we did the canopy and hanging bridges tour. We caught our van back to our hotel in just enough time to grab the best hot dog this side of the Mississippi before going for a very enjoyable horse-back ride through fields and forest near Monteverde.
For dinner we grabbed a light meal and decided to celebrate with an exotic drink and listen to live music...that particular night it was the mirimba (one instrument and three players)!
The following day we bid goodbye to our friends and headed to Quepos on the Pacific coast.

We arrived a little bit before the room was ready so we hung out at the pool and checked out the area. After we got into our room we discovered that we had inadvertently left a camera on the van. Panic ensued but I called the folks at Green Creation and we had worked out a plan that resulted in the camera being delivered to our hotel by seven that evening. Pretty amazing, I thought! We stayed in a nice hotel (Mimos) that had a great Italian restaurant attached. We had arranged for another horse-back tour that also included a short hike to a secluded waterfalls...we saw lots of leaf cutter ants along the way. At the end of the tour we were treated a tipical Costa Rican hot meal of chicken, vegetables and pinto gallo, lots of fresh lemonade and beautiful pineapple and other fruits.

We took a transfer van ride to Ojochal on the Pacific coast, here the hotel (Villas Gaia) was and eco-lodge and was very nicely appointed, secluded and air conditioned. They also had a good restaurant attached to the property and a pool set on a rise that overlooked the ocean. There was also a rough hewn trail that led down toward the ocean, but because of tide issues I was not able to to take it all the way to the water. (note if you do this hike bring and use lots of bug repellent) it was a great hike with monkeys and other wildlife to be seen along the way.

We took a van ride to the Serpico River for a boat to the ocean and final destiny of Corcovado National Park. Here we took a 2.5 hour hike led by a naturalist and saw lots of wildlife. It was a bit warm and I found myself wishing I had brought a few snacks to revive my energy. But not to worry, we made it back to the rangers' station for a good lunch and lots of fruit and juices before our return to our hotel.

We left for San Jose the following day because we had one more day of tours before our return to the US. The final tour was of the Doka Coffee Plantation, the Poas Volcano and finally the la Paz Waterfalls. This final combination of tours was absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend taking this one if you are unsure of what you might like to do in Costa Rica.

The coffee tour included a breakfast before we toured the plants, beans and roasting facilities. It was on to Poas after that and that particular day we had lots of fog so did not see much of the volcano but the flora and fauna in the area were very enjoyable. The best of the best was the La Paz Waterfalls Gardens...this is an area of beautiful waterfalls but it also has gorgeous gardens and flowers. They also have several displays of animals...jungle cats and monkeys, frogs and insects, hundreds (no thousands) of hummingbirds and other birds and wildlife as well. As if that was not enough, the buffet lunch was delicious and presented in jungle setting that was very special.

Ok, that was it, we left for the US the following day.

Oh, one more thing. when we took the van from the Corcovado section of the Pacific coast I managed to lose my prescription sun glasses. the clip that held them to my pocket apparently broke. I knew where they were, but the van had already pulled away. Could our agent manage to do it again? Have a lost article delivered to our hotel? This time, no...the glasses could not be returned before our flight the next morning, so the agent has mailed to my home address.
Now, THAT is something to be very grateful for! Our agent was right there for us at every turn if there was the slightest problem or issue they were right there to provide a solution, that made our trip very enjoyable and comfortable. I highly recommend using this travel agent for any Costa Rican vacation package that you may be considering, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

First Day in Costa Rica

We arrived at San Jose Airport on Saturday, January 23rd and headed to our in-town hotel and dinner. We found a nice little open air place, Beso, on the corner down the street from our hotel and was quite happy with the food

I ordered the stuffed sea bass. I thought it was cool how they stacked my french fries and did a little op-art with the sauce on my dish. The food was great.

Chuck ordered the salmon and it was very tasty as well. Actually, we both agreed that when we stay here again the night before we leave we would order the opposite dishes. Sadly, we had such a large lunch that day we had no space for dinner before our return to the States.
I love it when the staff get creative with ordinary things...here they have folded the toilet paper into a work of art!

This was our room in San Jose...very roomy and clean.