Monday, July 30, 2007


Las Juntas

When we come back from the beach along the Pan American Highway we pass though Las Juntas de Albangares on our way up the mountain. It's an old mining town where some people still mine gold. The statues in the picture above depict the miners, and in another part of town there is an old mining train. It's a pretty typical Tico town, and there aren't any tourists who come here. It's the equivalent of a county seat, and so you have to come here to conduct any offical business, such as business permits or payment of land taxes.

It's pretty different from Santa Elena, where we live, which is a total tourist town. Jim describes it as ski town without snow, which is a pretty accurate description. Lately there have been so many tourists that there are traffic jams in town, with all the local buses and tour buses. I particularly like the sign on the bus that goes to the Cloud Forest Reserve; it says Cloudy Forest on the sign, which about sums it up.



Playa Tamarindo y Playa Grande

Kevin and Catie in the Diria pool

Playa Tamarindo with a view of Playa Grande

Playa Grande

Jim's lot in Playa Grande

After we left La Fortuna we drove to Playa Tamarindo, via Tilaran and Canas, and then north on the Panamerican Highway to Liberia. From there we drove west to the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. Stefano and his family went to Playa Panama to a resort, but we drove another hour south to Tamarindo, to Hotel Diria. This hotel has the most fantastic swimming pool - it's build like a beach, so you can wade in, which I think is great. There are little coves, with islands and bridge, and a swim up bar. We spent a lot of time swimming there during the two days we spent at the hotel.

We also took a drive to Playa Grande, where Jim has a lot right near the beach. Right now it's quite overgrown, with only a real estate sign on it. We left for home around 2 p.m. on Saturday, and it took us about 3 hours to get home. The main road to the beaches has been paved, which makes a huge difference in travel time and comfort.


Sunday, July 29, 2007


Stefano and Jim in La Fortuna

View of Tileran on the way to Arenal

Our friends Stefano and Marie and their children Antoniella and Lenny came to Costa Rica this week for a week vacation. They had hoped to visit us in Monteverde, but their travel agent was misinformed and told them that their resort in La Fortuna was close enough to take a taxi. We decided to take the three hour trip and visit them instead, so on Wednesday morning we headed out of Santa Elena towards Tilaran and then on to La Fortuna and the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort.

View of Arenal Volcano from our hotel room

We weren't aware that the springs and the resort were two different places, a simple mistake considering that I asked the parking lot attendent if we were at the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort, and he said yes, without pointing out that the hotel was actually about a mile further along the road. Due to the confusion, it took us a while to connect with our friends, but we eventually got tired of waiting, and started the drive to La Fortuna, when we came upon the other part of the resort.

We went for a swim in the hot springs, which the kids loved. It's quite well done; there are a number of different sized pools, some with waterfalls, and the water was quite warm. The largest pool in the front had a water slide, and Kevin and Catie spent most of their time in this pool, which was convenient as it was located next to the swim up bar. I tried taking picutures in the springs, but it was so steamy that none of them came out very well.

We then decided to take a drive to the Arenal Observatory to have a closer look at the volcano. We drove up a narrow dirt road, across a rather sketchy looking bridge, and into the woods, up the mountain. It was about 8 pm and quite dark, and as we didn't really know where we were going the ride was scarier than it would have been in the daylight. We forded one stream, and when we came to another, we decided to it was too risky and decided to turn around. Antoniella thought she saw a light in the distance, so we got out of the car to investigate. Good thing we did, because we were about 100 yards from the guard's shack that in front of the driveway to the observatory. Back in the car, up another 2 km to the top, and as we got out of the car, Arenal put on a show. I had never seen the volcano up close before, and I couldn't believe the amount of lava flowing down the sides. By the time I got my camera out, it had slowed down, so in my picture you can only see some of the lava. It's disconcerting to stand under a live volcano, so we didn't stay too long, and left to have dinner in town. Lenny and Antoniella had arranged for Stefano and Marie to have a privately catered dinner in a rainforest setting to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Hiking, Foosball and Dancing

On Sunday we went hiking on our farm with the kids and two of our friends who live close by, Jessica and Luis Alonso. We left around 9 a.m. and drove to the second gate on the farm, where we left the car and started walking. We walked for about a mile on the road, and then entered the farm at the last gate, and started the descent. I've done this hike a number of times, several times on horseback, and I have to say that I prefer doing it on horseback even though the height scares me a bit. Even though the difference in altitude is less than 300 meters (1000 ft.) it seems a lot more extreme, especially on the way up.

It was an exciting hike. Don Carlos has put a lot of new cattle on the farm, and they didn't seem as tame as the other cattle he used to have. Even the cows have big horns, which is rather intimidating. It didn't bother Kevin, and he picked up a long stick and yelled some kind of cowboy yell to get them moving along. Jessica and Luis Alonso were happy to have him take charge of the cattle. Then Don Carlos' rather frisky young horse started following us. I didn't figure out for a while that he kept approaching me (which had me rather scared, because the last time we rode horses on the farm this horse acted very agressively with the other horses) because I was wearing Kevin's Australian cowboy hat, which looks somewhat like Don Carlos' cowboy hat. Hmmm... I think I was confusing the horse. Anyway, Kevin took some time to get the horse to come up to him to eat out of his hand, and to let him touch him. When we told Don Carlos later that Kevin was working on taming his horse, he could hardly believe it, as he told us this horse is rather wild, and hasn't been broken yet.

We hiked down to the little house that is still on the farm, and talked Jim out of hiking all the way down to the river. (What goes down has to come up!) Instead we walked a little way to check out a waterfall, which normally has a lot of water, but that day only a trickle of water was running. All in all, we hiked for about four hours, and by the time we walked back to the car my legs were rubbery.

We now have a new bar right near our farm, Bar Pabas, and luckily it was open when we passed by! We decided to stop for lunch, and the kids were happy to see that they have a new Foosball game. They were playing some great Spanish cowboy music, and Jim and I did our best to embarass the kids by dancing.

Jessica and Luis Alonso invited us to go to Tilaran this weekend to visit Luis Alonso's parents, and to do some fishing. I'm looking forward to it.



Don Carlos' Farm in La Lindora

Don Carlos Salas takes care of our farm for us. He and his wife Noemi live in La Lindora, a small village located about 15 minutes outside of Santa Elena. From his farm, he has a beautiful view of our farm, pictured in the photo below. Our farm starts just after the second peak from the left, and extends to where the mountain is obscured a bit by the trees in the forground. That's Carlos and Jim in the second photo.

Don Carlos wanted Kevin and Catie to come and see his twin cows; one set, the white ones, were born three weeks ago, and the golden ones were born about 12 hours before the photos were taken. Twins are not that common, and so Carlos was incredibly lucky having two sets of twins born in a month. He invited Kevin and Catie to come and work the farm with him, and they will most likely go work with him tomorrow or the next day. His day starts at 5 a.m., and I don't think we'll get there that early.


Sunday, July 22, 2007



Whenever we go for a walk Catie looks for guava (guayaba) trees. The birds also like these fruits, so ripe ones are surprisingly hard to find. The ripe fruit is a soft yellow on the outside, and inside is bright pink.
She's pretty persistent when she sees a ripe one. She managed to shake two down out of this tree.

There's a guava forest across from our farm, and despite the huge number of trees, Catie didn't find even one ripe guava. She has a lot of competion from the birds and the wild animals.


Coffee Tour Pictures

Catie and Liam got to ride in the oxcart at the Coffee Tour. These oxen aren't just for show; they are actually used a lot in Monteverde to haul heavy loads. I've seen them being used on the road hauling out huge boulders.

Even though it might look like he's not paying attention, Kev took it all in and now pretty much has the history of coffee memorized. He can relate the story in Spanish or in English, which is impressive.


Saturday, July 21, 2007


And Kevin Got the LAST Copy of Harry Potter in Monteverde!

Kev got the LAST copy of the new Harry Potter book in Monteverde today! We called ahead to reserve it this morning (it helps to know the owner Deb!) and when he was paying for it, two tourists were in line trying to get a copy. Alas, there were no more to be had. A girl outside the store offered Kev $50 for the book, but he wouldn't part with it.
If you look closely at the store window, you'll see our sign for Kev's missing horse. Someone stole Imperial from our neighbor's pasture. Kev's having a rough year this year. At least he has Harry Potter.


Friday, July 20, 2007


Buscando Nacientes

Today we went over to our farm to hike and to find the fastest way to get to the springs. If we had listened to Kevin, we would have found them a lot quicker, but I was sure that I knew the way so I insisted that we go my way first. We got a bit lost and ended up near the bottom of a waterfall in a banana grove. There were lots of banana peels on the ground, so I imagine that there must be monkeys that hang around down there. I knew we were close to the spring, so Kevin and I hiked to the top of the highest ridge to get some perspective. Kev was getting a little cranky because we kept slipping in the mud, and it was hard going getting to the top. After all that work hiking to top, it didn't do us any good because it looked like the spring should have been where it wasn't, if that makes any sense. So then we had to hike all the back down again, being careful to walk in the very narrow cow paths.

We hiked along another ridge and eventually found the springs. Jumper loved it; it was very wet and muddy and she had a good time sitting in the mud. We decided we'd find the shortest route to the other spring, and this time we listened to Kevin so we found it fairly quickly. The path leading to this spring was extremely muddy and I slipped and my hiking book sunk ankle deep in gooey mud. I also had to sit down a few times to avoid falling down, so my jeans were pretty disgusting by the time we got home.

I'm fascinated with language, and how different languages express ideas differently. In Spanish, for example the movie Finding Nemo is translated as Buscando Nemo (Looking for Nemo), which to me means something entirely different. Finding Nemo is so much more confident in the outcome. Anyway, that's why this entry is called Buscando Nacientes (Looking for Springs) instead of Finding Springs, because I wasn't sure that we would actually find them.

I'm starting to really know my way around the farm, which is a good feeling. When we used to hike there before I used to get nervous when we got a little lost. I have a much better sense of direction. It's not that big, but at 140 acres or so, it's big enough to get somewhat lost in.

A friend of mine here gives massages, and she came to the casita this afternoon after our hike to give Jim and me massages. What a treat! She's also studying to be a chiropractor and made some adjusments on me.

Liam went with us hiking, and is spending the night tonight here with us. He is so excited to be on his first sleepover with us! We went out earlier tonight to eat arroz con pollo at the Santamaria's soda, then drove to Poca a Poca to see if they had the new Harry Potter movie (they did, but in Spanish, so Kevin figured he'd give it a try), then drove up to Sabores in Cerro Plano for brownie delights and ice cream. What a night! Liam was asleep by 9 p.m., I think. Catie lost interest in the movie and went to sleep but Kevin is still watching the movie. We're going to Chunches in the morning so he can buy the new Harry Potter book.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Our Coffee Tour Walk

In this last picture you can see our house from the road up from the coffee tour nestled in the trees.


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