Catching up – Costa Rica day 1

Not counting the day we got there, because all we did was walk around the hotel grounds (seeing several life birds, that is, birds we’ve never seen before in our lives, in the process) and go to that orientation meeting. Well, the airport was more interesting than most airports. There was someone there making cigars, which was different.

The view from our hotel window was pretty nifty, though, with a rainbow that just stayed there for half the afternoon:

Oh, also at that orientation meeting everyone in the group introduced themselves. There were people from all over the US, two couples from various parts of Canada, and eight Chinese people (two from Beijing) who were three brothers and two sisters and some spouses doing a family reunion.

The first real day of the tour we got on the bus to go to Poas Volcano national park. There’s an overlook over a big crater and a life zone called “cloud forest”, not rain forest, up near the top. The booklet describing the tour said that there was only a 30% chance of seeing anything from the overlook. We were among the 70% who didn’t see the crater, although we were up there at the edge:

However, the cloud forest was there just fine. The idea is, at that altitude on that mountain range you’re in the clouds.

It doesn’t rain all that much, but it’s sort of drizzle, well, that 70% of the time. There are lots of plants (and of course insects, and birds too) that only live in the cloud forest. An indicator plant of cloud forest (that is, this plant only lives in that life zone, so if you see it, you know you’re in cloud forest) is this “poor man’s umbrella” leaf:

The cloud forest has lots of bromeliads, relatives of pineapples, growing in it — I think this is one —

and lots of other colorful flowers, extra welcome when you’ve been looking at the grey New England winter for the last month —

— and of course just lots of vegetation in general.

To get to the top of Poas we had been driving through lots of coffee plantations; that’s a crop that likes the middle elevations of the hills.

There were many signs offering coffee tours. We just got to walk in a tiny coffee grove in the backyard of the restaurant where we stopped for lunch, but we were right there with the coffee bushes,

and had a big view over Costa Rica’s central valley from the restaurant.

(Hey! Why did I turn that sideways? oh well…)

The bus took us back to San Jose, where we went to the gold museum. Besides being a museum of numismatics, with exhibits of coins and currency that had pictures of tropical animals and plants, it had lots of pre-columbian gold artifacts and a very interesting exhibit of how the pre-columbian Central American cultures had done lost-wax casting.

Rather than take the bus back to our hotel, Millie and Joel and Arlene and I opted to stay downtown and find a cab back. Two other women from the tour also decided to stay downtown. Between that and seeing which people on the tour group had chosen to walk on a little trail off the main road from the Poas parking lot to the overlook, and who was really looking closely at the plants up there (and one of the Chinese women was sketching them in a paper journal!), we were starting to get an idea of who might be the more interesting people in the group.

We walked along a pedestrian-only shopping street downtown, and then back a block or two on a parallel street before we decided to get a cab back. The thing I liked best on the mall was a group of sculptures honoring the street dogs of the city:

Oh! I was thinking about all the Spanish we were seeing on store signs. There were lots of shoe stores, zapoterias. I just now realized the similarity between the French ord for wooden shoes, sabots (of course sabotage means throwing wooden shoes in the machinery to stop the mill), and the Spanish for shoes, however much of zapoteria it is.

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