Image of the Week
05-21-2022

           

Rainforest Chocolate Tour (and a synopsis of our trip to Costa Rica)


Hello Friends,

In La Fortuna, a diverse tourist destination in Costa Rica, among other things we went on the Rain Forest Chocolate Tour (https://rainforestchocolatetour.com/), and it was great fun. Our guide Keilor (rhymes with tailor) led us to understand the dark history and meaning of chocolate. He walked us through growing cacao trees and took us through the all the steps of producing cacao into chocolate, culminating in eating as much of it as we could ever want. It was a great tour, and Betsy, a long time naturalist, told me this was the best job of interpretation she'd ever seen. If you see me sometime ask to see a video of Betsy's cacao seed smashing dance.

The upper shot of a cacao fruit was taken with a Panasonic Lumix GX7 with a 3-D lens and frame sides for phantogram processing. The width of this image was approximately 4 inches. The lower shot shows Keilor in the foreground and Patricia in the backdround at the outdoor chocolate bar at the end of the tour, where she dispensed spoonfuls of thick liquid chocolate and he administered a broad variety of toppings based on our choices or his.

A quick note on the recent passing of (California) John Hart from heart issues. John was a great guy, a fine man, a true mensch. He was always friendly and kind to me, and his contributions to stereography and the Los Angeles 3-D Club will be long remembered by many of us.

Moving onward, ...

I'm not big on reading other people's travelogues, but in case you are, and mostly for my own sake, I thought to write this out while it's fresh in my mind. I'm sitting in a cheap but decent hotel in Alajeula (near San Jose airport). We missed our flight this morning because I neglected to read about needing a negative covid test within 24 hours, a requirement for flying home to the USA. We're booked on the same flight tomorrow, so I have a little time on my hands.

First off, if you plan to travel to Costa Rica I'd strongly recommend checking out the website My Tan Feet (https://mytanfeet.com/). Sounds a little strange but on that site is excellent information on a broad variety of topics related to travel in Costa Rica. In greatest hindsight I wish I'd followed more of their suggestions.

We started in the Pacific beach town of Domenical on Saturday May 7, after arriving in San Jose in the mid afternoon. We got a rental car and drove from late afternoon approximately four hours, well into the dark of night. In Costa Rica it gets dark around 5:30 pm. We stayed at the Tropical Sands Dominical Eco Inn. Like all the places we stayed the rooms were inexpensive (I'm leaving specific dollar amounts out of the text, ask if you want to know). It's grounds were tropical and very nice. The rooms were spartan, clean and completely adequate. Near the entrance you could always find a long line of leaf cutter ants carrying their produce perhaps a kilometer away.

On Sunday we relaxed, walked the beach and checked out the town. Domenical gets a great number of surfers visiting, as the waves are known to be good and very consistent. Directly across from the hotel was an excellent restaurant, Café Ensueño, where we always had breakfast and once dinner. Desayuno Tipico (typical breakfast) there and across Costa Rica consists of assorted tropical fruit, Gallo Pinto (a seasoned mix of rice and beans), eggs, and sometimes something nice like fried plantain. Wifi was good everywhere we stayed. That night we made online reservations for the next day (Monday) at Manuel Antonio National Park, north up the coast, and bird watching (Tuesday) at Oro Verde in Uvita, another beach town a little south of us.

The drive to Manuel Antonio took around an hour. It's a major tourist attraction here, combining rainforest and gorgeous beaches. It's a place you want to visit, but it can get crowded and should be avoided on the weekends. They're closed on Tuesdays. We saw howler monkeys, lots of lizards, a few snakes, numerous birds, and a couple of sleeping sloths high up in the trees. One of my favorite activities on the beach there was harassing hermit crabs, repeatedly placing them within a small phantogram frame and photographing them as they came out of their shells to scurry away. No hermit crabs were injured in the process.

On Tuesday we drove 20 minutes to Oro Verde in the beach town of Uvita. We got there at 6:00 am for birdwatching, the only thing that'll get Betsy up that time of day. Our guide Samantha was terrific. Her family has been guiding bird walks for many years. After bird watching part of the tour included breakfast at her house with her mother and sister, and Samantha played guitar and sang a couple of her songs for us. From there we headed to the beach at Marino Ballena National Park, famous for its "whale's tail", a rocky peninsula extending from the beach that you can reach in low tides. Check it out online, it's pretty cool.

Two activities on Tuesday was a lot, so on Wednesday we mostly relaxed and didn't do any major tourist activities. We did check out Poza Azul Waterfall, just five minutes from where we were staying in Domenical.

Thursday was a travel day, a harrowing 3-1/2 hour drive north to Monteverde. I should've opted for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The slow, rocky, constantly pot-holed roads made me think of the effort you put into backpacking, enduring pain and effort to get to place you'd otherwise never see. Maintaining roads with huge amounts of torrential rain is no doubt challenging, but I suspect they leave their roads like that to limit visitors to those who are willing to go through the drive. We stayed in the Moonforest Apartments which can be booked in a number of ways, whether on bookings.com or airbnb. Great place, Betsy could do bird watching from our balcony there or out of our kitchen window. Half a kilometer away was the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and insect museum. We got there in late afternoon torrential rain, which puts the butterflies to sleep, but they assured us that we could return any time later.

Friday we zip-lined at 100% Adventure, which was thrilling and a little scary. The highlight was flying 1.9 kilometers in the air back and forth "superman" style, hooked up at chest and feet, arms outstreached, free to look down. Zip-lining pretty much wiped us out for the day. We had dinner both Thursday and Friday nights at Thomas and Thiago, which was very good.

Saturday we got up early and hiked at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve, which was outstanding. We only had a few hours before checkout at the apartments, and I'd wished we'd allocated a little more time. Amazing place, great trails. After checking out at the Moonforest Apartments we returned to the Butterfly Garden, this time to see active owl, morpho, and other butterflies, and I got in a lot of good shots of exotic plants in their wonderful garden.

The rest of Saturday we braved the Monteverde roads again. On a 3-1/2 hour drive the first 3 hours were rough, the last half hour much more pleasant once we reached smooth roads near Lake Arenal in sight of the Arenal Volcano. Our goal was the town of La Fortuna, where we checked in at the Arenal Historical Inn. Their grounds were sensational, as nice or nicer than any 5-star hotel I've ever seen. Their rooms were spacious, high ceilinged, and very comfortable. A Peruvian restaurant named Piura is on the same property, with very good food, and our breakfasts there were included with the room.

To recover from the drive on Sunday walked next door to Arestetic Spa 2 and got a 2-hour "lovers massage". Betsy opted for the chocolate wrap, while I did the coffee scrub. The rest of the day Betsy relaxed and I walked the grounds of our hotel and shot a great number of images.

My only regret was not doing a hike around the volcano, but Betsy was foot sore. On Monday we did the Rainforest Chocolate Tour described above.

Tuesday we sat out heavy torrential rain in the morning and then spent a few hours at Bogarin Trail right in La Fortuna, where we got a guided tour. Jason, our guide was outstanding. One of the first things we did was go to a red-eyed (aka Gaudy) free frog he's spotted earlier, and annoyed the poor froggie shooting several macro phantograms of him/her. A couple of times it jumped on Betsy trying to escape, but Betsy's a trooper and loved it. I'd strongly recommend the Bogarin Trail hike. It's easy to get to, easy walking, and we saw more animals than anywhere else, including lots of birds, reptiles, and several sloths. Jason was quick and adept at placing our cellphones over his spotting telescope, so we got some pretty cool videos on our phones.

Wednesday was to be another travel day, back to San Jose to catch our flight home, but it was not to be. I got a poor nights sleep and we were up at 2:30 am and on the road by 3:00 am. The song "the long and winding road" played continuously in my head for the first hour and a half, but at least the road was smooth with very few potholes. The biggest challenge was spotting speed bumps as we approached school zones in towns. Traffic bogged down as we neared San Jose where we turned in our rental car and made it to the airport round 6:00 am, bone tired. There we discovered we needed a to provide documentation of a negative covid test withing the last 24 hours to fly home. We quickly shuttled to a testing center near the airport, but not in time to make our flight. Delta booked us on the same flight the next day, and we checked into the Park View Hotel in Alajuela near the airport. At the hotel they were kind enough to check us into a room early around 9:00 am instead of waiting until their usual 2:30 pm check in time. We napped for a few hours and then walked the town a little. It was fun touring the Juan Santamaria Historical Cultural Museum and all the guards there were more than happy to explain things to us.

Thursday armed with negative covid test results on my cellphone, we arrived at the airport early and returned home on a surprisingly pleasant 6-1/2 hour flight. It was a non-stop and Delta's entertainment system was very good, good picture, good earbuds, good sound, an excellent selection of old and new movies to watch.

It was great trip, and now it's nice to be home. I've got a lot of work in front of me processing the images from this trip, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Regards,

Barry Rothstein

I send out a weekly email of these. If you'd like to be included, please go to the contact page and send me an email.

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