Costa Rica: Wednesday, May 18 (Poaz, La Paz Waterfall Gardens)

We got up Wednesday morning, ate unenhanced oatmeal at Denny’s (reminding ourselves that everyone told us we weren’t going to CR for the food), and headed north-by-northwest toward Poaz, a volcano. Yen has been to Hawaii and all this was old news to him, but it was my first volcano. The roads were good, and we wound through hills, coffee plantations and small towns (with many, many speed bumps), finally arriving at the park.

The road leading up to the park is surrounded by a bunch of plants called something or other “poor man’s umbrella.” I’m in this photo for scale.

This is where we learned that groups of teenagers on school outings are a universal commodity. But the volcano was interesting for me.

We hiked around to a second, inactive crater, now just a densely forested lake.

Then followed the trail on up and around, through more forest. There are orchids growing on almost every tree there. It’s not blooming season, I guess (Me: “When do orchids bloom?” Yen: “Whenever they’re ready, I guess?”). But I like their leaves and roots almost as much as their flowers.

So we finished this and got back in the car, and decided it was well past time for lunch. Costa Rica is thick with what they call “sodas,” which I guess corresponds roughly to a “cafe,” but only in the Midwestern sense: they’re not focusing on coffee, but good, simple meals prepared by families and served to you by a waitress with a kid on her hip. We loved them. Almost every meal was beef, lean and cooked well, some vegetables (which we dressed with Lizano, a terrific table sauce more ubiquitous than ketchup there), rice and beans fried together, and fruit juice. You can see in this photo I’m actually drinking sparkling grapefruit juice from a bottle, but that was the last time.

Neither of us speaks Spanish. In fact, you have probably had occasion to get a good laugh listening to me try to say, “burrito.” But Yen had a phrasebook and was tenacious about talking to people in Spanish. By the end of the week, I was actually giving it a shot too. And the people there are just so nice that no one laughed (in my face).

Oh, and don’t worry. I drank a lot of Costa Rican coffee.

Ah, here’s a photo of this particular soda. We sat in there about an hour and a half, enjoying the meal and watching the rain pour down. It seems to rain very heavily for about an hour each day, and then behave itself. As long as you plan ahead and keep rain gear nearby, it’s not a problem. And if that’s what makes everything so green, it’s completely worth it.

We stopped next at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which included a bird sanctuary. It’s kind of a fancy-seeming resort, and I think it might be a good candidate for another visit (if you can get a deal; beware the word “luxury” in hotel descriptions…).

This guy is obviously some kind of hawk (obviously, she says!). We saw one later in the wild, perched on a telephone pole.

And next door, a caracara! You should have seen this guy. He was alert and vicious looking. I love him.

Up above the caracara were a bunch of toucans. At first I tried to take photos uphill and through wires, then got a clue and realized you could go inside. They spent a lot of time dive-bombing Yen as he tried to take photos.

This little owl had something in his mouth the whole time we were there. I suppose it’s a little mouse or something. But he was determined to hang on.

And butterflies. Everywhere you go in Costa Rica, butterflies.

I like this ocelot photo just because I can see myself taking the photo.

Here’s the path down to one of the waterfalls.

This rare specimen is an Yen. Isn’t his plumage lovely?

Ah, and now here’s the waterfall.

And here we are in front of one (awww – we’re super cute!).