Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ice Cream and Turkeys and Sloths, Oh My!

     The second leg of our trip has brought us inland to the town of St. Elena which is up against the Monte Verde Cloudforest Reserve (oh, and also the St. Elena Reserve). The road here was...bumpy, and narrow, but mostly bumpy. Like cobblestones for miles and miles. Our driver was experienced and did his best. I can't count how many times we said "gosh, I'm glad we didn't try to drive this ourselves". As we got closer to town we noticed the wind had really picked up. Our driver told us it's always really windy in December.
 The town of St. Elena is quite a bit bigger than we expected and the house we rented was very nice with a great view.
Main Room
Front Porch -designed so you can enjoy the hammock sheltered from the wind. 
View from Front Porch - All the way out to the Nicoya Peninsula (about 55 miles) 
Side Porch
 Unfortunately the awesome house is about a half hour walk from the town. A very hilly, very windy walk to town. For those who have been to the cabin in Jenner, think the hill up to the house over and over again for about a mile. So we've been walking off all the guacamole and chips we've been eating. Or at least that's what I am telling myself. That reminds me, I should go make some more guacamole...
 Our first day was filled with exploring the grounds - a small farm with chickens, turkeys and a couple horses. "Bitey" horses my mom calls them. Even buying carrots just for them at the market ended with them charging, and her throwing the carrots at their heads and running.
The path to the hiking trail... this is about as far as we got on that hiking trail. 
One of many sets of chickens, all complete with a loud rooster.
 The kind of roosters that wake up at 3:30am and make you hungry for fried chicken.
Resident Turkey - always willing to show his stuff

   We eventually made plans to visit the St. Elena Reserve for a day, where there was something for everyone. Grandma Linda and Nancy and M walked the hanging bridges while Grandpa Donny, BZ and I tried our hands at some zip lining.
Hanging Bridges
As for the zip lining, there were 13 platforms linked together - BZ took video of most of them. Here is his video of the longest and highest, the only one we had to do in tandem.

Just finishing zip lining - Safety first!
After meeting up again we visited the hummingbird and butterfly gardens.
Purple Throated Mountain-gem Hummingbird

Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird
P.S. I love my new camera.

Green Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Some other butterfly... I can't remember all the names, OK?!

Viceroy (Monarch Lookalike) Chrysalis
The next couple days kinda blurred together, that wonderful section of vacation where you can't exactly remember what you did, but you are sure it was fun, and relaxing. I know we went to the cheese factory, which was pretty blah except that there was ice cream too. So I guess it wasn't totally bust. Oh, and we obviously ate a lot... I'm reminded of that because most of my pictures were taken while we were waiting to eat, eating, or sitting around because we were too full.
It was right about the time that we started lamenting that we really weren't seeing much wildlife and  made reservations for a night hike that everything started popping up.
Baby Howler Monkey
Blue Crested Mot Mot.
Who's got the Mot's? The answer is Costa Rica.
Walking home from dinner, the night before the night hike, we saw not only one, but two different three toed sloths hanging from power lines above the street.  We also saw one in a tree, swinging wildly in the wind. They were like slow, furry ghosts with bear faces. I wish I could have gotten pics but I wasn't planning on needing a camera while walking home in the dark.
It made us realize that we really had seen most things we'd see on a night hike, but we went the next night anyways. Our house was not far from the private reserve used for the night hikes, so of course we walked. It turned out that we were glad we did (oh, except my mom..) because BZ spotted this on our walk:
A Boa Constrictor... on our walk. Just hanging out like he's no big deal.

Mother was not pleased...

So we were pretty much done with the night hike before it even started, but with our guide we did manage to see an awesome tarantula, some leaf cutter ants, many agouti, a sleeping toucan and a kinkaju from afar. I didn't get any pics of the aforementioned animals because it was too dark, but I managed to snap this before we went into the forest.

One of many sunsets enjoyed so far

Let's see... besides crazy animal spottings....oh wait! I almost forgot! 
We changed hotels for our last night in St. Elena and found ourselves on the other side of the town with a fresh view. OF MORE ANIMALS.
Within a couple hours of being at the new place we had a visit from a Coati that tried to come in our open front door:

Ok, I think that is the official end of crazy animal spottings- enough with fauna, let's do flora. We were also able to visit a small private orchid garden. They showed us a ton of orchids, mostly natives to the cloud forest which tend to be miniature.

Our last night in St. Elena was New Years Eve and we celebrated by going out to a popular local pizzeria. The food was good, the company better. A great way to end the year.