Costa Rica: Part 1 - Bosque del Rio Tigre

(This section of the trip log includes our arrival in San Jose and transfers to the Osa Peninsula . You can enlarge any picture in this narrative by clicking on it - in some cases, it will show detail you can't see in the smaller version.  Use the back arrow to get back to the narrative.  Keep in mind that this trip was pre-COVID so places and procedures may be quite different now!)

Tuesday February 18 - Wednesday February 19

We were leaving on a 5:30 am flight from Cedar Rapids Wednesday morning.  Though we've never done it before, we decided this time to spend the night at an airport hotel so we didn't have to finish the packing up and leave in the middle of the night.  Definitely a good idea.  We could pack up leisurely and drive down in the daylight on Tuesday to Bekah's house (who is our kind car-sitter while we are away).  We had supper with her at the Mandarin Spice Asian Grill - great start to the trip!  She dropped us off at the Airport Comfort Inn and they shuttled us to the airport in the dark in plenty of time for the flight in the morning.

There was a little delay as we needed deicing but we had allowed enough time for that.  The next leg was from Atlanta to San Jose.  They served us a lunch (croissant turkey and cheese), snacks, fruit.  Unfortunately, we landed at the same time (around 1 PM) as 4 other planes so the lines going through customs and immigration were long.  We got about $200 worth of colones at an ATM- yes, we know the airport is not the best place to do that, but it was easy.  Getting to the hotel was total chaos.

We had a reservation at the Hotel Aeropuerto that promised free airport pickup.  I have never seen a less organized airport pickup/transportation area!  We found a CTT person (who we had been told to look for) who was carrying a Hotel Aeropuerto sign, but he just parked us on the sidewalk and said "wait here."  A long time later (maybe 20-30 minutes) he flagged down a big CTT van and put us on it.  But when we got there the driver expected to be paid.  We asked the man at reception and he said "oh no no, misunderstanding."  I have no idea if they were trying to be paid twice, if the hotel just got scammed or ?  But after a brief, rapid Spanish conversation they both seemed happy and we were shown to our room. 

hotel groundsIt was a nice place to start!  Lovely gardens (left) and we had time for both a nap and a walk before supper.  We ate at the attached restaurant which had good food at a reasonable price ($24 for both us) but there were only a few other people there.  The location of the hotel is near the airport but not close to any other retail establishments, including restaurants, so we were glad this one was good.

in flightThursday Feb 20:  We used a taxi in the morning to the airport - they have shuttle service but only every hour and that didn't really fit our schedule.  So he booked us a taxi at 7:15 which was probably earlier than we needed (8:45 am flight - local airline says 1 hour before flight), but in an unfamiliar country I feel better having plenty of time and less stress!  The cab to the Domestic Terminal was less than 4000 colones (somewhere around $7) and we easily got checked in for our SANSA flight to Puerto Jimenez.  These are small, 10-12 seat planes but the airline is run professionally, safely as far as we could tell, and we enjoyed the flight.  It was very windy when we took off but as we left San Jose and went west over the mountains it smoothed out.  At the right we have turned south and are following the coast down to the Osa Peninsula.

roadThe flight took about an hour and we were met at the landing strip by Dennis in his taxi.  Although it has an airport designation - PJM - it's really hard to think of it as a "real" airport.  There's a landing strip and a small office/waiting room.  Lodge at Bosque del Rio TigreIt works.  Dennis offered us a stop at a small grocery for snacks and restroom and we arrived at the Lodge at Bosque del Rio Tigre about an hour later.  Talk about the back of beyond!  You get there by fording a stream - it's impassable at times during the wet season.  See the "road" at the left. We met Liz Jones and Abraham Gallo (owners), got an orientation, unpacked a bit and had lunch.  The lodge is at the right - it appears to have been just dropped in the middle of a jungle which is consistent with their choice to impact the environment as little as possible.  It is either rustic or primitive depending on how you feel about such things! The downstairs is all open and houses the kitchen, dining area and relaxing porch where we spent many hours watching birds at the feeders and foliage all around it.  Upstairs are 4 sleeping rooms (very comfortable beds, including mosquito netting that we didn't need) a shared bathroom and a large common area in the center with chairs, hammocks, power strips scarlet rumped tanagerand telescope.  The shower house is outdoors but had good hot water and plenty of pressure.  Except for the fantastic meals, it's much like cabin camping.  They have only solar power for electricity and so conserve it carefully - refrigeration and charging camera batteries are priorities!  There was no reliable phone service and WiFi was marginal at best.   But it fits perfectly in the local environment and we enjoyed it very much.

tinamou and dovesThursday we met the only other guest in residence - Tom, a teacher from New York - and took it easy with short walks around the lodge and sitting on the porch.  That first afternoon we saw little tinamou female tanager(fathers and youth: the father does the child rearing), blue ground doves (left picture has both tinamou and doves), an orange billed sparrow, short-billed pigeon, thick billed seed finch, bronzy hermit hummingbird, scarlet rumped tanagers (aka cherries tanager) and a black-headed saltator. The pictures to the right are the male scarlet rumped tanager above and the female below.  Except for the light blue bill you'd never know they were even related!  There are many more bird pictures in the photos section if you are interested.

Friday February 21

leafcuttersThis morning I took a short walk across the river and towards town.  I saw a brown bird with a long curved bill acting like a woodpecker.  I have been unable to identify it and didn't get his picture.  Tiny green/yellow birds all around.  Also some banded peacock butterflies right by the river.  After breakfast, we went walking along Crake and Boat-billed Heron Trails, then back along the river.  Among items of interest, we found several colonies of leafcutter ants hauling their finds back to the nests (pictured left).  I learned later that, next to humans, they have the most complex and advanced societies on earth!  They cut chunks of vegetation (the ones we saw were working on big leaves) that they use to grow fungus that feeds the colony.  That's a picture that is probably worth enlarging (just click it) to see the ants better!

On our way back we met up with a teacher and a group of middle school-aged students that were carrying 3-4" inch balls of clay that had some sort of coating on them.  The kids would put them in the river every so often and the teacher explained they were to help "clean up" the river.  The kids were very enthusiastic about this project and tried to tell us about it but our "menu Spanish" didn't reach that far.  Research when I got home found this site that is under construction so I'm not sure how long that link will work.  It is about "effective microorganisms" (EM) and explains how to make "EM Bokashi" mudballs and fiery billed aracaridistribute them in polluted waters.  The bokashi (Japanese for "fermented organic matter") was what we saw as the light coating on the balls.  I have no idea whether it is of any use (Liz was very suspicious and thinks the river is quite fine as it is) but at least their intentions were good and the children were delighted with their ecology lesson.

heronIn the late afternoon we took a walk with Abraham in the same direction (towards Broad Billed Heron Pond) but along different paths.  He saw - and showed us - many birds, most of which were far away or fast.  My favorite photo from that walk is the Fiery Billed Aracari to the right!  We did see herons but I don't think any were the broad-billed ones.  I saw a Green Heron (its picture was too blurry to post) and some sort of dark one (left picture).  My best guess is that it is a little blue heron (if you click to enlarge, you can see the white around the eye and lighter blue at top of bill) but it's not a good enough picture to be sure.scarlet macaws

Saturday Feb 22 - Sunday Feb 23

Saturday was an early morning start (about 5:30 am) to get in a long walk before breakfast.  We walked through the local town (Dos Brazos) and spotted lots of interesting things, including a crocodile and our first scarlet macaws (at the right).  Abraham was amazing - he blue morphocould spot a bird a half mile away and quickly set up his telescope so we could see it!  My list includes a swallowtail kite, masked tityra, yellow-crowned euphonia, bananaquit, some type of hawk, purple gallinule, pileated woodpecker, flycatcher, kingfisher, Amazon parrot and ani.

poison dart frogAfter breakfast Abraham offered to show us the way to the waterfall!  Who could turn that down?  We walked up over a hill, along the river, then through a creek. . . I'm very glad he was willing to take us because I'm not sure we'd have found our way otherwise!  On the way we passed a blue morpho butterfly (left above) that had died but it was a beautiful specimen nonetheless; also a poison dart frog (right) that we were careful not to touch!  The waterfall was lovely to see and delightful to waterfallput our toes into the pool and cool down a little!  (Below left) On the way back, we were walking down the middle of the creek and John slipped on some wet leaves on rocks.  He wasn't seriously hurt but did end up with a huge bruise on his hip and his camera was too wet to revive.  (We removed the battery and let it all dry out for a week and, though the battery recharged, the camera wouldn't turn on.)

By the time we got back, I wasn't feeling very well and just went to sleep.  I slept off and on for the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday.  I felt rather drugged (though I had not taken any) and disoriented and coughed a lot - fortunatelysluice I had a lot of cough drops and some gummy bears to suck on.  (Also fortunately, this was pre-COVID so nobody got very frantic about it!)  John got up early Sunday and had another morning walk with Abraham that he enjoyed very much.  We met a new arrival - Nick, from the UK, who runs a large wildlife refuge in western England and enjoys holidays where he can see birds in the rest of the world.

golden hoodedMonday February 24

Fortunately, I was much better Monday morning and we took a walk on our own before lunch.  We walked along the river away from town, passing gold sluices left over from mining days (picture above).  little yellow birdWe saw more little green or yellow birds that are very fast and blend in with the trees so I found it impossible to get any identifiable pictures!  (See an unidentifiable one in the center of the picture to the right!)  We enjoyed chatting with our hosts and Nick at lunch and I took a few more pictures from the feeders around the lodge, including the gold hooded tanager at the left.

Around 2 PM our taxi, arranged by Liz, arrived.  He transported us back to Puerto Jimenez to the Iguana Lodge, where we spent the rest of our Costa Rica sojourn.

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