Radioactive snowcones | Hello hummingbird | Paradise found
We've spent the first few days in La Fortuna exploring our new domain. There's a lot more life here. Yes it's still very touristy (with the ubiquitous souvenir shops and tour operators everywhere) but there are also signs of 'normal' life, like kitchen hardware shops, hair salons, clothes shops etc.
There's also a lovely park right in the middle of downtown La Fortuna where everyone hangs out during the day. It's also a great place once the sun sets and and loads of families come out and play there. That's one of the things we're not used to yet - the sun rising about 6am and setting about 6pm. Every day. All year round. It's messing with our body clocks somewhat still so we end up feeling ready for bed about 8pm! For everyone else, the sun going down at 6pm seems to mark the end of the day and time for family. So everyone is out and about in groups having a lovely time!
The rhythm of the day is definitely different here, and something I think we need to adjust ourselves to more. For instance, when the sun rises at 6am, that's when we should be up too. It's gives you the chance to do activities in the first few hours of the day before the sun hits the high spot. Then have a rest so that you have the afternoon and evening ready for you to enjoy. Instead we seem to be still thinking that the day 'starts' at 9am (ie when we would usually start work or school).
Saying that, I have found myself waking up in the early morning, for a very good reason. When we were in Monte Verde, I'd written about how quiet it was there in the mornings. I was expecting this cacophony of animals to wake us up every morning. Turns out it's because they were all down here, where it's hot! So I get a lovely rendition every morning about 5:30am of a Costa Rican dawn chorus. Ali and Esme seem able to sleep right through it though! I'm tempted one day to join in one of the birdwatching tours they have here that start at 5:30am. I could be up, on the tour and back before they'd both woken up :-D
I have to say that I'm also pleased that we've finally found the heat! Where it was about 18-21 degrees celsius in Monte Verde it's 30 degrees on average here in La Fortuna, and very humid. I love it! Welcome to the country of micro climates!
One thing about this sort of heat though is that it makes things such as ice creams, cold drinks and snow cones rather appealing. So when we spotted a snow cone seller Esme was rather excited!
WARNING: snow cones in Costa Rica are NOT like snow cones in the UK! Radioactive iced green custard anyone??
Esme's tastes have definitely expanded a little since coming to Costa Rica, but that thing was a step too far. He kept just adding more and more 'gooeyiness' to our disbelieving eyes. Esme had actually just wanted some shaved ice :-D
She's also become something of a carnivore. It turns out that this area has about 60% of the country's cattle farms, so the steak here is AMAZING! And Esme has decided she wants some of it. She even likes it bloody! (Vampire Esme??)
When it comes to food here in Costa Rica, Esme is trying everything and, while most of it still isn't to her liking (she doesn't like 'strong' flavours), she now likes things like Agua Dulce and foods such as dried plantain. She's also becoming something of a peppermint tea connoisseur - though she needs to remember not to drink it when it's too hot. Here's Esme cooling down her burnt tongue on our handy portable fan (she's going to kill me for including this!).
Exploring around La Fortuna it's clear there's a lot more colour and plants here. This one keeps popping up in places. No idea what it is but it is rather impressive!
As you can see we had another little doggo join us for this one.
We also have a lovely garden at our hotel. Here's Esme in part of it and also demonstrating her lovely new dress!
All these plants also draw in a TONNE of wildlife. We have a large tree at the front of the hotel which is host to hundreds of green parakeets at dusk each day, all causing a noisy ruckus! We also saw our first wild sloth in another tree at reception (no photo as the clever thing was all balled up so looked more like a tribble than a sloth - sorry, Star Trek reference there). We do however seem to have a pet iguana doing the rounds, which is easier to take a pic of...
And we have our own pet hummingbird! Well I say 'pet', this little fella loves to sit on the same leaf every day opposite the breakfast area and lets us get rather close so we can take some lovely pics!
As well as seeing wildlife on your front step, you can of course also pay to see it. One such place is the Bogarin sloth trail.
This place was recommended to us by a fellow traveller we'd met in Monte Verde (hello Anita!). It's quite a short trail, with 30+ sloths around and only a short walk from where we were staying! You can pay to go round it with a guide, or you can 'self-guide' your way round. We opted for the latter because 1) it's a LOT cheaper and 2) you can take your own time.
Note: everyone you speak to will basically tell you that guiding yourself is a bad idea. Yes you can definitely benefit from having a guide for some activities. I would never have seen my orange kneed tarantula or spotted loads of other wildlife if I'd not taken a guided tour of the hanging bridges. BUT, and this is a big but, it's far too easy to assume that you need a guide for EVERYTHING. Once you get your eye (and ear) in, it is possible to spot lots of things. Considering I had eagle-eyed Esme and crazy hearing guy Ali with me (and that I'm superbly nosey so happy to check out anything strange or out of place), I figured we would be fine. And we were! Here's a selection of what we saw.
The toucan is by far my favourite! I'd actually stopped to take a shot of the vultures (not a very good one as it turns out but they reminded me of the ones from Dumbo). Then I heard something behind me, only to spot that colourful beak in the tree! And then it came down and had its lunch right in front of us!
The little red frog is actually VERY little btw - about 1cm only. It's also very poisonous so I decided not to get too close. And that final shot? Yes it was a sloth, finally!
Thinking about it, I think that toucan was actually a bit of a show off...
Once we'd finished all that exploring, we decided we needed a rest. One of the main attractions here in La Fortuna are the hot springs. These are basically lots of naturally hot water flowing out and around everywhere, heated by the lovely volcano! Well, I say 'everywhere'. Yes you can go check out the free hot springs (ie basically sit in a hot river), but everything else has been redirected and monetised into lots of different resorts. One of the best (and most family friendly) is the Baldi Hot Springs. We'd met a lovely family in Monte Verde who were now in La Fortuna so we thought we'd meet up and give the springs a try!
Now, some places you see in Costa Rica, while beautiful, aren't quite the same as they seem to be in the pictures and videos you see online. That's fair enough, people tend to focus on the good parts rather than the ugly ones (I'm probably just as much to blame in this blog!). But this place, the Baldi Hot Springs, is the exception. We felt like millionaires here. It's the first place where the photos just do not do it justice. It is paradise, in the form of 20+ sculpted pools, of different temperatures, multiple swim up bars, a kids zone, a giant jacuzzi, a natural sauna and waterfalls everywhere. If you come here this is a MUST visit. I tried to capture some of the glamour in a few shots myself.
You might spot Ali in a couple of those shots. There were some of me too but I opted not to include them here. There is no amount of breathing in that could hide my tummy in a photo. One day I may start to follow the 'body is beautiful' trend and accept myself for who I am and how I look (in fact, my new friend who was with us on this visit recommended the book 'You are not a before picture') but I'm not there yet.
In the meantime, here's a shot of us all together at the end of the day in our damp, tired, happy glow!
Pura Vida everyone!