Some more Tico specialties: Dos Pinos, Reductores, Cabling and Reciclaje

Dos Pinos – more omnipresent than “Emmi” in Switzerland

All milk products – really all milk products – and many juices carry the label “Dos Pinos”. The two pine trees (or pinos) are omnipresent in Costa Rica. Here is the example of a fruit juice, and we are asked to enjoy it (disfruta). (Later I understand that in Monteverde thery also sell dairy products under the label “Monteverde”).


In Switzerland, Emmi has a large market share for milk products. So – in a way, “Dos Pinos” is “Emmi” in Costa Rica.


Reductores are called “muertos”

Ticos are quite fast and flexible car drivers, overtaking, when there is a double line and you can see ahead, doing “rolling stops” at the “Alto” or “Stop” signs, overtaking in the right hand lane… but there is one thing that stops them: Reductores – this is what they are called officially. But the Ticos call them “muertos” – quite a daunting term.


My cousin met her husband at the university of Fribourg in Switzerland. He is American and she is Tico with German roots. Later they worked for some time in Switzerland and my cousin’s husband had to pay a fine. “This was a rolling stop”, the policeman pointed out to him severely. Later he drove a car in Costa Rica, and there was a stop (alto) sign. Remembering the event in Switzerland he stopped carefully and immediately a Tico car bumped into him from behind. “This was a stop sign”, the husband of my cousin said. “Oh, yes, but the road was free, so why did you stop?” the Tico answered angrily.


The cabling – impressive mess with obviously some order in it

One morning on our way to school we observed this electrician repairing the cables. We were impressed – how can he make sense out of all this mess of cables? But, there must be some order in it, because we never encountered problems with the electricity.


We also liked the ladder matching the t-shirt – a perfect combination of colors.


Reciclage y basura

It took us quite some time to understand the Tico concept of “reciclaje” (recycling) and “basura” (rubbish). The bucket pin on the left hand side contains “basura” and the black sack contains “reciclaje”.


This is, how it works: All paper, bottles, pet, plastic, tins etc go into the reciclaje. Our family carefully washed every bottle, tin, yogurt cup, coffee filter paper or whatever it was, before throwing it into the reciclaje. All the rest such as left-overs from cooking and from the bathroom go into the white rubbish pin – they are basura. I believe that someone later separates the cleaned reciclaje carefully and the basura will just be burned.

Well we handle that differently in Switzerland. For us cooking left-overs are often turned into fertilizer. And we have recycling stations, where we separate bottles from tins and pet, and our old paper is picked up at home once a month. So for us it was difficult to understand that cooking left-overs are “rubbish” and not “recycling”. But when thinking about it, the Tico system of reciclaje makes sense, too, when applied uniformly in the whole country. And we found the reciclaje and the basura pins at all the places we visited on our round tour.


Oh yes, pura vida!

“Pura Vida”, this is what the Ticos say, when they enjoy life, and they seem to enjoy it often. We also enjoy it – right now in a beautiful small hut in the middle of the cloud forest at San Gerardo de Dota visited by squirrels and colibri birds.




The miracle of the crabs after the first rain in Playa Grande

One evening Playa Grande enjoyed rain – after seven months and after a terribly hot day. After the rain, the air cools down. Refreshing. The next morning we discover a few crabs on the road when walking to the crocodile river, a crab here and a crab there.

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I also discover some in the pool in the afternoon, when having a swim to cool down.

In the evening we walk to the beach to see the sunset. It is rustling on the ground in the forest. These are all crabs. Masses of them. Also the roads are full of crabs. And so is the garden of our hotel El Manglar.

On the next morning, the beach has changed. It is all humpy now.

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These are little holes, each with a crab in it.

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A crab, peeps out of a hole and disappears again. I cannot convince another crabs to come out.

Coming back from the beach, I observe one guy from the hotel clean the children’s pool, assisted by  two girls and the hotel dog.

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He drops the crabs across the fence such that they can continue their way.

The area around the main pool is also full of crabs. Some if them are captured in doorsteps, where they desperately try to escape.

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The lady cleaning our hotel in the morning gathers the crabs. They end up in a huge red plastic bucket – a heap of bustling crabs.

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Then she empties the bucket on the road to give the crabs the opportunity to continue their journey and complete their mission.

A niracle. I want to learn more about these crabs and check out the internet. They are called Tajalines or land crabs (see also the Website of Nicoya), most likely closely related to Gecarcinus quadraticus (see wikipedia). I read that they live in tropical America and West Africa. At the first rain, they come out of their inland homes that can be found as far as eight kilometers away from the sea. They live up to 11-13 years and are mature at the age of 4. They mate on land and leave their underground homes at the beginning of the rain season. Yes, this is correct, the recent evening rainfall has opened the rain season in Playa Grande. The female crabs carry the eggs to the beach – each about 300000-700000 eggs – to deposit them on the shore, as I read in one of the sources. The larvae end up in the ocean, where only few survive to become a crab within a month.

In the internet I found a blogger-surfer admiring the crabs, when camping on the beach. His point of view were the many humps that he discovered, when waking up in the morning.

Yes, a miracle, and I am happy to have seen this wonder of nature. One day later, it becomes quiet again, only a few crabs are left on the roads and in the forest leading to the beach.


In the mangroves of Parque Nacional de las Baulas

In Playa Grande, a quiet place with small hotels and villas in the forest

From Curubandé we drive two hours to Playa Grande. I knew this place from seven years ago. I had spent a few days with Ernst here. We liked the place, because there are only small hotels and villas that hide in the forest and cannot be seen from the beach.

The Cantarana, where I had been with Ernst seven years ago, had no vacancies. We settle in the El Maglar instead that is under the same management. I like it immediately, with the pool and all the cosy corners for young people… like a basket ball basket, a rope to balance on, hammocks and a pool.


Immediately we dive into the pool… it is so extremely hot and damp here.

Towards the evening, we go to the beach and watch the sun set behind clouds.

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Some surfers jump into the waves and sometimes manage to stand up in them. Seven years ago the sun drowned in the Pacific Ocean, as a red fireball. But these clouds will bring refreshing rain this evening, so much needed after seven months of no rain.

We have dinner in the Cantarana hotel on the terrace. I show Ursula the foto, when Ernst enjoyed a huge breakfast here with fruit.

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But today, we are a bit disappointed. The new cook prepared my fish Mahi-Mahi with a lot of bread around it and the eggplants of Ursula were too raw. The former cook had long hair and tattoos all over his body, and I keep great memories of his meals. I think he is now cooking in an upstyle restaurant.

We sleep well in our two storey room to get up early, as we have booked a boat near the Bula Bula hotel to see the mangroves.


The mangroves in the early morning

Daniel picks us up at seven. We glide through beautiful mangroves in brackwater. When I hold my hand into the water, it feels salty.

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The mangroves like the salty water, and for better breathing, they have cancerous swellings, as Daniel points out.

It is high tide and there are trees that look drowned in the water. During low tide they are free, Daniel says.

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We see howler monkeys right at the start of our tour. Enlarge the black dots… there are two monkeys on this foto.

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We also come across birds: Ibis blanco, Gavilán Cangrejero, Andarrios Maculado, Loros Verdes (noisy), Pico-Cuchara (the beak is spoonlike), Martin Pescador Verde (a green kingfisher) and this bird we do not know the name of.

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We see a cicada in the water. Do they walk on water? No, says Daniel, this cicada is dying; they only live for about a month. I remember that Mauritius in Monteverde had told us, these animals are singing synchronously to confuse the enemy.

We see two crocodiles, I have to look for them for a long time to see them – they look like a branch. Later I see a branch and say, “a crocodile!” “Yes”, says Ursula,”a wood-crocodile” and later we see a “buoy crocodile”. It is really difficult to see them. But beware… no swimming in this river!

Daniel shares an ananas with us. Deliciously sweet!


Afternoon and evening – quiet

We spend the afternoon around the pool and the hotel room and we plan our further tour. For dinner we have fish in the Bula Bula, fresh fish, just grilled and no bread around it. Ernesto serves a Wahoo and tells us proudly that it is his birthday today – 35 years. When going home, we share the road with many, many crabs that have emerged after the rain. Here is one of them.

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From Santa Elena/Monteverde to Curubandé near Rincón del la Vieja

Goodbye to the friendly Cabinas Eddy

We say good-bye to the friendly Cabinas Eddy in Monteverde and take the utterly bumpy road to La Juntas. Well, all roads leading to Monteverde are bumpy. Ursula compares the road with a streambed – I have to balance the car across blocks of stone. We drive through hills with pasture and cows. The landscape reminds us a bit of the Jura in Switzerland.

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It seems to me that we ride on a balcony and far below us is the Pacific Ocean.

After an hour we reach La Juntas and smooth pavement. We soon enter the Interamericano, have a coffee and a budin (“pudding made out of bread, milk and raisins). Then 1…2…3… around lunch time we are in Curubandé.  We have reserved a room in the small El Sol Verde lodge that is run by a Dutch couple.

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Our room is cosy with a balcony overlooking the dry landscape. We hear lots of birds and howler monkeys. It is very hot, some 36 degrees. We need a siesta.

Later I walk to the river where the young people from the village have a swim.

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We have dinner in the Rincón del Café just round the corner.

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The friendly lady-owner of the Rincón prepares excellent jugos and casados (the typical Tico lunch and dinner with rice, salad or vegetables, meat and – always – with red beans or “frijoles”. We share the round outside table with a bony slim retireee from California that has spent the winter in Costa Rica to avoid the cold winter of back home. We are the only three tourists in Curubandé. We are far from the tourist crowds here. But this small village has a church, a school, a mini market, two restaurants and a bar… all we need.

For tomorrow we plan to visit the Rincón de la Vieja and for the day after tomorrow the dry forest of Santa Rosa/Area de Conservación Guanacaste.

To Santa Rosa and its very, very dry forest

After an early breakfast we head north to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste. Just about an hour away from our El Sol Verde.
At the reception is in the “Casona”, this Black Ctenosauro welcomes us (Garobo Negro).

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In the “Casona”, we buy the entrance ticket for 8000 Colones and a map. The options are a short walk around the “Casona” and 12km walk to the Pacific Coast and Playa Naranjo.


Driving on the bumpy “streambed” road to the Pacifc Viewpoint

It is very, very hot at the end of this year’s dry season – something like 36 degrees – and we decide to drive our car to the Pacific viewpoint or mirador. We cannot imagine to walk in the hot sun under trees that have no leaves.

Our car bumps up and down through what Ursula calls “streambeds”. We pick up a German student that has tackled the 12km to Playa Naranjo. He feels hot and is happy about the lift. After six endlessly bumpy kilometers we park our car and follow the sign that points 600m to the viewpoint. The beautiful view of the bay made it worth to walk.
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As we come back, the German boy is also back – he has given up walking in the torrid sun.
On the way back we capture memories of the leaveless trees.

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and of a brave bromelia.

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The forest teaching path explaining typical dry forest trees

Around the Casona, there is a short path of 600m that explains the trees. This is an Indian nude tree.

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And this is the Pochote tree… it has grim thorns.

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This is a Madero Negro. It is also called Madre de Cacao, because it is often planted with cacao plants to provide them with shade.

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I am impressed. The leaveless trees would be rated as being dead in our country. But here, the first rains (soon  expected) will turn them green again. What a miracle.


The brave battle of the Costarricenses against the filibuster William Walker

It was here at this dry and hot place, where the battle of Santa Rosa took place in March 1856. A company of Americans, French and Germans of the filibuster William Walker arrived exhausted in the Casona coming from Nicaragua on the evening of March 20th.  I can understand that they were exhausted – it IS hot here at this time of the year. An army of Josefinos and Costarricenses led by their president surprised them in the early next morning and won the battle within a quarter of an hour, as explained in the Casona.

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The Costarricenses won the decisive battle against Walker later on April 11th 1856 in Rivas. This is the beginning of the nationalism of Costa Rica, celebrated on 11th of April each year.

I like this small balcony with all these warnings. Actually the aggressive bees have been imported from Africa, because they produce more honey, and now they are out of control. Hence the warning.

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The afternoon in Liberia – some nice restored colonial houses

We spent the late afternoon in the small town Liberia. We parked our car near the concrete church, had a pipa in the central park and a fruit juice in the courtyard of the restored hotel Liberia

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We find more beautifully restored colonial houses…

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… which made us feel like living back in 1900, when the brother and sister of my grand-father had emigrated to Costa Rica.


Our last night in the small paradise called El Sol Verde

We spend our last night in the paradise called El Sol Verde, run by Ingrid from the Netherlands. One guest-artist has painted this terrace where we have breakfast and find Internet in the evening.

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A small ten minutes walk to the river nearby in the early morning…

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and the we say good-bye Ingrid and Gecki, the dog who always accompanies the guests for their walks.

Rincón de la Vieja – hello monkeys and fumaroles

The Rincón de la Vieja offers several hiking paths. We drive to the Pailas Area and spend some three hours on the round walk with steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud pots and joyful monkeys swinging in the branches. There are also more walks to waterfalls, but around noon it is simply too hot to do any more walking.


The sulfur scenting fumaroles
As we start our walk, we wonder, whether the forest is burning. Well, yes, could well be, all is very dry. But what we see in the trees is steam emitted by the fumaroles.


We smell sulfur in the air – like rotten eggs… this is how our first fumarole announces itself.


We smell sulfur again – this time it is a yellow steaming lake.


More fumaroles and a bubbling mud pot – blubblubbbluuubb.

What about a fango in here? “Well, you might need a cream to cure your burned skin after that”, Ursula jokes drily.

Our last fumarole is the Volcancito also announcing itself with that penetrating sulfur odor.


All this shows that this area is active. The Rincón de la Vieja (old lady’s corner) has last erupted in 2012. The ascent has been closed since then for being too unsafe.

The dry shrubs and the dry forest
There is more than fumaroles to see in the Rincón. During the first part we walk in the torrid sun and the plants are very dry.


Though it is very dry, we come across some bromelia.

We come across this brave flower that we have never seen  before, perhaps also a kind of Bromelia.

Then we are happy to reach the shady forest. This is a “Naked Indian” tree. This tree is very typical of Nicoya.


There are romantic creeks in the shade.

and fig trees that have robbed its host tree from light, until it died.



Hello monkeys and more
The park also provided us with animals. We found some birds, some monkeys and we could catch a. glance of an anteater rushing by.
Right at the entrance we saw a small group of spider monkeys jumping from one branch to the next. And later it was a herd of about forty white face monkeys that crossed our path high above us. They jumped,and run across the branches, incredibly fast. Sometimes they would swing using a liane, until the force of the swing allowed them to reach the next branch… and off they jumped. Once two monkeys sat on the same liane, swung back and forth, as if they really enjoyed it and then finally jumped off. We watched the herd – high up in the trees -, until our neck ached. In addition we could hear howler monkeys. They must have been close, but we could not see them.

We also came across some birds, among them a tucan, a gray hawk, a white throated mag-pie and the motmot with the tuft on its long tail. You have to enlarge this foto to see the motmot, it sits on the lowest branch.


So, sorry, there are no more fotos of the monkeys and the birds. They are too fast and too far away. We miss the Swarowsky telescope of Mauritius that we could use in Monteverde.

From Sarchí to Arenal and – la conección floja de la caja fuerte

Driving from Sarchí to El Castillo near the Volcano Arenal

After a cosy breakfast in the garden of the Cabinas Los Ranchos,

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we visit Sarchí and its colorful church…

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take some photos in the coffee plantation that might have belonged to the “los Peters”,…
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buy some beautiful souvenirs in the Sarchí gift shop (tastefully carpented puzzles),…
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and I forget mine all (will have to pick them up on our way back to San José).

From Quesada we continue to the touristy La Fortuna and head to the more quiet Village of El Castillo located behind the Volcano Arenal and by the Arenal Lake. Our target is the Hotel Linda Vista that I know from seven years ago. I was here with Ernst.

With memories of the small infinity pool and the great view I drive our Daihatsu up the steep-steep road to the cluster of bungalows. We take a suite and enjoy its view of the lake…
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and of the Volcano Arenal.


I have a swim in the pool and warm up in the Jacuzzi while Ursula fights with a bad connection…


The badly connected safe (la caja fuerte con conección floja)
While I am swimming, Ursula keeps on walking up to the reception and down to our suite and back up again. What is going on? She stops my swimming and tells me that in our suite the safe (caja fuerte) does not work. She has found rusty batteries under a cover that had been fixed with black adhesive tape (cienta). She has taken the batteries and the cover to the reception. With a new set of batteries and some more tape she now is on her way back to our room. She inserts the new batteries, fixes the cover with the tape… with no success; there are no lights at the safe that would show it is working. She goes back to the reception and says that the new batteries do not work. The partner of the receptionist now walks down with her. He inserts the batteries again, fixes the cover with a lot of tape (as if he had to fix a broken leg – they both laugh). Then the battery works twice… and after that says “low battery”. There must be a bad connection or a conección floja. The guy mumbles about having to use a key… but Ursula makes it all clear to him that the key would not solve the low battery problem. She adds that she has dealt with such equipment when working as a medical doctor. She asks for the safe to be replaced.

From my pool I observe Ursula coming up again with the guy from the hotel carrying a safe on his right hand shoulder. Soon thereafter they return. The guy carries a new safe.  He has taken it from another room and installs it in our room. Now our safe works. “Do I need the key now?” Ursula asks with a smile. “No, no, no key needed.”, is the answer.

With all that we have learnt some new words in Spanish such as “caja fuerte” means “safe” and “conección floja” is “bad connection”…

We end the day in the restaurant that serves excellent food and also wines.

Completing our mission in Monteverde: Saw the Quetzal

Heading to Santa Elena and Monteverde

We say good-bye to the Linda Vista Hotel… and I also say good-bye to my wonderful memories with Ernst that had revived here. With Ursula I drive along the Arenal Lake, come across the flag of Nidwalden or Obwalden decorating a farm and hotel built in the Swiss Chalet style, enjoy a Zimtschnecke and an Apfeltasche at Tom’s German Bakery, fill gasoline “regular” into our car and then tackle the notoriously bad roads to Monteverde. This Quaker settling founded in the fifties tried to stem the tourist flow invading the rain and cloud forests since the early eighties by resisting to having the acccess roads paved, but the tourists come nevertheless. I assume that they stay longer though before tackling the bumpy roads again.

On the way we stop at the restaurant Viento Fresco to eat lunch. Yes, I remember, we have stopped here as well seven years ago. This small restaurant is at a convenient distance from the Arenal.


The Viento Fresco offers excursions to their waterfalls. But we continue our rough forty kilometers to Santa Elena across pastures dotted with cows. We have reserved a room in Cabinas Eddy that now is managed by the son, Freddy, and his mum.


We have chosen this place for its friendliness and good value for money. Immediately we reserve the guide Mauritius for an early morning walk in the cloud forest reserve.


Yes, this time we saw the Quetzal in the cloud forest reserve

We take the early public bus at 6:15, arrive at the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso around 6:45 and  start our tour with Mauritius shortly after seven.


The cloud forest has grown on the slopes and ridges of the Monteverde mountains, fed by the clouds that rise from the Pacific Ocean and bring rain, even in the dry season. The forest is dense and characterized by the abundance of epiphytes such as bromelia and orchids.

Slowly we follow Mauritius. He fixes his Swarowsky firmly on the ground, directs it to some branches, and we see a green Tucancillo peeping out of a hole in the stem of a tree. This is the smallest Tucan of Costa Rica.

Mauritius shows us more birds hidden in the dense forest: The Tangara Vienticastaña, Saltón Cabecicastaño, Solitario Carinegro and Trogon Ventrinaranjado – like its cousin, the Quetzal, belonging to the order of the Trogoniformes, as Wikipedia explains to me.

The birds are small and far away in the leaves. With my i-phone, Mauritius takes fotos using his Swarowsky, like of this Chispita Volcanera.


Here is a caterpillar that will become a butterfly,…


and here is a venenous snake (called Palm Pitviper). What eyes does Mauritius have to spot the green snake rolled up here? It looks a bit like a sandwich.


A Coati walks on the path and disappears quickly in the bushes. An ardilla or squirrel runs up and down a tree.

But what we look for now, is a Quetzal. We can hear them, but where are they? A colleague guide gives us a hint and, yes, we find the Quetzal. Here it is, also taken through the lens of the Swarowsky using my i-phone.


It is blue with a red-brown breast. It has this long long tail and a crown on the head. Mauritius sings with the bird that replies believing he might be a female Quetzal. We stay here for a long time watching how the bird cleans his wings. Mission completed, was this not what we came to Costa Rica for? Ursula asks jokingly.

To end the walk we visit the Colibri place at the entrance of the park. We spot a Brillante Frentiverde and a Colibri Montañés… “If you are lucky you can see nine species here…”, I hear someone say.

After the walk with Mauritius, we slender through the park on our own. Our target is the “the Ventana”, where we can almost see the Pacific Ocean and the Carribean at the same time… almost, if it were less hazy. This is the view towards the Carribean Sea.


We cross the hanging bridge, see another Tucancillo and soak in more impressions from the dense and multilevel vegetation of the cloud forest.  Good for us that it is not raining, but nature would need more rain here.

We take the bus back to Eddy’s to have a siesta and book the night walk with Mauritius.


The night walk – full of surprises in the dark

Around six it gets pitch dark in Costa Rica. We are close to the equator. We are a group of six that sets off with Mauritus. He explains that we will walk in a forest that has no bromelias and no orchids. It is a much drier forest than the cloud forest. There are various micro climates around Monteverde/Santa Elena.

Mauritius warns us not to touch the leaves. Because there might be snakes or insects… And to underline, what he means, he shows us some leaves full of wasps. They are sleeping here. They currently have no nest. as they look for a new place. If we touched the leaves, the wasps would wake up and become very angry. On the stem of a tree we find a scorpion. Under UV light it is very bright, under normal light it is just grey, difficult to distinguish from the wood. It is also not recommended to touch the scorpion!

We look at the trees. There are strangular figs that grow from the top of a tree to the bottom, settling their roots and strangling the original tree. Just the fig tree remains. Mauritius lifts up avocados. Well, sort of. They are tiny, just big enough to fit into the beak of the green Tucancillo – its favorite food.

Mauritius finds some sleeping birds. They stand with one foot on a branch hiding under leaves and placing their heads under their wings. We see a thrush (Drossel) sleeping and two whitish birds. The light does not wake them up. “How did you find them?” we ask. Mauritius smiles… these birds always come back here to sleep.

We observe leafcutter ants. The smaller workers carry leaves. The larger soldats protect them. The leaves are fed to a fungus in the anthill. And this fungus then provides the food to the ant brood.

And we also see some mammals. An armadillo with nine belts – Mauritius has heard it run on the ground – well I could not hear its steps. Then an alarm – a colleague guide has spotted a sloth. All night walkers congregate around it. It hangs high up in the trees and moves a bit, as if it had bad dreams. No wonder with all the lights pointing at the poor animal. While walking back, Mauritius points to an Olinga and explains that this animal is similar to a Kinkajou… okay? And both are similar to a Coati. Okay, we know Coatis and that they are related to Rancoons. We watch the Olinga that elegantly runs along branches, also high up in the trees.

While we drive back to our hotels, Mauritius mumbles: ” A sloth on an electrical cable!” He stops the car and lets us out. Right. There is a sloth hanging on a bunch of electric cables and rushing along it – I have never seen a sloth move so fast. Well, the village has cut off the migration path of the sloths, but has created a new “road” for them to “walk” along. It is just a dangerous walk and I do hope that this sloth will not be hurt. I took a foto using my i-phone in the dark, here it is.


As we leave the car and say good-bye to the group and Mauritius, Ursula summarizes: “Das isch witzig gsy” or “this was cute”. Thank you, Mauritius, for this night wildlife experience.

On the shoulder of the Volcano Arenal and to Cerro Chato

The Arenal… dormant for centuries, then waking up forcefully, now calmer

The cone of the Volcano Arenal overlooks the Northern Lowlands  of Costa Rica.


The volcano is more than 1600m high and still growing. It had been dormant for centuries – just a mountain covered with dense forests and with villages at its feet benefiting from the fertile soil. In 1968 the volcano woke up forcefully. Craters appeared. One of them, named “crater C”, sent pyroglastic clouds down to the west destroying the villages in the Taracon valley. From now on the volcano kept on being active throwing out ashes, blocks of lava and more pyroglastic clouds. The latest activity ocurred in May 2010: The National Park and Observatory Center had to be evacuated. Eight lava streams run down the slopes to the foot of the volcano. Since then, though, the volcano has remained  calm.

With Ernst, I had been here in November 2009. Up to then,  there was a regular flow of lava that all  guidebooks praised as a spectacular sight at night. But, when we arrived, this flow of  lava had stopped. With Ernst I visited the garden of the Observatory Center and I was afraid that the Arenal would just hold its breath to erupt soon again. Well it held its breath until May 2010 to calm down after that. But it is one of the most dangerous volcanoes and can revive any time.


The gardens of the Observatory Lodge and Center – carefully attended

Around nine we arrive at the gate of the Arenal Gardens belonging to the Observatory Lodge.  A few meters below the gate is a small hut offering walks. It is the small company called Tucan Trails. With Saul we arrange to walk to Cerro Chato tomorrow.

We enter the Observatory Gardens. The lodge must have been renovated since 2009. It looks inviting with its cabañas spread out in a beautiful tropical garden.


We walk for about two hours. The paths are well marked in colors. We come across a water fall and a hanging bridge.image

In the middle of the rain forest we find a garden worker with an engine that blows leaves away from the path. He does so to avoid that visitors step on snakes hidden under the leaves, he says. Strange, the roaring sound of the engine in the middle of a nature reserve.

In the lodge we take a small dessert and then return to our beautiful hotel Linda Vista in El Castillo where we recover by swimming in the infinity pool with the view of the Volcano Arenal and the Lake Arenal.



The strenuous walk to the Cerro Chato with the green laguna

The next morning at eight I meet Saul at the gate of the Toucan trails just below the entrance to the Observatory Lodge. Ahead of me are seven strenuous hours walking up to the Cerro Chato and back down… it was a unique experience with the young and enthusiastic guide Saul that loves his mountains and the path they are looking after.

While walking along the shoulder of the Arenal to the foot of Cerro Chato, we listened to birds… Saul knew them all, found these tracks of an old puma or a young leopard (one leaf in one of the tracks was still green, hence the tracks were fresh),…


knocked on the roots of this canela tree… the aboriginals used this natural drum to communicate across distances,…


climbed up and up for about 500m to reach the green laguna at around 11:30.


A family from Brasil took a bath. Across the lake we could see the place where the path of the Observatory Lodge ends… we could hear  the noise of a sawing  machine, here in the middle of the rain forest… this seems odd to me. By the way, Cerro Chato means “flat mountain”. The Chato has no conical shape, but is flat. Its crater has been filled with water since long… the Chato is  no longer active.

Coming back down requires a lot of gymnastics. The slopes along the Cerro Chato are steep, uneven and slippery. Once down, it seems endless to me to get back to the Arenal, crossing one creek after the next… down and up, down and up… and again down and up. We see spider monkeys, high up in the crown of trees, hear some ground animal run away (boars?), admire the wandering tree…


and its leaves that the sloths love to eat.


From one of the lookouts there is another great view to the volcano.


To end the tour we visit the old lava streams from 1992 – 25 years ago – and they are already called “old”. I look up to the Volcano Arenal – cloudless today – and ask it to keep quiet for now.


Thank you, Saul, for this wonderful experience. Yes, it was strenuous, but it was worth it. Close to the artificial (though beautiful) gardens of the Observatory Lodge there are real rain and mountain forests that wait to be detected. I hope that many more visitors of the Arenal area will benefit from that.

Now I am looking forward to the pool and the jacuzzi of our Linda Vista hotel.


More Tico specialties such as tight garages or dish washing

In Costa Rica I observed a few more specialties such as washing the dishes, cars fitting precisely into garages, some interesting compay names and many, many small shops selling practically everthing needed in daily life.


 Washing the dishes with firm soap

This is the place where dishes are being washed in the Don Qujote school: A sink, running cold water, a box with firm soap and an abrasive sponge. The Ticos rub the cups and plates carefully using the sponge and some of the soap. Our homestay family foamed the dishes in using the same soap.



Many Ticos have earned enough to own a car, but space is scarce

There are a lot of cars in Costa Rica. San José suffers from traffic jams during rush hours. On one Friday evening it took us two hours to return to Santo Domingo, and this is usually just a journey of ten to fifteen minutes. But then the Ticos have to park their cars and space may be scarce, when they live in small houses. Here are two solutions we found.




German immigrants leave their traces

When arriving at the airport, I immediatley notice the company sign “Kölbi” with the frog. It is one of the major communication companies and these frogs are omnipresent here. To me this name sounds even Swiss. image

Other names that remind me of Germany are Lehmann (a bookshop), Fischel (a pharmacy chain) and Münkel (an chain of opticians).


Super Cho and Panadería Tuti

In Santo Domingo we found small grocery shops at every corner. This is one of them, Super Cho (probably a Tico version of “Joe”).


These small shops have everything needed for daily life, even dental tape. Around the corner was the panaderia Tuti, where I discovered the “sweet bread” called “pan dulce” or “budín” (can you recognise the word? It is “pudding”).  Delicious. This was my snack (Z’nüni) every morning at school.

Costa Rica is a very catholic country. Their Radio Reloj plays “Ave Maria” in Latin at midday and at six o’clock in the evening – this can be found in youtube. Good bye for now.