As I mentioned yesterday, Jeri and I did actually go on an adventure one day. To recap, one fine day we decided we would ascend Volcán Poas with an eye to entering the National Park and viewing the caldera. However, on the way up the mountain we were waylaid by a sign that proclaimed that La Paz Waterfall Gardens was once again open after a two year closure due to earthquake damage in the area. Jeri mentioned that one of her cohorts had gone to this spot several times and claimed it was very beautiful and well worth visiting.
Immediately we decided to amend our plans for the day, and see if we couldn’t find our way to La Paz. And thereby, as they say, hangs a tale.
Neither one of us has the best Spanish in the world, although we can muddle through shopping and riding the ubiquitous buses. We had a vague idea of where the gardens were located. We rode the bus we were on clear to the end of the line in Poasita, which is the small town that rests right outside the Volcán Poas National Park. When we got to Poasita, a large billboard pointed an arrow down the road towards the resort we wished to visit, and so we asked the bus driver how far it was from where we were. Cheerfully, he informed us that it was six kilometers “that way”, and so we descended from our transport and discussed what to do.
After a certain amount of discussion, we decided that six kilometers really wasn’t “All That Far” a distance to traverse. After all, I am in the habit of walking my dog about that far on a daily basis, and while she isn’t quite as active Jeri opined that she could hoof it that far. But first, we needed some lunch. So we repaired to the closest little restaurant and enjoyed a fine lunch of arroz con camarones, which was served with a lovely salad. As we were enjoying the food, we also enjoyed the view.
Our empty bellies attended to, we proceeded to walk off down the highway, basically into the view above. We wound along with the road, passing a spot where the utility company was installing electric lines, the highway department was repairing a landslide, a couple of dairy farms, several very nice homes, and on through a small village. The scenery was wonderful, and the flora quite outstandingly exhibiting the fact that we were proceeding through a cloud forest.
That tree was in the middle of a pasture by the road, and the fuzzy growth it is supporting is a collection of ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. Like this:
When felt like we had been walking for quite some time and we were beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get to our destination, off on the horizon loomed another sign. It stood at a T intersection. “Waterfall Gardens, thisaway! Abierto!” it proclaimed joyously, with its lusty arrow pointing off down the mountain on the side road we had arrived at. The side road evidently was the reason the place had been closed for two years. Apparently, when the earthquake struck a couple of years ago, the whole road basically slid off the mountain into the river below in a giant mudslide, and only recently had the local highway department repaired it to the point where it was passable. And when I say passable, I use that word advisedly, it was passable in a way that only third world countries would understand that word, being mostly one long mudhole interrupted by large potholes and short stretches of original pavement that had survived the original disaster.
And it went DOWN the mountain in a most precipitous manner. Located at the intersection was a little gas station. We decided to avail ourselves of the facilities and at the same time (being women), ask for directions and information. After a short conversation in my minimal Spanish, we ascertained that the garden was definitely open, and according to the gas station owner, it was “Muy fuera.” We could not get him to commit to an actual number, and no there was no bus down there. He also opined that it was a journey of one hour on foot, but we weren’t sure how accurate that assessment really was. So, having already walked for an hour on foot, we thought we would commit ourselves to walking a little further, so off down the mountain we went. And I do mean DOWN.
Of course, the farther we walked Down the hill, the less we wanted to walk back Up it, if you know what I mean. After we had proceeded another couple of kilometers, we started feeling rather weary, and not a little discouraged about our chances of actually finding our destination. Being a couple of old hippy free spirits, we resorted to our thumbs, and after being passed by a couple of vehicles a nice little crew cab truck of construction workers stopped and gave us a lift. These charming fellows were excited to be practicing their English upon us, and I was impressed by the fact that they actually knew where Missouri was.
The lift down the mountain was electrifying in the speed and elan with which the driver attacked the course. My last experience with a roller-coaster was nothing compared to our descent, and with two-fold gratitude both for the lift and the safe deliverance from the lift, we alighted at the gates of La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
After conversing with the person at the front desk, we learned that barring other events, we could avail ourselves of the free bus that toted all the workers at the park up to Poasita at the end of the day. Then we paid the rather stiff fee for entry ($35) — we probably would have balked if we hadn’t already invested so much time and energy getting there — and entered the gardens. The fact that there were so many different exhibits available, all beautifully maintained, coupled with the extremely informative signage, made me feel that the price of admission was actually worth it at the end of the day. However, if someone had told me before I started my odyssey there what they were going to extract from my rather meager funds, I probably would have decided not to go, so it was a good thing we arrived in blissful ignorance. Actually, the price of admission amounted to almost 20% of the total spending money I had set aside for the trip,so it was not an inconsiderable amount for me to fork over. However.
The first thing to capture our eyes was the vista from the entry. Spread out below us was an extensively gardened property, with well maintained pathways and not a speck of trash to be seen. Cannas, birds of paradise, orchids, ornamental bananas, etc etc etc regaled the eye from every side.
We visited the butterfly house. There were butterflies, hundreds of them. They were in all stages from egg to death, some of the chrysalises were amazing jeweled artworks. None of my pictures were worth a damn. There were a pair of three toed sloths, slothfully sleeping.
There was an aviary, which included a docent whose job it was to induce the resident toucans to sit on your arm or shoulder. No photo of a bird on me, the camera was not cooperating with Jeri, but I managed to get a shot of her. Photography was complicated by the injunction “No Flash”.
On to the Rain Forest Frog exhibit, which was captivating in the extreme. All the little frogs were just living in this giant greenhouse. Again, no flash allowed due to the potential for damage to the amphibian eyes. There was a docent there also, whose job it was to know where the frogs were hiding out so he could direct your attention to them. Even without a flash, I was able to get some fun pictures. The one I REALLY wanted was of a little red fellow who was down in the middle of a bromeliad, but that one was just too dark. Oh well.
The first picture I acquired before the docent informed me of the “no flash” rule. There were also several varieties of “poison dart” frogs, but they were behind glass in terrariums (probably due to liability concerns), and so I got no pictures of them. I also did not get any photos in the herpetarium, where they had an extensive selection of tropical snakes, including a Fer de lance that had a head that was every bit of three inches across the jaws. A most impressive pit viper, and I wouldn’t have to know that he had a notoriously bad temper to want to stay away from him.
We walked down (and back up) the 350+ steps to view the waterfalls that were accessible. There were three other waterfalls on the property but they were not viewable as the paths to them had slid down into the river during the earthquake and were yet to be repaired. But the two we were able to see were just wonderful.
By far our favorite exhibit was the one with the jungle cats. The jaguars and pumas were pretty boring, sleeping off in the corners of their enclosures and completely uninterested in visitors. But Tabitha, an ocelot, had star power. When we arrived at her enclosure, she was ensconced at the back.
Shameless flattery and cooing brought her to the front of the enclosure, where we were able to both look eye to eye with her, but even touch the amazingly soft fur of her paws.
Having added another kilometer or two plus 350+ stairs to our personal odometers, we felt it was time to return home. Rather than wait for the bus, we shamelessly begged a ride from a group of Belgian tourists who were headed back to Alajuela. When they finally figured out what we were trying to communicate to them (they spoke small english and French, we a little Spanish and English) regarding how we arrived at the park, they were more than willing to give us a ride back to Poasita. By the time we got there, they had realized that San Pedro de Poas was right on their way home, so they hauled us all the way down the mountain, saving us time and bus fare. So, when they wanted to stop and buy strawberries from a road side stand, we arranged the purchase and then paid for them too.
It was the least we could do, and rounded out a fantastic day of adventure on a friendly international note.
And so we arrived back at home, exhausted but ecstatic.