Have you ever thought about going to Costa Rica? A year later, I remember the amazing trip we had to Costa Rica in 2020 and sigh deeply! A trip of a lifetime, and I want to go back!! Let’s revisit my blog posts about this trip for your travel pleasure and mine. Victoria, the trip organizer, and Enrique, our guide, put together a fun-filled trip with variety and adventure. We spent time in villages shopping, in the rain forest looking for exotic animals and by the ocean soaking up the sun! You couldn’t have asked for a better experience!
So, visit any or all of my blog posts about this wonderful trip to get a glimpse of this beautiful country:
I’m a great one to remember anniversaries of special events in my life—this is one that has been reeling around in my mind for most of January and February because we traveled there in January 2020, but I wrote my narrative mostly in February.
I have thousands of pictures that I have revisited; snapshots of a world so different from my dry desert and mountains of New Mexico. Thinking back, this trip challenged me to expand myself in so many ways, and I’m always up for a challenge!
The group we traveled with became known as, “The Dirty Dozen” and has kept connected through the year with a couple Zoom get-togethers. It’s funny how we remember key events and retell the stories again and again. Facebook also keeps us abreast of each other’s lives. Initially, most of us didn’t know each other, but after twelve days of adventure, exploration, and spending travel time in a van, we became close friends. We plan to journey again some time, some place whenever we can. When you find people you can travel with, keep them close!
So, do you travel? Have you had a trip of a lifetime? More than one? Have you been to Costa Rica? If so, what was your favorite city? Area?
Did you miss one of my recent blogs? Here’s a chance to see the last three weeks:
I love the idea of the Christmas newsletter! I love looking back over my year and reflecting on it. I also love decorating my home with familiar decorations. Two traditions I love! Every year for thirty-two years, I’ve written a Christmas newsletter to share with family and friends highlighting my previous year. Also I seriously enjoy Christmas decorations. So, enjoy Lin and my Christmas newsletter and decorations.
2020 Started Off Great!
Yes, 2020 started off with a bang! On January 7, 2020 Lin and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime—twelve days on a private tour of Costa Rica with Lin’s ex-wife, Victoria. She invited us and 7 friends on this delightful escapade. We invited two of our friends, so the “Dirty Dozen” was formed. Our tour guide, Enrique, led a square dance tour in 2001 that Lin and Victoria organized, so Lin was excited to reunite with his old friend.
We saw exotic animals—quetzal birds, iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, monkeys and sloths—and spent time in gorgeous jungle areas. We sailed over the canopy of the rain forest on a zipline! What an experience! We ended our trip with some leisure time and a catamaran trip out to snorkel.
The majority of the people on this trip didn’t know each other when we started, but we became friends by the end!
After being home a few days, I squeezed in a trip to Branson, CO to do major revisions on my book project. We left on February 27 for Barcelona, Spain with a group of square dance friends. Lin and I fell in love with Barcelona! Our tour guide, Bradley Dick, entertained us with his extensive knowledge and humor. Again, I can only give you highlights of a jam-packed twelve days.
I loved La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, a cathedral beyond description—truly sensory overload—and Gaudi’s other amazing architecture throughout the city. We also visited Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery built on the side of a mountain. There we saw a fascinating black Madonna and Christ Child.
In Valencia we enjoyed delicious paella, the place of its origin. From there we headed to the Arabic Triangle of Spain: Granada, Seville and Toledo with Córdoba in the middle. In Granada, we visited the Alhambra and Generalife, marveling at the influence of the Arabic world on Spain.
In Seville, after dinner, we had a carriage ride with high-stepping Andalusian horses, stopping for photos in front of the Plaza America. In the evening, we saw Flamenco dancers, a much-awaited event for me! Dazzling sweeping costumes, taps on shoes and snapping castanets!
On our trip to Madrid, we toured a gigantic Mesquita (mosque) and Catedral (cathedral) at Córdoba. From Córdoba to Madrid, we drove through La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote! In Madrid, we explored a small section of The Prado then drove to Toledo and toured this scenic city built on a cliff.
We left Madrid on March 8, 2020 and Spain had 500 coronavirus cases. Our magical second trip of a lifetime ended abruptly on our arrival home.
Then the Lockdown!
On March 9, we woke up to Spain’s explosion of coronavirus cases to 1500 in one day, so Lin and I started a two-week quarantine. I was certain we would get sick because we spent the last two days in downtown Madrid and then at the airport, but thank God, we didn’t. And that’s the way spring, summer and fall went. All of our annual square dance events were canceled. Lin dedicated his extra time to his garden and he produced the most amazing explosions of color and foliage ever—hours upon hours of work.
Because of Lin’s work in the garden, he always has a gorgeous tan and is very wise about how he does it, so I adopted his method and did a lot of sunbathing and reading.
Immediately, I became a fan of Zoom and have used it weekly to connect with family and friends. I’ve lived here for nine years and finally cleaned out a storage shed Lin bought for my extra stuff when we married. I found some treasures I’d forgotten about!
We have watched lots of British TV series, and my cat, Jesse, assumes the position on the arm of the loveseat every night for our TV time—something so unusual at our house!
We had planned a square dance trip to Germany in September, but it was canceled too! We moved it to 2021!
And the Release of Flippo’s Book
I spent my time finishing up my newest book, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo in the midst of the pandemic. I had planned to release it at CALLERLAB at the end of April, but that event was canceled, so I had more time to work on it. I released it May 8, 2020 and am so proud of the end product which took me nearly three years to complete. It was the project of a lifetime.
Because all square dance events were canceled, I have spent time promoting this book online and have enjoyed the connections I’ve made with Flippo fans all over the world.
In planning his garden, Lin plants flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and we’ve seen the increase of visitations from these creatures over the years. He also puts out bird food that attracts birds at twenty-five feeders. The culmination of his efforts resulted in meeting the qualifications for certification by the Wildlife Habitat, and he received his certification in October.
Miller’s Christmas Decorations
I’d like to feature our decorations at our home. You can’t come visit our house because of the pandemic, so I’d like to bring my home to you!
A Miller Christmas Eve tradition is Lin reads a Christmas poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer,” from Tombstone Epitaph. Enjoy!
Christmas newsletters, decorations, the magic of this holiday! Yes, I do believe!
~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com
Our extreme Costa Rica experience was almost over! Snorkeling, shopping and a fabulous birthday celebration ended this amazing trip. We landed at Coco Beach at the Hotel El Colono, a beautiful tropical facility for the last four days.
Day 11 – January 17, 2020
The morning began
with breakfast besides the luscious swimming pool before we left for an
adventure. Enrique had told us the day before they had a day at the beach
planned for today—the name of the beach in English was “The Poor Man’s
Underwear Beach”—conjures up quite an image!
We piled into the
van with Lucy directing, “Lin, get into the van” and greeting each one as we
climbed in. We stopped at a Subways for sandwiches to take with us. Some people
opted to go to a supermarket for their food. Lin squeezed in ice cream from the
Pops ice cream shop, and away we went.
What an adventure with a change in plans—not “The Poor Man’s Underwear Beach” but La Playa Las Prisas and I didn’t get the translation down for that, and my translation app says “The beach in the rush!” Oh, well!
We stopped at a roadside stand selling sandias (watermelons) and refreshing pipas drinks (coconut), and across the road was a herd of Brahmas which fascinated many of us. The young man running the stand allowed us to use visit the garden behind the stand and then to use the bathrooms in the house on the property. Again a wonderful serendity along the way!
As we drove there, we wove our way over a rough, rocky dirt road with several cars in front of us, but I wasn’t disappointed when we arrived—a beautiful beach, wave crashing and lots of locals in family and friend gatherings around us! It couldn’t have been better! It felt like Costa Rican life at its best!
After lunch, several enjoyed a dip in the ocean or a walk along the beach. Victoria warned us not to pick up seashells because they would confiscate them at customs—I have a jar of shells I’ve gathered over the years in our second bathroom, so that was a bummer.
Leisure and laid-back is how I would describe this day. Next to us, a woman engaged the day from a hammock, and we made eye-contact, such an easy thing to do. She offered her hammock to me for a relaxing swing, so I climbed aboard—I love hammocks.
Later I asked to take a picture of her group, and they jumped up enthusiastically, then Liz danced a little in the sand with one of the guys. After I took their picture, they took ours! What a playful, fun atmosphere!
We left this slice
of paradise about 3:30 p.m. with sand in my shoes and my heart which means I
will return someday!
From there we drove to Tamarindo, a hustling beach town for the sunset. Our group parked ourselves at outside tables at a restaurant and did our own things. Some walked the beach, others shopped and others relaxed at our table. beause it was an opportunity to check email. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the pelicans diving for their dinner and the horses and riders as they passed by!
I kept hearing this strange sound, and Enrique explained it to me as a Guanacaste yodeling, “Grito,” so I found the yodeler and he was eager to have our pictures taken.
As we waited for the sunset, I saw some young girls positioned their hands in a heart in an angle so it captured the sun, so I joined them and they took my picture. The sunset took your breath away—a truly tropical sunset.
Afterwards we enjoyed fire dancers down the beach. I talked to William, our driver, in Spanish and we shared some deep private issues in our lives. It was amazing.
During the evening, a trio came out and entertained us with live music which is always a treat. The evening ended with Pat singing her heart out with them—I forgot the tune, but it was a blast.
Day 12 – January 18,
The next day began
with breakfast by the pool and a fun time with Victoria’s family and close
friends who came to join in the celebration of her birthday that night.
Afterwards, Lin and I wandered down to the beach, shopped, and I enjoyed a “sandia drink.” A young Costa Rican girl, Tatianna, sold me an ankle bracelet, and I immediately lost in the surf as I was walking the beach. I searched a little and realized what a futile effort, but I went back to Lin and told him. I decided to go up the beach once more to see if I could find her, but I didn’t.
When I got back to Lin, Tatianna had come by in my absence, and he replaced the lost ankle bracelet for me. She was still in the area, so I gave her another hug.
Lin had parked himself at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the beach, so I joined him there. A guy behind us name Will complimented us on our relationship because I had asked Lin when he wanted me to return when I went searching for Tatianna. Will serenaded us and truly became an ambassador for Costa Rica!
shopping on our way back to the hotel, we joined the group to go to a country
club to spend the afternoon. We swam, ate Greek food, swam and enjoyed the relaxed
We returned to our hotel to prepare for the evening’s festivities—Victoria’s birthday party at her aunt’s house, and what a party it was! They served delicious food out on the front patio. We danced the cumbia and the salsa. I dance with Lin; I dance with Victoria! We all danced together—the Latin way of enjoying dance and music! I called a short square dance tip to demonstrate to our newfound friends our much-loved pastime. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Victoria, then she brought up everyone who was having a major birthday this year, and we sang to them! What a great evening!
Day 13 – January 19,
Again a delicious
meal besides the pool of rice and beans, eggs and lots of fruit. I had to fill
up for sure.
A group of us went for one last shopping spree. I needed a long-sleeved shirt to wear snorkeling. Somehow Lin left me, so I shopped alone and had a marvelous time. When I got back to the hotel, I transferred my pictures to Jerry’s laptop as a backup.
Our last afternoon adventure had arrived—a ride on a catamaran to snorkel with dinner and drinks on board and a guaranteed gorgeous sunset. So away we went, having to be tendered from the beach out to the catamaran which held about seventy people. During the trip out to where we snorkeled, we saw pelicans and dolphins. People opted to sit outside or in the cabin.
Lin decided he didn’t want to snorkel, so I went with Greg and saw some fish, but not the variety everybody else did. My stamina from being sick the last year hampered my ability to do much, plus I felt bad with Lin alone on the boat. When I got back, he wasn’t there! Some in the group encouraged him to get in the water, and he waved at me from on the beach.
By being on the boat, though, I got great pictures of each one of our group as they came back—Monica was the first in the water and the last one back.
We ate our delicious dinner as we cruised, and then the crew hoisted the sail for a quiet, peaceful journey. Clouds hung over the western sky, and some bemoaned our chance for a beautiful sunset, but what a sunset we got with the clouds and boats on the water.
We returned to our hotel deeply satisfied with a day on the ocean. We had a little ceremony giving Enrique and William each a gift from the group. They provided us an amazing twelve days I will never forget, so I felt they deserved it. For some of us, it was a teary time!
Day #14 – January 20,
I hate departure days, but this one especially! We had melded as a group, and it was hard to say goodbye. Lin and I organized our bulging suitcase and went to breakfast. The van left for the airport for the first wave; we were on the second wave.
Marian and Lucy had extended their stay, so they weren’t leaving, so Marian rode to the airport with each group.
Our last trip in the van! We drove to Liberia and flew home with an uneventful return. This trip changed my life forever with the “!Pura Vida´!” attitude of the Costa Rican people and the gorgeous country they have.
best friend, asked me if I would ever come back. My response, “Not if, but
~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s
who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would
you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting
posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
~I HAVE 211 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42
During this section our trip to Costa Rica, I had anticipated zip line, visions of soaring over the canopy of the rain forest within the shadow of Arenal volcano, and I wasn’t disappointed. Each day when I came out of my room in La Fortuna, my eyes turned to Arenal to capture a clear picture, but I never did. I was raised about twenty-five miles from Capulin volcano in New Mexico, so I have volcano-loving in my blood!
Day 8 – January 14, 2020
The day started with a unique breakfast to us in New Mexico—eating delicious food outside, but that was a highlight during this whole trip for me.
Our destination for the morning was Místico Hanging Bridges in the foothills of Arenal volcano. I ended up not taking my Canon Rebel camera because of possible rainy conditions but used my iPhone, and it did rain!
Again, Enrique shared his knowledge of plants and animals along the way and referred to his trusty bird book! He pointed out “Walking Palm Trees” that fascinated me.
Throughout our hike, we crossed sixteen bridges over the rain forest. Here’s a map of the park:
longer bridges swayed with the people’s weight and movements, and that was a
little alarming. It ended up being a four-hour hike, raining off and on, and my
shoes hurt for the first time on the trip.
Standing on one of the bridges, Enrique spied an Eyelash Viper curled up in a tree a safe distance from us—how amazing. I was so glad it wasn’t close to us!
“The eyelash viper, known for its beautiful ‘eyelashes’, is also well-known for its aggression and lightning fast strikes. An eyelash pit viper bite contains a dose of hemotoxic venom, capable of killing adult human beings and large mammals. Their bright colors help them camouflage in bushes, berries and fruits. Mostly found in central and South America, this snake can be highly aggressive and fatal when their survival is under threat.”
After our unbelievable trek through the rain forest, we ate a late lunch at the Smithsonian Observatory:
“The Smithsonian Rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa are named after the U.S. Smithsonian Institution scientists who began coming to the area in the 1970s to study the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge was originally built to accommodate the groups of scientists, students and occasional tourists who visited Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica.”
“The Smithsonian Rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa are named after the U.S. Smithsonian Institution scientists who began coming to the area in the 1970s to study the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge was originally built to accommodate the groups of scientists, students and occasional tourists who visited Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica.”
I enjoyed arroz con camarones for lunch – rice with shrimp! I added a guanabana shake and coconut flan—what a decadent meal but I enjoyed it to the max!
The view from the observatory deck was breathtaking but cloudy so we didn’t get a clear shot of Arenal volcano, probably the best place to photograph it! We were so close to it there! We ventured out on the deck when it wasn’t raining then ducked back inside. Coatimundis and turkeys wandered around on the lawn below the deck and we took lots of pictures.
On our travels that day, we stopped at a waterfall, but I didn’t go down—the four-hour hike did me in, so Liz and I had a nice visit. We picked up Victoria, got our bathing suits and went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens “The Springs Resort & Spa” for a lovely soak in the many pools and a relaxing evening.
A topic of conversation all day centered on our activity the next day: the zip line. We had some in our group who definitely decided not to go, but a couple people wavered all day, so us veteran zipliners gave speech after speech trying to entice them. Who would go? Who would not? We enjoyed a late dinner at the spa and ended a wonderful day and anticipated another highlight of this trip—zip lining across the rain forest the next day.
Day 9 – January
Zip line day was finally here, and it was a rainy day, but, hey—we were in the rain forest. Three newbies of our group decided to go, and I loved seeing their expressions after each zip line–totally enjoyment and awe!
Lin and I had done a zip line in Juneau, Alaska in 2007 and the equipment was totally different. We wore heavy gloves and used our hands on the cable to break the ride. It was much simpler this time!
Our fun-loving group immediately clicked with the crew at Sky Tram Adventures, laughing and teasing as we had the harnesses and equipment put on. We rode up the hill in a small tramp and received training before we started.
The rules were simple:
Lean back and knees up
When the line wiggles (by one of the employees watching you come into the platform), spread your legs as you come into the landing platform to break
If you stop before the platform, turn around go hand over hand back
So away we went! There were seven zip lines, and the first one was short and easy to practice on. On the next one, it seemed to go on forever and it rained, but my glasses protected my eyes. I traveled really fast on that line and also burned the nail on my right-hand thumb because it was too close to the pulley! I learned where to put my hands and had no more problems afterwards. Then next one, I did some crazy antics: I broke too quickly and then started wiggling my legs. After that, I just let it go and went like a bullet! The workers on the platforms really stopped us!
A couple of people rented cameras mounted on their helmets, so, thanks to Liz, here’s what it really looks like: https://youtu.be/73OjUH09L50
The employees’ shirts said, “Xperience Creator,” and they certainly did it! We had so much fun with Pepe and Juan.
Flying above the canopy of the rain forest, seeing Lake Arenal and the Arenal volcano over my shoulder and enjoying the sight overwhelmed me!
As a group, we bought our pictures that Sky Tram Adventures took and some are included in this post.
That evening after our action-packed day, we returned to The Springs Spa for another great soak and social time with our group. My zip line adventure met all of my expectations.
Day 10 – January
After breakfast, Lin, Marian and I opted not to go on the chocolate factory tour—it was a hard choice, but instead we returned to downtown La Fortuna to shop and enjoy the local flavor.
Lin had square danced on the plaza in 2001 when it was dedicated, so we took pictures of him standing next to the plaque. The church, San Juan Bosco church interested me, so I visited it and took lots of pictures.
After shopping, I topped the day with a guanabama ice cream cone from Pop’s and our time in La Fortuna’s plaza ended.
After our group returned from what was a fabulous tour a chocolate factory, we left the hotel and traveled around the lake, heading towards the beach in a four hour drive. We saw coatimundis a long the side of the road and beautiful lake scenery. We stopped at Lajos Restaurante for lunch on the lake. A short distance from the restaurant, we stopped at a German Bakery for delicious German sweets.
As we drove Enrique continued his instruction about the area we were driving through: We took a shortcut on a rough road and cut off fifteen miles, driving through cattle country. We experienced a change in climate heading towards the dry western side of Costa Rica. We drove along the peninsula of the gulf of Nicoya.
Enrique shared a story of the area: Costa Rica supported Taiwan in the United Nations, so they built a bridge over the gulf of Nicoya, named the Friendship Bridge. Six months later, continental China wanted support from Costa Rica and built a soccer stadium which took one thousand Chinese to build. The bridge became the Ungrateful Bridge.
Sadly Enrique shared the itinerary for the last four days of trip. It hit me—we’re on the last leg of our fabulous trip! Oh, my God!
Then we arrived at our hotel on Coco Beach, Hotel El Colono, and ate dinner at Papa Gallo (Father Rooster), an outside restaurant. It was Victoria’s birthday, so we started a three-day celebration of this big event.
Sometime along the way, Lucy began an enjoyable directive as we loaded the bus, “Lin, get on the bus! Jerry, get on the bus!” This became our mantra for the rest of the trip as we loaded and unloaded the bus . Also, sometime during our adventure, Marian named us the “Dirty Dozen, and we applauded her for our nickname
Whew! We just enjoyed three action-packed days in the rain forest of Costa Rica, and I didn’t want it to end!
We headed towards Mawamba to enjoy three days of animal adventures. That sounded so African—what did it mean? Dennis, our guide, told us its meaning but I forgot (and didn’t jot it done in my journal) It didn’t matter! What a tropical paradise!
Day 5 – January 11, 2020
Excited about this mysterious place, we got up at 6:00 a.m. We checked out and had breakfast, then it became a waiting game. The large greyhound-type bus finally arrived at 9:30 to take us from Guapiles to the canal to catch a boat to travel the canal to Torteguero, the quaint little town and home of the Mawamba Lodge.
We wove our way through the countryside—only two ways into Torteguero: boat on the canal or plane! A youngster in the seat in front of Lin and me serenaded me the whole drive. His name was Mati, and we ran into him and his dad often during our stay.
On the bus ride, Dennis explained the different excursion packages offered to the lodge guests. Our package included all meals, a boat ride to the Torteguerro National Park that afternoon and a walk around the luscious grounds of Mawamba Lodge the next morning. Lin and I both wanted to do the two optional excursions: the early morning wildlife boat ride and the evening jungle walk.
Arriving at the muddy bank of the canal at La Pavona, we gathered our backpacks, and now I realized the brilliance of Victoria’s suggestion to downsize to a backpack. The mud made roller bags useless!
When we got seated in our boats, we all donned life preservers for the ride on the canal to Torteguerro and Mawamba. Dennis, our guide, pointed out any animals he sighted a long the way: crocodiles on the banks, cranes, and blue herons. I didn’t have my zoom lens on my camera, so I missed the chance to get close up shots of these animals. We had our first sighting of a JC lizard, a Jesus Christ lizard, but I got a better picture later!
“Thanks to super speed and specially-designed feet, the basilisk lizard can run on water. . .an ability that makes it deadly to insects, and has led people to call it the “Jesus Christ Lizard.”
Brahma cattle grazed above us in pastures. I kept looking for more animals which would be my stance for the next three days. This amazing canal ride ended, we gathered our bags, met as a large group from the boats, got the room keys and wandering off to find them. Our group was scattered.
As we approached our room, a hammock hung on the porch, welcoming us there. We were a duplex with lovely neighbors. I loved the spacious rooms. The windows opened up wide with the loud Caribbean Ocean pounding on one side and the quiet courtyard on the other.
After settling in, I realized I had forgotten to bring any bras to change into—oh, well! I just went el natural!
We wandered through the tropical grounds at the Mawamba Lodge and found the open-air cafeteria. Our group sat at a table that became “Ours” for every meal. The buffet provided a variety of choices, and again I enjoyed the tropical fruit.
After lunch, we rode a boat to the Torteguero National Park office and purchased passes. Then Lin and I and our friends from Albuquerque walked down the mains street of the village of Torteguero and shopped. Because they don’t have any cars there, the street is really a narrow path.
Because we signed up for the evening jungle excursion, I searched for long pants because I hadn’t brought any with me in my backpack, and I found a pair. Mosquitoes love me, and I worried about getting bit. We enjoyed a coconut water drink as we walked the main street of Torteguero. We watched a group of men playing a dominoes game, and this usually docile game was loud and rambunctious!
On our way back to Mawamba, we walked along the beach and saw the Sea Turtle Conservancy. I loved seeing the waves crashing on the North Caribbean coast—the power and magic of the sea!
When we got back to the lodge, we donned our swimming suits and met our friends at the pool. My little singing friend from the bus, Mati, joined us with his dad, and we enjoyed his enthusiasm for the water.
After a shower, our group ate dinner then sat outside at the bar talking and looking at each other pictures. It started raining before we left, so we got wet getting to our rooms, but I welcomed the sound of the rain as I fell asleep that night.
Day 6 – January 12, 2020
The day began early with us waking up at 4:45 a. m. and out the door at 5:00. In my excitement and drowsiness, I forgot my glasses, so I had to return to our room in the dark to get them. Needless to say, I had trouble finding our room because of dark and poor lighting, so I went up the stairs to a room to see if it was ours—it wasn’t!
As I came down the stairs, the rough soles on my water shoes caught on the cement and pole vaulted me into the walk. I landed hard on my left breast and jammed the thumb on my right hand and a toe—ouch!
I did find our room and my glasses, but what a way to start the day!
Dennis was our guide, and the early morning boat excursion overflowed with animal sightings: blue herons, egrets, spider monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, more JC lizards, blue herons and iguanas! Whew!! Dennis told us there are so many iguanas, there comes a time he doesn’t even point them out!
We returned to the lodge in a downpour, so I was soaked! And it was only eight o’clock! The group ate delicious breakfast, then Dennis led us on a tour of the grounds, identifying all the beautiful tropical flowers, and we saw a toucan and a couple gigantic resident iguanas!
After lunch, we had another boat excursion and this time, Lin and I sat right up front. And again, we relished the abundance of animals: egrets, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tiger heron, and blue heron.
We’d all been anticipating seeing a sloth and we saw two: Victoria spotted one on the excursion, and there was one on the Mawamba grounds.
It sprinkled a little, but I didn’t want the peaceful ride down the canal to end! I marveled at the high canopy of the trees—one of the beauties of Costa Rica!
At 5:30 p.m., we struck out on the Jungle Night Walk. Again, we took a boat but this time to a specific area which had raised concrete walks above the watery jungle we walked through. How amazing! People had iPhones out taking pictures. I took my Canon Rebel, but it didn’t work well in the dark. I hesitated using my new iPhone 11 because I was afraid I would drop it. We saw spiders, some poisonous and a variety of frogs. Dennis, our great guide, had everyone turn off our flashlights to experience the sounds and darkness of the jungle—it was incredible!
The day ended with a lovely dinner. Then afterwards, several of us got into the pool and relaxed after our action packed day. They kicked us out at 9:00 p.m., so it was back to our room for a shower. I found a strong Wi-Fi signal and checked my email and posted my pre-written blog for the week.
What a delightful, animal-filled day we had!
Day 7 – January 13, 2020
I hated to see our time at Mawamba end! This was a travel day, so we were up at 7:00 a.m. We packed and had breakfast. After breakfast, Lin and I went to the miniature pineapple bush on the grounds that Dennis showed us the day before to see if we could see any baby iguanas he said live there—no luck!
We took our backpacks to the boat, loaded up and started out for La Pavona. We traveled just a short distance out and Dennis realized he forgot his phone, so we turned around quickly and retrieved it.
The boat ride on the canal back to La Pavona proved uneventful with no anima sightings. These canals are the highways in this part of the world, and this familiar-type sign really depicted that! When we got to La Pavona, we waited awhile for our bus, so we sampled local goodies!
When the bus arrived, quickly Lin asked me to take both of our back packs. He gets car sick sitting in the back of the bus, and Dennis helped him get on the bus first. In the confusion, I grabbed the two backpacks and took off. Thank God, Victoria grabbed my water, and Lucy collected my purse!
Then the bus drove us to Rio Danta Restaurant, an affiliate of Mawamba, and Enrique and William greeted us there. We ate lunch, jumped into our familiar van and headed towards La Fortuna, a three-hour drive. It felt so good to be with Enrique and William again.
As we drove, Enrique shared some vital information: this was his 1076th trip to La Fortuna! Then he shared his knowledge about Mt. Arenal which used to be an active volcano. It was inactive when he was a child, but it had a massive eruption in 1968 and was active for about 45 years. This made the city of Fortuna a big tourist attraction. He shared that around Fortuna is the most typical rain forest.
He reminded us of the three elements of a Costa Rican town: soccer field, school and church!
In 1974, Costa Rica built a dam for hydro-electric energy that drains into the Pacific Ocean. It not only provides 40% of the electricity for the country but helped the people on Pacific side of Costa Rica which is the driest part.
Enrique’s dialogue continued with so much information. He noted that he’s seen a lot of change in his lifetime. He also warned of a possible papaya shortage in Costa Rica because of my husband’s voracious consummation on this trip!
As we traveled, we noticed fields divided by lines of trees, so we thought farmers planted them to define their farms. Enrique corrected this assumption: the farmer puts a piece of wood into the ground with barbed wire on it, and the wood grows! So much water!
Enrique pointed out a pineapple plantation as we passed it, and said out of the top exports of the country: coffee, bananas, pineapples and sugar cane, sugar cane is the only native!
As usual, Enrique had planned a great stop where we shopped and saw lots of iguanas!
We checked in at Hotel Sierra Arenal, a small beautiful hotel, ate dinner together downtown and spent the evening shopping around the square at La Fortuna.
The travel blog posts for our Costa Rica trip will be highlights instead of daily journals.
Day 1 – January 7, 2020
I was anxious to go Cost Rica! After months of anticipation, I spent a sleepless the night before our departure, too excited. I rose to the demands of the next day, and we had a lovely leisure travel day. We flew out of Albuquerque, NM, arriving in Houston, TX at 12:25 p.m. On the flight, I worked on a book project whose deadline was crunching me. A couple from Albuquerque accompanied us, so we had lunch and enjoyed ample time before our flight to San Jose at 5:25 p.m.
While we waited, Lin and I played a Cribbage hand to show our friends the game. We knew the Colorado contingency of our tour had the same flight to San Jose and wondered where they were. Right before boarding, they arrived at the gate. Again, I worked on the flight to San Jose.
When we arrived, we easily went through customs and were greeted by the organizer of our tour and our guide, Victoria and Enrique. They whisked us off to the hotel. When we arrived there, I thought Lin and I would stay there, but Victoria told us, “You’re going to my mom’s house!”
See, Victoria is my husband’s ex-wife, and she knew Lin and her mom wanted to see each other, so away we went and what a welcome we got. We spent the rest of the evening visiting.
Day 2 – January 8, 2020
I started the second day with an education on how a Costa Rican shower works, but Lin forgot to give me vital information, so the water stayed hot. I was quick in and out!
We started our day with a delicious breakfast, featuring an abundance of native fruit. Enrique picked us up, and we drove to the hotel to gather the rest of the group. We met our driver, William, who kept us safe throughout the trip and quickly became a major part of the group.
On our drove to the Waterfall Gardens, we had a Costa Rican serendipitous moment: we saw a traditional ox cart and driver who posed for pictures for us! The colorful cart and his pride fascinated me.
On our drive, Enrique shared his knowledge of the history of Costa Rica and some philosophical statements: “Time is not important. The weather is the same,” and “Let’s wait until the clouds of the day clear off.”
Spain forgot them for three hundred years. They never had to fight for independence, but that left them “an abandon child.”
The coffee industry received its boost when the Pope okayed it.
Their last revolution was in 1948, and they have no army.
They have nine active volcanoes, and Volcano Poás is erupting now.
Thirty percent of Costa Rica is national parks which has preserved it and gave rise to the eco-tourism boom.
Enrique shared a Costa Rican term, “mejenga” which is an informal pick-up type soccer game.
Our next stop was a coffee plantation to relieve ourselves, grab a cup of rich Costa Rican coffee and learn about how coffee is grown and produced. Enrique, our guide, had wonderful stopping points throughout our tour, starting with this one.
The winding road reminded Enrique of a local
sentiment: “You can see your own license plates.” We soon saw what he meant.
Our next stop, the Waterfall Gardens, is a
wildlife refugee center where they rehabilitate animals and return them to the
forest. We saw a variety of native animals like toucans, sloths and macaws, but
the highlight for me was the blue Morpho butterflies. Some in our group gently
place their finger next to the docent’s, and this stunning creature moved over.
The enclosure where the butterflies live is a verdant rich garden.
“As its common name
implies, the blue morpho butterfly’s wings are bright blue, edged with black.
The blue morpho is among the largest butterflies in the world, with wings
spanning from five to eight inches. Their vivid, iridescent blue coloring is a
result of the microscopic scales on the backs of their wings, which reflect
light. The underside of the morpho’s wings, on the other hand, is a dull brown
color with many eyespots, providing camouflage against predators such as birds
and insects when its wings are closed. When the blue morpho flies, the
contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the
morpho is appearing and disappearing.”
Being introduced to this butterfly early helped because we saw it in a variety of places.
After seeing animals, we had a delicious lunch of native food and again fruit was the focus for me. During lunch, the rain started—it ended up to be a wet afternoon. We continued through the refugee seeing white faced monkeys, scampering around and playing in their enclosures.
We saw another type of monkey that Enrique did a unique trick with; he had attached a mirror in his bird book, and he attracted one monkey over to him. The mirror fascinated the monkey. Enrique told us about a time he did that with another monkey, and the monkey tried to turn the page in his book—how about that!
I am so sad because I took a picture of a jaguar there, but it didn’t come out. This regal creature curled up like my cat, stretched, arched his back and curl up again!
From there, we hiked in the rain. Victoria told us to bring our rain ponchos, and I misunderstood her, thinking she was talking about the next day, but I bought one in the gift shop. It became a regular part of my daily backpack gear.
We saw the beautiful La Paz Waterfalls (Lin and my picture at the beginning), but I had to take a break, because being sick the last few months my stamina lagged. I loved how our newly formed group ignored the rain and participated!
From there, we drove to Sarchi, the cradle of Costa Rican art craft. We visited an old ox cart factory and bought souvenirs because we had been advised this was a great place to purchase them.
Lin and I went a little overboard, buying two beautiful leather rockers and a replica of an ox cart. Lin had been anticipating the ox cart purchase for months.
The day ended with a lovely dinner in a roadside restaurant and back to the hotel to drop off the group. I had the first of many guanabana shakes with dinner. Guanabana is a delicious tropical fruit.
A tradition started on our ride back to the hotel—Greg started telling stories of accidents and near-miss events, and these stories continued for days.
Because of the wet day, Victoria and I brought group members’ tennis shoes back to her mom’s house and tried to dry them in the dryer. We overloaded the dryer so it stopped working, so, I dried mine and Lin’s with my blow dryer. Victoria dried some of the groups with a blow dryer, too!
Day 3 – January 9, 2020
Again, my morning started off with shower excitement. This time I had a cold shower. It was at this point that Lin realized he forgot to tell me the key to showering—turning the knob all the way went to cold water.
We ate another delicious breakfast, teeming with fruit. Afterwards we took pictures and loaded up the car and drove to Enrique’s house where his daughter fed us delicious homemade tamales. The rest of the group met us there, and we put our luggage in a second van which followed us whenever we changed lodging.
Then we took the Pan-American highway south. It was built during World War II to link the North American continent and was paved in the late 60’s. The highest point is in Costa Rica.
Enrique told us it was summer there now and the less rainy season–hard to believe after getting soaked the day before. He entertained us with a story that ended with “My great-grandfather told me, and he didn’t lie.”
We traveled through Cartago with Enrique sharing a story about how San Jose took being capitol away from Cartago. Lin flagged a “Pops” (pronounced Popes) whenever we passed one, and we were told it has the best ice cream in the world!
As we traveled, Greg continued relaying his stories of accidents: scuba, RV, motorcycle and snowboarding events. At one point after a motorcycle accident, a bystander asked, “Is he dead?”
After rising in elevator, we left the Pan-American highway and wove our way into the Savegre Valley on a dirt road, ending up at the Savegre Hotel, an oasis in the forest, for two nights.
From the sumptuous menu, I selected Trout Almandine for lunch, and then we took a long treacherous hike to waterfalls again—water and waterfalls are a major feature of Costa Rica. At various rocky spots, the men in the group helped me. After the hike, we met in the bar for refreshments, then a hilarious scene happened. We all got on our iPhones and AirDropped pictures to each other.
We had spacious rooms there, but it was cold, so Lin and I turned on our portable heater before we left for dinner. Dinner for me was grilled trout—delicious food. After dinner and social time, we returned to our room–talk about cold. The little heater didn’t do the job, so I slept in my warm-ups.
Day 4 – January 10, 2020
We were up at 4:45 a.m. to go on the quetzal bird watching tour—I first heard of this bird 40 years ago on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. In all my numerous trips there, I never saw one, so this excursion excited me more than any of the others.
We had a little problem with this excursion, but Enrique handled it. Melboni, our guide, joined us in our van and off we went to the first place, an avocado tree where the quetzal birds frequented.
I was so disappointed. I have cataracts and eye issues, so I never saw one with the naked eye, but our guide had a high-powered binocular where we could see them, and he could take photos on our iPhones.
So, the drill became: the guides for the different groups helped each other, and when a bird was sighted, they shared the location on a walkie-talkie. Then all the groups ran back and forth. It was hilarious to participate in and watch!
When we returned to the hotel, we ate, showered and packed. Enrique had gotten us an extra excursion, so we drove up the hill to Batsú which was a garden the hotel owner’s son made to attract birds. We saw hundreds of humming birds and many other birds.
Afterwards we ate lunch and left. We divided our group up with three people going in the luggage van because of the incline coming up. The Savagre Hotel was at 7100 feet and the main road went up to 9800 feet. We headed towards the Caribbean slope and Guapiles.
Ater we picked up our three travelers, we stopped for relief and refreshments. The camaraderie of the group started to solidify with people sharing their goodies. It rained for most of the four hour trip to Guapiles. We played twenty questions with a person sharing two truths and a lie, and that entertained us for miles.
When we arrived at the Hotel Suerre, we quickly went to our rooms to repack our bags because Enrique and William were going home with our big luggage while we went to Torteguero. Victoria had suggested we take only a backpack to Torteguero because we traveled there on a boat.
After turning over our big bags to Enrique and William, we ate a late dinner, showered and went to bed early—delighted with our trip so far and looking forward to our next adventure!
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you!
~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful
friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to
recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club
Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE
MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! You, too, can pre-order this amazing
story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go
here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42
just returned from a trip of a lifetime—two weeks in Costa Rica, and I’ve
fallen in love again—with Costa Rica and its people. It was perfect with twelve
people in our tour. We traveled in a van, and our luggage followed in another
van whenever we moved to a new hotel.
Dodero, a Costa Rican native, guided this group that lovingly became known as “The
Dirty Dozen.” His knowledge was endless about his country, history, animals and
more. He carried a worn book about all the birds in Costa Rica, and he knew the
names of so many.
Victoria Zempel, a native of Costa Rica, organized the group from the USA with people from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Georgia. Most of us didn’t know each other before the trip but became a cohesive, agreeable group that grew into a family!
originally planned this trip for some church friends, but it didn’t work for
them. Victoria was ready to throw up her hands and forget it—after several
months of planning with Enrique.
Her husband, Greg, stopped and suggested, “Call your friends. I bet you could get a group together,” and that’s how this adventure happened! Thank God for the couples that it didn’t work! After we confirmed the trip, there was a space open for one other couple, and we invited friends from Albuquerque who came and enjoyed the trip.
The couple days we spent time around San Jose seeing sights near there. Then we drove to both coasts—the wet and humid Caribbean and the dry and hot Pacific. We also saw the mountains of Costa Rica.
our awesome itinerary:
January 7 – flew into San Jose
January 8 – visited Waterfall Gardens and Sarchi
January 9 – drove along the Pan-American highway going south to Savegre Lodge and took an amazing hike to water falls
January 10 – went on Quetzal bird watch. Drove to the Caribbean slope to Guapiles
January 11 – 13 – went to Torreguero by boat and stayed at Mawamba. Enjoyed three different excursions seeing so many animals on the canals
January 13 – drove to La Fortuna
January 14 – stayed in La Fortuna. Saw Arenal Hanging Bridges. Arenal Volcano was cloud-covered. Visited “The Springs Resort,” a beautiful place with lots of hot water pools in the middle of the forest
January 15 – stayed in La Fortuna. Experienced the Arenal Sky Tram and Zip Lines—unbelievable experience soaring over the canopy of the rain forest in the rain. Returned to “The Springs Resort” and soaked some more
January 16 – drove around Arenal Lake to El Coco Beach on the Pacific side
January 17 – stayed at Coco Beach and drove to La Playa Las Prisas. Afterwards drove to Tamarindo—beautiful sunset
January 18 – stayed at Coco Beach. Enjoyed shopping and the beach. Went to Country Club and swam and had Greek food. Celebrated Victoria’s birthday with food, dancing and laughter
January 19 – stayed at Coco Beach. Shopped and went on catamaran and snorkeled. Delicious meal and then breathtaking sunset on the ocean
January 20 – sadly flew out of Liberia home
I was asked at the end of the trip what was my favorite part. It was hard to answer. We saw so much, but I did come up an answer: the Quetzal bird watching tour!
I’ve been going to Mexico and Central America for forty plus years, and I first learned about the Quetzal bird in Mexico, studying Mayan folklore and mythology.
“The Quetzal bird of Central America (Ket-zal) and the rattle snake shared the position of most revered creatures by the ancient Maya. The feathers of the iridescent Quetzal were used in Royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests. The Quetzal symbolized the movement of Creation and the will of the Creator come to earth. As the Serpent moves side to side on the ground, the Quetzal flaps and glides through the jungle. That is it moves up and down in it progression. The Maya knew that Creation moves from Day to Night or Creation to Destruction in a wave like pattern.”
On this trip, I finally saw a Quetzal bird after forty years! What an experience that was!
It rained and rained the first day, and we were soaked as we hiked. We saw the beautiful Caribbean ocean where it was humid and wet. The Dirty Dozen traveled through the mountains where I was cold. Heading towards the Pacific Ocean coast, the climate changed to hot and dry!
This group spent several hours in our faithful van with laughter and lots of stories. Our driver, William, kept us safe and sound on a variety of road conditions. We rode in a boat in the Torteguero Canals seeing crocodiles resting on the shore. As we walked in the rain forest/jungle at night, the sounds overwhelmed me. We soared above the canopy on zip lines. Some of the group had the opportunity to ride in a ox cart. This experience went beyond and above my expectations!
We saw so many animals: macaws, toucan birds, iguanas, sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, eyelash viper and coatamundis. I’m sure I forgot some!
So, over the next couple weeks, I will share my Costa Rican love affair with you! I won’t do it day-by-day but give you the highlights! Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What was your experience?
& Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club.
I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the
Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s
HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! You, too,
can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book
format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG