Mostly Water and some Tasty Chicharrones

Visiting a waterfall naturally implies a lot of moisture. However when we spent the morning at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens with our visiting kids last week, there was a whole lot more water falling from the sky then crashing down those waterfalls! We were forced to purchase lovely “Pura Vida” ponchos conveniently offered in the gift shop to make our hike through the chilly tropical rainforest a little less likely to induce pneumonia. Especially in our daughter-in-law, who is expecting!

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Since the low clouds, otherwise known as fog, completely obscured all the gorgeous views that the Waterfall Gardens usually offer, we pretty much scurried straight into the huge, partially covered aviary, passing an equally dripping member of the crew.

(with permission to post)
(with permission to post)

Owing to the dense cloud cover, the aviary was so dark that it proved to be a little difficult to take pictures.

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Ramphastos swainsonii, Ramphastidae – Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

The forces-that-be sadly didn’t cooperate much to make this visit special for our guests. There had been a very large tour group through the aviary ahead of us and the birds seemed tired and ticked.

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Nipping at arms, rather than climbing aboard for a personal visit.

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Or, maybe he just mistook Barry’s shirt collar for a piece of papaya!

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It seems the other one was ogling that collar too …

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Even this Emerald Toucanet came down from it’s hiding place at the highest perch in the aviary to admire the papaya collar on the human male.

Aulacorhynchus prasinus, Ramphastidae - Emerald Toucanet The only CR toucan with a green breast & belly. It's quite small at about 30cm/12
Aulacorhynchus prasinus, Ramphastidae – Emerald Toucanet
The only CR toucan with a green breast & belly. It’s quite small at about 30cm/12″ while the Chestnut-mandibled toucan grows to 56cm/22″ and the Keel-billed Toucan can reach 46cm/18″.

Very soon the birds finished with their snacks and perched higher up for their after-tourist-molestation midmorning nap.

2 Chestnut-mandidled & 1 Keel-billed Toucan
2 Chestnut-mandibled & 1 Keel-billed Toucan

Since it was so dark and dingy in the aviary and the birds kept their distance, I have to refer you to my post of last year’s visit for the good stuff. Sorry about that. During last week’s visit, not even the ducks looked happy!

Dendrocygna autumnalis, Anatidae - Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, 53cm/21
Dendrocygna autumnalis, Anatidae – Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, 53cm/21″

When we were ready to move on, Barry called me back to point out a birdie that had been quite elusive during our last visit, the fiercely red-eyed and pink-legged Black Guan. Barry was the one who spotted it back then also. Can you see the Guan dancing on the guardrail?

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Did you watch me? Did you?
Did you watch me? Did you?

These tree-chickens, a turkey-sized gamefowl of Costa Rica and Panama is on the Near Threatened list. They are over-hunted and their habitat shrinks continuously. Just like their cousins, the Chachalacas, Black Guans are arboreal, feeding and breeding well above ground. You can see in the next picture that this Guan wouldn’t ever survive in the wild. Even a blind hunter could catch it easily …

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Chamaepetes unicolor,Crasidae, Galliformes - Black Guan Black plumage with blue facial skin & red eyes
Chamaepetes unicolor, Cracidae, Galliformes – Black Guan
Black plumage with blue facial skin & red eyes, 60cm/24″

Marching around in the pouring rain was less and less fun for us. The Butterfly House offered some respite with a chance to warm up a bit.

Heliconius erato, Nymphalidae - Red Postman
Heliconius erato, Nymphalidae – Red Postman

The reptile house was also largely dry, so I lingered a little to observe this beauty.

Bothriechis schlegelii, Viperidae - Eyelash Palm-Pitviper
Bothriechis schlegelii, Viperidae – Eyelash Palm-Pitviper

This red-green color morph viper could camouflage itself very nicely within this bromeliad for a little hummingbird hunting.

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Since expectant mothers need to eat at regular intervals, we passed through the hummingbird garden

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and the extensive cat enclosures

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with unseemly haste to gratefully settle down for a dry and leisurely lunch in the Colibries Restaurant!

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After our delicious and plentiful lunch, when the rains lessened a bit, we bravely hiked down to the waterfalls.

The smiles were beginning to appear a little strained, I think, ...
The smiles were beginning to appear a little strained, I think, …
... except for the goofy monkey in the back.
… except for the goofy monkey in the back.

Maybe it’s better all around to stick to nature pics with an occasional far-view of family.

But before we continue with excursion photos, let me insert one of my beloved educational interludes. As we were approaching the Waterfall Gardens that morning, my husband took it upon himself to correct my terminology regarding the mountain forests surrounding us on all sides, which I had addressed as “cloud forest”. I was informed that it wasn’t one. Not so fast, Dear!

Within the tropical rainforest biome, we find several subcategories. There are lowland rainforests in the equatorial regions. For example, the Amazon and Congo River basins and many areas in SE Asia. Then there are flooded rainforests, either seasonal or permanent, and the deciduous seasonal rainforests of which we have plenty here in Costa Rica. Last but not least, cloud forests are another type of tropical rainforest and a number of cloud forests can be found in Costa Rica. These rainforests are localized at high altitude with a significant amount of cloud cover. In cloud forests, a large portion of  the water necessary to nurture flora and fauna is received in the form of “fog drip”. Fog condenses on the vegetation exposed to the drifting clouds. The accumulating water droplets run down from the canopy toward the ground, along the way watering epibionts like orchids, lichen, bromeliads, mosses, algae, and ferns. The most famous Costa Rican cloud forest is Monteverde, just as my husband said, but the slopes of the Poas volcano with the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the Bosque de Paz Orchid Center also contain cloud forests, as do other areas. End of lesson, thank you for your attention!

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Basketball sized fern coil
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Some leaves appeared to be 4 or even 5 feet across

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Some of these prehistoric epiphytes look downright threatening in their massive dimensions! With a last look back toward the cascading waters,

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It was time to climb up the last set of steep stairs leading to the (second) giftshop (no ponchos here), the toilets and the bus stop for the shuttle back to the car park at the Peace Lodge.

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Despite the rain, we had a great time in this amazing ecozone. Let me add a few practical points, in case you’d like to visit also.

  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens website
  • From Alajuela, we took Hwy 712 north (the street past Auto Mercado). We’ve taken other approaches before, but this one is easier to negotiate. It even has a large stretch with a smooth new road surface (for now). There are large coffee plantations and great views over the central valley along the way.

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  • Driving the last bit on Ruta 126 toward the Gardens, watch out for the crazy placement of curve markers actually IN the downhill lane, rather than next to it!
  • I purchased all four of our tickets on Yuplón, but you need a cédula to qualify for Yuplón purchases. The 6,000.00 ¢ per ticket was a true bargain compared to the $40 it costs for tourists! Unfortunately, we completely forgot about that little catch word ‘cloud forest’, and didn’t prepare for rain & low temps. Thus, we spent the ticket savings at the entry gift shop on badly needed ponchos. Be smarter, be prepared!!
  • The Colibries Restaurant offers a $14 buffet, which includes non-alcoholic drinks. But there are no à la carte options. We enjoyed the buffet very much, especially the roasted chicken, chicharrones, and interesting salad varieties, the fresh fruit and the rice pudding and ….
  • Visiting the park involves a lot of walking and stair climbing. Nevertheless, I think the hike down to the falls isn’t hugely strenuous and I’m a total wuss. The viewing platforms offer rest opportunities and there are sturdy banisters throughout. I did it last year, when I had to use a cane for my back problems, even going all the way down to the river – only back up to the bus was tough.

2 thoughts on “Mostly Water and some Tasty Chicharrones

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