The large greenhouse/butterfly house at the Monteverde cloud forest had 12 varieties of butterfly, from the approx 2,000 types that live in the forest. In the images look for the leaf with little white spots- those are butterfly eggs, which grow to enormouse caterpillars, then on to the crysallis stage. Emgering butterflies hold their wings downward to let liquid fill out the tiny veins in the wings and “inflate” them to the proper shape. Then the wings dry out and the mating flights begin. The butterfly lifespan is about 24 days, as a butterfly.
The irredescent blue butterflies, Blue Morpho, were always on the move and only blue when their wings were open- there is an image of a pair mating, but the full blue spread wing shot is post-mortem.
We started our Costa Rica adventure by travelling high up into the mountains ( a three hour van ride- the last few clicks take a full hour as the narrow dirt road gets rough). The transition from arid hillsides to full on rainforest is dramatic and surprising. We stayed in a great hotel, the Fonda Vela, just within a narrow band of transitional forest to the true rainforest. From there it was a quick jump up into the cloud forest for an immersion in an amazing world of living splendor. We spent the morning walking a long network of sky bridges guided by Juan Carlos, a man who had grown up in the little town at the cusp of the forest. He would whistle the calls of birds and frogs so we could discern them from the silvery soft noises filling the air. An image included here shows his thumb next to an orchid- it is just a centemeter or two tall at full maturity.
In the afternoon we did the zip-line course. 13 lines with the last line running 1000 meters, or 1/2 mile! At about the 9th line the weather turned to rain- a lovely soft misting. The storm grew stronger and stronger, and by the last long run it was raining so hard it blurred out the world. The line was done blinded by rain and powerwashed through and through. A remarkable experience.
Athough Elizabeth volunteered for the traditional offering to the volcano (cutting out the heart followed by a double knived evisceration of the lungs to free the spirit), I’d had to disarm my key ring of its pen knife for air travel and the fiery God had to go hungry. A pool of lava had sat for hundreds of years in the low caldera filled with smoke, but in the last decade it retreated down to a red glow at night. The poisonous smoke has killed all the trees in the area and just a few hardy grasses cling to the hillsides. A variety of parrokeet can withstand the gasses and nest in the cliffs to avoid predation by vultures. A warning sign at the edge recommends cars be backed into parking spaces for quick get-away, and advises getting under the car in case of eruption as falling molten debris would punch right through roofs & windshields (of course the super-heated gasses would have already flash-fried your lungs and entire body, but we like to have the illusion of safety).
Granada is the oldest Spanish Colonial city in Meso-America and has seen more than it’s fair share of political/social/martial upheaval. The yellow church is the site of the original Colonial church that was blown up with dynomite by William Walker- a 19th Century political puppet “elected” to the Presidency as a ploy by American business men, Walker then claimed real authortiy and caused a big mess.
The white building is a convent, and holds wonderful pre-Columbian artifacts from the big double-volcano island within the second largest freshwater lake in Central America (it even has freshwater sharks)- Lake Cocibolca. The lake is so huge that Spanish exploiters-er, explorers- mistook it for the ocean, and were shocked when their exhausted horses broke toward the lake and drank from the “sweet sea”.
If you want an illustration of how wonderfully progressive and innovative Costa Rica is, just head for a day-trip through Nicaragua and see what a few centuries of government corruption and decades of civil war will do to people and the land. It is a bruised and neglected country that really needs to follow Costa Rica’s lead and not allow their current “President” to change election laws for himself to run for an illegal third term, disband the military, then follow their neighbor’s lead on public health, education, agriculture and jobs, & infrastructure.
The US Senate might all take a trip to Costa Rica & Nicaragua to see the logical conclusion of thier pet agendas- Democrats with Costa Rica, and Conservatives with Nicaragua (remember when Bush Jr. sent out feelers for a third term? or stated he would only relinquish the Presidency if the terror threat was low enough after goading Iran toward war?).
Dolphins, sea turtles, and whales ahoy! A sailor’s life for me- well, actually a pampered touron life while the sailors do all the work. If not for the courage of the fearless crew the ship would be adrift and run aground in no time. E’s parents coordinated another family trip on a lovely sailing ship, this time off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with a pre-trip to the Cloud Forest for some sky bridges and zip lining and bird/butterfly watching; and an inland day trip to Nicaragua visiting the rim of an active volcano that used to see virgin sacrifices, then to Granada, and 16th century marketplaces; and another inland day trip down a river thick with crocodiles, monkeys, birds, and lizards of all sorts; and a day on a “white sand” beach with snorkeling off a coral reef and a big barbeque. We had a peach and mango full-moon twilight, and clear sailing each balmy night of star/moon gazing.
In the sun he is even more spectacular, but it was a windy rainy day in the cloud forest and he was wisely brushed up.