After leaving the rainforest at Bijagual we drove south along the Talamanca mountain range to reach our second destination, El Mirador de Quetzales. This adorable group of cabanas sits high in the mountains and not only has a spectacular mountain view but also offers incredible views of a variety of hummingbirds (check out Christina's photo here) and of course the elusive quetzal. I was also quite taken by the blues, greens and pinks of their incredibly prolific succulents!
Below you can see our charming little cabins.
There is also a really nice trail on the property. We woke up early and took a hike with their guide to find quetzals. We only saw one on our hike but luckily one flew right next to the restaurant before lunch. The photo below hardly captures how pretty the light was on that day in this mountain forest. It was really quite magical and I felt like it was the perfect place for Costa Rican gnomes to live.
As you can see by this photo of the students, it was cold! I didn't expect to be cold on this trip but the temperature can dip quite low in the mountains.
You can't really tell from this picture, but the ginger-colored moth below was as big as my hand.
After one night in the mountains we drove southward to the Osa Peninsula to Morgans' Jungle Lodge. On our first day there we visited the Osa Interactive Gardens where they give a butterfly hike. We got to go in and get a sneak peak at their tree houses in the mariposario (butterfly house).
One of my favorite tours on the Osa is of the organic chocolate farm Finca Kobo. The farm not only grows chocolate but also a variety of interesting fruits and vegetables. Part of the discussion on that day was about plant defenses and you couldn't find a better example than the tree below. Those thorns were about the length of my pinky!
I also had to include a photo of the pichichillo fruit (Solanum mammosum) because it is so bizarre looking. Wikipedia said it has many "colorful names," including nipplefruit and "Apple of Sodom." The fruit is also a member of the nightshade family, is related to tomatos, and is poisonous if ingested.
I couldn't resist sneaking in another Cecropia leaf image because I love the lines and shape of its leaves! But this tree also has an interesting story. Cecropia trees are myrmecophytes. That is, they have a mutually beneficial relationship with ants. In this case the ants protect the tree from being eaten by other animals (and from encroaching vines and plants) and the tree provides food and shelter for the ants. George told me that if you bang on the tree the ants will come swarming out to protect it and if you squish them (which you shouldn't) they smell like bleu cheese.
I am still a mammalogist at heart and one of my absolute favorite mammal sightings on the trip is always the two-toed sloth. We were lucky on this trip to have one right in the middle of campus. I have a VERY high tolerance for watching them through the scope even though they barely move. But every time there is a little stretch or the slightest adjustment I ooooh and aaaah. This one looked like a wet wooky because it rained really hard the night before he was spotted.
Although the sloth is a mighty strange creature (did you know they only come down from the treetops to defecate?), the squirrel monkey below wins the title of the most curious of all creatures on this trip. Because not only was she a baby squirrel monkey name Georgie that just took a grape from my hand...
but SHE LIKED TO RIDE DOGS!!! This adorable little monkey was being rehabbed and was allowed the run of the entire house, inside and out. Two dogs also live on the property and she would run around and hop on them like they were a horse. The dogs didn't seem to think it was unusual and actually seemed to enjoy it. I have never seen anything so cute!
The last day of our trip we visited the oxcart factory of Eloy Alfaro in Sarchi. I love the beautifully decorated oxcarts and wheels. The oxcarts were originally used to transport coffee from the growing fields to the coast.
The wheel below was about eight feet in diameter.
Every time I go to Costa Rica I am always surprised by something new. Although this trip was not without its difficulties (delayed flights, lack of sleep, and constipation just to name a few), it is always a grand adventure. Even when I am exhausted and my stomach hurts and we have been on the bus for six hours I can hardly stand to let my eyes close because I LOVE to look out the window...just to see what I can see.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. " - Albert Einstein