Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls


Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.

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Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.

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Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.

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Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.

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Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.

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Where you have flowers you have butterflies.

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Butterflies love Gaston.

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They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.

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A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.

 

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Three–Part One


After lunch at the National Theatre we headed to Monteverde, a small town with only one unpaved road in and out.  One big change since I was there three years ago is the road.  It has been widened considerably and apparently plans to pave it are in the works.  The original reason for not paving was to prevent hoards of tourists from invading.  Apparently, that failed; tourists came anyway.

This town’s origination grew out of Costa Rica’s decision to disband its military in 1948, a practice which continues today.  Quakers from Canada moved here for that reason and created Monteverde, now famous for its cheese and, of course, the nearby Cloud Forest.  The hotel, where I have now stayed twice, El Establo, is owned in part by Quakers and serves a favorite of mine, fried cheese.

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Nine buildings up and down the mountain house rooms.  Previously, I stayed in one of the lower buildings; this time we were near the top way above this lake.

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The views from all the rooms provide a vista all the way to Nocoya Bay.  After we put luggage in our rooms, we headed out for a night walk in the forest, the reason we had been instructed to bring flashlights on the tour.  We saw spiders, birds sleeping, a mouse, all sorts of insects, but nothing too exciting.  Probably some of the group members were too scared and too noisy.

The next day breakfast occurred at 7 just before we took off for the Cloud Forest and a hike to the Continental Divide–all six miles or so.  I had hiked here before but on a different trail and in a huge downpour.  Luckily, it rained only a little.  However, if you are in the clouds, you get wet.

Lush does not even begin to describe the Cloud Forest, a huge reserve with numerous indigenous species of everything from hummingbirds to insects to all sort of plants that exist nowhere else on earth.

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Every tree, branch, every living things is covered with other living things.  This must be botanist heaven.

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Looking up into the branches of a tree fern.  Yes, that is a fern. So much to see, it is hard to keep up with the guide, a native Quaker whose father was one of the founders of Monteverde.

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It is difficult to know what photos to take; everything holds some kind of fascination and lots of beauty.

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Another tree fern right by the trail.

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In the clouds at the Continental Divide it’s incredibly windy yet the clouds stay and you get wetter and wetter even though it is not raining.  Water dripped off my slicker, the trail oozed mud and water, it was hard to keep my footing on slopes.

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On the way back we crossed several streams.  Everywhere in Costa Rica signs in both Spanish and English instruct people to save water.  They made me chuckle.  Streams run everywhere in much of the country, especially on the Caribbean side.  Here I live in a semi-arid environment where I see wasted water running down streets in town and in Costa Rica they conserve water and recycle things I did not even know were recyclable.  Hotels provide recycling bins and some even turn off lights automatically when you are not in the room.

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The name for this flower translates from Spanish as hot lips.

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This looks like a tree but it is not.  A giant, parasitic fig plant surrounded the tree, eventually killed it, and this is the result.

After we finished the hike, we walked over to a shop that feeds hummingbirds, hundreds of species of which live in Costa Rica, many only in the Cloud Forest. Took a video of them, but it refuses to upload here.  Some were incredibly iridescent and much larger than any I had ever previously seen.

 

 

My Ethiopian Adventure–the Beginning


After leaving the US on July 2, flying 14 hours to Dubai, spending a day there, I finally made it to Addis Ababa (also spelled Abeba) on the 4th.  I remained in Ethiopia until this past Monday when I left Addis late in the afternoon.  Blog posting from Ethiopia was limited because wifi is available only in certain areas and places and there is no 2,3, or 4G anywhere.  For those of you who saw my four posts from Ethiopia, some photos and a few details may be repeated.  My plan is to post photos and detailed information now that I am back which will require a number of posts because not only did we go on a ten day road trip, we also spent time in Addis Ababa and Adama (Nasret).

I went on this trip with two friends, a couple.  Dino is from Ethiopia, having grown up in Dire Dawa.  His parents now live in Adama where his father owns and runs a printing press.  Two of his sisters and one brother live in Addis.  We spent the first few days before our road trip in Addis, staying with his sister, Anna, who owns a painting company.  She imports the paint from Italy and her clients include individuals and businesses.  Her company also paints cars.  Of course, she painted her own house with this paint.  I loved the colors and textures.

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The front of Anna’s lovely house.  It is the rainy season and flowers grow everywhere.

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The translation for these orange flowers, which I had never seen before, is flowers of the sun.

One afternoon four of us decided to take a drive around Addis to see some of the more beautiful spots which mainly included the Addis Hilton Hotel and the Sheraton, which is a five star.  Carlo, Dino’s father drove.  What a remarkable man, in his 80s and still getting to work at 6, driving everywhere.  The Hilton is the older of the two.  The grounds of both display lush greenery.

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Zuriash and I enjoying the grandeur.

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Papyrus by the pool at the Sheraton.

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The swimming pool at the Sheraton.  You cannot use it unless you are staying there.  However, the pool at the Hilton is available on a membership basis–you do not have to stay there to use it.

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The rooms at the Sheraton overlooking the gardens and pool.  Dino and Carlo, son and father, walking down the path to the pool area.  Apparently, many visiting dignitaries stay here.  Inside walls are filled with excellent local art.

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And then there is Addis traffic.  Approximately six million people live there.  In five or so days, riding here and there all over the city, I saw only two traffic lights, neither of which worked.  Most large intersections contain a traffic circle and around and around you go trying to wiggle into a space and get across the intersection.  Take a look.

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Trying to drive to Guiseppe’s house, Anna driving, we were stuck here.  The big trucks would not let us through.  Finally, a guy in another car, got out, stopped the trucks and waved us on.  It took us 1 1/2 hours to get there.  A couple of days later, he came to Anna’s in twenty minutes.

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In front of Guiseppe’s house.  A typical residential street, sometimes like this one with gates on each end.  People hire someone to watch the gates.  You honk and they are opened and then closed.

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On the last evening before we began our ten day road trip, Anna took us to a cultural restaurant to eat traditional food and watch the dancing from different parts of the country.  I expected it to be just a tourist spot, but no, many locals were there.  During the dancing, locals competed with the professionals to see who could dance the best.

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This dance requires almost no motion except a lot of shoulder action.  I attempted to do it myself when the man behind the girl in white came over and asked me to dance.  I tried but would have to practice forever to get this one right.

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The young men in the background competing.

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Anna and I in front of her house.  She is wearing a traditional Ethiopia dress.

Costa Rica 6: Adventures and Views


Without a doubt Costa Rica holds my vote for most photogenic and greenest country.  From the Caribbean and Pacific rain forests to the high mountain town of Monteverde, the words lush, exotic, verdant do not even begin to describe how incredibly rich the landscape is.  One of the first spectacular views lay before me across the parking lot from a combination restaurant and souvenir shop where we stopped for snacks.

I did not expect to see multiple mountain streams like in the Rockies, but it seemed we were crossing one nearly constantly.  This abundance of water explains their nearly total dependence on hydroelectric power with a little help from wind and thermal energy.

Several of my traveling companions decided to raft this river with class 4 rapids. Something told me I should not do this.  After flipping over several times, banged up and bruised, they decided to hike out.  In  the meantime, I experienced my own adventure, eating a raw turtle egg in salsa at a family restaurant on the top of a nearby mountain.

Beautiful mountain scenery seems endless.  I kept 00hing and awing.

This view shows the Bay of Nicoya in the distance from my hotel room in Monteverde.  The following photos all show views in the mountains near this little remote town.  There is only one road in and out and it is not paved and it is narrow.  The town was originally settled by Quakers from Canada who still believe a paved road will ruin the peaceful lifestyle.  Both the Quakers and the town are famous for their cheese which was served both plain and fried for breakfast.

This area provides both zip lining and horseback riding for tourists.  I elected to ride.  However, these horses did not seem well fed and certainly did not want to go very fast.  Although I saw a lot of horses in Costa Rica, these were by far the thinest.

The guy who lead us did not ride one of these.  He was riding a fancy, prancing, grey Paso Fino.

Look closely and you can see someone zip lining across the forested canyon hundreds of feet below.

When I asked about this tree, I was told it is related to cacao, but not eaten, not by humans anyway.

We traveled down the mountain on another dirt road to visit this elementary school.  It housed grades 1-6 with one teacher who is also the principal.  The literacy rate in Costa Rica is 98.5.

Playing soccer with the students.

A port on the Pacific on the way to the surfing town of Jaco.  Costa Rica exports many agricultural products from both its Pacific and Caribbean ports.  This includes bananas, pineapples, hearts of palms, and many tropical flowers.

While many beaches remain unsafe for swimming due to a strong undertow, the beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park are perfect.

To get into Manuel Antonio you have to walk and no parking exists really close.  Hiking out we crossed an area where the water rushed around our knees and the sign said, “No Swimming, Crocodiles”.

As a farmer, I like to look at and photograph crops.  With all the rain and heat, Costa Rica is the perfect climate for many tropical fruits and rice.  On the way back from Manuel Antonio we passed miles of rice fields and Aftican palms which produce palm oil.

Rice.

Coffee, the main export of Costa Rica.  In the highlands, coffee grows everywhere even along the berms in places so steep I wondered how the person picking the beans did not fall over.  Of course, I wondered the same thing about the dairy cattle grazing on the mountain slopes.

We did stop in Sarchi, the town famous for its furniture and oxcart industry.  Oxcarts remain the national symbol of Costa Rica.  Because of the mountainous terrain, when Costa Rican coffee initially became famous and its most successful crop, the only way to get the coffee to the coasts for export was to use oxcarts.

We spent very little time in cities.  However, as we left San Jose near the end of the trip and headed for the Caribbean side, I took some hurried photographs out the window.

My first and last hotel window view in San Jose included these stately coconut palms.

PURA VIDA

Costa Rica: 4, Flora


For a person who loves flowers (and I do), Costa Rica exemplifies a lush, green heaven.  This intense green makes the flowers show up more than they would in a duller landscape.  Whether in the high mountains near Monteverde or down in the coastal lowland jungles, flowers abound.  So many flowers everywhere made me want to photograph them all, but there are too many; I photographed a few.

My friend, Anabel McMillen, the professional photographer, just about went nuts there were so many spectacular things to photograph.  Last count I think she hit over 1000 photographs.

While wild flowers grow everywhere, the people also take great pride in both their personal and public gardens.  Even at the simplest country house, flowers and other plants could be found growing in profusion.  Almost all towns, like La Fortuna in the photo above and the one below near Arenal Volcano, create a public square with a church and gardens.

Hydrangeas like this one above grow along the roads everywhere near Monteverde.

Not only are the flowers frequently much larger than the same flowers grown here, but in the lowlands, in particular, many of the trees seem huge.  Costa Rica also cultivates flowers for export.  Net covered fields of ferns grow all over the steep mountain slopes.

In the highlands near Monteverde more than one hundred species of plants can be found growing on the surface of one tree as shown in the photos below.

Twice we stopped at a place called El Jardin, once on the way to Monteverde and another on the way back to San Jose from the Pacific Coast town of Jaco.  In addition to their beautifully landscaped outdoor gardens, they possessed a small greenhouse filled with butterflies and a sculpture water fountain in an indigenous style seen throughout the country.

As I looked at the following bouquet where we ate lunch near the Sarapiqui River on the Caribbean side, I touched it because I remained unsure as to whether it could be real.  It was.

PURA VIDA!!