Sunday, August 26, 2018

Costa Rica Adventure - Day 7

[Composed 8/5/2018]

Today's plan was to get from Jaco Beach to a hotel near the airport in San Jose, hopefully setting us up for an easy travel day home tomorrow. The ride was only supposed to take an hour and a half, so I had big plans to stop along the way.

Our first destination was Carara National Park. After packing up our beach rental, and piling in the car, we were on our way. We carefully followed the GPS, which instructed us to get off the main road and head into the mountains. As we climbed higher and higher, the road got narrower and narrower. After about 30 minutes of driving we found ourselves on an unpaved, red-clay road, that was indeed in Carara National Park. However, it was at the back of the park. We clearly weren't going to find the visitor center the guidebook claimed existed up here. Shira carefully turned us around and we headed back down the mountain. We found the Carara National Park Visitor Center just a few kilometers up the road from where we had turned off.

In hindsight, the views and off-road driving were actually quite cool. And research after the fact shows me that we passed by a waterfall and garden which would have been fun to explore. But having 3 potentially car sick children in the back, and knowing that we needed to get our butts to San Jose did put a slight damper on things.

We didn't spend much time in Carara National Park, opting to do just a beginner level, paved trail. We did still see some interesting critters, including a walking-stick bug, a snail and some grasshoppers. The highlight, however, was that the parking lot and nearby vicinity were full of iguana, ranging from green to tan to black varieties.

The entrance fee to the park was surprisingly steep; somewhere around $35 for all of us. Given that we did only about 2km of hiking, I'd say that in hindsight I would have skipped this stop. Or better yet, I would have pulled in, taken pictures of the iguana in the parking lot and then moved on. If you're going to spend all day at the park and cover some serious miles, the fee may be worth it.

We were quickly approaching San Jose and I didn't have any other stops to suggest. Looking at various What should you take kids to see in San Jose guides, the main suggestions seemed to involve heading back to the Mercado Central or hitting up one of the popular museums. We weren't super excited about any of these options. One feature Shira and I like to visit in a new city are gardens, and so on a whim I searched Google Maps to see if there were any nearby. One of the results was the Botanical Orchid Garden La Garita, which as the name suggests, is an orchid garden. It wasn't too far off our route, so we punched it in as our destination.

The garden turned out to be delightful, and the perfect place to spend a few hours with kids.

The first stop in the garden was to check out a number of parrots in very large cages. D. was on a "I want to see a parrot!" kick so this couldn't have been scripted any better. The fact that the parrots were in cages didn't dampen his joy of seeing them. From there, we made our way into various orchid gardens, which were just knock-out pretty. I especially like the plants growing on the screens of the enclosure which, thanks to their tentacle like shape, looked positively alien. After checking out the flowers, we made our way to a large open space which had a playground for the kids and a pond for ducks. The whole place exuded calm. There were even a number of trails we didn't have time to explore.

While D. may have been a fan of the parrots in the garden, and we all enjoyed the orchids, a highlight for me were all the Banana Spiders we came across. These suckers are big! I especially enjoyed watching one of the spiders snack on a large cicada it had captured. I could see how these creatures could show up in your nightmares. Not to fear, Banana Spiders are harmless to people. More than that, they may actually be quite beneficial to us:

Banana spiders are really wonderful creatures. Their dragline thread (the silk) is of particular benefit to us as they weave strong webs compared to some other spiders. Currently, there are tests being done on their silk as it surpasses the strength of Kevlar, a fiber used in bulletproof vests.

The dragline thread is biodegradable, stronger than steel (with a tensile strength of 4,109 N/m, exceeding that of steel by a factor of six) and is economically valuable. Recently, the silk has been used to help in mammalian neuronal regeneration for the body's immune system does not recognize it and the silk has antibacterial properties.

Plus, they're fun to photograph!

As we left the garden, D. started chatting with the parking attendant explaining that he was still hoping to see more parrots. As I rushed D. into the car and tried to explain that we're not in America, so the parking attendant probably has no idea what he's asking; the parking attendant told us to look up in the tree across the street. Sure enough, there was a parakeet hanging out up there. So much for the adult knowing best.

Once finally at our hotel we decided we should duck out for some supplies for dinner. The closest supermarket was, of course, a Wal-Mart. We picked up a random collection of food, some strawberry ice cream to celebrate J.'s birthday early and we were back at the hotel in no time.

Before we knew it, it was time to tuck the kids in bed for our last night in Costa Rica and for us to pack up for good. In a few short hours, we'd be heading to the airport to catch our flight home!

No comments:

Post a Comment