Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Terrfying Road, Frogs, Butterflies and Hummingbirds: Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Third Port on the 15 Day Celebrity Millennium Cruise:

Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest, Frog Haven, Butterfly Garden & Hummingbirds

When I originally read the description in the Celebrity brochure I was unsure whether or not I truly wanted to book this excursion, bouncing back and forth between other moderately more interesting choices I ended up going with this one. Part of me is glad that I chose this one in the end, but there's another part of me that wished I would've picked a different excursion.

Our trip started with a drive through Puntarenas with an interesting and entertaining talk with Maria our tour guide, then our ascent up into the cloud forest began. Maria informed us that the road had recently been paved just four years ago, but she neglected to mention that not the entire road was paved until we began our journey up the mountain road to Monteverde. I'm guessing that she chose to do so, because if we knew what was in store, some of would've chosen to grab some blind folds or stay back altogether. You see, as we got to the level of the clouds and above, the road narrows and expands with no rhyme or reason and turns into dirt and gravel, and where there used to be a guard rail now just sits a sheer drop off in which the tires of the bus glide precariously close.

Thankfully after the road turned into pavement once again and we were sure that we were out of certain death until our return drive to Puntarenas, we arrive at the frog haven and butterfly garden.

I'm still not entirely sure I was happy with what I chose, but I learned something new and got to see some of the beautiful sites that Costa Rica has to offer. As seen from the Ranario picture above with the giant plaster frog sitting out front, this was not quite what I expected to arrive and see, the building looks small and run down from the outside and the rain (we were there during the rainy season for Central America) just added to the overall effect. Once entering we were turned over to another tour guide whose name sadly eludes me who showed us around the facility, and this was where I was slightly disappointed. The frogs were kept in large terrariums that were set into the wall and many were small small frogs some no bigger than your pinky finger and all were hiding deep within their habitat. It was like a game of Where's Waldo and something I probably could've done myself by going to the Bronx Zoo.

Next our guide took us through a short walk in the rainforest to get to the butterfly's who were in a sort of white tented green house. I was impressed by the amount that they had and certainly by seeing the Blue Morpho and Owl butterflies, something I've never seen before in person and they were quite beautiful, somehow though I still felt a little cheated.

Soon enough it was time to board the bus and go further up the mountain to stop off at a local coffee shop, enjoy a fresh cup of Costa Rican coffee or a cappuccino and a pastry and see some hummingbirds. This is where my opinion on the excursion abruptly changed, once you got of the bus and walked a short path up to the coffee shop, hummingbirds whizzed by you at dizzying speeds and fluttered by the bird feeders, sometimes fighting with one another and rarely sitting still for more than just a few seconds. I could have stayed there for hours just watching and taking pictures, but then my stomach reminded me that I couldn't. I dipped inside and had a freshly made and decorated Costa Rican cappuccino and a yumtastic cinnamon roll that I paid a bit extra for opting to pass on the free corn based pastry offered, as I am not a fan of corn.

Sadly before we knew it, it was time to get back on the bus heading to the, as I like to call it, Oh My God We're Going to Die Road, Maria had the bus pull over where we enjoyed some freshly churned ice cream with milk that came from the local cows that grazed along in the pastures of Monteverde. Then just like happy kids after a long day at the park, we all piled back into our mini bus with ice cream cones in hand and made our way back to the ship.

Fun Fact: The number one source of income for Costa Rica is surprisingly no longer coffee, instead it's eco-tourism.

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