Thursday, April 24, 2008

Costa Rica

Just back from Nina's wedding in Costa Rica.The wedding was at Lorcan's mom Aisling's home in San Jose. We went down a week early and tourista'd around the country, returning to San Jose for the wedding a week later.

The day after we arrived, we rented a car and drove to the Caribbean Coast, and down south almost to Panama. The drive was harrowing, to say the least, and took us 6 hours. Roads are narrow, mountainous, and jammed with large trucks and buses. Everyone is trying to pass the monstrosities, making it very unsafe. We felt exhausted and lucky to be alive after that day. The hotel we stayed at made it all worth the drive, though. We got a very cute Bungalow at the Hotel Cariblue, and stayed there for 2 nights.

One of the gardeners noticed me taking photos of the birds, and called me over to point out a hummingbird nest in a bush right outside our bungalow. It had two eggs in it. Later on I saw the mommy sitting on the nest, and shot this picture.

After 2 nights on the Caribbean, we drove another 6 hours to Volcan Arenal, which has been erupting steadily since 1968. During the day when it's clear, you can see white puffs of smoke and ash coming up out of the top. At night, you see a steady stream of red hot lava rocks tumbling down the sides! Fo' Real!!! Every time I would wake up, I'd run to the balcony and watch the show in awe. This photo was one of the sunrises we watched from our room. Every morning we would awaken to bird songs and howler monkeys. Simply spectacular. The first night, I was awakened by an earthquake; quite common there. We heard the volcano three times while we were there. It sounds like a jet - like a long, loud rumble. Somehow, even though it is constantly puffing out ash, it never settles on the ground, and the air remains clear. This is a close-up of Arenal's top.

TheArenal lodge, had a couple of hiking trails. One was called the Butterfly trail, which I did while Dave & Amelia went off to a zip-line. I was the only one out there, and it was a little scary at one point, when I was seemingly deep in the jungle alone, and I wasn't exactly sure which trail led back to the beginning.

We splurged for a night at the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort. If you get a room there, you get access to their hot springs for two days. The place is unreal. It is a hot river coming out of the volcano. The temperature of the water is, well, I don't know, but it's hotter than any hot tub I've been in! There are waterfalls and pools everywhere, and beautiful tropical landscaping. OK, so it's a little fru-fru; as in they've created rock benches under the waterfalls, and placed beautiful wooden lounge chairs around the many pools. We're not taking a little creek here; we're talking

massive amounts of water; and lots of trails to pools from which to choose your spot. It was a little crowded the first day we got there, but on the second day we were the first to arrive at 8am, and had the place to ourselves for hours. This place would never be allowed in the U.S! I would definitely put it at the top of the list if I ever go back to Costa Rica!

After Arenal, we drove back to San Jose for the wedding. Suzi and Sam were already at the hotel, so it was great fun meeting up with them. The hotel was gorgeous, and had the most comfortable beds ever. It had about 8 acres of tropical gardens, with a bird watching platform, tennis courts, a maze, and a pool. A photographer's wonderland. Sam told us where the ripe bananas were, so we were able to eat bananas right off the tree. Kim & Cha and Rachel & Bridget arrived the next day.

The wedding was beautiful. I shot a zillion pictures, but really loved this one of Nina & Lorcan walking off after the ceremony. It took place on the lawn of his mom's house. There were bales of hay to sit on, and a carpet of red ginger blossoms formed the isle. The presentations by Suzi, Sam, Connell, Fiona, Aisling, and Adrian were extremely touching. Especially Suzi's, which had everyone in major tears. The wedding really emphasized the joining of the familes. What a great blend of people - many of Lorcan's family had come from Ireland. What a fun group of people! I'm so truly happy for Nina & Lorcan.

I love this group shot of us after the wedding.

A 10-piece Mariachi band suddenly appeared in the back yard after the ceremony! it was great fun!

The day after the wedding, we all loaded into a big bus for an post-wedding beach holiday on the Pacific Coast. It was slow-going, and we missed the ferry, so we arrived after dark. There were 35-or-so of us, so we pretty much took over this one resort, Luz De Vida. The rooms were a little shakey, but man, talk about a beach! 80-degree ocean. The first day, almost everyone played in the water all day. Some tried surfing; Amelia had a boogie-board. The ocean was calm and fun. The second day, a bunch of people went on a zip-line. We stayed back and chilled at the resort. Suzi got a massage in the little beach hut.

Kim & Cha and Rachel & Bridgett had scheduled a horseback ride on the beach at sunset. But they were informed that 3 of the 4 horses had gone missing, so it was cancelled.

I went on a walk up the beach at sunset and found Millie's house, just about a quarter-mile away. I happened upon this yoga class on the beach just as a beautiful rainbow appeared.

All of a sudden, I heard the the thunder of hooves, and turned around just in time to snap this picture of a renegade group of horses and a dog having the time of their lives on the beach! I think I found Kim & Cha's horses!

The next day, they told Kim the horses had been found "2 hours away."

Kim & Cha & the girls really seemed to be having fun on this trip. Those girls are so happy and well-behaved. Amelia really bonded with them this trip.

Adrian and Andrew - the "Blue Brothers" on the beach for our champagne toast on the last night.

The next morning, Dave got a massage in the beach-front hut, and Sam realized his dream of getting up on a surfboard!

And here is my favorite photo of the trip!

To see all the photos, go to
warning: there are 437 of them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

RIP Delilah

Michele called with the sad news that Delilah, Safari West's Indian Hornbill, has died. I fell in love with this bird the first time I saw her years ago. I'm pretty sure she lived most of her life in zoos, until she was fortunate enough to come to Safari West, where she was pretty much the resident mascot of the place; at least for me. She hung out on the patio outside their cafe. Delilah was ... Large. Once she made eye contact with you, you were in love. She had blue eyes and huge, long black eyelashes. When she walked, she hopped with both feet like she was on a pogo stick. She was sooooo cute! She was over 45 years old! What's really weird is that I knew she died yesterday. I don't know how or why; I just felt it. I even went through my photos of her yesterday, thinking to myself that she may not still be here. Of course I didn't really think I was right. Here are some photos I took of her the last time I saw her in October.

Here she is in all her glory:

The last time I saw Delilah I came home wanting one like a little kid wanting a new puppy. To get over it, I decided to make my own Delilah: