Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arenal Volcano to Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Day 5, June 3
Today was a travel day, in which we would ride the bus from the northern zone with its lush rain forests to Guanacaste, which is noted for its dry forests and coastal wetlands that support a unique list of animals.
I awakened at 5 to try to catch the top of the cone of Arenal Volcano, but, alas, it was always in the clouds. But one of the best shots was this one taken of me later with the volcano in the background.
We did not leave until 8:30 am, which gave us time to enjoy the natural setting of our luxurious hotel. As I mentioned two days ago, we each have a little cabin, as below. Then, as I previously wrote, our shower has a waterfall in it when it rains, so I had to snap that. And the open air dining room was spectacular as was the hot springs pool area.
For the first hour, we drove around Lake Arenal, a 48 square mile lake at 1800 ft elevation. It was created in 1973 when the electric company dammed the eastern end of the valley. Everyone who was flooded out was moved to Nuevo Arenal, on the lake's north shore. It is said that when the water level is down, you can see the steeple of the old church.
We were on the bus two hours when we reached Tilaran, which is very close to the Continental Divide, and had our lunch. Then back on the bus for about a 3 hour ride, driving through Canas, Bagaces and Liberia, with a short break at a shopping plaza. Today we passed through many cattle farms and watched the terrain change from the very tall, dense jungle vegetation to flat, dry savannas with more cattle, horses and watermelon farms. Our guide told us that when Chistopher Columbus discovered this country, it was sparsely inhabited and 100% covered by forests. The Spanish cleared vast areas to raise cattle, which is still the case today. There are efforts going on now to restore some of these areas to their original states.
Prior to arriving at our destination, we stopped at the Leatherback Marine Turtle National Park and learned about conservation efforts with these creatures.   Five of the world's seven marine turtle species nest on Costa Rica beaches. They begin life as hatchlings when they emerge from their nests and crawl to the sea, but only a tiny fraction will survive to adulthood, about 1 in 10,000. The nest's temperature determines the sex of the turtle - warmer than 86 degrees and they're female, below, male. With climate change, fewer males are being produced.
The Leatherback, so called because of its soft, rubbery back, is on the verge of extinction. The largest of the sea turtles, it can weigh 800 - 1900 pounds and swim at speeds of 35 mph. They nest at night, primarily Oct. - March. The female lays around 80 eggs, which are the size and shape of a large ping pong ball. The turtle matures in 9 months and can live to be 40. The numbers have declined immensely to less than 2,000 and are on the verge of extinction due to Ocean pollution, loss of habitat, poaching (by animals and humans), getting caught in drift nets, and climate change. I was struck by the fact that these creatures have been around for 100 million years, outliving the dinosaurs, and now because of man may become extinct.
We left there and were a short distance from the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort, our home for the next two nights. It is amazing and I'll save the description and photos for tomorrow.

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