Monday, June 2, 2014

San Jose to La Fortuna

Day 3 - Sunday, June 1
Sooner or later all this rain has to have consequences and today it did.
Unfortunately, there was a mud slide on a road headed east and we had to cancel our plans for the drive through San Jose, the tram tour of Barillo National Park, and the butterfly garden. (We're just grateful we weren't on the road when it happened.)
Instead we went to several small villages where we saw local handcrafts, churches, and parks with beautiful flowers.
First stop was Fabrica de Carretas Joaquin Chaverri in the village of Sarchi where they make decorative oxcarts in various sizes - from miniatures to full size. The craftsmen paint the designs free-hand with no outline and each one is unique. We visited the workshop, but, unfortunately, since it was Sunday, no one was working, but there were some fine examples of their work.
The cart (also known as carreta) is the quintessential symbol of Costa Rica and was a fixture on farms to transport coffee beans. (See yesterday's blog). The wheels, about 4 ft to 5 ft in diameter, are spokeless to keep them from getting stuck in the mud.
The setting for the workshop had some beautiful tropical plants, which we enjoyed photographing. We even saw our first Toucan, albeit in a cage, but later we saw two in a tree along the road.
Then we went to the main square where we saw the largest oxcart in the world (designated by Guiness) and the Iglesia de Sarchi.
Afterwards, our bus wound through coffee plantations, sugar cane plantations, and cattle farms. We stopped in the mountain town of Zarcero, at an elevation of 5,600 ft. There we visited the Parque Francisco Alvardo, a spacious park with well-tended gardens and topiary features. Since 1960, gardener Don Evangelisto Blanco has been transforming the park's cypress bushes into fanciful forms. A series of joined cypress topiaries form an archway leading to the main church.
We stopped for lunch not far from this village where we had another great meal.
Back on the bus for about an hour and a half, we journeyed a little higher, then crossed the continental divide and began our descent. We ended our day's travel at Arenal Springs Resort in La Fortuna. We were awed by the lush tropical grounds and our individual cabins with 5-star amenities. The bathroom shower has a stone wall that is partially exposed to the outside with plants on a ledge. When it rains, it creates a kind of waterfall and waters the plants.
But the real treat was the Arenal hot springs pool right on the grounds. We donned our bathing suits and headed for the pool bar for Margueritas and Mojitos. What a great way to end the day, and the warm water really was refreshing. Shortly before dinner the rains returned but this seems to be a frequent afternoon occurrence. Hopefully, by tomorrow morning, the fog and clouds will clear and we will be able to see Arenal Volcano, which is directly in line with our view.

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