We had an opportunity in February to escape the winter doldrums and fly to Costa Rica. Our friends, Howard and Anne, kindly gave us the keys to their cottage in the coffee-growing highlands west of the capital, San José. Here's their lovely little abode.
As well as agaves and palms, the garden had flowering ginger,
and this tree with shiny leaves that looked like a jacaranda but wasn't.
An arch in a hedge led us to the neighbour's citrus orchard where we were welcome to help ourselves to fresh fruit.
At the bottom of the garden, a covered area with barbecue, reclining chairs and a jacuzzi overlooked the valley.
It was a welcome retreat at the end of a hot day of sight-seeing.
Howard spent the first three days with us before flying back to Vancouver. On Sunday the three of us visited Palmares, a nearby mountain town that was having its annual fiesta. We were there too early in the day for there to be much activity, but I did enjoy these children cavorting in large plastic bubbles.
We also visited the town square, where even the local bikers were enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll.
A friendly woman drew my attention to a sizeable iguana enjoying a feast of lettuce leaves.
While I was watching it, a squirrel monkey appeared from nowhere to snatch some lettuce, provoking a little confrontation.
On the way home we passed this combination of bougainvillea and the white flowers of a brugmansia growing almost wild by the roadside.
As we wound our way down the final hillside, we came to more bougainvilleas, this time tamed into a flowering hedge.
The following day we set off for the capital of San José where we had arranged to have a tour of historic buildings. Unfortunately, as we entered the crowded city, Howard's rental car was rear-ended by a local who had misjudged the amount of space between us and the bus behind us. We weren't hurt, but the car was, and sorting out the situation with the rental company took up the rest of our morning.
Instead, with a replacement car, we took an afternoon drive down to Jaco, a resort town on the Pacific Coast. On the way we marvelled at the steepness of the landscape and the way it had nevertheless been adapted for cattle and coffee growing. The tiny white blobs on the hillside below are Santa Gertrudis beef cattle. (Beef is a staple on every menu, along with chicken and tilapia fish which are raised in landlocked ponds.)
We saw several groves of flame trees clustered in the valley depths or climbing the slopes.
Where the land dropped steeply from the roadside impromptu fences had been erected by the simple expedient of planting fast-growing trees, stringing wire between them, and then severing the trunks at a suitable height.
Jaco itself was a bit disappointing. Humid, overcast weather made the grey sand beach even greyer.
And, on this Monday afternoon, the surrounding shops and cafes seemed forlorn although we understand that at weekends the town is jumping with joséfinos (the inhabitants of San José, the capital city).
The most interesting part of the trip was crossing the bridge over the Rio Tarcolès, where crocodiles bask on the mud flats below, oblivious to all the tourists leaning over the railings and clicking cameras.
We counted about 25 of the critters in varying sizes, loafing on the sand or cruising through the shallow waters.