From Roots to Sculpture
It was time to depart Arenal. It was 4 1/2 hours to our next Hotel. We did not know the condition of the roads (turned out to be more Costa Rican highway – well paved 2 lane roads with narrow or non-existent shoulders). The route to Flamingo Beach is amusing, since there is essentially one road with few choices to turn off. And so, you see signs for “tourist traps” many miles before they emerge whetting your appetite and inspiring you to pull off the road and part with your dollars and collones. One such place was aptly named “Toad Hall”. I pictured the “frog” in the Wind in the Willows driving his car down the open road. It was really a small hotel, cafe and gift shop on a steep hill overlooking Lake Arenal. We had the coffee (so so) and some Yucca chips (delicious). No toads in site.
A while further we saw an artisan shop with beautiful wood sculptures out front. We pulled over. There was someone watching the shop, but it was closed. We looked in and were impressed by the handiwork. The man called the artist from a cell phone and the artist arrived shortly on a motorbike. We had been looking for “native indian” art. What we found was a talented Costa Rican artist who worked with “roots” of trees harvested from Lake Arena when the water was low. He had access to trees and wood that can no longer be harvested; ancient hardwoods that cold survive years submerged in lake water. The man had been a chef, turned artisan. He built beautiful tables for the American expatriates who lived in villas in the region. The work we liked best he was preserving for an exhibition. We settled on a multi-figured mask and a salad bowl set.
Onward, Onward, Ownward
We continued along the enormous lake. The lake gave way to small rolling hills. And finally these gave way to lush green meadowns filled with cows grazing on grass amid the Palm Trees and other jungle vegetation. Along the route, Rose had read about Las Pumas Preserve. One of the drawbacks of adventuring in the jungle is that it is difficult to spot the wild-life. If you think about it, there is a good reason for that. The jungle is full of predators, and if you can spot the wild-life, so can they, and that means “dinner for one and death for the other”. Surival depends on camouflage. The same is true for the predators. If you are seen while stalking prey, that means no dinner for you. So that while we had spent several walks in the jungle, we had seen no predators.
Las Pumas Preserve (photos on top), had solved that problem of seeing animals in something close to their native habitat. Las Pumas owes its existence to the idiocy of many persons who thought they could raise an ocelot or a monkey as a pet, only to realize these were still wild beasts and quite dangerous. And so, all the animals in this preserve, a small zoo off the road to Liberia, are rescue animals. That jaguar had been raised as a pet; same with the puma, the toucans, the “monkeys”, and the ocelots (jungle cats). It was neat to see the animals, but the cages with their close wires resembled old zoos and provided limited opportunity for photographing. They did have one large open field for a “retired” jaguar (resembled a large tiger) which, if expanding would make this place more interesting for a visit. Nevertheless, it did breakup the long drive to Flamingo Beach.
I Must Leave Costa Rica Before It Kills Me
At last we emerged from our vehicle at Flamingo Beach Resort. Having spent the past few days traipsing up and down mountains, galloping on horseback or swinging from zip lines had taken its toll on us; particularly Rose who was now limping into the hotel (no specific injuries; just sore muscles from constant exertion). My apologies for getting ahead. The next day with 2 hours of sea kayaking, followed by sun-bathing, snorkeling and sailing, left us with one more complaint — full body sunburn. And so, Rose coined the phrase, “I must leave Costa Rica, … before it kills me.”
Flamingo Beach resort was in an isthmus with a long private beach, a large cove overlooking Catalina Islands. The sunset is the type that post cards are made of. We ate dinner on the rooftop terrace and listened to the waves crashing, planning our next day’s adventure.