Tag Archives: Bijagua

Day 9 – Bijagua to Fortuna

Monday 27 February 2023 – All we had to do today was to get ourselves from Bijagua to our next stop, La Finca Lodge near La Fortuna, a two-hour drive roughly back towards San José in the centre of the country.

We achieved this without problems but not without distractions, mainly in the form of new birds to see on the feeders at Casitas Tenorio before we left.

(Those with a keen eye will notice that the nice folk at Easily, who host my website, have managed to sort out the problem that made it impossible for me to upload photos and videos, which cramps one’s style as a blog writer somewhat.)

Jane also managed to get a great video of the Montezuma Oropendola’s extraordinary call, which is accompanied by a unique display.

A coati got in on the action, too.

and Nana, the manager, fed the pizza that we couldn’t finish to the B&B’s dogs, Whisky and Dingo.

We were on the point of leaving when Nana’s husband pointed out a very unusual critter on one of the table ornaments.

He opined that it was an ogre-faced spider, but a swift Google search disabused us of that notion.  We showed this picture to a chap who was described to us as a professional naturalist who initially had no idea what it was.  Eventually, he thought it might be a leaf-mimic katydid. Whatever, it’s a weird beast.

We took our leave of Casitas Tenorio, which had been a very well-organised and pleasant place to stay and started the drive over to La Finca Lodge.  The roads were basically fine, with good surfaces, which made the whole thing more relaxing. The countryside was very pleasant, and Jane grabbed some shots of it as we went by.

One thing we noticed as we drove along, that marks Costa Rica out to us from pretty much anywhere else we’ve visited is something that I hadn’t explicitly clocked until Scott, the American chap on our tour last night, pointed it out.

The place is immaculate.

There is no litter. None.

Coming from the UK, where paths and roads are littered with burger boxes, nitro gas canisters and Red Bull cans, I find this extraordinary. The buildings may on occasion be ramshackle, but the place is spotless.

I wish the UK could find this sense of civic pride.

Our plan had been to visit, and indeed have lunch at, the Observatory Lodge in the park of the Arenal Volcano, which is one of Costa Rica’s better-known features. It was dormant until 1968, when it erupted dramatically and unexpectedly, destroying the small town of Tabacón. Arenal’s eruption from 1968 to 2010 is the tenth longest duration volcanic eruption on Earth since 1750. Since 2010, though, it has been dormant, which makes visiting the area slightly less daunting.

What was daunting, however, was the surface of the road that Waze suggested was the route to the lodge, which was something of a detour from the direct route to La Finca.  It was rough, boulder-strewn and cratered. We managed to do about half a kilometre before deciding that life was too short to endure any more.   So we turned round and resumed our journey to La Finca.  As we approached, we saw the countryside dotted with vividly-coloured trees.

We subsequently found out that this is called Corteza Amarilla, and we were exceedingly lucky to see its display, as it flowers like this for just one week every year.

Waze took us towards La Finca with unerring accuracy but its directions left us halted outside a large and rather forbidding-looking metal gate.  We weren’t sure (a) whether it was an entrance to La Finca or (b) what to do about getting in if it was. At that point, a car coming in the opposite direction stopped and its driver wound down his window, so I did the same.  He asked, in really quite good English, if he could help and we said we were looking for La Finca.  He confirmed it was, and did some magic which opened the gate for us.  We have no idea who he was or how come he could work this magic, but we were very grateful anyway.

We drove in and were greeted very cordially at their reception and shown to our room, which was called Gecko.  It was a very nice, large room

with, to Jane’s delight, a hammock on the veranda.  She lost no time in getting acquainted with it whilst I had a well-earned kip started backing up, selecting and processing photos for this blog.  Whilst she was resting out there, she had a small visitor, a humming bird of some description.

Come 6 o’clock we headed over to La Finca’s restaurant, where we had a very decent evening meal.  We also met Esteban, the founder and owner of the place, a charismatic, knowledgeable and slightly roguish man.  As part of our Pura Aventura itinerary, we could choose between various options for the following day – a float along the river spotting wildlife, hiking around a park with many waterfalls, a visit to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, a trip to see the Hanging Bridges of La Fortuna, and so on. Esteban was clearly very clued-up about the benefits of each and helped us make our selection.  We decided on the Arenal trip and an afternoon on the hanging bridges. The Arenal Observatory Lodge is in the volcano’s national park and features various trails and significant opportunity to see – you guessed it – wildlife.  This meant an early start the next day to give us the best chance to spot it, in the company of a very knowledgeable guide (the chap we puzzled with our katydid photo).

We agreed that the time to start was (sigh) 0730, so we headed back to our Gecko room after dinner with an intention to get an early night, which was only slightly spoiled by my staying up rather too long creating some of the deathless prose that you will already have read. You have, haven’t you? Good.

So, tune in tomorrow to see (a) whether we got up in time on the morrow and ( b) whether we had a good day. Spoiler alert: we did.

Day (and Night) 8 – Still in Bijagua

Sunday 26 February 2023 – The lack of an appallingly early start to the day backfired on us slightly. According to the B&B information in the room, breakfast was served until 0930.  But when we turned up at the lodge at 0915 it became clear that the service had only been until 0900.  Nonetheless, Michele, the assistant manager, sweet talked the cook into rustling up a bit of scrambled egg and toast for us, which was very forbearing of them, and so we had a decent breakfast after all.

After that, we actually had a free morning, so I had plenty of time to sit down and update these pages, which sounds fine, but in fact there was a continual distraction as new birds came to the feeders nearby – the buff-throated saltator, for example


and the yellow-throated euphonia.


and so the morning passed peacefully enough until it was time for our first scheduled activity of the day – a cookery class.  Now, those of you who know me will be well aware that I am to cooking as David Cameron is to Brexit. But I went along and tried to join in as best I could.  Actually, it was an engaging three hours in the company of the Casitas manager, Nana, and her daughter Camilla, spent at the house of Vicki and Marcelino.  Vicki is an expert cook of many years’ experience, a pillar of the local community, who is well established as someone who gives demonstrations of cooking traditional Costa Rican dishes. It being Sunday lunchtime, Marcelino honoured the local tradition by watching the football whilst we congregated in the kitchen and were directed by Vicki in the preparation of various materials.


Left to right above – Vicki, Camilla, Jane (stirring it as usual), Nana.

Vicki and Marcelino’s house is of a very traditional kind and they were happy for me to take photos of their very nicely turned-out dwelling – Lounge, kitchen and garden spaces.


It was interesting to note that the room walls don’t actually rise to meet the ceiling, so the house is more of a partitioned space than a dwelling with separate rooms.  There is a mix of traditional and modern appliances – an old wood-fired stove next to an electric cooker (and a large LED TV so Marcelino could watch the footie).

Anyone who knows me will also understand my attitude to sharing photos of food, so I won’t be doing any of that on these pages, thank you very much.  But it was interesting to see someone with Vicki’s skill at work, and one or two things – such as searing banana leaves in which to wrap tamales – were techniques that I’d never come across before.


The group (yes, including me) prepared tamales, empanadas and tortillas. Yes, we ate some of them as well. Jane practised her Spanish, and Nana translated for Vicki and Camilla and also told us about some of the traditions of life and cooking in that region of Costa Rica – for there are aspects of food preparation that are unique to the area, just as there are aspects that separate those of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the other central American countries. It was a pleasant, if dietetically challenging, way of passing three hours, and Jane and I left feeling very full indeed.

We just about had time for a cup of tea before another ripple of excitement passed through the B&B, because another sloth had been spotted!  So we hastened down to the lodge to take a look and to try for some more photos.


It was a three-toed sloth. For all the sloth’s reputation for sluggishness, this one moved quite swiftly. Every time we thought we’d got a decent angle of view, all we had to do was look away for a second and all of a sudden it had moved to a different place.  Eventually it moved to where we could no longer see it, but it was nice to have encountered another one.

Then it was time to go out for the other planned activity for the day – a night visit to the Tapir Valley Nature Reserve. So off we went along the now-familiar stretch of road to the reserve, where a small number of people were gathered for their evening and night walk around the trails. Abner, our guide from yesterday, was there, as was another guide, called David, who looked after Jane and me and an American couple called Lisa and Scott. As before, we were equipped with boots, and, this time also, torches to light our way.

It was clear that David was very passionate about the mission of the reserve as he spent quite a lot of time explaining some of the background to what the reserve is trying to achieve.  He also set our expectations by pointing out that it was dry season (i.e. not raining much), and so there would be fewer animals around to see.  We did find a few, though: a coati, snuffling around for bugs;


a nightjar, just sitting on the path and not minding a bunch of people shining torches at it;


a couple of red-eyed tree frogs;


what David called a Sergeant Bird, actually Cherrie’s Tanager, hiding away in the reeds;


and miscellaneous other frogs,


so not really a bonanza of wildlife spotting, not that it was something that was under anyone’s control.  To me it was miraculous what David was able to spot. I was more worried about tripping up and falling face first into a pile of tapir shit, frankly.

On that topic, David was able to demonstrate the seed-spreading effect of the tapir, by showing us a pile of faeces out of which several trees were starting to grow.


as well as samples of the fruit of the tree that they share that special relationship with, the Parmentiera Valerii (commonly name the Jicaro Danto tree). Thanks are due to Jane, who has spent quite a lot of time chasing down the exact name of this tree.


These samples were at the reception area of the reserve to which we’d returned after over three hours’ tramping (and often squelching) around the reserve. We were about to take our leave when David got a call on his radio from Donald, the founder of the reserve, to say that he’d located a couple of tapirs, and they were quite close by. So we rushed out to find them. it was a female (a daughter of Mamita of the previous day) and an as yet un-named male, and they were presumed to be courting. I even managed to get a couple of pictures of one of them (the male I think)



and you can tell that it had just caught wind of us.  But it didn’t seem perturbed by our presence, and after a while we left the two of them to get on with their nocturnal foraging, and headed back to the reception to take our leave from David and the reserve.

So, once again we’d been lucky enough to catch sight of the tapirs, which made the evening’s exercise a very satisfactory activity.

Today was our last day in Bijagua; tomorrow we head a couple of hours south, for two nights at La Fortuna and, doubtless, further adventures, quite probably involving wildlife, so I hope you come back to find out what was in store for us.


Day 7 (afternoon) – Tenorio National Park

Saturday 25 February 2023 – After the early morning excitement, I think we could have been forgiven for simply going back to bed to catch up with our kip. But no – the desire for relentless tourism drove us ever onwards.

I spent a little time writing up stuff for these pages.  This had to be done at the Casitas lodge, where they have an internet available.  They also have bird feeders, and so I was able to catch up with a few more species of the local wildlife, among them a Blue-crowned Motmot


These bird feeders gave us the opportunity for pictures of many more species, which I will come to in due course. But the next activity of the day called – a visit to the Tenorio National Park, which actually borders the Tapir Valley reserve, and is reached by simply going a litttle further along the road, past the reserve. (Tenorio is the name of the volcano at the centre of the national park.)

We’d read in the Pura Aventura notes that since it is a popular spot, it was best to go towards the end of the entry window so that we would get to the various sights after most people had left.  The last permitted entry time is 2pm, so we bowled up to the entrance at about 1245 where we made the first of two important discoveries – if it’s crowded (e.g. a weekend such as today), they only let people in in bunches. So we had to wait until 1pm until they let us in.


The second discovery was one we made almost by accident.  The main attraction of the place is a waterfall, and apparently most people simply go up as far as the waterfall and then go down again – but there are attractions beyond the waterfall, and we decided to go right to the end of the trail and work our way back along the other Things To See as well, rather than taking them in on the way up.  For reasons which will become clear if you read on, this was a wise decision and is my Tip For The Day to anyone visiting – go to the end and work back.  You’ll thank me.

The trail – there is only one – starts off as a formal path


before going on to less formal surfaces



which don’t necessarily hold up too well to the exigencies of thousands of feet and feet of rainfall in wet season.


Some it is quite steep, both up


and down.


In fact, I took a stumble going down one of these stretches. But it was OK; my phone broke my fall.  It’s tougher than I am, so no damage done except to my pride. And as I got up and dusted myself off, I caught sight of this colourful little fellow, a juvnile Central American Whip Tail Lizard.


The trail basically winds its way along in approximate company of the Rio Celeste river.  You can see various viewpoints on the the way, but, as I say, it’s good to see them coming down, i.e. effectively going down stream.

At the end of this formal trail is a remarkable sight which kind of sets the scene for the other Things To See on the way down, which anyone walking the trail will have caught some glimpses of already. But this is how it all starts.

This is the “Teñideros” where two rivers – Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria – meet. The pH change at the meeting point increases the particle size of aluminosilicates already present in Rio Buenavista. The waters of what is now Rio Celeste are then turned blue by sunlight scattering from the fragments. Some are also laid down as sediment – the white bar across the river. The myth runs that when the gods were painting the skies blue, this was where they washed their paintbrushes.

Moving further down the trail, you cross a bridge over the wonderful blue river.


until you come to a pool labelled “Borbollones”. You get no prize for working out how this translates to English.

Beyond Borbollones is the blue lagoon, a pretty reasonable description, I guess.


After some (quite stiff) more up-and-downery, you get to the most popular visitor spot. The signage for this quite fails to prepare you for what you’re about to undergo should you wish to visit.


“Catarata” is Spanish for “waterfall”, and it’s only 150 metres away. What could possibly go wrong?

Here is a clue.


It may be only 150 metres, but it’s a long way down.  This is the view looking back from the bottom.


That awaits you for when you’ve drunk in the very considerable sight that you stumbled down all those steps to see.

Spending several moments there, trying to ignore the gurning selfie addicts (admittedly there were only four, but that’s because we got our timing right, courtesy of Jane’s researches) and absorbing strength from the natural beauty and energy of the scene might – just – prepare you for the journey back.


Jane took this photo of me plodding up the steps – 253, I counted ’em – to the top.  (She was resting at that point. Hah!)

This is why it’s best to get to the top and work down.  Had we visited the waterfall on the way up, I doubt we would have had much enthusiasm for the further ups and downs that lead to the end of the trail.  It is quite a stiff walk. For four and a quarter miles, I  would normally expect to expend 425 calories or thereabouts.  This walk scored 825 on my activity monitor. No matter, it took us past some memorable scenes.

It also took us past a viewpoint where you could in theory see the Tenorio volcanoes.


One of them is Tenorio 1 and the other Tenorio 2. I don’t know which is which and the clouds got somewhat in the way. Ho, hum.

The park had one more treat for us as we went along.

Our fears of the place being overcrowded turned out to be unfounded, and all in all it was a very pleasant second excursion, albeit quite hard work.  In fact, such hard work that we realised there was only one thing for it – pizza and beer.  Fortunately, we had a recommendation for a pizza place in Bijagua (this is their Facebook page), so we hied ourselves there as fast as the speed limit and speed bumps would allow.  There, we had a very good pizza and some very welcome beer with a little cabaret which took place beside me as I ate pizza, and which Jane recorded.

before heading back to the Casitas to relax for the rest of the day.

I have a heart of stone – the dog remained unfed despite its cute trick.

We had a couple of very contrasting activities scheduled for the following day, both of which turned out to be more fun than I thought they might be. So, please come back and see what we got up to.  Hasta luego!