Tag Archives: Nature

Day 6 – Luna Azul to Casitas Tenorio, Bijagua

Friday 24 February 2023 – Our time at the very pleasant Luna Azul ended today and so, after goodbyes with Olivier and Rolf, we hit the road.



Our destination was near a town called Bijagua, which is normally about a three-hour drive from Ostional. However, Olivier’s wife, Maria, had told us about a place where we might be able to see some macaws – at a café called Mi Finca at Limonal. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this had been on our route down to Luna Azul in the first place (at one of the points where pilot error gave us a few extra kilometres to cover). We decided we could make our journey to Bijagua go via this place at an overall cost of only about half an hour, which seemed an inviting plan.

Luna Azul is on the Nicoya peninsula and, as I think I’ve mentioned, driving there is not the most straightforward of activities. Indeed, it sometimes requires some very sudden sideways moves to avoid the traps which lie in wait for the unwary.

Sometimes the road goes from dirt track to very reasonable tarmac for no very obvious reason


and then, of course, can switch back just as suddenly, again without provocation.


There are narrow bridges


and every so often the nice tarmac is dotted with pitfalls


so it’s fair to say that the drive for this part of the journey was not all that relaxing. To be fair the dirt roads are by and large easy to drive on, if rather noisy, so really the driver just has to keep an eye out for the odd occasional elephant trap. After a while, the route joins proper, grown-up roads and the surface for these is remarkably good (Surrey Council, take note, please).

It was around 12.30 when we reached Mi Finca and stopped for (a) more fuel for the car (where the nice attendant carefully washed the layers of dust off our front and back windows, which was very good of him), (b) coffee and other sustenance (Jane had a torta chilena, the local answer to Chile’s Milhojas) and (c) a shot at some macaws. With a camera, that is.

We found a couple of them in a tree nearby.



Not the scarlet macaws that we might have seen had we been prepared to brave the warzone roads leading to the specialist centre in the south of the Nicoya peninsula, but a pleasure to see these beautifully coloured birds up close.

I’m not quite sure what the macaw situation is at Mi Finca; I think there’s supposed to be some kind of sanctuary where they feed macaws to attract them there, but it’s not quite clear. We chatted to a Dutchman who said that had seen 10 birds there when he last visited. He was a bit doleful about the whole thing, but for us it was macaws for celebration.

The Mi Finca roundabout is a major interchange where, as I said, we missed the turn on our way to Ostional. This meant that we joined the road – a big piece of modern and ongoing construction – that we’d had to go along searching for a U-turn a couple of days earlier. It’s obviously a road that has its own little twilight zone because a little further on, without either of us realising it, we failed to take the correct exit again. This added a few more kilometres to the route whilst we again searched for a U-turn to get us back to the correct route.

The (short) rest of the journey to Bijagua went through much more open countryside, with some nice views – altogether a pleasimg ambience –





and we were soon at Casitas Tenorio, which calls itself a B&B, but which is altogether a more major operation, with a central lodge


surrounded by “casitas” – small houses, like the one we were staying in (called “El Volcan”).


We also discovered that it’s located in its own grounds which include a nature trail and a farm that provides produce for the breakfasts that they serve. One further discovery we made on unloading the car was that, tragically, the gin bottle had leaked! Actually, I don’t think we lost a huge amount, but it was a moment of the utmost concern, as you can well imagine.

There was more than a small ripple of excitement when the assistant manager of the place told us that there were a couple of sloths in trees near one of the unoccupied cabins. Actually, this was a really exciting and unexpected development, so of course we had to try to spot them. One, a three-toed sloth, was being (for a sloth) very active, i.e. it was moving a bit. Normally, sloths move at about four metres a minute, though they can up this to four and a half if in danger.



When I say it was “moving about a bit”, what I mean is that it was simply spending almost all of its time scratching itself, so my illusions about how wonderful a life of sloth would be were completely shot away. Also, it made the video footage a bit dull, hence just the still photos. That sloths move so little makes them fascinating studies – apparently they are the host for entire ecosystems of fungi, parasites and insects, as well as the moss that can grow on their fur. They leave the trees only to defecate and urinate once a week. In that exercise, because they have been consuming kilograms of leaves every day, they lose something like a third of the body weight they have accumulated since the last time.

The other sloth was a young two-toed sloth and it was sleeping.


Frankly, I could have told you that the above was a video and you’d hardly have known I was pulling your leg. Apparently, all sloths have three toes on their rear limbs, but two-toed sloths have only two on their forelimbs, which are thus not really toes after all. So that’s two fingers to the three-toed nomenclature in their case.

We had the rest of the day free, so the first priority was to use the handy kitchenette in our casita to make very welcome mugs of Twining’s finest Earl Grey – the first such to have passed our lips for what seemed like weeks but was actually only a couple of days, Then we went for a walk. Obviously.

The nature trail here is about a kilometre long, mainly through forest.


(I love this kind of root system, which is an adaptation to get maximum nutrition to the tree in poor soil conditions – and also to help hold up the shallow-rooted trees.) There is a diversion to an observation platform


and on the way to it, we discovered several termite nests

and a leaf-cutter ant trail,

watched, rather morosely it seemed, by a groove-billed ani.


You’ll have to read tomorrow’s blog entry to find out how come I knew what species this bird is. Amid all this exotica was a more familiar sight, and one of which I’m particularly fond – hydrangeas of a lovely blue colour.


And that was the last activity for the day before addressing ourselves to some of what remained of the gin prior to an early night, as we had an early start to be ready for the next day. Only because we’re on holiday travelling, of course. Never happens at home.

So, please come back to find out why we had an early start and what transpired thereafter. I promise you won’t be disappointed, and this is my money-back guarantee to you.

Stanley Nice

Thursday 1 September 2022 – Our last day in Vancouver dawned bright and sunny, with the prospect of the weather staying that way all day.  Guess how we spent most of it?  Yup – we went for a walk.  The obvious area for us to explore, because we’d gone in most other directions, was northwards to Stanley Park.  Exploring there fitted our schedule which had to include a couple of other items, one tedious but necessary and the other much more appealing. We had to be back by about 4pm, so that allowed us our usual latish breakfast before we set out – no mad dogs, but two English folk going out in the midday sun.

Our route gave me the opportunity to try a second time at photographing a couple of scenes.  The first was the “Cauldron”, created for the 2010 Winter Olympics here.  This time it wasn’t beset by hordes of people dressed in white.

Nearby was something we hadn’t spotted before – a highly pixellated statue of an Orca.

As we walked towards the park, we were overtaken by a paddle steamer (or “sternwheeler” as they call them in these here parts)

and we walked along the pleasant pedestrian trail, nicely segregated from hordes of people shooting by on various wheeled contraptions, through the gentrified Coal harbour, near which is another interesting architectural exhibit.

As well as trees and general greenery, of which there’s a thousand acres overall, there are many items of interest in the park.  Statues abound:

Robbie Burns, for no particular reason beyond the fact that he was famous, but I suppose the justification could be verse;

Harry Jerome, BC Athlete of the Century 1871 – 1971, holder of several world records, including 10.0 seconds for the 100 metres (1960); and

Lord Stanley,16th Earl of Derby, after whom the park is named.

There’s a miniature railway, which is jolly cute

and of which I had formed a mental image as having a steam train pulling the carriages. However

I was disabused of that notion. It’s still cute, but would be really something if they could actually manage a steam engine.

We’d been walking for about an hour by this stage in temperatures which were officially in the low 20s but which, in the full sunshine, felt a lot higher. So when we passed the rose garden

and its inviting pavilion

the prospect of a coffee or similar became very attractive. The staff seemed a little taken aback by having actual customers, but eventually things got into gear and we got decent coffee, and I had a beer to replace the electrolytes lost thus far on such a hot day.

Our wanderings then led us to the banks of Beaver Lake. At first it was challenging to believe that it was actually a lake

But it was, really.

We then headed towards the trail that leads round the edge of the park, as we wanted to see the Lions Gate Bridge, the large suspension bridge that crosses Vancouver Harbour to the north. Or south, if you’re coming back. It’s very impressive

but kind of difficult to convey photographically. We spent some time trying to do this and, basically, failing, so turned back to walk the waterside trail hotelwards. This took us past a small beach

and towards some further curiosities: a lumberman’s arch;

a kids’ splashpark;

a replica figurehead of the SS Empress of Japan, which took cargo to and from the orient around the turn of the 20th century –

presumably worth displaying because figureheads went out of fashion pretty sharply once steam ships, erm, took off; and a statue called “Girl In A Wetsuit”

Though initially Gull In A Wetsuit seemed more appropriate. Eventually the annoying bird left and I could get a proper version

and we carried on round the edge of the park. There’s never a dull moment: totem poles;

a splendid view of the sulphur processing facility on the opposite shore of the harbour (it’s from Alberta, apparently – the sulphur, that is, not the machinery);

the Nine O’Clock Gun

with its warning

(which is helpful, but goes nowhere near explaining why there’s a loud bang every night);  evidence that the segregated walking/cycling trail had its roots well before cycling became cool;

And even – gasp! – some wildlife.

Heron and harbour seal respectively and unconcernedly fishing and sunbathing (upside-down) as city life went on around them.

We’d walked a fair bit, but it’s clear from the map of our ramblings that we’d left a lot of the park unexplored,

Maybe we’ll be able to get back in some future life and explore further….

As you leave the park, there’s the very impressive HQ of the Vancouver Rowing Club

and then you join the trail leading back into Vancouver city. This gave me an opportunity to get some nice photos of my favourite type: reflections,

including a second attempt at one I tried on our previous visit;


I’m a bit happier with this version.

This brought us back to the city and the first, tedious, one of the two things we had to achieve – checking in for the Rocky Mountaineer, which will be our home for the next couple of days as we start Part Two. Our advance party (otherwise known as brother Chris, who has been about a month ahead of us on his version of a Canadian odyssey) had reported scenes of queues, chaos and confusion at the Pan Pacific Hotel, where a check-in facility had been set up. So we went in to scout out the scene. What we found was just a genteel and well-behaved (but quite long) queue,

So, since I know my place, I did my job as queue placeholder whilst Jane nipped back to the room for the paperwork. Over about half an hour we slowly edged forward and eventually reached the front. Because Jane is superbly well-organised, there was no call for chaos, or indeed confusion; we had all the right paperwork to hand, had checked in online and had our boarding passes; and so very swiftly got our baggage tags and instructions. These included being ready to leave our hotel at 0650 the next day, unfortunately, but, hey, that’s the price we pay for being on holiday.

That then (preparatory packing aside) left the way clear for the second, happily anticipated task, which was to meet the Delightful Danes, Philina and Søren, whose company we’d enjoyed so much in Farewell Harbour. Philina got in touch via this very blog and we established that we overlapped for one evening in Vancouver, so we went to meet them at a local eatery called Riley’s and had a very fine time. They had also had great luck with the wildlife at the lodge – fishing bears and breaching humpbacks, for example – and had visited a couple of wonderful sounding places. It was lovely to catch up with them, and I hope we will get a chance to meet them again some time in the future.

Then all we had to do was to set the alarm for 0530 in preparation for the start of Part Two – The Rocky Mountain Bit. Be assured that whenever I can get time and internet access I will report back, so please keep an eye out for the next thrilling installment.


A Bridge Too Wobbly

Friday 19 August 2022 – Today’s activity combined two recognised Tourist Must-Do attractions in the Vancouver area – Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Bridge – pretty much an all-day outing. Because we were being taken round these attractions by coach there was the usual milling about worrying about whether we would be picked up OK. Jane got chatting to another couple (from Bracknell, as it happens) who were also in possession of a piece of paper and a worried expression and we agreed that they were unlikely to miss all four of us. In the end, it was all smooth, although not particularly swift; we were led to our coach, we boarded and then… waited until a couple of last-minute stragglers eventually turned up. Whilst we were waiting, it became clear that, while driver Jimmy was a considerably more experienced tour driver than Theresa had been on our Photo Safari in Ketchikan, he was even more garrulous. He kept up an entertaining but ceaseless stream of tourist information, philosophical homilies and moaning about the local government for the whole time he was on board the bus. He definitely knew what he was doing and only one passenger was heard to complain that he spoke too fast, but she was French, so what do I care?

Grouse Mountain is a popular local resort which offers skiing during the winter and just the general benefits of altitude (fresh air and a decent view, ideally) the rest of the year. It all starts with a ride up in a 100-person cable car. I noticed that its maximum load was 98 passengers plus an operator, and a maximum weight of 16230 pounds. This means that the designers expected an average weight of 164 pounds per passenger. I don’t wish to be rude, but I just hope there’s some contingency built into the cable strength given the increase in the overall population’s weight since 1974 when this cable car was opened.

The journey to the top raises you 2800 feet in 6 minutes, and is exactly like cable car rides familiar to anyone who has ever been skiing except that this one has a bit of a tourist commentary from the operator (delivered, as far as I could tell in this instance, in a Yorkshire accent). At the top, you reach “Peak Chalet”, a destination which I’m sure would get Courchevel reaching for its lawyers. Peak Chalet offers a couple of viewing decks and many retail opportunities. It also has an atrium with some great carved pillars.

We had coffee there, admiring what we could see of the view, which, in traditional Walker, erm, tradition “would have been better if it were clearer”.

The area reached by the cable car offers many entertainment possibilities, such as a lumberjack show

ziplining, a raptor demonstration and a grizzly bear enclosure (we didn’t get to see the two resident bears who had wisely disappeared into their forested fastness; but the bear enclosure gave us some useful scale info).

There is a loop trail which has several sculptures hacked out of tree stumps beside it.

The eagle, particularly is a fabulous piece of work. One can take another chair lift to go even higher, so we did. My God, it’s slow. (I bet they run it faster in ski season.) It rises just 400 feet in 15 minutes, over a distance of about 2000 feet. I bet you could walk it faster, but we weren’t in a hurry, so we took it.

At the top you get a view of the middle plateau over what I assume would be a piste were it covered in snow.

They helpfully indicate viewpoints with rather fetching coloured seats.

There’s a wind turbine up there

with a fetchingly illustrated base.

We rode down chairlift and cable car to get back to our coach and Jimmy took us to our next stop, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It’s too easy to assume that this bridge is the big blue suspension bridge you see extending north from Stanley Park. That would be wrong – that one is the Lions Gate Bridge. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a pedestrian-only (you’ll see why soon) bridge across the Capilano River, which feeds Capilano Lake, which I would love to say is formed into a hydro reservoir by Capilano Dam, but it’s not, dammit – it’s Cleveland Dam. The Capilano name refers to Joe Capilano, a leader of the Squamish from 1895-1910, who fought for the recognition of native rights and lifestyle. The bridge is in a park which has a whole host of tourist delights. To get to most of them, you have to cross the suspension bridge

which is a bit wobbly.

It’s great fun to walk over, and it feels a bit like trying to stay upright walking along the length of a rowing boat in a reasonably severe cross swell, say, about force 6. It was also really quite crowded when we arrived (less so later) which added to the fun.

Once on the other side, there is a very well-engineered forest boardwalk

leading past a raptor demonstration area

(that owl has got the eye roll down to a fine art, I think…

and the Harris Hawk looks pretty unimpressed).

There’s also a high tree walk.

(Actually, I think it’s more extreme physics and engineering, but I’ll cut them some (catenary) slack on that.)

There’s great emphasis on implementing all of this as sympathetically as possible with the environment – traditional building methods, no damage to trees, no major machinery, just pulleys and ropes. It maybe somewhat confected but it’s a seriously impressive setup, and great fun to walk around.

There is one more adventure to be had, which is the cliff walk, to get to which you have to cross the main suspension bridge once more. It’s not as wobbly as the others, and is very nicely bolted on to the cliff. Just as well, really.

All in all, the Park is an entertaining place to spend a couple of hours.

The final call of the day was to the Capilano River Hatchery, which is dedicated to salmon breeding. From a single salmon pair’s clutch of fertilized eggs (which may number as much as 1,000) where six young salmon would survive in the wild, the work of the hatchery means that instead some 300 will make it through the full breeding cycle, which, as well as keeping fishermen and bears happy, has significant environmental benefits.

Beyond educational information boards (which now mean I know the difference between fry, alevins and smolts) there wasn’t much to see at the hatchery, but they did have a salmon ladder the depths of which are visible through windows. Looking at the lower levels, one could see the odd occasional salmon making its way up (normally) the ladder. Strikingly, there was something of a traffic jam at the top

and outside in the river you could make out large numbers of salmon who, one hopes, would soon find the entrance to the ladder so they could get upstream and have a jolly good spawn.

This was the last stop on our tour, and all that remained was to fight our way back through the traffic to our hotel, which gave Jimmy a whole lot more time to dispense his folksy wisdom and undoubted expertise about the city.

Tomorrow we leave Vancouver for some ten days, whilst we travel on to Vancouver Island and beyond. Victoria awaits us tomorrow (coach and ferry permitting) and then we move on to even more excitement before coming back here for a few more days. Please keep your eyes on this site and you can find out what we get up to.