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22 July 2007
Resbaloso Cuando Está Mojado
An expensive but splendid day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Yes, I think today has been my most expensive travel day yet, but it was totally worth it.

After a leisurely and thoroughly delicious breakfast, and a chat with one of Margarita´s other denizens, David the socially awkward former law enforcement guy who has relocated to Costa Rica and seems to have taken up permanent residence at Casita Margarita, I set off for the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. My guidebook informed me that there was a bus there from downtown Alajuela, but I neglected to see the important detail that the bus only ran Tuesday-Saturday. Today being Sunday, I was SOL.

Margarita to the rescue! She found me a ride with a trusted cabbie. The trip would cost $35 round trip, but she insisted that that was a reasonable price. He would also take me to the Poas volcano for another $25, but since (a) that seemed a bit much for one day and (b) I´d already had my fill of viewing cloudy volcanoes, I demurred.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens visitor centerThe 60-minute ride there was incredibly scenic, passing through beautiful mountain scenery and small towns. And, true enough, I didn´t see a single public bus along the way. I did, however, encounter the first speed bumps I´d seen since arriving in Costa Rica. Didn´t even know they believed in those things down here! We arrived at the La Paz visitor center, which was jam-packed full of gringo tourists, just as it was starting to pour. My helpful driver offered me his umbrella, since I´d stupidly forgot my jacket, and we agreed to meet back at the center in an hour and a half.

don´t stick your tongue out at me, mister!And what a stellar hour and a half it was! Entrance to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens is about $30, and worth every penny. The first part of the park is a self-guided tour through the various "garden" exhibits: birds, frogs, butterflies, orchids. Had the potential to be really boring, but it was put together in a really fantastic way. They have these huge open-air (but enclosed) structures where the critters wander around in something resembling their natural habitat, and you can get right up next to them. The bird exhibit was cool -- parrots and macaws and toucans, even a few monkeys. But the butterfly exhibit was the Bomb Diggety. Tons and tons of butterflies, all over the place. Huge morpho butterflies that are spotted brown on one side and an incredible otherworldly blue on the other. Orange ones, red & black ones, brown-striped ones, all over everywhere. Just hangin out, like ya do. It was possibly the most tranquil place I´ve ever been. I didn´t want to leave.

But wait, there´s more! The frogs were OK. Not as copious, and split into nocturnal and diurnal species. They cleverly tagged the spots where the nocturnal ones were snoozing with little informational cards. The wide-awake ones were a bit harder to spot. The orchid garden next to the frog hut was beautiful as well.

oktapodi digs the fallsAnd, of course, the waterfalls truly rocked the house. There are five all together: El Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida, and La Paz. You follow a downward path (mostly stairs) past each one, and they´re all clearly marked. (Another Costa Rican first!) I think Encantada and Escondida were my faves, because they sorta join together for a two-fer. But they were all totally amazing. A goooooood day.

Back at the Casita, I decided to stroll into Alajuela to find an internet cafe. Margarita had warned me that about the road, which had gotten a bit damaged during recent storms, but I was completely taken aback by the giant gaping caved-in portion of road with fresh sewage running by. Lovely! The nearest internet cafe was running Windows 98, maddeningly. And it started to pour on the walk back. Never mind, when I got back to the house, my laundry was all clean and dry, and there was a fantastic dinner awaiting. All is right with the world again!

Oh, and for those of you who couldn´t take the time to visit Babelfish and translate "Resbaloso Cuando Está Mojado," it means "Slippery When Wet." Take that, Bon Jovi!

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