Feb 7/23 -Quepos to Monteverde

Marcelo is our driver today and ….whoohoo we have wifi on the bus!

The port of Caldera near Puntarenas is the country’s 2nd largest port. It is used for off-loading freight for transport across the country to Puerto Limon where it is loaded back onto freighters as a cost effective way around using Panama Canal. It is also a stop for cruise ships.

40,000 hectares Monteverde preserves… only so much for public for public or commercial use

Santa Elena is the name of the town where we are staying

90% of the people are involved with tourism… most tourist businesses are owned by Costa Ricans

We are staying at the same hotel as where Linda, Jeanette and I stayed before although I didn’t recognize the name before getting here. More rooms/ buildings have been added and the gardens expanded. Where else would you see rows of big beautiful dark red amaryllis’?

We all got dropped off down town to get lunch and where most of the group….13 of 16 (Jax and I decided not to) were picked up to go do the canopy walk. (Those that went said they only saw the clouds they were in). But J and I walked back up, up, up the hills to the hotel…over 5000 steps (3kms) and counting but 22 flights……training for climbing mountains in Uganda…..we’ll see. My glutes are talking to me.

Eventually ended up with 8100 steps …4.88 kms and 39 flights. Yesterday…9763 steps….6 kms (only 1 flight); Sunday….6612..about 4 kms (6 flights), Saturday…7746 or 4.88 kms and 1 flight and the day we mostly flew or were in airports …7258 or 4.65 kms and 3 flights.

Before dinner we all went for a night walk to see what insects and animals that we could find (with a guide of course).

After our dinner we returned to the hotel only to have one couple (Carmel & Herman) find a scorpion on the drape behind their bed. I think we all checked our rooms after that. Bob found a lizard & cockroaches. I guess they all come with the territory.

Feb 6/23- Quepos

This morning we went to Manuel Antonio National Park for a guide tour and then an hour visit to the beach that is only accessible from inside the park (no peddlers).

And then we went on a humongous catamaran. Jaxon went down the slide and went snorkelling with a lady from the group. She is a stronger swimmer than me while I watched. (My shoulder is not feeling very good). We had fruit snacks, dinner and drinks included. We stayed out long enough to watch the sun go down…. Beautiful!!!

Feb 5/23 Travel day from San Jose to Quepos

Marique is our driver. On the road exactly at 7 am

There are 200 volcanos in Costa Rica-4 are active now.. One near San Jose is erupting about every 2 months.

Casado …main food for lunches & dinners is rice and beans, meat and salad… leftovers for breakfast with eggs maybe and onions. Patacones are made with plantain. Coffee main crop in past. The best quality is exported. Micro chips are the biggest exporter…. Not bananas, not pepper or coffee.

Electricity is produced 70% from hydro, 20% geothermal from volcano, and rest from wind turbines and solar.

Carara national park best for birding. Good for animals too … wet and dry forest animals from both sides of the mountain. Only one male jaguar per 1-4000 hectares each. They do not overlap each other’s territory.

Stopped for breaky then off to see the crocodiles. American crocs will grow up to 6 metres in length. Sometimes people die when swimmers and surfers go to where they have been warned not to go. We stopped to see the huge crocs in the river from the bridge over the River Tarcoles.

Date palms used for production of palm oil were planted to replace the best kind of bananas that got infected with a disease back in 1940’s. Bananas are basically clones so once one has the disease it will affect them all. The palm trees themselves have only a 14 year lifespan.

After arriving at this lovely little hotel…. (actually the same one we had stayed at 4 years ago), we all travelled by local bus to a public beach near Manuel Antonio Park. The roads are incredible going up and over the hills… so steep and narrow and windy although I never felt that we could fall off a cliff like some other places I’ve been. Anyway, rented lounge chairs for $5 US each…. Under a canopy. Thank God. The heat was so, so very hot, a person could get third degree burns from walking on the sand so you run like hell from one shaded spot to another. The beach was gorgeous. Jax loved playing in the surf… actually trying out boogie boarding.

Later we walked to a restaurant for dinner but along the way a man was urinating on the sidewalk…. which I think shocked Jax cuz apparently kept bringing it up to others in the group. It’s an education but I’ll bet that if you went downtown Victoria, you’d see the same thing happening.

Start of Costa Rica tour Feb 3 & 4/23

Jaxon (and his dad) and I were up at the ungodly hour of 3 am to catch our flight out of YYJ to YVR, then to Houston, Texas and then finally arriving in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. We arrived at our hotel and settled in bed by midnight CR time which is two hours ahead of home. Were we bagged? You bet but we had no hiccups getting here other than there was no one to pick us up as scheduled until a good 3/4 hours late.

An interesting thing is that the door from the street to lobby and reception is locked at all times…..coming or going. Hmmmmm, didn’t see that when I was here 4 years ago. I don’t know if that is because we are in a different hotel in a different location or has it become more unsafe??? I asked the man at the desk about where was the hotel that we stayed at before. He said it was closed because of COVID and bankruptcy. It has affected businesses all over the world. L

This “boutique” hotel is quite nice actually. The hot water is actually solar heated (which I like the idea of) although it was slow to become hot and only at a trickle.

New trip coming up

My Grandson and I are heading to Costa Rica for 2 weeks shortly. He is excited and I am excited to share with him my love of travel and to introduce him to the world community.

In the meantime I would like to remove people that I don’t know, that seem to have attached themselves as followers. Maybe I do know who you are but don’t recognized your “handle”. If you are one of those people that I will list below, please send me a text or email to let me know who you are. If I don’t hear from you before the eve of the 31st, I will delete your name.

Listed as followers: “canadiansunkiss”, “dreich321”, “vivianywt”, “Evangelist Sam Davis-davissam448”….who are you???

Day 37-Dec 21 heading to our final stop ….Christchurch

As I previously mentioned, we hopefully changed our plans so that we are able to see Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo. We are heading that way but it does not look good. But then ….. it cleared. We could see Aoraki/Mt. Cook in the distance.

We stopped at the car park and Hayden and I walked to Kea point lookout where we could see intermittently Mt Sefton, the Footstool and Mueller Glacier and Lake. We did hear the cracking of the glacier. The rest of the group went on the longer hike hoping to see Aoraki and the icebergs on Hooker Lake but the mount was socked in.

At 3760 metres….Aoraki/ Mt. Cook…. Symbolizes 3 brothers … it being highest of the 3 mountains

Hayden picked for Jeanette’s birthday, a NZ alpine daisy called a Golden Spaniard.

Our new driver… the birthday girl with her daisy from Hayden.

Porcupine Shrub… nasty thorns like a hawthorn but is much worse.

Lake Tekapo…gorgeous glacial waters that only shows when the sun shines. Lucky us!!! The night skies here are the darkest skies in the world. There is huge telescope near here ….. apparently caught 2 exploding stars that happened 11 billion years ago.

Christchurch had a 6.3 earthquake in 2011?when 185 died…. They are still working to replace buildings destroyed. Then in 2019, the massacre at a mosque of 51 muslims was the darkest day in NZ history that allowed the passing a law banning all automatic and semi automatic guns, very quickly. They should do that everywhere.

We all gathered for a last evening dinner together. It was an early evening for some poor souls that had to catch an Uber for the airport at 2:30 am

9838 steps

December 22/22…..Our flight wasn’t that early but the stress of making that final dash, I for one didn’t sleep that well…..coupled with whether or not my flight would even go because of the freezing snowy mess at the airport in Vancouver and Victoria. Jeanette’s family thought she should change flights and go direct to NY to be with family so we parted in Auckland airport. We had tried to meet a lovely lady that we met on a previous cruise who lives not too far from Christchurch earlier but our delay go see Mt Cook preempted that. So she was kind enough to meet us at the airport in the morning. Thank you Margaret.

By the way, we left Christchurch on the 22nd at 10 something am and were to arrive earlier than when we left on the same day….

I am now home in Victoria. Now I am able (got good wifi here) to finish sending this final blog of Australia and NZ. Until the next trip, I hope you all keep well and have a wonderful Christmas season.

Day 36-Dec 20- to Queenstown to Twizel

Because the weather was going to real crappy where we were going, we delayed leaving Queenstown for several hours. Some went up the gondola and played on the luges. Jeanette and I just walked around the downtown area and the waterfront. It is a lovely downtown area which is all pedestrian streets…… and the sun is shining…… and the views are breathtakingly beautiful.

Chilli told of the story while we were travelling through a part the country about Shrek the sheep. Shrek the sheep would hide up in the hills whenever the dogs and bells indicated that they were going to shear the sheep. He hid successfully for 7 years. What they usually get off an every sheep at sheering time is 3-4 kilos. When they caught up with him, he was massive, you couldn’t see his face. They took 27 kilos off him.

As we are climbing higher there are huge swaths of multi-coloured lupins…. Beautiful. Only other place I have seen them like that was in Nova Scotia.

At 971 meters high we stopped at Lindis Pass…. It is the highest highway pass in the country.

Arrived at Twizel….. not an exciting place let me tell you but tomorrow morning we are heading to Mt Cook which I think is relatively close.

9375 steps

Wasn’t able to post this from a few days back.

Day 35-Dec 19/22-Doubtful Sound

Onto the bus at 7 for a bus ride to a boat then hike and another boat ride. It looks like a gorgeous sunny day….yeah! But then within a very short time, we were back to driving in fog. But then….one of our fellow travellers from Calgary checked the weather there. Egad, -24 but feels like -37 so I guess it isn’t too bad here.

We board a boat at Manapouri. Pointy mountain on the first lake was used in Lord of the Rings. This national park is huge… the size of Wales. One island all threats have been removed and the kiwis have been reintroduced.

We get off the first lake and get on another bus to go 21 kms to

Manapouri hydropower station… 1964-1972 completed and the 2002 2nd tail race tunnel completed…provides 4500 gigawatts of power… enough to power the South Island of New Zealand. Fiordland National Park is 1.2 hectares in size is a National Heritage site.

If you don’t have rain for 3 days here it is considered a drought. 400 types of mosses…. Spagnum mass can hold 25x it’s weight in water from when it’s dry. 25 litres of water in 1 kg of dry moss???

1 in 6 meter increase in elevation on this road. 671 meters high western side of southern alp can change 0-13 degree temperature from one side to other.

1 in 5 metres is steepest declining in southern hemisphere on downhill. 1 of 9 endangered bird species in world is in NZ. They’re hoping to have all pest killed by 2050 so you can help the government by running over over any rats or mice…,.. It rains 200 days year…. 7-10 metres rain per year. There are 2000 earthquakes a year in Fiordland. At Deep Cove we transfer from our bus to another boat.

Doubtful Sound is 40 kilometres long. It is absolutely spectacular!!!

No commercial fishing allowed.

Back on land on the bus at 5 pm and driving back to Queenstown for 7:30. It’s been a long day….. only 3500 steps.

Day 34-Dec 18/22-Queenstown

Weather is not bad but not good enough for the skydivers to go out.

So many other activities cancelled but Brianna, Jess and I went up on the gondola but couldn’t see a thing up top….. it was socked in. Then the three of us went on Ziptrek, the steepest zip line in the world. It descend 30 storeys at speeds of up to 70kmh …. comprised of six lines.

8700 steps…24 flights of stairs

Day 33-Dec 17/22- another long day… to Queenstown

On the road at 7:30 and wouldn’t you guess it, the sun is coming out! Such luck we have had weather-wise.

We wind our way through more of the magnificent Alps. I noticed the name identifying one of a creek’s name….”Hairpin Creek”…. That could apply to every corner every 100-150 feet.

We stopped to stretch our legs and view the Fox Glacier(it is bigger than Franz Josef) that is visible…. A rare thing apparently. It is gorgeous and sunny so we can see it. Stopping for another bit of a hike at Lake Matheson.

Ship Creek …. They found a portion of a ship in 1871 but could never find the other half til year later in…. In 1973. The other half was on the coast of Australia 2000kms away… it had drifted that far.

Haast Pass/ Otago National Park… world heritage….same status as Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef. It is believed to be what the earth was like when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Great 2 lane highways but all bridges are one lane. You don’t see many bicycles in this country but we have seen a good number peddling up these mountain highways.

Stopped for photos at Lake Wanaka after we are all craning trying to take pictures as we are careening down the road. It certainly would not be good if you got car sick!

Wanaka …. Really very nice touristy town on the lake….. great in summer with water activities & great in winter for skiing.

Arrived at Queenstown. Deforested area is the gondola where the Ziplines and paragliding amongst other activities start. I think this is known as the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. It too is on a huge lake in the middle of the mountains.

10,500 steps