Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America








We began the leisurely trip back down the mountain around 10:30 AM. Gerardo stopped at various points along the way so I could take some photos. The views are spectacular along the way. The guy painting the building seemed a little surprised that someone wanted to take his picture but he gladly smiled for the photo. I took a picture of the bridge because there a lot of similar bridges in Costa Rica. If you are driving you need to pay attention. Gerardo slowed down to a stop before almost every bridge and not for the reason you might think. I thought it was a prudent idea to avoid a head-on collision on a one-lane bridge but that wasn't the reason. The reason he slowed down before crossing bridges was to make SURE he was the only car on the bridge. The reason being that bridges that have more than on car one them sometimes collapse.


Poas visitors center

Great view!

Local artist

Caution: One-lane bridge

More great views

More great views
We stopped for lunch at a roadside eatery that was quite good. I had the pollo y arroz (chicken and rice) and it was excellent. I thought it was interesting that the store across the street sold liquor and electrical products. That may explain some of the wiring I've seen in Costa Rica but I digress...


Another great view

The rum and dishwasher store

View from the restaurant

My driver Gerardo

Pollo y arroz

El restaurante
After lunch we cruised by a small local church. It's 125 years old and still in use today. We arrived at Lapaz watergardens and I paid the $26 (gringo price) to take the tour. If you don't want to pay the $26 you can see 1 of the 5 waterfalls for free. I figured that since I had come this far I might as well take the tour plus you get to wear the nifty wristband shown below while you are there. You can do a buffet lunch also if you want but I'm not sure how much that costs. The tour is self guided and features several different areas. First, you start off in the world's largest butterfly observatory. It's amazingly difficult to take pictures of butterflys so most of my pictures are of the flower gardens instead of the butterflys. I assure you they were there though. Honest, I saw them...



Local church

Local church

Future butterflys

An actual butterfly

Flower gardens

Indoor waterfall

Giant catepillars

More flowers

Butterfly

More flowers

Mmmmm plantains

Butterfly
Once you have seen enough butterflies it's time to see snakes. I HATE snakes so I was totally creeped out in the reptile room. They had some huge snakes and all of them are native to Costa Rica. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that I would be wandering around in the jungle a few minutes with some of their relatives.


Flowers

Snake

Snake

Snake

Snake

Welcome to the jungle
From here it's time to head out into the jungle. If you are not in good shape turn around now, head to the buffet, and call it a day because the next couple of miles will test your endurance. The trails through the jungle stretch for several miles and wind up and down hills and valleys. Add to that the fact you are still at over a mile above see level and it's not hard to understand that this is quite a workout. I'm in decent shaped and I was wiped out by the end of the trail.



Jungle ahead

Jungle ahead

Costa Rican ox cart

It rains 14.5 ft/yr here!

The jungle is thick here

First river sighting

Follow the yellow brick road

Jungle

Jungle

Thanks for the warning!

At last, a waterfall!!

El Templo

One of many bridges

The river

El Templo

El Templo

Top of Magia Blanca

River

Magia Blanca

Magia Blanca

It's a long way down!
This part of the tour seperates the men from the boys. You have the choice here of heading for the exit or choosing what's begind door number 2. I chose door number 2 which is to say I headed down the stairs in the photo below. These lead to 3 more cascadas (waterfalls) but I have to warn you this is no easy hike. Not only do you have to go down about a million steps, you have to walk back UP them to get out. I had to stop and rest 2 or 3 times on the way back up but it was worth the effort.


I don't need no stinkin' stair climber!

Magia Blanca

Magia Blanca

Magia Blanca

More steps

Magia Blanca

The trail goes through the waterfall

Magia Blanca

Magia Blanca

Water everywhere!

You will get wet

River

Muy tranquilo

Not so tranquilo

Going for a spill
What comes next is a pair of waterfalls, Encantada and Escondida which loosely translated means "pleased to meet you" and "hidden one". This very well may be one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I lingered here for quite a while and just sort of soaked in how fortunate I was to be able to be in such a beautiful place. I've failed to mention to this point that I was pretty much alone in the park. It was soooooo peaceful and soothing that I really didn't want to leave. At least I have pictures so I can always remember this day.


Escondida in the background

Encantada

Dos cascadas

Top of La Paz waterfall

Encantada

Encantada
At this point you have gone as far as you can go on the trail. You now have to turn around and retreat back up from whence you came. You can't see La Paz from here but you can see the lagoon at the bottom. The first thing I noticed was all the debris under the bridge. Gerardo explained to me that a truck carrying chickens had tried to cross the bridge recently and it collapsed from the weight. They've rebuilt the bridge but didn't bother to remove the debris from the old one. I guess that's a pretty good reason to make sure your the only car on the bridge.


The bridge

Encantada

Souveneirs
When you finally reach the visitors center there is a shuttle bus that takes you back to the entrance. Fortunately for me my driver was waiting for me when I arrived and we drove to the bottom to see La Paz. La Paz is far and away the most photographed site in Costa Rica. The waterfall is 120 feet tall and you can really tell how big it is from the photos with me in them. Had I not had a driver with me I would have never have known that you could walk over and go under the waterfall. The "path" to get there is not for the faint of heart though. It's not really a path, more like a wet, rocky, moss covered ledge about 2 feet wide that hangs over a 40 foot drop to the lagoon below. Did I mention I have a fear of heights yet? I made it over by clinging to plants growing on the side of the hill and doing a healthy amount of praying on the way. (At least I wore orange to make it easy to find the corpse.) Anyway, I made it over and I'm glad I did. It was another adventure in Costa Rica I'll never forget.


Me and La Paz

That's a big waterfall!

La Paz

The collapsing bridge

La Paz

La Paz


Fourth Of July, Costa Rican Style


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