Costa Rica’s Christmas Light Festival.

BCR FloatThis was the BCR float (Bank of Costa Rica)

Every year on the second Saturday of the month of December, Costa Rica celebrates “El Festival de la Luz”. Literally translated it would mean “The Festival of the Light”. The festival is relatively new, it was organized for the first time in 1996 by the Municipality of San José. Since moving to Costa Rica my family has this tradition of going every year, I took a point and shoot camera and snapped a few pictures so I could share with you all. Bombetas

Usually the festival kicks off with a fireworks show, this year we got  a great view!
After the fireworks, the parade starts.  The floats start off at La Sabana (Translated: The Savanna), which is a well known urban park in Costa Rica. In the 1930’s the government decided to locate the country’s first international airport thereLa Sabana International Airport continued to work for  44 years, until the inauguration of the current Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela.
ICTUnder The Sea ManThis float was by the ICT (Costa Rican Institute of Tourism) With sea Men creatures and all! 
We usually stay by La Sabana park, where the crowds aren’t that crazy. Farther down the street the bands, and cheerleaders, mesh together with the floats. Forming the parade’s true starting point at El Gimnasio Nacional (The National Gym). El Festival de la Luz is very popular, seeing as it is the only time of the year when there is a parade, and I feel like it marks the beginning of the christmas season. You seriously want to have Christmas shopping done before el Festival de la Luz! Shopping centers get really congested after it, and sadly I made this mistake this year.
Kids ClimbingThese kids climbed the fence to get a better view. 

CrowdsMany families attend the festival with young children, who are drawn by the bright lights…
Santa One little guy that I spotted that seemed particularly young, and enjoying himself immensely is this one right here:
Super Baby  His dad would raise this him over his head, so he could get a good view of the floats. This little guy kept making me laugh as he wiggled around trying to dance to the music that was playing. I mean, did you see the Santa outfit, too? So cute!
Claro que si. Claro’s (a phone company)  float

We usually only stick around long enough to view all the floats, and then head off to a little restaurant near by to eat something. The parade isn’t that long, it starts at el Gimnasio Nacional and ends at la Plaza de la Democracia. (Plaza of Democracy). It’s a fun event to attend and really gets you in the holiday spirit!

BCR 2Little Dreams

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The California Blog: Lose Yourself In Sequoia

DSC_0354 copyAfter finishing our tour of Crystal Cave (Read about that blog here!), and eating lunch (should I mention that I stumbled upon a bee hive, and got stung three times? Ah, that will be a good story to tell one day. haha. My fault for wandering off trail.)  We set out to enjoy the Sequoias. We decided to take Congress Trail, which is located near the General Sherman Tree Which we had seen the previous day (Want to read about that, too? Click here). The trail was an easy walk, we took our time and spent the rest of the day amongst these trees.
I really enjoyed how the shadows and burns of the sequoias played a large part in the beauty of the trees, as if the dark shadows and burns just made you appreciate the depth of color of the bright red bark.

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On this trail we truly got to see what the forest fires do to these trees. Oddly enough though, the fires are necessary for their survival. By burning the accumulating down branches, litter, and duff, the fires allow the seeds to reach mineral soil. And in heating the soil, the fire changes the texture of the soil in a way which allows the seeds to be covered by a few millimeters of it.

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Timing of the burn is important, though! One experimental burn took place in August, 1969. Allowing two months of seed fall before winter. On plot #3, which was burnt the hottest, more than 40,000 sequoia seedlings per acre were found, while on plots 1 and 2 which were lighter burned, about only 13,000 per acre germinated. The three burnt plots averaged in nearly 22,000 sequoia seedlings per acre.

Not a single sequoia seedling was found on the unburned control plot.

I had expected the sequoias to have a smooth texture, like most trees do. Perhaps an even harder bark to resist catching fire. To my astonishment, they have a surprisingly fibrous, dry, hair-like bark. Something akin to a coconut’s fibrous  layer.
DSC_0296 copy    And somehow this bark prevents the trees from burning down. The scars they do receive from the fires are impressive. Some trees are hollow, but still live and grow.DSC_0324 copy         You could walk right through this tree, which I did, and got this shot:
DSC_0326 copy                                           The inside had been hollowed out, perfect for making a tunnel.  Sequoia With Scar

And from the other side the scar slid up the tree. As if this tree’s tunnel and scars weren’t enough, it was also growing upon some stones!
DSC_0320 copyWhat an interesting tree. DSC_0331 copyThis next one had a peep hole. See that log in the bottom right corner? That’s a regular tree. These trees were all massive.

DSC_0277 copyAlong the way, we spotted this man taking a nap a little ways off the path. He looked so comfortable, and peaceful. I can only imagine what delightful rest the forest would offer. I do find it hard to believe that he looks so tranquil when he’s using a stone as a pillow. I thought I was a deep sleeper!

And with that we wrapped up Congress Trail.
This is a new one
My friend who is very fond of rivers spotted part of this one from the road. It was really breath taking.
DSC_0366 copyThe water was beautifully clear. I decided to dunk my feet in, and watched small fish congregate around my toes.

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The small town of Exeter lays outside of Sequoia. It’s a really cute quaint town. I absolutely enjoyed walking through it, we decided to stop by Sunday before leaving. If you want to enjoy the shops, you’d be better off going on saturday. Everything closes on sunday. I shaped a few photos I wanted to share.
DSC_0379 copy_This is it DSC_0373 copy_Fotor DSC_0380 copy_Fotor DSC_0381 copyI loved all the murals around this little town.

That concludes our Sequoia trip!

Tell me in the comments below what’s your favorite town to have visited. Have you ever seen the sequoias with their great scars?

Dancing in the Rain at Tapantí National Park.

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“Life´s not about running away from the rainstorm, but learning to dance in the rain” is what I suddenly thought when we were caught in a heavy rainstorm in the Tapanti National Park. Our outing had started with a beautiful sunny day, but this being the rainy season, I knew our day would involve rain at some point.

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The Tapanti National Park sits alongside a series of parks that form the largest continental protected wilderness area, extending from southern Costa Rica into Panama. I love going there, the vibe of the forest is totally different from the forests in the Central Valley. The road to the entrance of the park is about 2 miles south of Orosi on 224, look for a sign. Once on the dirt road, (which is pretty good shape) if you come to a town, in less than a mile, named Rio Macho, your on the right road.

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If you have never visited Costa Rica, you may be wondering why I´m giving these odd directions. Not many things are marked here, roads, streets, towns, etc., so the only way to give directions is to say “So much from this place” or “When you see this turn left”. A tip on Costa Rican etiquette, when you stop to ask for directions; first say “Buenas” (good day), then proceed to ask for directions. When the person is done giving you directions, smile and say “Gracias”. I’d say it’s worth your while being polite on this point, you don’t want to be wrongly sent to kingdom come because of your lack of manners.

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As we entered the park, we were greeted with Morpho butterflies, but were unsuccessful in photographing them. They are more elusive than other butterflies. Oncidium orchids over hung the road. People here call them “rain of gold” because of their abundant golden flowers.

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Something I find fascinating and were also hanging over the road, are the nests made by Oropendula birds. Oropendulas belong to the blackbird family and nest in colonies. They´re about the size of a crow, so their nests are somewhat big and hang from trees.

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The park has several paths for hiking, we decided to go down the “Sendero La Catarata” path. The day was so sunny I left our raincoats in the car thinking it wouldn’t rain for awhile. The path has views of a very large water fall, I´d say it´s at least 100 meters long.

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As we wound down to the river, we crossed over several creeks.

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The river was a beautiful blue color with clear water.

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We climbed through the rocks up the river and as we were taking pictures I could hear thunder in the distance.

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But since the weather has been funny, I thought maybe it won’t rain too hard. When it did start to rain, we slowly began to make our way through the rocks to the head of the trail. I am somewhat weary of rivers here, especially if I’m in a place where I can’t easily get to the shore. During certain times of year the rains are torrential here. They usually start up the mountains, so even though it´s not raining where you are at, the river can suddenly rise. I’ve been witness to this, so look for signs as to how far the river has risen with the rains from the day before.

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As we walked along the path to our car, the heavy forest shielded us from the rain. But suddenly we could hear the heavy downpour approaching and began to run to avoid my daughters photographic equipment getting wet. At some point I was left behind and was met with the torrential rain. I don´t think a raincoat would of even shielded me. Why I began to run, I don´t know, maybe because we are taught to run out of the rain. But at some point I thought “What is the point? What am I running from?”. I stopped, looked up into the trees and enjoyed the rain falling on my face. This is when I thought, “Life is not running away from the rainstorm, but learning to dance in the rain”. This is something I have tried to apply in my life. Instead of fighting, finding something positive out of the moment.

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I continued to trudge back up the path in my water logged jeans. As I neared the end of the path, I could see my second son coming toward me with an umbrella he had gotten out of the car. We both began to laugh at the absurdity of it
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River Rafting Reminiscences and Adventure Racing World Series

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   In the past, I used to river raft until I injured my knee at the beginning of a rafting expedition and wound up almost  drowning in the Pacuare River. I remember the guide saying at a spot in the river where you go through a canyon, “No one wants to fall out in this canyon because we won´t pull you out until the end.” Every time a wave hit the bottom of the raft I could feel a shot of pain go up my leg and I thought,” I´m going to fall out.” And I did fall out, got caught in a whirlpool between the canyon wall and the raft. While I was sucked in the whirlpool, I somehow blindly grabbed the raft´s rope, hung on till a calmer portion of the river and someone pulled me out. All while my knee or foot hit every rock in the river sending severe pains to my knee. Let me note here, I´m not a wimpy sort of person. I had four kids naturally, so my tolerance to pain is high. I finally got home to my husband and children, unable to walk, leaning heavily on my companions. As soon as I was deposited on the sofa and everyone had left, my husband said, “Tricia, what am I going to do if something happens to you?” I had a 6 year old son and 6 month old baby at the time. He was concerned for our children, so for his peace of mind I quit my rafting days. Plus I was soon very occupied with the arrival of our 3rd child.DSC_0417DSC_2581I have meandered from the purpose of writing this blog. For all our adventure seekers the Adventure Racing World Series is being hosted in Costa Rica from Nov 29-Dec 12 2013. If you would like more information here is a link to their website.102_0960DSC_2556We’ve included some pictures of rivers to enjoy.
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Risky Bridges and Graceful Gardens

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This is the second part of “An Earthquake Beaten Church”. After visiting the Ujarras Church, we continued our journey around the northern side of the lake made by the dam of Cachi. If you have ever river rafted on the Reventazon River,this is the same river, but the dam blocks the river further upstream.This is a good river to start with if you are new to river rafting it´s a II-III class . We went over the dam and then followed the southern side of the lake until it became a river again.Google map

At one point we had to cross the Reventazon River again at a place called Palomo. I thought, “No one has been killed here because God is great.”  The road we were on was a good two lane road but, when we got to Palomo, we were faced with this small one lane bridge. There was a line to cross the bridge and at first I couldn’t figure out what the hold up was till we reached the other side. That´s when I realized that the people on foot had to use the bridge also.
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My daughter wanted to take some pictures so we pulled over. I noticed a bus parked on the side of the road and wondered what it was doing there. When, 5 minutes later a bus arrived on the other side of the bridge, its passengers got off, crossed the bridge while cars waited for them to cross, and boarded the bus that had been waiting. The bridge was too small for a bus.
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Meanwhile, my daughter had decided the view was better on the other side of the bridge and had recrossed the bridge to take pictures. I began to feel apprehensive, especially when I saw a poor woman that was trying to cross the bridge have to stand to one side on the bridge to let a car that hadn’t waited for her to cross. Like I said in a previous blog, Costa Ricans are a warm and friendly people, but, when they get behind the drivers wheel it’s like the devil got into them. Thankfully nothing happened and we were soon on our way.
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On our way to Orosi we stopped at a restaurant that’s in the middle of a coffee plantation for an afternoon coffee. I felt the place over priced, but the gardens they had were very pretty.
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If you can visit the Cachi- Ujarras area, I recommend it, the drive is very scenic. If you wish to picnic, there are several places marked along the route or if not, there are several restaurants to chose from. Just be patient with the crossing of the bridge at Palomo and respect any pedestrians crossing the bridge.DSC_2137

Thanks daughter for writing last weeks blog when I was sick and thanks for taking care of me, Mom. CSC_2397

Rain Descents On Costa Rican Forests.

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This year we have had an abnormally dry spring. While May usually  marks the transition from the dry season to the rainy season, this year we had hardly any rain. On one hand this is pleasant because you have the whole day to enjoy the wonders of Costa Rican country, but on the other everything starts dying down from lack of rain. Not such a pretty sight.  Alas though, the rain has come. Some people don’t like the rain, but I enjoy it immensely. And if there is one thing Costa Rica knows how to do, it’s rain.
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Now that June has come along, we can expect plenty more rain. June is considered one of the wetter months, particularly for the Pacific coast. Luckily, the majority of the rain falls in the afternoon or evening showers, leaving you the whole morning to early afternoon to enjoy.

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There is never a bad time to visit Costa Rica, but the low rainy season is one of the most beautiful.  Have you visited Costa Rica? What was your favorite time of year? Comment below and let us know!

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(Tricia is sick this week, so sorry for the slightly different style. Hope you enjoyed still.)100_1186

An Earthquake Beaten Church

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Old buildings have always fascinated me, especially ones that are more than 150 years old. I guess growing up in a city that lacked old buildings due to the fact that it burnt down in the 1800´s, has contributed to this.
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Costa Rica is lacking old buildings for different reasons, it has suffered numerous earthquakes. But the Valley of Ujarras houses the oldest church in Costa Rica, it was built between 1686 and 1693. The town was abandoned in the 1800´s some say due to disease, others political reasons. What is left are ruins, but it´s interesting to see how the church was built.
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The grounds are well kept and have picnic tables if you wish to take your lunch.
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The drive there is very scenic. You go through the town of Paraiso (Paradise) and slowly descend a winding road into the valley. There are two lookouts that you can stop at to look over the valley.
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DSC_2042 DSC_2026Ujarras in on the northwest end of the Cachi Lake. Our trip took us around the whole lake, but  due to the amount of pictures, we decided to break it into two parts.
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