Entering the aviary, there are ducks waiting for us.
There's some macaws. They're very pretty 'n that. But while I'm taking this photo Helen is excitedly beckoning me to another inner aviary inside the main one. What's the big deal?
This fella is a rainbow billed toucan. He looks away from us the whole time but makes a huge racket. After profusely thanking the toucan house guy and leaving a tip in the box, we leave. We just held a toucan!
Next is the butterfly house. There's loads of them, of various sizes, and if you stand still they'd probably sit on you.
Certainly they weren't all moving all the time.
Normally I'd be terrified, but in such a place it just didn't seem right. Instead I let them fly all around me, only flinching once when one hit my hat, and I happily got close enough to take a few photos.
The range of colours and sizes was quite something.
Next up, some cats. There are ocelots and leopards and jaguars. They're cute, because they look just like cats only big, and their life is better since being rescued from their prior predicament, but ... the enclosures are a bit small. The awake ones look bored. One in particular just paces up and down by the window, and while it's great to see a magnificent beast up close there's quite a lot of "this ain't right, is it?" being felt.
There are three frog rooms, of increasing heat and humidity, to accommodate the frogs which live in different climates. They are all kinds of colours.
Mostly green, though.
As luck would have it, they were just being brought out of their barn. They had a cart attached to them, and the handler invited Helen to go have a stroke. To say she was tentative is a slight understatement, though at least she did it - I wouldn't go near the things.
These guys are outside the traditional Costa Rican farmhouse, which we enter and are treated to some snacks: sugar cane water with milk, and a kind of corn cake which tastes like a solid block of rice pudding. There are fruits of many colours, and outside some lazy cows and a rabbit hutch.
Wow! Like, seriously, wow. An actual rainbow poking out of the waterfall. That's quite the finish to this tour and worth the ridiculous stair charade of a minute previous. I wait a bit, looking over at that bridge because I think it's where the shuttle bus goes from and I'm waiting to see if I can see Helen. I don't, so I head back up.
12 steps. Then 73 steps. Then 95 steps up to the gift shop. I am now a heaving sweaty mess with a big smile on my face, and there's Helen and she's saying "it's a bar! Let's get a beer!". She's right, it's a bar and we get a beer. Takes me a couple of minutes to get my breath back, not only due to the ascent of stairs in hot sunny weather but also because I'm trying to talk a million miles a minute about having just seen a rainbow right in front of me. Shut up and sit down and have a beer, she says. Oh, they do Costa Rican craft beer here!
It's not a bad setting to finish the tour. It's a pretty expensive place, when taking travel into account but totally worth it and oh, did I forget to mention YOU CAN HOLD TOUCANS!?
By now it's just past midday, but feels way later given all that we've done and seen in the 3 hours or so. Catherine had quoted us a price to wait until 1200, plus extra money for each hour. Not that we expect her to be charging by the exact hour, but we're quite happy that after some gift shop purchases and a wait for the shuttle bus we're deposited back at the lodge at 1257.
When we get off the bus, there's a queue of probably 50 people waiting to be ticketed. The car park, empty when we arrived, is full of buses - Catherine says 5 turned up just in the last 10 minutes or so, and another 2 arrive as we head out. What's more, the sunshine has been replaced with a horrible overcast sky and low mist. I'm pretty damn smug about this. We saw very very few people in the park - maybe 12 or so in total? Bet we wouldn't have had toucan time with all them crowds.
Catherine asks if we've had lunch, and we haven't, so she offers to take us to a restaurant in Frijanes on the way back which does very typical Tico food. We're happy to accept, since we are pretty hungry, and when we get there we also offer to pay for hers. What follows is a plate of rice, beans, vegetables, fried plantain, chicken, some little croquette thing, potatoes, and a large fresh strawberry milkshake kind of thing which was amazing. All this stuff came straight from the farms very recently and is delicious, especially when wrapped in a tortilla. It's by far the biggest lunch we've had, and well worth the jeopardy of Helen being unable for some minutes to figure out how to get out of the loo - which was not within shouting distance.
The drive back is calm and without much noteworthy, with us mostly sitting in the back looking at our photos of that time we each held a toucan. There is one bit where a huge truck approaching us veered onto our side of the road because the driver was texting, but whatever.
Back at the hotel by 2.30pm we pay Catherine and are gushing with thanks and praise for the day out. It was amazing. She's a driver attached to the hotel but also Uber when no-one wants anything, and we can't say enough nice things about how perfect she was. Helen had been quite nervous beforehand that whoever drove us would be some reckless loon in a clapped out banger but nope.
In the room, our laundry is back already, warm from the dryer and folded up neatly. Perfect. I have a warm leftover beer and we spend a bit of time looking at photos of that time we each held a toucan, plus Helen spams facebook with dual selfies and instagram with loads of other stuff too. We don't really want a siesta, so we do some arithmetic about money requirements for our upcoming days. Seems we might need more money than it's possible to draw out in a single day, so we go to the cash point and both fail to get any out. Oops. Never mind, I'm sure we'll figure something out. Let's go to the pub.
We'd not seen many bars that looked like bars, but every day we'd walked past one close to the hotel which was a restaurant, cocktail bar, and had a sign mentioning artisanal beer. On the previous day we'd been put off by the fact there was a dapper waiter standing in the doorway, as if to attract people in, in a town where no other venue did this. Why would you need to? Suspicious. But anyway, today we tried it.
Oh, it's a place that has 12 craft beers and loads of cocktails and the dapper waiter is fantastic. In his well pressed shirt, trousers and tux he introduces himself and gives us 3 pieces of information, presented in vocal list form:
- Here is our drinks list. Many of them are craft beers, made in Alajuela, and we are the only venue which sells most of them.
- Here is our food. We particularly recommend the steak.
- We accept all credit cards as well as US Dollars, Costa Rican Colones, and Euros.
What? Euros? Who would go out with Euros on them? Anyway. Let's have a mojito and some beer shall we?