Thailand Travels

Thailand Travels
Elephant Ride in Thailand

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Costa Rican Encounters

     Costa Rica is one of those special places where you can come 'up close and personal' with nature in all its diversity. It didn't take long while walking a path through the rainforest to see the reality of this in an unbelievable experience.
     Looking down at our feet we discovered leaf-cutter ants. Our approach did not divert their determined journey. They pretty much all kept pace with the rest of the group. Their green burden far out measured their minature size. We had obviously violated their territory and so we were careful where we stepped.
     Our senses were heightened with the smell of flowers and abundance of orchids so suited to this climate. Tropical birds were heard but not seen in the canopy overhead. Most amazing were the butterflies. It is recorded that there are more species of them than any other creature about. You couldn't help but be stunned by them. The blue morpho butterfly can reach a size of seven and a half inches. Spread your fingers far apart and you get a good idea of their size. The color was spectacular. The brilliant blue could not be matched by anything else in nature.
     The Sarapiqui river is a draw for whitewater rafters, but we took the slower paced route. This afforded us the opportunity to encounter these creatures around us on their terms. This river is the habitat of crocodiles, iguanas, caymans and even hummingbirds. However, two of its more notable inhabitants are the howler monkeys and the Jesus Christ lizard. The endangered howler monkeys are 'tree huggers', spending their days in the safety of the trees. Because their territory is limited, their numbers are threatened. The male is in charge of keeping the distance between troops by his very loud call that can be heard as far away as four miles. He let us know he was in charge.
     The Jesus Christ lizard (formally called a baslisk) only measures about a foot long. To flee from predators it has been given the ability to 'walk on water', hence its name. This iguana-like companion scooted in front of our boat, tacking a path to the opposite shore. Perhaps it was acting as an early warning system for the others in the area.
     The cayman lazing on the bank of the river paid no mind to our passing. One sleepy eye must have surmised that there was no food worth moving for. On the other hand, parrots and other tropical birds fluttered and kept up a symphony in the canopy overhead. They were well aware of our presence.
     The river trip left little to be experienced for our senses. Unforgettable sights and sounds still remain in memory. I can almost hear those howler monkeys calling me back for another visit to their home.

Friday, July 22, 2011

England - The ABC tour

   My first thoughts when told we would be staying in a stable, next to a graveyard left me more than a little dubious about this trip to 'Jolly Old England'. The reality proved to be far better than I could have hoped for. No animals to share space with, picturesque views of the garden and yes, a quaint historic graveyard. The best part was the short walk through the cemetery to the 'local'. Despite England's less than gourmet reputation, the ploughman's lunches at this pub were outstanding. The cheese, fresh bread and beer needed no apologies.
   Now to explain my husband's designation as the 'ABC' tour. Under the guidance of our relative/tour guide we visited 'Another Bloody Castle'. There was Hever, Sissinghurst, Penshurst and Leeds (referred to as 'the loveliest castle in all the world'. Knole was one more 'castle-like' stop on the tour.
   What seemed common to all were the spectacular gardens, roaming wildlife and birds. Peacocks, guinea hens, swans and ducks took residence everywhere, even when no moat was available. Two other noteworthy places were Chartwell (Winston Churchhills' home) and Batemans (Rudyard Kiplings' abode). Chartwell had an amazing rose garden and Batemans was impressive for the leather-bound walls in the author's study.
   A day trip by train into London proper took us to all the obligatory tourist 'must sees'. Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Victoria and Albert museum, Trafalgar Square and of course, Harrod's were all on the list. Those dead hanging creatures in Harrod's food court did dull one's appetite but not enough to forgo a spot of cream tea and accompaning scones. Of course, speaking of hanging we had to include The Tower. Under the tutelage of our Beefeater, we learned all about the role played by the wing-clipped ravens and their surrounding legend. Supposedly, if these birds leave, England will fall. No worry, these birds are taken good care of by the ravenmaster. Fresh meat and posing for photos ensure that the five on duty will always have good reason to stay.
   A side trip to Cantebury added one more notch in our literary belts. The cathedral was beyond impressive with its multitude of statues and heraldic shields. The pilgrims must have been taken aback by the grandeur. Murder aside, it was well worth the visit.
   Although I don't think we missed much along the way, two stops did not make the list. A. the dog collar museum and B. getting to toss sticks off Christopher Robin's bridge in the Hundred Acre Wood. Sorry, Winnie the Pooh, maybe next time. As for the dog collars, I apologized to our dog for missing it. I could have taken pictures.
   My version of the ABC tour will remain as "Always Beautiful Countryside". I guess its all in the eye of the beholder.