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Published: March 21st 2016
We left the Quepo market and headed for our next destination, San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca highlands. First we drove south toward Dominical, still in the hot lowlands along the Pacific coast, and soon we hit a traffic jam caused by an accident. This brought us to a dead stop for about half an hour. I though it was very sensible of the Costa Rican drivers (especially those a without air conditioning) that they turned off their engines and walked over into shade or even drove off the road and parked in any shady spot, including private lawns!
Finally we reached Dominical and turned inland, hit another traffic jam (it was the beginning of Easter week, so many people are starting a vacation), and eventually got to our lunch stop, Finca de Don Tavo. This was a dairy farm originally established by a man with many children and grandchildren, but now it is run mainly by one woman, Veracruz, who guided us around and told us about the special challenges of keeping milk cows like Holsteins and Jerseys in the tropics. It is too expensive to irrigate the fields, so she has to cut silage for the dry
season, and it is too hot for these northern breeds during the dry season, so the cows go out to the fields only from milking time until about ten in the morning, then go back into the shade of the barn.
The lunch that was served at the farm was simpler than we've had: hominy corn soup with tortilla chips or picarillos: soft tortillas with filling of green papaya or hearts of palm. Then we had orange pineapple ice cream made from the farm milk.
Leaving the farm, we ascended to almost 11,000 feet in the Talamanca Range. The highest mountain of Costa Rica, Mt. Chiripo, is 12,500'. The vegetation here is stunted due to the wind, as in our northern montane habitats.
At last we arrived at our hotel, Savegre, established by two brothers who came up the river in the San Geraldo valley, claimed the unsettled land and we're just subsistence farmers until scientists studying some orchids happened to come there and rent a room from them. Word spread that it was a good place to see quetzals, and as Costa Rica became more of a tourist attraction, the brothers built cabins, a lodge, started
raising fruit and trout farming, and now it is a beautiful, landscaped hotel with abundant bird life and wonderful buffet restaurant. Many hummingbird feeders, fruit trees, and a variety of vegetation means you can see lots of beautiful bird species right on the grounds. Nearly everyone staying here carries binoculars at all times, and we saw birding groups from America, Germany, and Japan.
On our first morning we went out as a group at 5:30 on a quetzal quest, and we ran into several other groups with the same purpose in mind. Unfortunately it was not a very active morning for the quetzals, so we didn't see them except for one rear view from the bus on our drive back. However, later in the morning on a hike to waterfalls, a pair of quetzals posed for us right on the water's edge. Wow, very lucky!
The lodge is at 7000 feet, and we noticed a little trouble breathing and falling asleep at night. Still, the area was so beautiful, and we were able to take so many walks and see so many new birds that this was my favorite spot on the trip. It don't hurt that the
meals were the best here, too!
As a nice goodbye on our last morning, a little green violet-ear hummingbird flew up to within six inches of me to inspect a red pin on my jacket. No doubt I was a great disappointment to him, but he gave me a shot of joy on what was otherwise a sad morning - time to head home!
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