Costa Rica – Around San Jose

Leaving Arenal we head towards the capital city of San Jose. Or try to. I don’t have any wireless as it’s been easy to find wifi when parked so far. I’m using OSMAnd which allows me to download and store maps for offline use while driving. It has worked well so far but not today. We get about 20 minutes south of La Fortuna when the road is blocked at a bridge which is under serious construction. The guy at the bridge tells us the only way is back to La Fortuna then east to San Jose. Throw in some more construction and terrible traffic going into San Jose and a three hour trip turned into six and a half hours. We check into the hotel late in the afternoon and find a local stir fry restaurant for dinner, then back to the hotel and spend the evening watching Harry Potter in Spanish.

Next morning we are off to the Toucan Rescue Ranch not far outside San Jose. We arrive a little early and grab a delicious lunch at Sibu Chocolate. They have delicious, if pricey, chocolate. I was afraid to ask how much one of these giant bars cost. Lisa stocked up on some smaller packages for people back home.

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We get checked in at the Toucan Rescue Ranch and take the afternoon tour. Despite the name their primary purpose is sloth rescue, although they do have a ton of toucans and other animals. They raise abandoned babies with the eventual goal of releasing them into the wild.

The sloths in the chairs are “teenagers”, not babies but have a way to go to full adulthood. There are six or seven there and they just spend their day in a big sloth heap, eating occasionally. There are some older sloths that can’t be released so this is their permanent home.

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We are staying overnight here at the ranch, so after the tour we are free to wander around and look at the animals for the rest of the day. Our little cabin is next to the owls, and we hear them hooting softly all night. On the other side are the large toucan enclosures, the call of the toucans sounds almost like frogs chirping.

The big event is in the morning, when we join the real baby sloths for their breakfast. The tiny ones are fed by eye dropper every few hours, while the bigger ones are able to eat soft flower petals. It’s very entertaining.

 

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We then spend three nights at an Airbnb southeast of San Jose. This is a little different, just a room in the family’s house. It’s a very cool house, the husband is an architect and designed and built the house, and has another one in progress next door. They make us feel welcome, the first night they have a couple of high school and college age nieces visiting and we join them for a big family dinner.

Tired of not being able to actually see into a volcano we drive to Volcan Irazu, the highest volcano in Costa Rica at 11,260′. It’s not too difficult to visit as the parking lot is only about 1km from the crater rim. It’s a little disappointing as all of the pictures show a stunning bright green lake in the crater, but apparently last year there was a fracture in the lake bottom and all of the water drained back into the volcano. It’s a great view though, it was cloudy down below but we have driven up above the clouds.

There are supposed to be good hiking trails in another section of the park, at the end of a rough 4×4 trail. We take it as far as I can go but I am stopped by a 40 degree hill made of loose softball sized rocks. Even in 4-Low with the center differential locked I can’t get up more than a couple of feet before sliding back down.

We turn around and on the way out Lisa yells “WHAT IS THAT??? STOP!!”

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It’s the Sanatorio Duran, originally a TB sanitorium then used as an insane asylum, orphanage, and a prison. Supposed to be the most haunted spot in Costa Rica. It’s been closed since the volcano erupted in the 1960’s but today for just about $1 each anybody can go inside and play. It turns out that one of Lisa’s lifelong ambitions is to play in an abandoned insane asylum so this is her day.

It is pretty creepy inside, it’s mostly empty but you can see fixtures in the old lab, operating rooms, examining rooms.

The handprints are in the children’s wing, where young TB patients lived. All that is left of the pharmacy is the sign.

Next day we drive to Orosi, a small town in a scenic valley. It’s a little wet so we skip hiking in the National Park nearby. It takes a couple of hours to drive a big loop around the valley, stopping in the town and visiting the church dating back to colonial days (1743) and the ruins of another church from the 1600s which was destroyed in one of the many earthquakes since.

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