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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tropical Sunset

Sunday, February 28, 2010

         A blustery wind is blowing through here today in a flurry, with gusts up to probably 30 or 40 mph. It’s exhilarating in its own way but for me, still nursing this persistent sore throat, it means another day indoors. Our Villas here sit so high up on the side of the mountain that a very fine mist is being pushed down from the cloud forest above, not enough for an umbrella (in fact, forget an umbrella in this wind!) but enough to dampen my spirits, literally. Looking on Google Earth, I see that the mountain above us climbs to more than 11,000 feet, all the way to the peak of Irazu Volcano. Layne and I took a drive up to the Irazu crater during our last visit to Costa Rica and it was very cold! Hardly what you expect in Costa Rica. The smaller crater is unusual, containing a lake filled with water that changes color from deep green to rusty red, due to the minerals present. Irazu is one of the quiet volcanoes here, although it’s not dormant since it last erupted in 1963 on the day President John F. Kennedy visited Costa Rica. Volcan Irazu was calm following that eruption until some noticeable activity in 1996, hardly long enough past to provide great comfort regarding this sleeping giant. 
(Photo courtesy of
         Up the slope to the east toward Irazu, the mountaintop is constantly wreathed in clouds. Our neighbor Denis, the science teacher, paid a visit recently to some friends of his who live up there and they told him they rarely see the sun. I don’t know, there may be some attraction to it, but that’s not why I came to Costa Rica.
         Yesterday’s sunset, however, is one good reason to be here. Late in the afternoon, I looked out front and noticed a golden glow, a kind of ginger-flavored haze that colored everything. I grabbed the camera in hopes of catching some semblance of the flaming clouds above. Traveling very light on this exploratory trip, we only brought my rather antiquated digital camera, opting to leave Layne’s professional-level gear for a future visit. As I stood composing my shots, Denis called to me and identified the glowing, almost bubbling clouds as “pre-tornadic,” adding the reassurance that they were unlikely to create a tornado here. This formation of billowing clouds, he explained, was such that in other circumstances they could lead to the whirling vortex of a tornado but were blowing apart even as we watched. Dennis was also taking photos. With a very strong lens and his high-end Canon camera, he has gotten some great nature shots on his various tourist outings. He offered to send some of the day’s shots to me for use in this blog and this afternoon invited me over to choose which ones, not an easy job for sure. But here are his just slightly colorized efforts. (Photos courtesy of Denis Carnochan.)
         On Friday night, we got our first taste of one of the more colorful aspects of “the real Costa Rica.” In reading expat blogs and other reports of life in Costa Rica prior to our coming here for this extended visit, we had learned that noisy parties, loud music, barking dogs and other disturbances were commonplace in a Tico neighborhood. But since moving from the apart-hotel down the hill with all the traffic noises and fumes, life here in Villas Roma has been muy tranquilo, with only the lowing of the neighbor cattle, a few dogs and a distant rooster or two greeting the dawn to mar the peace.
         But apparently, we have some new Tico neighbors in villa #10 next door to us, and as we walked through the grounds after our dinner out, we saw several cars parked along the drive and a crowd beginning to form on the neighbor’s front porch, with Latin music playing inside and laughter filtering out. It actually looked quite inviting and if I hadn’t been nursing the initial stages of this sore throat, we might have wandered in to introduce ourselves as the Gringo neighbors. As it was, we strolled on to our villa and settled in for the night, enjoying the occasional burst of music and laughter.
         I really was under the weather so I headed upstairs to bed with a book. But a quiet night was not in the cards! The laughter grew raucous with a loud shriek now and then and soon the music gained in volume. As the evening wore on and the crowd grew even more exuberant, the musical offerings changed to karaoke, with several excellent voices taking the microphone and a few others serenading rather off-key. Clearly, everyone was having a great time! It was all quite festive and I truly wished I could have participated. Instead, I took a couple of Excedrin P.M. and closed the doors, blocking out as much of the noise as I could. Later that night I awoke to find the party over and the noises back to normal: a steady tropical breeze through the trees and the pre-dawn quiet of a Costa Rican village. Muy bueno, muy bien.

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