Leaving Quepos we pass mile after mile after mile of palm trees. The vast banana plantations are gone, giving way to the heartier African palms grown for their high quality palm oil and now the major export of the area. The monoculture has seen is not seen in a favorable light by our guide; the plantations are notorious for pesticide use and poor working conditions and more importantly leading to an irreplaceable loss of biodiversity. One person, one of the richest men in Costa Rica, owns the large plantation we pass.
We turn inland towards San Isidro and away from the ocean, our destination is high in the Talamanca mountains, about 6,000 feet elevation, this is home to the Resplendent Quetzal perhaps Latin America’s most magnificent bird.
We stop at La Finca de Don Tavo, a family-run dairy farm high in the hills and far from the main road. Don Tavo’s daughter greets us and gives a little family history and history of dairy farm at such a high elevation. The dairy has been quite successful in the past but with the rising price of corn they have had to sell their herd of specially bred high altitude cows, a very emotional decision for the family who spent years developing this breed. The good news is they did save a few and are still able to make a living although the daughter now also holds a second job. The acreage has been divided among all the children and the farm we visited sits on a beautiful piece of property with lush gardens and a mountain stream running near the restaurant. We enjoyed the tour very much and relearning just how much our actions directly affect people in distant lands. We had an enjoyable lunch and had time to wander the property before getting back on the road.
The road, Andres told us about “the road” we were approaching that would lead us into San Gerardo de Dota. It is called “the road of death”. This had us wondering what we were getting into now but apparently the name comes from the number of people that were killed constructing the road; that did not comfort us. Indeed, we turned onto a one and one-half lane dirt road that began a steep descent with a series of hairpin turns that challenged the van but Julio took them with ease. Our first encounter with a truck coming from the opposite direction had us all holding our breath . . . Julio passed with millimeters to spare. We encountered a number of other vehicles on the way, happily they were vans and we were not on the drop-off side of the road, whew! Where there was a break in the trees views were spectacular. We encountered a couple of groups along the road, spotting scopes set up, looking for the elusive Quetzals. We did stop and look but did not find one this afternoon.
There were a number of lodges as we descended to the valley floor, remember the valley is at 6,000 feet elevation. It seemed strange to be up so high and see tropical vegetation, our reference is Paradise Lodge at Mt. Rainier, very different but we adjusted.
We crossed a small bridge over the Savegre River to the lodge, a gorgeous building with flowering plants everywhere and to our delight hummingbird feeders on the patio with flocks of brightly colored hummingbirds. We knew this was going to be perhaps the highlight of the trip, drop-dead gorgeous scenery.
We found our cabin somewhat isolated at the end of the property, only one other cabin nearby. The pathway through the gardens was enchanting and we could hardly wait to hear the morning bird songs. Before dinner we explored the gardens and then stopped into the bar for a glass of wine. It had the feel of a tree house, large windows looking out into the trees and, a cozy fireplace going in one corner and a covered porch for outdoor enjoyment. Dinner was the usual buffet with the addition of a wonderful salad bar and dessert bar oh my temptations are everywhere.