Headed Home

As many of our blog and facebook followers know, we have decided to return to the States for the summer to work and visit family and friends in order to extend our travel time in South America and experience Patagonia during the summer months (November through February).  But before we left Costa Rica we had one more major goal to accomplish, spot the extremely elusive resplendent quetzal.  We had been diligently scanning dense cloud forest foliage since Mexico without a single sighting.  Saying goodbye to the beach knowing we were headed back to a grey Montana spring was difficult, but we were eager to escape the unrelenting heat and humidity.  We also wanted to check out a purported free campsite on Lake Arenal with great views of the volcano.

Lake and Volcano Arenal

Lake and Volcano Arenal

The free campsite was incredible, but unfortunately the wind was whipping and putting the top up was not an option.  As we bumped along the dirt road around the lake we spotted what looked like a shortcut through the mountains to Santa Elana on the GPS.  Eventually we found inching down a narrow rutted two-tracked ‘road’ that disappeared into a river.  Clearly, Garmin had misled us and we resigned ourselves to a further two hours of driving time around the lake.  IMG_2516Rolling lush hills dotted with dairy cows coupled with the two Swiss chalet restaurants along the highway made us feel as if we really were in little Switzerland, as Costa Rica is sometimes called.  It had been a long day of travel and we were overjoyed when we saw a sign for the Volcano Brewing Company and stopped for a few of their delicious brews.

Beer...don't mind if I do!

Beer…don’t mind if I do!

We were exhausted and it was dark and the Brewery graciously allowed us to camp in the parking lot for free, even offering up the use of their incredible pool and hot tub.  IMG_2510The next few days were spent enjoying the misty beauty of the cloud forests of Monteverde.  Tromping through Curi-Cancha Reserve we were confident.  Every single person we had talked to had seen a quetzal.  Our quetzal spotting skills are deficient because after two hours we had not seen even a single tail feather.

Monteverde

Monteverde

IMG_2529

As we were exiting, Fabio the park caretaker, was aghast that we had not seen the famous birds.  Armed with his detailed instructions to the precise location we marched back into the park.  After 20 minutes of unsuccessful tree scanning we were about to leave when Fabio ran up the trail, pulled us behind a roped off area onto a faint trail and within 30 seconds pointed up into the tree.  Finally we saw the bright green and red feathers of the quetzal and not only were we lucky enough to see two females but also the even more brightly colored male.

Female quetzal

Female quetzal

Male quetzal

Male quetzal

 

High adrenaline we traipsed back down the trail unaware of the huge black and red coral snake sunning itself ahead of us.  Again my piercing scream alerted the rest of the tourists in the reserve that a deadly predator was on the move, and I’m sure I saved at least a few lives.  IMG_2565

Leaving Santa Elana we went against the flow of Semana Santa traffic and holed up in San Jose for a few days to prepare Suzie for five months of parking.  We successfully parked her bid her a tearful goodbye and tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the culture shock we knew was awaiting us.

Ken prepping for culture shock.

Ken prepping for culture shock.

Bomba de Vegetal

A fireball explodes sky-high, 20 even 30 feet.  Huddled around the fire, hoods up against the downpour, the crowd raises their beers skyward, cheers erupting from their throats.  Welcome to a uniquely Alaskan party, the veggie bomb party.  Yes mother, it does involve a degree of danger, and yes there is generally moderate amounts of alcohol involved.  But before you stress out too much,  there have been no documented injuries or deaths during the history of veggie bomb parties.

What exactly is a veggie bomb one may wonder.  Legitimate question.  The veggie bomb was conceptualized a few years ago by Ryan Fisher and Brendan Ryan of Exit Glacier Guides as a way to dispose of their excess veggie oil with a bit of flair.  Amongst other thrilling activities that Exit Glacier Guides offers, such as ice climbing and hiking on a glacier, they also offer a veggie oil powered shuttle bus that runs from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park.  After veggie oil gathered from restaurants and purifying and filtering it, there is generally a few gallons left that are unfit to run through the shuttle.  These few gallons are designated for veggie bombs.  On a veggie bomb party night, a large bonfire is stoked, as hot as possible.  When the bonfire has reached maximum temperature, a metal pail full of veggie oil is lowered into the center.  Once the veggie oil has started boiling (our estimation that it has reached 800 F), the designated igniter quickly dumps a pail of water, attached to long pouring stick for safety reasons, into the boiling veggie oil and creates a fireball.

Fire in the hole!

We were lucky enough to have a bon voyage/veggie bomb party this past Saturday at our house.  Things went as normal veggie bomb parties do despite the special Seward, Alaska addition of pouring rain.  People came, beer was consumed, veggie oil was exploded.  Until that moment that usually occurs at every party where guys are congregated and alcohol and fire are involved, someone (probably Ken) suggested making the veggie bombs that much bigger and better, why not throw canned vegetables in the mix.  And that was when the mother of all veggie bombs was born.

The mother of all veggie bombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, no one was harmed in the exploding of this veggie bomb.  All in all, a highly successful bon voyage/veggie bomb party.  We are definitely going to miss all of our friends in Seward.  Thank you for sending us off in style.