Day 3 – Guayabo Lodge is set high on the edge of Turrialba volcano, shrouded in clouds during our two day stay. Viewed from our balcony, the early morning sun spreads pink and orange shafts of light through the clouds, illuminating the manicured gardens of the lodge; little blinking lights of houses in the valley below, and cows grazing on the rolling hills, all framed with the misty mountains. Over a sumptuous breakfast that includes three varieties of papaya, I remark to John Campbell that this setting reminds me of Scotland and he agrees.
Today’s adventure starts with a biking tour of CATIE, a world renowned agricultural research center that includes the Tropical Botanical Garden. We aim our binoculars on yellow tailed flycatchers, kiskadees, and a golden-hooded tanager bird of brilliant blue. We sample some of the local fruits in the garden and admire the array of tropical plants including many varieties of palms. On bikes, we pass through fields of coffee and cacao, stopping to taste and learn about the varieties being grown and studied on the farms here. The CATIE Botanical Garden serves as a laboratory for students and scientists as well as an educational site to promote conservation, sustainable use and protection of Costa Rica’s natural resources. Leaving the paved roads, our bikes travel a rocky, dusty dirt road through the sugar cane fields where we pause to bite into a stalk of cane that our guide cuts for us.
After a delicious lunch of spicy chicken, rice, refried beans, and salad at a local restaurant, our guide next takes us to Guayabo National Park, Costa Rica’s most important archeological site. The one hour drive follows a route where earthquakes have collapsed sections of the road. The uneven pavement has been patched and we see steep drop-offs where goats and cows graze as the van dodges pedestrians, dogs, oncoming trucks, and tourist busses. Locals are worried because of the recent increase in volcanic activity. There are 11 to 12 volcanoes in the immediate area and 119 altogether in Costa Rica. At Guayabo National Monument we are led uphill through another enchanting rainforest where the park guide identifies a sloth, toucans, leaf-cutter ants, flowers, and butterflies. We are shown open grave sites, stone aqueducts, cobbled roads, mounds, walls, and petroglyphs dating back over 3000 years.