I just got back from a fantastic trip to Costa Rica. Here are some photos from the trip, organized in 5 pages...

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This is the hotel we stayed in the first night. I went with two friends, Nadia and Virginie. We were all 3 kind of stunned to wake up in such a beautiful, strange place. Here Nadia tries to get her bearings.

We headed straight for the Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the places I had most wanted to see in Costa Rica. How do you take a picture of a tropical forest? In a twist on the old aphorism, you can't see the trees for the forest.

See what I mean? The forest itself is so magically beautiful that I just kept snapping the shutter. Now I have about 20 pictures like this. Trees. Mass-O-forest. They don't do justice to the beauty of the place.

One way to take a picture of the forest is to get really close to it. Here is a millipede crawling on a tree.

Here are a couple of butterflies aptly named "Owl eye" butterflies. This design on their wings would seem to imitate the eyes of a much bigger animal, thus frightening off predators.

I also tried getting a picture of the forest by getting farther away from it. Here is a picture of the continental divide from the Caribbean side, with the clouds rolling in.

We hiked the trails in the forest.

It would have been tough going without the trails; with them, it was easy. And spectacular.

This little suspension bridge crossed about 75 feet above a ravine in order to give us a closer look at the canopy of the forest.

These trees are huge. We're standing beside this "medium-sized" tree 75 feet off the ground -- check out how big around it still is.

Nadia and Virginie at the visitor center of the park, discussing their amazing experiences.

There were a couple of these little coatimundis running around the entrance to the reserve, scanvenging for food. They were unafraid of humans because they'd been fed by them. It may seem cute to feed them, but it doesn't help the animals. It leads them to dependance on humans for food, and it can lead to human injuries and to the death of the animals. I know all of my loyal readers would never feed wildlife, right?

The reserve is 26,250 acres and only allows 200 people in at a time. By the time we got there at 8 am, it was already full, so we had to wait. Nadia and I went to see the Hummingbird Gallery and were temporarily caught in well-equipped-tourist hell.

I've got no room to talk, though; I was right in there with 'em. Photographing hummingbirds is not easy. This was my best effort.

While there we spotted this poster announcing the opening act of the month-long Monte Verde Music Festival that very night. They had scheduled the Whiffenpoofs, the senior men's a capella chorus from Yale University. I was amped!

They didn't start until 6, though, so after hiking the trails in the reserve, we headed down the road to see what else we could find. A man sitting on his front porch called out to us as we walked by. "Hey, you want to see a sloth in a tree?" I thought this might be some kind of scam, but he just walked along with us for a few paces and then pointed up in the trees behind his house. "There he is. He sleeps up there during the day. That's just one of the great things about Costa Rica!" he said with a smile, then went back to his porch.

We popped into a hotel to see if we had time to take a "canopy tour," one of the tourist activities there. As luck would have it, they said they had one heading out in about 10 minutes. The whole day was like that, in fact, the whole trip was pretty much like that. Serendipity. The canopy tour is where you cross high above the forest floor, in the canopy, or tree tops, on cables. It's easier than it sounds, there are people there to clip you on to the cables with high-tech climbing harnesses.

At last it was time for the concert. These guys were absolutely out of this world. They were funny, sang tight harmonies, with nice solos and great intonation all around, with voices not operatic but honest, and they sang a great selection. They brought the house down; we called them back for three encores. Here they throw in a little choreography on "Midnight Train to Georgia."

The Monte Verde Institute is the sponsor of the festival. It's a non-profit, volunteer-run corporation whose mission is to support music in the Monte Verde school system by helping buy instruments, training teachers, and giving lessons. They have a beautiful little building, with practice rooms and an open concert hall that seats about 100 and has a stage made of boxes designed to fit together. They charged locals about US$2, travelers US$10. It was a great operation and a great show. We were honored to be able to support them.

Check out the next page which has pictures of Playa Sámara.

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