2008 IPS Biennial - Costa Rica
Day 08: Saturday, May 10th: The Journey HomeJuan Santamaría International Airport -> Fort Lauderdale International AirportSan Jose, Costa Rica -> Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA
- 5:27PM: Our flight through the Costa Rican skies seemed to be timed perfectly with the sunset. The higher up we went the more of the sun light we would see. We got our first taste of being high off the ground during our trip to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Bus #4's fifth day of the week included some very high bridges and massively tall palms. It was amazing, truly amazing. The tour provided not only spectacular views of the nearby Arenal Volcano, but also included a unique perspective of the nearby rain forest. It is another definite recommendation for a long day's activity while in the area, but if your afraid of heights, bring some special pills or someone to force you through it. Those huge Iriartea deltoidea
were worth the trip alone, but spotting the other species were the icing on the cake. The highpoint of the day for me was the close encounter with that one white-faced capuchin monkey. Being able to photograph him that close, with no glass or bars in the way, was breath taking. When he slowly made his way down the branches to check us out, I got more goose bumps the closer he got.
This day showed us that fate and desire can sometimes steer us in certain directions, or even stop us in our tracks. As soon as we drove past that resort with the fruiting Red Sealing Wax Palms, Cyrtostachys renda
, the first time in the morning; I knew we would stopping on the way back. I just knew it. The palm affliction is contagious and it infects completely, with little or no resistance. Watching attendees Bill Olson and Robert Wilson climb those trees were pure Kodak moments. It not only summed up the will of Bus #4, but the spirit of the Biennial as well. The sheer number of seed obtained was fantastic. It was great that everyone was willing to spread the seed around. Never before have miscellaneous plastic bags been worth so much. When it became official that the palm mascot of Bus #4 be changed to "Cyrtostachys" and we were happy to be hip-deep in seed, that is when we blew a tire. Of all days and of all buses to get a flat tire it had to be ours on this long trip. When we finished rolling along and came to a stop, I was not surprised to find a bar at our temporary service plaza. What were the odds? I am sure our bus driver Don Juan knew it was there, but contrary to what others have said about Bus #4, we didn't. The iconic imagery of a bus load of tourists breaking down in front of a bar was hard to ignore. One added thing I took away from that 'tangent', was that I enjoyed watching how different attendees dealt with the situation. Some were easy going and just saw it as part of the day, while others had a tough time and tried to hide their emotions under other expressions. Some people do not do well with unexpected change. With the long bus rides that day, it was the longest day so far, but not in the way of photo quantity from my point of view. That record was set the following day.
- 5:28PM: We had just about reached cruise altitude when those of us on my side of the aircraft were treated to a nice light show, courtesy of the Sun. The rays of sunlight seemed to be perfectly aligned with the cloud tops, skimming across them as they shot through the sky. When we boarded Bus #4 early on Thursday, I figured with the shorter travel time the day would skim on by. I know now to never make that assumption again. Our visit to the Poás Volcano broke my personal record for highest altitude on foot, which was to me a big deal but not so for others. It is a South Florida thing. When we walked our way to the crater to find it clouded over, it was disappointing but we took it in stride. We knew that the scheduled locations for the Biennial had been pretty much flawless for Bus #4 so far, so I figured we were due a set back. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens had an elaborate website to look over prior to the Biennial. I knew from looking it over that I would have plenty of photographic opportunities, which I did. The waterfalls there are world renown and to actually see them in person was an achievement for someone who does not travel often. I was taken back by the incredible amount of animal and plant life that was on display during the wildlife refuge section of the tour. When I saw the Fer-de-Lance, I knew I was in the presence of reptile royalty. I knew I was walking into a house of snakes, but did not think they would have one of those to view.
When it came time for the Talent Show aboard Bus #4, I changed memory cards in anticipation of what was to come. This was a great way to celebrate our last time all together. I of course, have no talent worthy of entertainment, so I stuck with what I was doing; photographing the spectacle. During the high point of the show, where Robert and Jack were going head to head in the pose-off, that is when I knew Bus #4 had reached that plateau of greatness, or is that decadence? I get those terms confused sometimes when describing our actions aboard the "Cyrtostachys" Bus. The day concluded with the one and only set of presentations I was going to see all week. The idea of wearing the headsets while listening to the translator was a good one, but the actual execution of it needed some tweaking. Most of the time I could hear the translator, but the P.A. system in the ballroom would over power it, making it difficult to understand. I am sure we could and would do it again at future Biennials.
- I zoomed in on that one area in the above photo, above the pylon, to see this view of the clouds in the distance. During the beginning part of the week, I had no plans or gave much thought to covering any distance during Day 07 of the Biennial, also known as the free day. When I found out I was signed up for the day trip to Pozo Azul I was surprised. When we settled on what two activities we were going to do, horseback riding and canopy zip-line, I had to wonder if and how I could photograph during both of them. I was more concerned about how I was going to shoot during the adventures than I was about actually doing them. When the day came, I managed to cover both adventures fairly well. I know now that I need specialized equipment to better photograph on horseback and a different lens to shoot better action photos of people traveling on a zip-line. The Biennial represented a unique and diverse opportunity to gain more experience in photography, as it did two years prior. I learned a great deal and know more about what equipment to bring and what settings to use now in those and other similar situations.
No matter how the Farewell Dinner is planned or what is to be included, it will always be a sad occasion but a necessary one to see everyone all together again for one last time. It is reason to celebrate and celebrate we did. It was unfortunate that the festivities were delayed because of the late return of the bus carrying those of us who went to Pozo Azul. It is important to start the evening as early as possible as some attendees would, and did have, very early flights the next morning. There were some attendees I didn't get to see again because they had to leave the dinner early. The majority who attended the dinner seemed to have enjoyed the band, and I thought they played the various song genres very well. The evening's festivities seemed to lack the finesse that we saw at the farewell dinner in the Dominican Republic two years ago, but each country has its own way of celebrating. I think it would have been more enjoyable if the band was playing outside near the pool area, so it would not have been so loud. Throughout the evening, a steady stream of attendees made their way out to the pool area anyhow. I figured this might have been a possibility, but the outside music and festivities might have disturbed other guests staying at the hotel. With all things considered, it was a great evening and I enjoyed my time there. It was hard to see so many people I know so well leave that evening; knowing it would be a long time before I would see them in person again.
- 5:29PM: "Hey, look at that out there." Jeff Searle was sitting at the window seat directly in front of me and he was pointing out some of the features he saw as I was doing my best to photograph them in the failing light. This cloud figurine seemed to stand up and wave as we went by. My recollection of the week's events led me back to today, where I found myself starring out the window thinking about how fast the Biennial went by. On paper, eight days can seem to be a long time to spend in a different country but in reality, it isn't.