To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Costa Rica, Then The Amazon 12-15&16-2010

My computer has been in the shop for the last week being exorcised of a whole slew of viruses, so I've had lots of time to think, but no chance to get my blog started. At last, here we go!

December 15 - Aloft! Finally, after months of planning, map examining, and googling such things as dugout canoes, the Amazon River and pink river dolphins, then spending hours weighing, packing and repacking my carry-on luggage, getting yellow fever shots and visiting travel sites.....I was at last on my way.

The first part of the trip felt familiar, the journey to El Remanso Wildlife Lodge in Costa Rica is, by now, a part of my beaten track since I've been there many times. But it never loses its allure, and I was so glad to be headed to the warm perfume of the tropics from 20°F., blustery, wintery, Oregon.

The first image above, taken from my plane window, is Mt. Hood (Oregon) from the southwest, shrouded with clouds but with its telltale lenticular (lens-shaped) cloud floating above like a halo.

The journey started at 1am in the Medford, Oregon airport, when Dan'l delivered me to the near-empty airport for the first leg of my trip: Medford-Portland-Dallas/Ft.Worth-San José, Costa Rica. The plane wouldn't leave Medford until 5am, but that meant I had to be there by 3am (for international flights you're supposed to appear 2 hours before the flight) and I didn't want Dan missing sleep because he had to work the next day. So I slept as best I could through the every-four-minutes-I-timed-them announcements to tell me to Watch My Bags, Ask My Airline What Should Be In Carry-on Luggage, Pack My Own Luggage, and other Embecilic Messages offered for midnight consideration while people are trying to sleep. Egad!

But enough complaining. The rest of the flight went just great, with time for sketching and lots of cloud-watching. One of the best things that happened was the $35 I splurged on a massage in a little concourse spa in Dallas/Ft.Worth. I recommend it highly.

I arrived in San José well after dark, but I had arranged for my hotel, Dunn Inn, to send a car for me, and the driver was waiting with a sign that said "Irene" on it, so I could relax and let the driver do all the work. That cost me $25, and was well worth it. Parlaying with taxi drivers in Espanol (mi Espanol es mal) is pretty tricky.

Dunn Inn a good little hotel, clean, with a pleasant staff, and not expensive. Here's my room from the hall, and my two carry-on pieces, sketchbook and camera, plus a suitcase full of goodies for Adriana and Daniel at El Remanso.

The next morning after a quick breakfast, I snapped a photo of the front of the hotel (it looks much like an ordinary house except for the hanging sign) as my hotel driver took me to the Sansa airport. That's my plane in distant center. I didn't count, but I'd estimate there are 16-20 seats in it. I love flying in small planes, and it was an unusually smooth trip. I was sketching a good part of the way.

Upon arriving at Puerto Jimenez, I noticed a pair of toucans gobbling up ripe papayas in a tree right next to the Lodge's airport office. I sketched and photographed them while waiting for my ride to El Remanso, about half an hour. Can you see the toucan? The orange oval in the clump of papayas is the stem of a papaya that was entirely consumed.

Adri had warned me that the rains had left the road to El Remanso a morass, but I had no IDEA! We were hub deep in mud a couple of times, and had to cross two rivers with water high enough to make the engine steam. It was exhilarating, and we arrived safely, having spotted lots of birds, this capuchin monkey in a palm tree, and great curassows in the treetops (more about them later).

After warm greetings, Adri showed me to my room, the spare bedroom in their house (we're distantly related ~ not everyone is so royally treated) which I was pleased to discover had an airy deck with table and chair that I could use while sketching and painting.

In the two years since I'd been there, they've been busy making the place look fabulous, with a new cabina perched out over a jungly ravine and lots of beautiful landscaping. I couldn't stop admiring the gorgeous flowers, hibiscuses, heliconias, palms, and hundreds of things I couldn't even come close to identifying.

And as always, the tree-top jungle view from the restaurant railing was absolutely stunning, with trogons, blue-throated golden-tail hummingbirds, toucans, squirrel cuckoos, scarlet-rumped caciques and many other birds, butterflies, and other creatures flying through or perching on branches just a few feet away.

Right away I started sketching: a lovely soft brown tiger moth they'd saved for me, and a huge paper wasp nest hanging over the Observation Point chairs (nice wasps, not stingers). And then, the turkey-sized Great Curassows wandered past (see the image at right)! My tropical journal sketching adventure was well and truly launched.

In past blogs I have included all the sketch pages I did on the journey. This time, though, I'll illustrate this blog mostly with my photos (plus a few journal pages to give it flavor), but I'll save the majority of the sketches for my upcoming e-journal Journey to the Osa and the Amazon, which I'll offer for download on my sketch journal site. Hmmmm...... I may give it a different name. Like, Daring Journey to Darkest Peru, or something dramatic like that.

I plan to make a tutorial for it, too, showing the scenes I was sketching, decisions I made to create the pages, design problems I ran into, the mistakes I managed to gloss over, and photos of the marvels I didn't get a chance to sketch ~ which were legion! And since the second part of the journal covers my trip to the Amazon (an amazing journey of discovery), there will be lots of new stuff.

I can hardly wait to get to it, but I have vowed to take things in the proper order, so we'll start with my delightful stay at El Remanso on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. And I'll try to do a day or two of the two-week trek every day, so stay tuned! You can check the box in the right column if you want to be advised when a new blog entry goes up.


Debo Boddiford said...

Glad you are safely home! Thanks for sharing your first couple of days...looking forward to seeing more photo's of your trip! I can't imagine how beautiful it was...watching tropical birds and monkeys from your exciting!!

Irene said...

Hi Debo,
Thanks for the welcome back! I always cherish your notes. I'll be working on the blog every day until it's finished and then I'll dive into the tutorial for the sketchbook.

It was sooooo hard to to come back to cold winter from that marvelous interlude ~ makes me appreciate it all the more.

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for sharing your trip Irene - I'm envious in the best way and looking forward to the next installment.

Irene said...

You got it! I just finished the next post, with lots more pictures and sketches!

Kate said...

I simply MUST visit "your" lodge some day ..... soon. Every trip you make there sounds better than the last. Maybe you'll let me pick your brain about how to set up a visit there?

Irene said...

Absolutely, Kate. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have or make suggestions any time. I'll always put a link to the lodge any time I mention it in an entry, so you can go visit the site and try it on for size, too. There are links in both this blog and the next for sure. Let me know if there's any way I can help -- it's such a great place I just want to share it with everyone!

Laura said...

Hi, Renie:

What fun to sit here on my snowy mountainside and virtually visit the tropics. I was snow-shoeing yesterday--what a contrast!

I Love your many photos--it really lets me "feel" what it is like--and I especially appreciate that most of the places and things you mention DO have photos. That's the very BEST kind of travel blog, so Thanks!

Looking forward to the next installments--and Yes, I've checked the little notification box, you betcha!

See ya in the jungle,

Yer sis,

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking us there~

Irene Brady said...

Does anyone remember when (long ago) the captions on National Geographic photos ALWAYS answered the questions that came to your mind when you looked at them? They were great. I use that as my guide, as I remember being so disappointed when they stopped being attentive to what the readers/viewers were curious about.
Glad y'all are enjoying the ride! More to come!

Katie said...

Hello Irene, I have been reading your blog for some time and desiring to purchase some of your sketch tutorials. I live in Phoenix AZ and recognize the orange/yellow flowers in this post, as they have been cultivated for common use in landscaping here (we have several in our yard). They are often referred to as Mexican Bird of Paradise here, which is erroneous, their actual common name is Red Bird of Paradise and the Latin name is Caesalpinia Pulcherrima. It is unrelated to the well known Bird of Paradise often used in floral arrangements. It's an exotic and beautiful plant, I love the leaf design too.

Thanks for your wonderful blog, sharing your talent and travels!

Irene said...

Katie, Thanks for identifying this lovely flower. After receiving your comment, I was moved to look it up myself, and discovered that it was once known as poinciana (which I had heard of). I wish we could grow it here in Oregon, but they say it is damaged or killed by temperatures in the teens, so since we get a few of those every winter it wouldn't work. Thanks again for letting us know what it is!

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