In December of 2012, Sandi and I went to Costa Rica. It has taken a few years, but I'm finally taking the time to edit my journal entries, post the blogs, and upload the pictures. Click the pictures to expand them. Click here to jump to the beginning with a link to every day.
I’ve had better nights. I blame my foot and the idiots next to us in a tent that must have forgotten tent walls are not soundproof. They talked and laughed until four in the morning despite thirty people around them trying to sleep. And being the passive wimp that I am, I never asked them to keep it down. I need to work on that. Other than my heel, I wasn’t sore from our fourteen mile hike yesterday (click here if you missed that entry). Good news! I expected we’d see a ton more animals today!
We woke early. I soaked my foot, cleaned it, and applied a new dressing. The process hurt like hell, but it felt better when I finished. Ryan, Yeimy, and Nito made a traditional breakfast, and we feasted. Then we ventured into the early sunshine for our morning hike. We didn’t make it far. Ry and I were too fascinated with the insects and huge spiders living on and around the buildings. One grasshopper was six inches long. I think our first hour of “hiking” was within twenty yards of camp.
The sky was blue, but the jungle dripped and sprinkled us with leftover rain from the night before. Water drops clung to large green leaves, spider webs were misted, and little rivers trickled down tree trunks. Nearby, a vulture spread his wings to warm them in the sun. And the bird sounds! A shriek from the right, a whistle from above, an “aarooo” from ahead. Breaking branches, clicks, rattles, splashes, howls, water dripping … everything was alive. Monkeys jumping in the trees shook the branches and warm water rained on us. I think they did it on purpose.
But the best part was how light I felt. My daypack with water, snacks, and a few pieces of camera gear was all I carried. I hopped from log to log like a nimble footed sprite with endless energy. Even with my sore foot.
Nito pointed out rodents, animals, birds, insects, critters, plants, formations, trees, lizards, and flowers all morning.
“Hold on, we might have something in that…” He motioned for us to stop, took several steps into the green, and stood on his tip toes to peer down a green cone—a large, curled banana leaf. “Yes!” he whispered, waving us to come.
We each took a turn to stretch, peek, and look down the green tunnel—a small bat slept at the bottom.
Later, he planted his tripod into the mud and pointed his spotting scope. “Come,” he motioned us anxiously. “There! These tiny (I forgot the birds name) build nests on the leafs of a (I forgot the trees name).”
Spider monkeys flew through the air above us, jumping from one tree to the next. Catching branches, swinging, and sailing like Tarzan to the next tree where they gorged on berries. Did Tarzan gorge on berries? I bet he did.
A short while later, howler monkeys shook the leaves above us. Then squirrel monkeys. Then capuchin monkeys. Monkeys, monkeys, monkeys! I’ve always loved watching baby kittens tumble and pounce on each other, but baby monkeys? OMG! The baby monkeys were awesome!
We stopped for lunch at a swimming hole, a great escape from the muggy heat. But I didn’t swim because of my foot. Sandi and Yeimy didn’t swim either, but for other reasons.
“I promise,” Nito told them. “There are no crocodiles up here.”
They didn’t buy it.
When I saw bright colors bouncing in a tree down the river, I forgot about swimming. I crept down the edge of the water, and huddled on the bank. We hadn’t seen many toucans, and they fascinate me. I watched him hop hop hop through the tree. Huge, colorful, heavy beaks—don’t they get tired hauling them around every day?
After lunch, we hiked down the river to the ocean, and I got super excited when I saw fins in the river.
“Sharks?” I asked. Or maybe it was more of a yell, like “SHARKS!”
“No.” Nito shook his head. “Just fish. Tonight we’ll go to a river where you might see sharks.”
I’d hoped we see bull sharks while crossing rivers the day before, but we hadn’t. How cool would that have been? To be able to say, yeah, we crossed a river with sharks in it! Sandi was pissed I’d even hope for that. At least I’d gotten my crocodile.
Ry chased up and down the beach with his GoPro on a stick. He’s mastered the technique by snorkeling with turtles and sneaking up on lizards. Today he chased jesus lizards—trying hard to get a shot of their trademark spring across the surface of the water. When that didn’t work, he turned on the iguanas.
Another group came through, and the guides chatted. Turned out, some tapirs had been spotted in the area—creatures Sandi really wanted to see. So we kicked back in the shade while they tracked them. I may have dozed off before they returned.
“No luck,” Nito said. “Plenty of tracks, but the tapirs are gone.”
We continued down the beach, but the sky darkened and rain drizzled.
Didn’t make sense to me. The rain was warm, it wasn’t coming down hard. Until it was. Then it dumped buckets on us. I may as well have gone swimming after all. We reached camp drenched, and ducked into the safety of the awning.
The roof above us pounded like hundreds of little people banging tin drums.
“DID YOU GET A GOOD IGUANA PICTURE?” I yelled to Ryan, who was sitting next to me on the bench.
“WHAT?” he yelled back.
“I SAID, DID YOU…”
He shook his head, laughed, and pointed to his ears. The rain was too loud.
A few kids played on the runway, which was a giant wading pool. I did some journaling and took an afternoon nap.
When I woke, a couple fresh from Carate was hiking up the runway with backpacks, soaked to the bone. When they crossed our crocodile river, the water was past their necks and they had to hold their packs above their heads and fight the current to get across.
The rain was relentless and never eased. Despite that, in the early evening Nito made good on his promise to take me to see sharks.
“You’ll still take us?” I asked, looking at the water pouring off the roof.
So we followed Nito into the monsoon to hunt for sharks.
My camera was a waterproof, dustproof, professional Canon. It’s supposed to be bombproof—and usually is. That’s one reason it’s so big and heavy (and expensive). But when I pulled it out to take a picture, a lens error appeared on my LCD screen. My favorite lens, the 400mm. Big and heavy. I’d packed it fourteen miles into the jungle and nearly died from it, only to have it fail on me. I looked at Ry, shooting under a rain poncho with his nice, light, but not waterproof camera. It was working like a champ.
“That’s it,” I said to Sandi. “I’ve had it. I’m done with this heavy stuff. When I get home I’m selling all of it.”
We reached the river, and squinted through the rain to see the sharks. Waves crested, splashed. Was that a fin?
“Not today,” Nito said. “Sorry. We’ll circle around and go back for supper.”
Nope, wasn’t a fin.
We followed the river to the ocean, hiked along the beach, and then back up the runway to camp.
As night fell, we overheard talk about three guys that had been missing since yesterday. They’d left to explore, and never returned. Their tent, backpacks, and gear were untouched for over twenty-four hours right next to ours.
“No, I’m sorry. There is nothing we can do,” one of the rangers from the station said to a young woman with fierce eyes and a frown.
“What do you mean you can’t do anything? Organize a search party! They might die!” She demanded.
“They won’t die, and we’d never find them. We don’t have the staff. There are four-hundred square kilometers of jungle out there.” He stabbed the air with his finger. “They’ll find their way.”
At first, I shared angry woman’s opinion. But after hearing Nito explain it, I agreed. These jungles were warm, full of water, and no real dangers from the creatures. Keep a cool head, find a trail, and stay on it until you reach a landmark. It made no sense to go out looking.
The girl was mad, but I noticed she didn’t volunteer to lead or join on a search party either.
“I’d imagine you’ve had some scary experiences on these trips,” Yeimy asked Nito. “What is the worst one ever?”
“This one,” he said.
“No seriously,” she said. “Which one?”
“Seriously,” he answered. “This one. This is the most stressful. You guys had me scared.”
“Sorry,” I said. I wasn’t sure how to react to his confession.
He waved me off. “No, it’s fine. We survived. But, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Can you hike tomorrow with your foot?”
I dreaded it. I knew we all did. But we had no option. “We have to, so we will,” I said.
“Actually, you don’t have to. My friend can fly you out in his airplane. Want me to check with him?”
I knew Yeimy was terrified of small planes, and Sandi would rather have a tooth pulled. I didn’t have a problem with it, but there is no way either of them would…
“Yes! Please!” They both said.
He arranged to have a plane pick us up, and take us to Pureto Jiminez in the morning. The rate was incredibly reasonable. Not much more expensive than paying for a 4×4 taxi in Carate. My guess, is Nito pulled some strings and got us a discount because the last thing he wanted to do with have another worst hike ever. The good news for anyone considering this excursion, now you know the worst. It only gets better from here!
We opened a bottle of Amurulo, and drank to life’s crazy adventures. Another awesome day.
Here are a few photos Ry and I took during the day. The lighting wasn’t always ideal. Two weeks at Sirena is what we needed to get quality pictures.
Click here to go to Day 10.
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