Friday, February 06, 2009

Costa Rica pt. 3: welcome to the jungle

NOTE: This will be a two part entry because it’s really long and chock full o’ pictures. I had to leave out several dozen, but it’s still pretty picture heavy. Mouse over for the occasional comment!

[01/26/09, transcribed from trip journal]

I had to get up at 5AM today because we had to be on the bus at 6. I showered, got dressed, and packed a smaller bag for the next couple of nights. The only way to get to Tortuguero is by plane or boat, and since the boat has a weight limit, we can’t bring our big suitcases. Our trusty driver Marco will be taking care of our luggage while we’re away.

After breakfast, we drove through Braulio Carrillo and saw lots of interesting things out the window.

According to Jose, this plant is called poor man’s umbrella

Rio Sucio, or Dirty River

Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls…

Our destination was an aerial tram that would take us high above the rainforest canopy.

It was raining like the proverbial motherfucker, so I put on my oh-so-sexy blue plastic poncho and climbed aboard. I was grouchy, because despite my lovely trashbag, I was getting soaked. But even in my curmudgeonly mood, I had to admit it was beautiful.

Once we were back on solid ground, we met up with a naturalist guide for a hike. “Before we get started, I need to warn you about brushing against any trees. You don’t want to meet any of these guys.”

He jabbed a stick into some leaves, and brought this thing out:

Sorry the picture is kind of blurry, but there’s only so close I was willing to get. That’s a bullet ant, and they get their name because their bite is so painful that it’s like getting shot. I nervously pulled my poncho tighter around me.

This sign warned us to watch for leaf cutter ants so we wouldn’t step on them.  They weren’t dangerous, unlike the bullet ants.  I loved watching them marching industriously across our path.

Anybody else reminded of Don’t Look Now?

Someone said this looked like a Harry Potter tree.

After the hike, we had a mediocre lunch at a tiny restaurant, and then we toured a banana plantation. There was a man there with a little cart selling coconut water. I gave him a dollar, and then he took a machete and whacked the top off a coconut, plonked a straw inside, and handed it to me. It was a refreshing treat on a very hot and humid day.

Jose found this colossal beetle and held it out so we could take a picture of it.

While we were touring the plantation---staying on the paths due to the poisonous snakes that live in the field---Jose mentioned that the workers average about $16 a day, and that’s considered terrific. I get paid around that much an HOUR to sit on my ass and surf the net, and I don’t have to work in the sun avoiding snakes and swinging a machete over my head. It was one of those humbling moments where I realize how lucky I truly am.

I didn’t take a picture of any of the workers because it seemed rude.  ‘Hi, I’m a tourist, let me snap your picture while you sweat your ass off.’

Next up, we got on the boat for Tortuguero. I was exhausted, so I slept for part of the ride, but I attained consciousness long enough to take a few pictures.

Finally, after about two hours, we arrived at our lodge.

Little did I know what horrors lay in store for me.

(to be continued)