Friday, February 13, 2009

Costa Rica pt. 8: OMFG MONKEYS

In response to a couple of e-mails I received: the tour company I used was Caravan, and I highly recommend them. Don't be fooled by that $995 price on the website, though; you can add about another $300 for taxes, whatever your airfare costs, and, if you're traveling by yourself, add $300 more for the "single supplement". Even so, considering that it includes all meals, hotels, attractions, and transportation except airfare, it's still a hell of a bargain. I would happily take another tour with Caravan.

[01/31/09; transcribed from my trip journal. ]

Today we left at 6:30AM for Manuel Antonio National Park. Jose said that it had been listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, and after visiting, I can see why; it was stunning, and easily my favorite part of the trip so far.

But before we got there, we had to drive 2 ½ hours! We drove through the Carara Biological Reserve on the way, and Marco pulled over so we could see the scarlet macaws at the top of the trees. They were so beautiful, with their Sno-Cone colors. I didn’t take a picture because they were too far away to get a good one, but I could see them perfectly with my binoculars.

When we got to the park, Jose said that we could leave our stuff with him and he’d take care of it; apparently, the monkeys that live there like to steal things from the tourists. I gratefully took my backpack off, and as I handed it to him, I asked him which trail was best for seeing the monkeys. He pointed me in the right direction, and I thanked him and set off.

Well, the trail turned out to be pretty steep, and since it was so hot and humid (and I’m so out of shape), I was sorely tempted to turn around and just chill on the beach. I’m really glad I didn’t, though, because I heard a rustling behind me and turned around to see this:

Dear reader, I squizzed myself.

Even though they were only a few feet away from me, I had a hell of a time getting a good picture because they were so fast. It was like trying to photograph the bobbleheads in Jacob’s Ladder!

Wait! Come back, Mister Monkey!

Ah, thank you. Now let’s see your face.

Come on, don’t be shy… hold still for a second...

At last, the mon(k)ey shot!

They were so cute I could have stood there and watched them all day, but the path was narrow and I was blocking the way for other hikers, so I reluctantly kept going. When I made it to the very top, I was treated to one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, this picture does not remotely do it justice, but you’ll get an idea.

As I gazed down, it was only the second time I was moved to tears by the beauty of something I’d seen on a trip. (The other time was watching geisha walking through Kyoto, cherry blossoms falling around them like fragrant pink snow.) I rested for a few moments, enjoying the view, and then I headed back down the path. On the way, I saw a two-toed sloth. Here’s a terrible picture; it’s the blob in the middle.

Just so you know what they actually look like, here’s a GOOD picture from Wikipedia.

I prefer the three-toed sloths, just because they have those bizarre Muppet-like faces, but all sloths are cool by me. Fun fact: they’re known as perezosos, or lazy bears, in Spanish. They’re my third favorite animal and my second favorite deadly sin!

Back at the beach, I changed into my flip-flops and then walked along the water. I didn’t want to swim, but I waded knee deep, and the water was the perfect temperature. I saw tons of hermit crabs and sea slugs in the tidepools.

I found this charming declaration of love written in the sand.

When it was time to go, I reluctantly climbed back on the bus and accepted my box lunch. It was absolutely terrible (mayo covered deli meat of indeterminate origin, fruit, two pieces of pound cake), so as soon as we got back to the hotel, I hit the snack bar for fries and a burger. I was exhausted from both our early departure time and prolonged sun exposure, so I went to my room, ate, and crashed hardcore for a couple of hours. Then I got up, had dinner, went online, and caught the evening’s show, “The Four Elements”. It consisted of dancing and a really good trapeze artist. At one point, they turned on a black light and people wearing fluorescent jellyfish and octopus costumes danced to “The Age of Aquarius”. It was so bizarre that it sent me into fits of giggles.

After the show, I got an Amor Eterno and took it down to the pier, nodding at the guard as I passed. I sat at the end and gazed out at the black water and the millions of stars in the sky. It was a beautiful night, and I could have sat there for hours, but I was seized by the urge to take a crap…my first since the trip began!

And oh, was it EPIC. I’m glad I didn’t have to go until we got to the big fancy resort; I don’t think our last hotel’s sewer system could have handled my mighty American turds.

I’ve had a (mostly) great time on this trip, but I’m ready to go home. I miss G so much, not to mention my bed and my normal routine. Plus I’m a little sick of chicken and rice and being on a bus several hours a day, and my money is getting low. I don’t want to use my ATM or credit cards unless absolutely necessary, since I’ve heard horror stories about eaten and/or stolen cards, and I need enough money to tip Jose and Marco, pay my departure tax, and buy lunch and dinner on my last day, since they’re not included.

But I’m sure the second I return to work, I’ll want to hop the next plane back!