Monday, May 02, 2011

Landlubbers in Costa Rica

The final bus dropped us off at the Cashew Hill Jungle Cottages.  Our cottage was situated, as the name suggests, on a hill and thus had a wonderful view of the ocean yet was situated in the middle of the jungle.  A tiny swimming pool delighted the monkeys and helped them cool off in the 35 Celsius heat.  And two hammocks (which Seb and I absurdly tried to reserve for ourselves) on our porch provided hours of giggling fun.  At night the jungle around us was positively singing with a variety of insect, amphibian and mammal life.  The insects were rather intimidatingly large and irritatingly abundant at times but all in all it was a charming spot. 
Our two day stay in Puerto Viejo saw us breakfasting twice at a little café call Bread & Chocolate followed by a visit to the Jaguar Animal Rescue Center.  This is a center to rehabilitate mistreated, injured and/or confiscated animals, which are then reintroduced to their natural habitat in protected areas.  Even under these sad circumstances we were thrilled to see the howler monkeys and the tiniest baby 2-toed sloth.  There was also a rather unsettling collection of local snakes and our guide explained in great detail just how venomous (and common) many of them were. 
A 7-hour drive took us the 350kms into the center of the country (just one hour South of San Jose) to San Gerardo del Dota and the Dantica Lodge.  The lodge consisted of a handful of lovely cottages perched on the steep walls of the valley with breathtaking views.  It was chilly at night and we snuggled under big feather comforters for the first time in a long time.  The birdlife was extraordinary.  Even our terribly unschooled eyes were popping out of our heads and our ears enjoyed an incredible variety of songs.  On two occasions we went on walks with Carlos, the local guide.  The first occasion was a quest to see the resplendent quetzal, named for the Aztec word quetzalli that means "precious,' or "beautiful.' Carlos lead us on a chase to rival the most exciting treasure hunt.  With him calling the quetzal call and we running fast and low from one side of the wood to the other until finally we saw a lovely pair (looking most resplendent).  They kindly posed for several pictures and we left them feeling rather thrilled.    
On the following day Carlos took us on an 18 kilometer hike from the top of the valley, through three very different ecosystems, to the bottom.  I am extremely proud to say that Emma walked the entire way and while Macsen was carried in his backpack much of the way, he also walked about three kilometers.  Seb and I collapsed in the grass with a beer after this intensive hike but Emma and Macsen still had enough energy to bounce about most energetically on the trampoline for at least half an hour.  Whew, kids!

Costa Rica is a wonderful country with so much incredible variety and loveliness to offer that we hope to visit again.  Our visit was much too short and all too soon we were back at Cashew Hill waiting for our bus, bridge, bus, boat, boat combo to take us back to Bastimentos and our Pjotter.    

There was another party in full swing at the Red Frog Marina when we arrived.  A large motor yacht in the marina was bidding goodbye to their captain, and their (Icelandic) chef had cooked an incredible meal to share with all of the guests of the marina.  Woohooo.  Once again, Emma bonded solidly with Sol and Luna.    

On our final day in Bastimentos we took a long walk along the beach and through the woods.  Fortunately, it was a little rainy and we managed to see two tiny spotted red frogs.  These are red poison dart frogs and can only be found on the Isla Bastimentos.   We also practiced the bird calls that Carlos tried to teach us and we imagined at least that there was a positive response.  

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