This morning started rainy. The forecast is for a sunny afternoon, but for now, it is pretty damp here and humidity is very high too up at 86%. The rooms in our lodge all have both a humidifier and air con. This morning, everything feels slightly damp to touch. So this is the dry season?! The dry season, or “Summer” in Costa Rica is from mid November to April (although it differs a little from region to region). Even in the dry season though, it still rains a lot – but I suppose that is what you have to expect when you come to a rainforest.
The weather is brightening up this afternoon and we are going to take a walk down to the Celeste River. This time, we will have no guide. It is interesting what you see when you go for a walk. It depends how you look at the world and different people can see different things in the same environment. If you walk with the eyes of a botanist, you will see flowers, plants and trees that would pass unnoticed by someone else. Walk with the eyes of a geologist and the rocks will speak to you in ways that the untrained eye just cannot discern. Walk with the eyes of a photographer and you will start to notice light, reflections and shadows. This afternoon, I am aiming to walk with the eyes of a tour guide and see if that helps me to spot wildlife I would otherwise have missed. I found it fascinating that in Tortugeuro, I could see nothing in the trees at the start of our stay. By the end though, I could see orange and green iguanas everywhere draped on the branches above and birds began to come into focus too. You just have to know what you are looking for and watch for rustles of leaves, unexpected colour variations and so on. In the forest, looking for tracks helps identify when something interesting might be hiding nearby. On this rainy morning, the forest is alive with birdsong, but you can’t see the singers – they are all sheltering under the big green leaves until the sun comes out again.
By 11am, the rain had cleared allowing us to walk the 2.4km circular trail from the hotel to the River Celeste. You can swim in the Celeste River at the mid-point of the trail if you want to which is interesting because there is no swimming allowed in the National Park itself any longer. ln one direction, the trail is labelled “Tapir Trail” and in the other “Armadillo Trail”, but realistically, you have no chance of seeing either. I guess you have the eyes you have got, until you have trained them differently. What my eyes saw was a beautiful forest with a plethora of very brightly coloured flowers. There were probably all sorts of other treasures there, but my eyes are still becoming accustomed to those – and it’s a very long journey The root systems of the trees here are also fascinating. Some of the trees sway in the breeze because they are so tall and their root systems are comparatively delicate – and that’s before the bar opens?!
Costa Rica set itself a goal to be the world’s first carbon-neutral company back in 2009, but it is likely not to achieve that, despite good progress in lots of areas. This country is trying hard in so many ways though – buses/taxis run on natural gas, electric and hybrid vehicles are expanding fast, organic farming methods are widely used and reforestation is being actively and aggressively pursued. Fossil fuel generated electrics (hydro, wind and geothermal power) produced 98% of Costa Rica’s electricity in 2016 (Lonely Planet).
More than 27% of Costa Rica has been set aside for conservation. The Spanish Empire started in the mid 1500s and – thanks to Costa Rica being seen as a swampy, largely useless backwater – its colonial path diverged from the typical pattern and a slave based economy never gained prominence here. The small indigenous population gradually withered and by the mid 1800s, the Spanish Empire fell too and an independent Costa Rica began to take shape, avoiding being ruled by either Mexico or any attempts at a United States of Central America.
Flora and Fauna:
When you go for a walk in the dark, of course, you have got no eyes at all – just your ears – so you can let your imagination soar. Armed with a flashlight, you can get beyond the din of the chattering crickets and find all sorts of things buried in the undergrowth – some nice and some very nasty indeed. To begin with, we saw a friendly bullfrog, a red eyed tree frog, a little pygmy frog and an army of those industrious leaf cutting ants marching on through the night. As we got deeper into the forest though, things livened up considerably and we saw an eyelash viper and a black tarantula spider.
Although the eyelash viper is small, it is one of the most dangerous of the venomous snakes in Central America. Its poison is strong, and most people disregard a bite by a small snake as non-threatening. My photo isn’t great, but I pride myself on including only my own photos and this was as close as I was prepared to get.
Not only does Costa Rica have black widow spiders (in one small region of the northeast, but it has the world’s most aggressive and dangerous spider, the Brazilian Wandering Spider. A black tarantula spider was quite scary enough for me.
Glad I packed:
My hiking boots.
A good flashlight.