Crisp fall morning
Cat chasing squirrel
Smell of pines
Crisp fall morning
Cat chasing squirrel
Smell of pines
The night we went to the beach to look for a mother turtle was magical.
We were led by Eddie, a young Italian biologist working among fisherman on the Nicoya peninsula. His mission is to educate them about sustainable fishing as well as to do his part in preserving the sea turtles.
There were no lights other than the red light from his headlamp. Brighter lights disturb the turtles. It was a perfect clear night, and the multitude of stars seemed low enough to reach out and touch.
As we walked almost blindly, there were what seemed to be a lot of rocks or shells. Eddie shone the light at our feet and we were simultaneously delighted and horrified to see thousands of small hermit crabs scurrying around! It was impossible not to step on them, but Eddie said that our weight would just push them into the sand.
Finally, Eddie told us he had spotted an Olive Ridley turtle, but we all needed to stay back while she dug her hole. When she began laying, he said, she would go into a trance and wouldn’t be aware of our presence. When he said we could, we circled around her and watched in wonder. It’s hard to see in this picture, and you can google and see lots of clear pictures, but this is me sharing my experience of this amazing act of nature.
As we stood in awe, Eddie informed us that he had discovered that the turtle was missing a back rudder, and he suspected that the hole wasn’t deep enough. Turtle eggs are highly susceptible to predators such as raccoons and dogs, who often steal them as they are laid or shortly after. So he said that when she was finished, we would dig them up and relocate them to a deeper nest in a safer place on the beach.
After the eggs were laid, she covered them with sand, and, turning in circles, patted the sand down. This took about 20 minutes, and we could see that she was hindered by her lack of a rudder. We followed her as she made her way in the starlight to the ocean, cheering for her as she reached the water, never to see the fruit of her labor.
Eddie immediately started digging up the nest, and allowed someone in the group to assist. We were all awestruck as the count went up and up until the total of eggs was 108! The eggs were placed in a bag and passed around so we could all feel it’s weight – quite heavy! Imagine the work – this sea animal, beautiful in the water but awkward on land, hauling her already heavy body, made even heavier with these eggs,50 feet over land before releasing them from her body and returning to the sea.
While we were engrossed in the task of rescuing these eggs, Eddie spotted another turtle. By the time the last egg was recovered from the first nest, the second turtle had begun laying. We again watched the act with a reverent awe, and as this mother, with all her flippers intact, began her dance of covering the precious eggs, we could see the perfection. She patted, and twirled, and rested a bit, then repeated this over and over until she was satisfied with her work.
After we cheered her on her return trek to the ocean, it was somewhat anticlimactic to watch Eddie locate a spot to rebury the eggs. It was all a wonder, though, and I will always hold that night in my heart as one of the most amazing I have ever experienced.
Here is a link to a youtube video of an Olive Ridley giving birth, covering the eggs, and going back to the sea. It is very cool, but doesn’t capture the magic of being there on the dark beach under the blanket of stars being a part of the mystery of life.
If you are a beach lover, you won’t understand this post.
Don’t get me wrong. The beach here at the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio is beautiful. And I got in the turquoise waters for 10 minutes. The water is clear and clean, the sand white. But one thing I’ve really realized is that I don’t want to spend a long time at the beach, getting salty, sandy, and sun-tanned.
I guess I missed something when I was considering making this trip. I knew there would be time at the beach, but I thought it would all be spent doing something to help preserve the turtle habitat and conservation in general. I just didn’t get it that half of the days would include hours playing and “relaxing” on the beach.
I didn’t even bring a swimsuit, or “swimming costume” as my British cohorts call them. They all brought large suitcases containing clothes for every occasion, and I think most of them brought two, three, or more swimming outfits – the bikini, tankini, swimsuit – not too mention a variety of beach footwear. But I didn’t see swimming gear on the list of must-haves and I didn’t see relaxing on the beach in the itinerary.
In my youth I would lie in the sun and work on my tan. A few years ago, after my second divorce, I spent a summer revisiting all that. But I have discovered that I absolutely don’t want to do that any more. It just isn’t my idea of enjoyment.
The highlight of my day was getting to take a walk alone along the paths in the park, surrounded by tall trees with the sound of the ocean in the distance, or, at one point, the sound of only the forest. I love walking in nature and it was just lovely. I would have stayed there longer but returned at the designated time to meetup with the others only to find that the general consensus was to stay on the beach longer. Sigh.
But I had purposed to go with the flow, not to try to manage things according to how I think they should be based on personal likes and dislikes or how I think life ought to work. I am working on letting things be what they are, not trying to control all my circumstances. I had time to ponder, and really, I am glad to have had this opportunity for this particular experience with these particular people. After all, I want to embrace the uncertainty of the day and let life unfold!
I also got to have some interactions with white-faced, or capuchin, monkeys. When we entered the park, our bags were searched for contraband – anything that would be bad for monkeys to consume was not allowed. The only food one can bring in is fruit and sandwiches. One of my companions had her cigarettes confiscated. After spending time on the beach, we fully understood the reason for these rules. The monkeys, cute as they are, aggressively go after anything that looks or smells like food, and I witnessed one stealing a water bottle!
I had gotten a wrap at lunchtime, and put the paper it came in back in my bag. The bag was close beside me, but when I turned my attention elsewhere for just a minute, a monkey snatched the paper right out of my bag! Kind of cute, but several other times I had to shoo them away!
I am ready to be home. I have learned that although this has been an unforgettable experience, one I am glad to have had, I prefer traveling on my own terms either alone or with someone I know and get along with well.
After a shower, some air-conditioning, and a glass of wine, I felt so much happier. It’s interesting to watch my changing emotions in different situations, especially when I’m not happy about something but just let the situation resolve itself. THAT is something to take home!
We went out to a restaurant with this lovely view:
One more day of this trip – the morning will be spent on a catamaran, the afternoon traveling back to San Jose. The next morning -home! I didn’t get to write as I journeyed as much as I’d hoped, due to the lack of reliable wifi at times. I plan to write about some of the highlights I left out, after I get home. It has been a life-changing experience!
Here’s me at the restaurant. It has been so humid that I gave up straightening my hair.
This morning we were told by our guide that we should wear something that we don’t mind getting wet. She also told us to be careful with what we took, anything could get wet if we slipped. We were going to take a hike to a waterfall and wade in a river. So I decided not to bring my phone, as others would be taking and sharing pictures.
The experience was beyond my imagination.
A local guy named Will who also works at the ecolodge was our guide for this adventure. First, he handed out walking sticks, said they were required.
We started slowly down a wide path as he told us about the native plants and herbs, even tasting some of them. Gradually the walk got steeper, and I was thankful for the steps that had been fashioned into them. He continued to talk about the plants, trees, and wildlife in an engaging manner. Here are just a few photos: a pineapple (rare to see growing wild), a blue jean frog (poisonous) and this cactus thing attached to a tree.
We eventually came to a small rocky creek down in the valley. Turns out, this was the river. It is dry season, currently. In rainy season, it becomes a raging torrent. We were all grateful for our walking sticks as we stepped into the cold water and picked our way over the rocks.
Then we saw it – a cascading waterfall at the end of a narrow passage. The water was knee deep at times. The fall plummeted into a small pool, and we took our turns getting into the waist deep water, our delighted screams at the frigid temperature filling the air.
I thought that we would have a similar hike back, but turned out that the way back was down the river! We walked through the ankle to knee deep water, admiring the green-covered canyon walls on each side.
Finally, reaching dry land, we had yet another treat! There was a pool, roughly filled in with concrete and rocks, fed by the river! As we oohed and aahed, Will gave each of us a chunk of the red clay natural to the area and demonstrated that we should wet it and rub it on our face and body! We had a marvelous time, and my skin felt extra smooth after this beauty treatment. It was like a spa in the forest!
I thought being in the mountains was my favorite – until we took a boat ride towards the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna. The sight of this active volcano with it’s ever changing cloud cap is simply breathtaking.
On the way our guide spotted a monkey in a a tree and a cayman in the mud. It is amazing to me that they can be seen, their camouflage is so good.
Before arriving at our hotel, tucked into the rain forest, with a view of the volcano from its fabulous veranda, we spent a little time in town. I ate a “tipical” vegetarian lunch, consisting of white rice, black beans, a little salad, plantain, and vegetables. I’ve had this meal in various forms since I’ve been here, interesting to experience the different interpretations.
My new friend and roommate, Mandy, and I then walked across the beautiful park and found an amazing chocolate shop where I splurged on an iced coffee. I can’t seem to resist the Costa Rican coffee – which may explain why I’m writing this at 2 in the morning.
Then we went to the sloth park. It was disappointing to learn that we wouldn’t see a sloth up close and personal as they spend the majority of their time up in trees. They are much safer from predators there. However, we had an excellent guide with a good telescope and i did get a couple of pictures and a video. We also saw some birds, a blue-jean frog, and leaf-cutter ants.
I was super tired by then and ready for the hotel. A short ride took us to La Princesa Ecolodge, tucked away in the forest. The view of the volcano is fabulous, and the sound of the whistling cicadas accompanied us as we ate our evening meal on the lower veranda dining area. I think it was the best meal so far! One of my traveling companions shared a glass of white wine with me, and as we sat discussing the events of the day and the expectations for tomorrow, we all agreed that the trip was just getting better and better.
(the above was written at 2 am. now it is 6:30)
When I got up, the stickiness was gone from the air. I sit on the wide veranda, after having done a few yoga stretches, listening to the morning sounds – the birds, the insects, and the people in the kitchen. I am hoping for coffee soon. We are taking a short walk in the forest to a waterfall, then a chocolate tour a little later.
Wifi is on and off, all the time. Uploading pictures is uncertain. Videos are even more unlikely. I have loads more pictures I’d like to share, but they are stuck on my phone for now. But here is my first look at Arenal Volcano this morning.