Tuesday, July 26, 2005
We were heading out of Tamarindo at the right time–they were spraying for mosquitoes to curb the spread of Dengue fever at 10:00. What happens to the butterflies, crabs, geckos, ctenosaurs and other small critters when they do that I wonder? Can’t be good. We checked out without problems and were about 10 minutes out when Charlotte started asking for her baby. Whoops. Turn around and drive back to get baby. Back on the road still before the spraying starts. On the road to Liberia we stopped at Monkey Park, a wild animal rehabilitation center. What a great place! There were volunteers from all over the world caring for animals that had been hit by cars, orphaned, or were confiscated pets. The monkeys and coatis that had been kept as pets were mean mean mean. What did their owners do to them I wonder? But there was a group of three young white faced monkeys having a ball and I think I want to come back as one of them in my next life–the acrobatics they can do are just incredible. We scratched the chin of a pecarari (very friendly, despite their tusks) and saw all the other beasties before Mark insisted we get back in the car to get to San Jose before dark. I figured there would be no problem, because we were on the main road the whole time. I forgot to take into account the steep grades and ancient and ill-maintained trucks we would be behind. Seriously going 20kph on long stretches because there was no way to pass. Finally the road became two lanes and we could zoom like I thought we’d be doing the entire ride. We made it to Hotel Grano de Oro with only one minor wrong turn. Of all of the places we stayed, this one had the best service hands-down and was definitely a five-star establishment. Too bad it’s located next to an abandoned lot. San Jose is so wierd. No zoning laws at all and it’s just a mess. We lounged in our family suite (two rooms! Now we’re talking) and rested a bit, and tried to arrange the car drop-off. They had said they would pick up at the hotel, so the front desk called and they said they would come in a half-hour. A half-hour came and went and nothing, so the front desk called again. Oh, we’ll actually be by in a couple hours. So we left the key and went to Pizza Hut for dinner, after Mark braved the wilds of Paseo Colon (main street in San Jose, too bad there’s no crosswalks, few stoplights and huge open holes on the sidewalk) to find an ATM that was working at would take our card. The kids enjoyed their pizza–actually we all enjoyed our pizza–and we returned to the hotel to find our car still there. The front desk called again and this time they said they’d pick it up in the morning. Okay…..
Thursday, July 27, 2005
The tour transportation for Mawamba Lodge arrived promptly at 6:30 am just like they said they would, and we met our guide Kathia and the other people on the tour with us. The hotel promised us they would take care of the car, and they also agreed to store our carseats and stroller while we were in Tortuguero. On the drive to Tortuguero, Kathia pointed out the sights and explained Costa Rican culture and answered all the questions I had built up during my past trips. Even though I like independent travel better, it is nice to be taken care of once in a while! We stopped to see a sloth and Genevieve inadvertently stepped in a biting ants’ nest. Ouch! The bus driver helped us get her cleaned up. “Las hornigas” are nothing to mess with. Fortunately the bites don’t leave welts. We also stopped at a banana packing plant and Charlotte was absolutely fascinated by the process. Genevieve was more fascinated by the Hercules beetle the coconut vendor had (this was a girl beetle, by the way. The boys look totally different, green with black spots). We were in the middle of a once-in-every fifteen year butterfly migration (well, really they were a kind of moth but they were black with bright green and looked just like butterflies…). Butterflies flying everywhere. We got to the boat dock just as it started to rain, and got on our boat. Then we had another hour boat ride to Mawamba, where we were greeted with a cold blended fruit drink. So far so good. And then we saw our room. First off, we had to walk across a dirt path to get to it–all of the other rooms were four to a cabin, off of covered raised walkways, but I guess we don’t rate. The room was rustic, as I expected (but unfortunately I seemed to have forgotten to pass this bit of info on to Mark) but what I really didn’t like was no mat outside to get the dirt off of our feet, no dressers or hooks to store our clothes, no place to put our bags, and the dim lighting that made it impossible to read or even find anything in our bags as they lay on the floor. Grumpiness all around, and this time we really were trapped–there are no roads even if we did have a car! We crankily went to lunch, buffet style Costa Rican dorm food, and the kids and I walked around the grounds while Mark sulked. We saw a baby iguana so green I at first thought it was a child’s toy, and a boa in a tree. Then, as Mark was feeling more resigned to our situation, we joined our group for our trip to the turtleconservation center for a video on the turtles, followed by a tour of the town. Kathia explained all of the buildings to us which made the layout of all of the towns we had been passing make more sense. There was a wedding going on in the church, which I thought was unusual for a Wednesday but apparently the priests only come once a month so that’s why. After we toured the town we returned to the Lodge for a swim in the pool. This is when it really got cool. In the middle of the pool there is landscaping and at about 4:30 the red-eyed tree frogs start to wake up. They ribbet and hop around, and they are really fun to watch. The pool guy at Mawamba had noticed that the frogs were laying their eggs over the pool, so when they turned into tadpoles and dropped into the water they died because of the chlorine. So he started to remove the eggs and put them over aquariums, raise the tadpoles and release the froglets back into the wild. As a result, the resort is crawling with the things. We got cleaned up and went to dinner, and then back to our room to sleep because there wasn’t anything else to do and we had to be up for a 5:30 AM boat tour.
Friday, July 28, 2005
It was pouring rain but I got the kids up and dressed for the tour anyhow. Mark joined us at the boat dock a few minutes later. We hung around while Kathia tried to figure out if the rain was going to settle down or not. It seemed to break a bit, so we took our Mawamba-issued giant rain ponchos and climbed on the boat. Genevieve insisted we ride in the front because she’d discovered that it lifts in the air when the boat goes fast. This turned out to be a mistake, because the rain did not stop, it got harder and harder until it was like it was coming out of a hose (it never rains like this in California!) and we bolted back for the lodge with the rain hitting us square in the face. The girls and I all got drenched despite the ponchos, so we returned to our room to change (where to hang the wet clothes?!) and then to breakfast. After breakfast Kathia wanted to try the tour again but we said no thanks and went in search of beasties near the lodge. About a half hour later she came to get Genevieve and I (Charlotte and Mark were sleeping) because it actually had cleared up. I’m really glad she did. We saw an anteater, spider and howler monkeys, basilisks and iguanas, sloths and a caiman. And tons of butterflies in search of new homes for the migration. We returned to Mawamba to find Charlotte and Mark having a blast in the pool. We all had lunch and then Genevieve and Charlotte and Mark all took another nap while I went on a hike with the group. We were told to wear Mawamba-issued rain boots and ponchos because sure enough, it was raining again. The hike was interesting–we saw blue-jeans dart frogs, golden orb spiders (so named because they spin a yellow web), and a couple of white-faced monkeys far away. The jungle gets flooded really quickly when it’s rained hard for almost 24 hours, so it was up past my knees in places (slosh, water in the boots) and about one foot over the covered path. An experience, to be sure. When I got back to the room, everyone was still sleeping so I wandered around and then parked myself outside until they woke up. We all went to the pool and then I went to check on the time for Genevieve’s and my turtle tour. Yipe! 10:00pm to 12:00pm. Even though I don’t want to be a whiner, because I know that technically the hotel has no say on who goes on what tour, I went in and explained again about Genevieve only being four and was there any way we could switch to an 8:00 tour. The guy says no, only to chase me down later and say that friends of his have agreed to go later so we can go from 8:00 to 10:00. Cool. We all got cleaned up and go to dinner and then Genevieve and I went to our designated meeting place for our tour. Charlotte, realizing she was being left behind, began to wail and Mark says that she was inconsolable for a half-hour, saying how she wanted to go see the turtles. Dang it! Again I had underestimated the age of poor Charlotte and assumed she wouldn’t understand she was being slighted. Our tour began , and this is where it got weird. First off, our guide barely spoke English, which they said could happen so no biggie. But in our group there was this mother-daughter team that I couldn’t figure out. They didn’t seem to understand what is in Costa Rica (animals and plants), why they were there, what they wanted to see or really anything. They were utterly clueless, truly not bright. I have no idea what they were doing in Tortuguero in the first place, it seems like where they really wanted to be was Cancun. We saw our first turtle who dug her nest and was laying eggs. We had been instructed to wear dark clothes, to walk only where our guide tells us, to be quiet and not have any flashlights. After we all saw this turtle (clueless women “is that it? What’s happening?”) we went in search of another one to watch. We saw a turtle making a u-turn, which happens when they start up the beach and get frightened by something and head back to the water and this brought out the clueless womens’ inner PETA personas. They began to argue with our guide (remember he doesn’t speak English) about the ethical responsibilities we have towards pregnant turtles and they just got louder and louder, until they staged a coup and demanded to be taken back to the hotel. Everyone but Genevieve, me and a girl from Sweden went back with them, while we waited for our guide (who was astounded that someone would not stay the length of their time). Our guide returned, and we got to see another turtle dig a nest and lay eggs with nobody else around. It was great. We found out later that the tagging team that was on the beach that night didn’t tag a couple of turtles because they were afraid of what those women would do. The power was still out by the time our turtle tour ended (it had gone out shortly before dinner) so Genevieve and I got a little lost finding our cabin in the pitch black. But we made it with the help of an employee. I was amused to find that Genevieve was really worried that we’d never find it and be wandering around forever.
Saturday, July 29, 2005
We said goodbye to Kathia and our original tour group because wewere staying an extra day (in retrospect, not recommended). On the bright side, it was actually sunny in the morning so when we took the family on the same hike I’d gone on yesterday the water had gone down a lot (but we still had to wear boots) and we didn’t have to wear ponchos. The clueless women were part of our group, lucky us. Genevieve got attacked by biting ants when we stopped on one of the raised platforms to listen to our tour guide Anselmo. She must be a magnet. But we did see the blue jeans dart frogs again, although not much else. That afternoon Mark and Genevieve took a boat tour while Charlotte napped and I read. And that night Mark got to see the turtles!