8th - 9th November
08/11/2011 - 09/11/2011
An early start and we were found ourselves sat on a bus in the bus depot waiting for one of our group, Kevin who had got left behind. In all the confusion, it turns out he thought he was getting a wake-up call but wasn't, and only woke up about 10 minutes before our bus was due to leave. With the group being relatively new and not yet knowing everyone's names and faces, none of us had noticed he wasn't there either. A few panicked phonecalls later and our guide managed to convince the bus driver to stop by the side of the road to pick him up. Slightly confusing too, as there are 3 Kevins in our group, one from Austria, one from Canada and another from the UK.
Puerto Viejo was our destination, a picture postcard place with 14km of black and white sandy beaches bordered by tropical vegetation. This small but bustling seaside town is filled with souvenier shops trying to sell you Bob Marley t-shirts and sarongs, as well as countless bars piping out the Reggae and Carribean music. With nothing planned for the first day we spent the afternoon in and out of the shower trying to acclimatise to the intense humidity that is normal for this part of the country. Other than that, it was a pretty chilled-out afternoon as some of us wandered up and down the beach and parallel main road flitting in and out of shops and eventually settling in a bar overlooking the black, sandy beach and sampling several 2 for 1 Mojitos as the sun went down. That evening after dinner we went to another local bar and played pool, with me sinking a few flukey shots to win one of the games. There was quite a whiff of cannabis in the air and as one of the boys went to the bathroom he was asked why he was in there. He explained that he just wanted to wee, and was met with the question "You want weed?"
The next day we had the opportunity to visit Jaguar Centro de Rescate - The Jaguar Rescue Centre, in Playa Chiquita. Despite not having any Jaguars there, they have taken in a wide variety of animals which have been victim to roadside accidents, kept as inappropriate pets, or simply found out of their natural habitat in people's homes or gardens. They aim to help rehabilitate and release as many of them as possible back into the wild. We were taken on a tour by Charlie who was born and raised in Guatemala but had lived for 18 years in the USA and had been volunteering at the rescue centre for several years. He was very knowledgable about each and every animal and insect that we came across. At the centre we saw many different snakes including vipers, boa constrictors and bushmasters (thankfully behind glass), spiders, sloths, porcupines, cayman, and a spectacled owl to name a few. We had the opportunity to go into the cages with some howler monkeys who were being rehabilitated back into the wild. As part of their therapy they have play time where they can interact with other monkeys in the wild and also with humans. Inside their play pen, we were allowed to let them climb all over us and watch them as they swung from rope to rope, navigating their way down from the tops of the cages to see what was going on. One of the monkeys called Irene came and sat and had a little rest in my arms and was quite happy just sat there watching everyone else play as her eyes slowly closed and she had a little sleep.
Later on that day we went on a hike through the forest near Manzanillo, a little town just along the coast. Here we wandered around looking at all the natural surroundings had to offer such as leafcutter ants, bullet ants, poisonous frogs, vipers, and more howler monkeys and sloths in their natural environment. The end of the hike found us at an outcrop overlooking the Caribbean Sea where we could see the coral reefs that had been uncovered years ago by the earthquakes.