A Travellerspoint blog

Rara Avis

12th - 13th November


We left La Baula Lodge early the next day and set off along the Tortuguero and La Suerte Canals, this time with enough petrol to see us to our destination. After travelling for about an hour we were met by our minivan where we all squeezed in around our luggage like sardines for the next couple of hours as we made our way inland to the main office of Rara Avis.
Here we left our big luggage behind and packed all that we needed for the next couple of days in our daypacks. Our mode of transport for the next 4 hours was to be a tractor-drawn cart as we piled in and made ourselves as comfortable as was possible for the journey. We started out on country lanes which looked and smelled like the English countryside, and made me a little homesick for the countryside around Chichester and the South Downs. Don't get me wrong, I am loving my time here in South and Central America, but it is little things like that that make me look forward to coming home in a few weeks.

As we continued along the track it became more and more rugged and bumpy. At times there were great big boulders in our path and it amazed me how the tractor was able to scale these, taking all of us in the cart behind with it. We were tossed from side to side in the cart as our driver navigated our way up and into the primary rainforest. Arriving at Rara Avis we donned our headtorches and made our way to the rustic lodges where we would be staying for the next 2 nights. The accomodation here was very basic, with electricity only between 5 and 10pm. Having spent some time on the ranch in Uruguay and also in the Amazon Rainforest I had become quite familiar with this way of living.

The next day our guide took us on a hike through the primary rainforest to learn about the complex relationships between the plants and the animals. The rainforest at Rara Avis is packed with diversity in vines, orchids, birds, butterflies, insects and animals, along with the inevitable mosquitos! The trails were muddy, wet and slippery as we carefully wound our way through the thick vegetation. Our hike ended with a trip to the nearby waterfalls, but due to recent heavy rainfall the night before we were unable to go swimming here which would have been a welcome relief in the sticky humidity.
Evenings were spent playing card games old and new to pass the time before climbing into our mosquito net-surrounded beds just after 10pm when there was no more light.

Posted by slking 16:25 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Up Tortuguero Canal Without An Engine And Only One Paddle

10th - 11th November


After a torrential downpour the night before and some slightly damp clothes, we packed up and moved on from Puerto Viejo by bus towards our next destination of Tortuguero. Stopping off enroute to buy supplies for the journey and the next couple of days we continued on to the port of Limon where we all piled into a little taxi-boat for the 4 hour journey along the Canals of Tortuguero. As we zoomed through plantations and jungle vegetation, we stopped along the way to see sloths and howler monkeys hanging out in the trees, iguanas basking in the sun, herons and kingfishers patiently waiting on branches overhanging the water ready to dive in and get their next meal.
Posted by slking 16:23 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Puerto Viejo

8th - 9th November


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.
Posted by slking 16:09 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

5th - 7th November

View South American Adventure 2011 on slking's travel map.

A 2 hour delay and I was finally in the air on my way to San Jose. Just enough time to take in a movie and a couple of glasses of wine, I was sat just behind the upper class seats and had plenty of room to stretch my legs and no annoying people putting their seats right back to sleep. Being so close to upper class, I could see through the curtains at the meal they were being served, with proper cutlery and crockery they were tucking into what looked like a very yummy dessert. The stewardess must have taken pity on me as she surprised me with one a bit later on, and it didn't disappoint.

Costa Rica awaits. With the Carribean Sea to the East and Pacific Ocean to the West, Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South, a more laid-back approach to the next 2 weeks was ahead of me.

First stop was San Jose, the capital. It is big and noisy and quite an intimidating place to be when you first step foot outside the hotel. It was not easy to navigate my way around this place as there are no street signs. The roads are only organised by avenues running one way and streets running perpendicular. You can quite easily spend ages wandering around looking for some kind of sign to point you in the right direction, as I did, and still be none the wiser. I walked around in a big circle trying to find the main streets and somewhere to eat, but gave up and made my way back to the hotel with a few supplies from the local supermarket. The next day I set out with further determination to find the main square and this time found a great place to watch the world go by. There were people performing in the streets, and impressive buildings such as the National Theatre, paid for by coffee growers through a voluntary tax on every bag of coffee exported. I took a wander through the Artesenal Market eyeing up the souveniers for when I return at the end of this tour.

Posted by slking 16:00 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Lima Take Two

3rd - 5th November

View South American Adventure 2011 on slking's travel map.

3 weeks after we started our tour of Peru and we found ourselves back in Lima. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone once again, a common theme throughout my trip. Just when you feel you have made some really good friends it's time to pack up and move on again, starting all over with the next group and the introductions.
Here we all are at The Sun Gate, Machu Picchu

Before leaving Lima I had chance to catch up with Jenny, another of the girls on my Buenos Aires to Rio trip. We took a wander round Barranco in Lima and had the biggest cocktail of cerviche I have every seen.

Posted by slking 08:40 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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