Costa Rica 2009:
Day 3 - Tortuguero


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Costa Rica 2009: [Day 1 - San José] [Day 2 - San José] [Day 3 - Tortuguero] [Day 4 - Tortuguero] [Day 5 - Fortuna] [Day 6 - Fortuna] [Day 7 - Guanacaste] [Day 8 - Puntarenas] [Day 9 - Central Valley]

Sunday, June 21: It was dawn in San José and we were up for our early-morning departure.
Each day, our seats rotated clockwise four rows, so we were in a different location every day on the bus. This morning, we were in the front row behind the driver, which had no leg room but gave us an excellent view of steep streets like this one.
Heading out of San José, ...
... Shirley provided interesting commentary, ...
... and we were at the toll plaza for Braulio Carrillo National Park by 7:04 AM.
We passed numerous cyclists braving the hills and enjoying the rain forest scenery.
Everything in the rain forest ends up with a layer of moss eventually, and this tunnel entrance is no exception.
We crossed the continental divide, ...
... and Tom captured the elevation change on his beloved GPS.
We crossed a particularly lovely river bed and our bus driver, José, stopped the bus on the bridge long enough for us to get some nice photos.
Our destination was the Rainforest Aerial Tram. The shuttle drop off point featured a beautiful orchid garden, ...
... with dozens of baby orchid plants attached to pieces of wood on wires, ...
... hanging over bromeliad plants, where our guide found this little poison dart frog hiding.
This sobralia bloom will last only one day.
While we waited for the next shuttle to bring the rest of our group, our guide pointed out a sloth in a tree. More on her later.
This tree was covered with hundreds of tiny white mushrooms.
We boarded open-air trams for a 60-minute ride through the rain forest. The tram supports are so well integrated into the jungle you can hardly tell they're there.
This photo shows it better. The trams are open-air baskets holding six passengers and a guide. For much of the first part of the ride, the trams were at the level of the rainforest floor, hanging just a few feet above it, while the trams on the return journey were much farther up closer to the tree canopy level.
This allowed us to be within inches of plants such as this one, Psychotria elata, nicknamed "Hot Lips."
Here is a small stream just a few feet below us ...
... and here's a larger creek further down as we crossed a ravine.
Plants, mosses, vines, and orchids all grew on top of one another.
We had Melinda, Chris, and Rhoda in our tram with us. Melinda was in charge of spotting butterflies and she saw lots of them.
Here's a classic example of a whole bunch of stuff growing together. The more you look, the more things you see growing on just one trunk.
After a half-hour, we were only halfway done. We could have stayed on that tram all day, it was such a relaxing and beautiful ride.
For this half, we were headed upward.
Yeah, baby, let's see some canopy!
The view down from further up is even more impressive.
More contorted and layered foliage and moss.
More unusual plant life. Check out the larger version of this photo to see the unusual honeycomb pattern on this plant left when the nuts fall out or get eaten.
Bromeliads grow everywhere, but especially on the branches and trunks of other plants. However, this photo was taken for the bird in the far right branch. Oh, how we wish we remember what it was, but Debbie didn't remember to start taking notes on each of our tours until we got to Tortuguero. Let's just say it was a parrot, okay? We'll see more of those later as well.
We were definitely up above the canopy on the return trip.
It's a long way down!
Here's another random explosion of plant life halfway up a tree trunk.
These seed pods were gigantic.
Here's a great example of plants making their home by clinging to some bark. Those vine-like objects hanging in the air are actually roots of other plants growing until they hit the forest floor.
As we neared the end of our ride, we dropped down quickly to the level of the forest floor again. Buh-bye, treetops!
Our picture was taken at the end of the ride, so we purchased a copy in the gift shop.
There was plenty going on back at the visitor center as we rested before our next tour, such as checking out this guy on the rock wall ...
... and viewing the sloth through a telescope the staff set up ...
... and spotting this guy with a bright aqua bug (or possibly exoskeleton) ...
... and getting a close-up look at the underside of this plant, where a couple of bugs were mating.
Another tram group joined us, and then our handsome and well-informed guide Robert continued our tour with a walk through the rainforest.
Walk with us, dear reader. We're going this way.
Here's some cool foliage. You won't find this back home in Indiana.
While Robert pointed out something interesting in the background, Jill spotted this. Looks like some moss on a trunk, right?
Wrong! It was about six inches long and was way more terrifying when illuminated with flash. He never moved though, and we appreciate that when large bugs are concerned.
This plant looked and felt plastic, looking like it was made out of green army man material. But Robert assured us that it would die immediately if removed from its water source.
Fortunately, there's plenty of water to be found in a rainforest.
Here are more leaf cutter ants. Their gigantic nests weren't far away.
Here's some cool fungi ...
... and even cooler fungi.
There were toucans in the trees. They're difficult to photograph, but fun to watch with binoculars.
Fortunately, Paul got this nice photo of one.
Before long, our walk was ending ...
... and we were back at the visitor center. A snake was in one of the trees putting on a show for everyone.
We looked down to admire the shedded snake skin on a bush below, ...
... and looked back up to see our little friend was coming much closer now to get a better look at us.
Meanwhile, the staff had moved the telescope so we could get another view of the sloth. Sloths stay up in trees for a week or so, so this girl wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Occasionally, she'd change position or scratch herself, but mostly, she lounged.
This photo was originally taken to try to get a spider (out of focus in the foreground on the right) but turned out to capture something even better -- the leaf cutter ant crossing sign in the background.
Here's a caterpiller with soft orange spikes, ...
... and another lizard, ...
... and a dragonfly, ...
... and another poison dart frog.
After a fantastic morning in the rain forest, we left to head to our next destination, ...
... lunch at Restaurant Selva Tropical.
The highlight here was the large butterfly garden behind the restaurant.
Paths with beautiful butterfly mosaics led through a large enclosed building.
There were delicious fruit treats for the butterflies ...
... and handy signs to identify the many tropical plants inside.
Pretty butterfly.
Pretty plant.
Here's the butterfly nursery, with a few dozen cocoons pinned to wooden slats.
Here's a banana plant blossom. When the bananas grow, this will eventually be facing down.
Jill is even better than her mom at getting incredible close-up photos of plants.
The large blue butterflies seemed to love Jill but were just elusive enough to not let her touch them.
They are lovely, aren't they?
Back at the restaurant, this friendly kitty got her share of affection from us.
Next, a long drive to Tortuguero, starting with 30 minutes of beautiful paved road, ...
... followed by an hour and 20 minutes of gravel road. Here we go!
Just 33 km to go ...
Fortunately, there was interesting scenery to keep us occupied, such as these banana fields.
The blue bags shown here are wrapped around the banana bunches to protect them from the elements, especially bugs.
There were several growers in this area, and this was Chiquita's land.
They also had their own tiny airstrip. Check back on Day 5 for our visit to Del Monte.
In the row behind us, Jill continued to read her book.
This road was rustic. Seriously rustic.
Cows!
Store.
Front yard. Many of the yards had orchid plants growing from dead tree stumps. The plants were just lashed to the stump and grew from there. They made it look so easy.
15 km left to go. Hooray...
Finally, we arrived at Puerto Ecológico Caño Blanco, the gateway to Tortuguero National Park. We visited the restrooms and the tiny store, stocking up on ponchos and chips.
From here, we'd be traveling by boat another 90 minutes to reach our destination.
Let's go! It's a beautiful day for a boat ride!
We passed water buffalo ...
... and this roseate spoonbill.
We caught a brief glimpse of the Caribbean Sea, but we'd see more of that the next day.
We had a real treat when we passed a female aninga with a freshly caught fish. She whacked it on the log over and over again, either to kill it or to get it off of her bill, ...
... then tossed it in the air, ...
... and caught it in her mouth. Delicious!
We got another glimpse of the Caribbean Sea, but this time we headed that way because the combination of salt and freshwater makes an ideal environment for alligators, ...
... like this one. Our guide, Cloy, had very sharp eyes and spotted this from at least 50 feet away, but most of us couldn't see him until we were this close.
We all jumped back when he suddenly swam toward us and went under water, but he surfaced again safely a little further away.
Here are Tom and Shirley enjoying the ride.
The river opened up as we got a little closer to our destination.
Here's part of the tiny town of Tortuguero. We'd be visiting this very location the next day.
We arrived at the Aninga Lodge and the hotel manager greeted us.
We were welcomed with fresh banana bread and fruity drinks, which we inhaled because we were so hungry after the long boat trip.
We were given our cabin numbers and set out on the raised pathways through the jungle to find them.
Hop this way to cabins 131 and 132!
The cabins were rustic but nice.
We'd been warned that they didn't have air conditioning, but it never occurred to us that it meant that there were no windows either -- just very large screens with curtains.
The beds had bed spreads that really weren't needed until the wee hours of the morning when it finally cooled off to less than 80 degrees.
Our bathroom offered the most important amenity -- cold showers, which were key to cooling off before bedtime.
After settling in, the three of us enjoyed some piña coladas.
Next, our Tortuguera guide, Cloy, gave us an overview of the next day's activities and told us about the local wildlife, including the howler monkeys.

We headed to the restaurant for dinner, then finished the evening with a quiet evening in our cabin with Jill and her book.

Day 4 >


Costa Rica 2009: [Day 1 - San José] [Day 2 - San José] [Day 3 - Tortuguero] [Day 4 - Tortuguero] [Day 5 - Fortuna] [Day 6 - Fortuna] [Day 7 - Guanacaste] [Day 8 - Puntarenas] [Day 9 - Central Valley]

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