March 1, Thursday
The howler monkeys woke us early so we packed up, paid the bill and headed to the dining area to sit and watch the wildlife on the river. Eventually the bar man turned the music on which is really annoying when there are so many jungle sounds you want to hear. I don't understand this constant obsession with listening to man made music. Although I love that too, sometimes it's nice to just listen to nature. Howler monkeys, birds, frogs and insects create their own chorus.
Our luggage packed into the boat in the pouring rain, we headed off up the Chiripua River. This boat had life jackets tucked into the ceiling. We found it ironic that yesterday we paddled about in pangas with none while those in motor boats were wearing them. I guess the panga would float and hold us up until help got there....or the crocodiles got us.
The 2.5 hour trip up river was very pleasant in spite of the intermittent rain. We passed dairy farms and small homesteads and travelled through jungle. Next we climbed out and loaded our bags into a van that was waiting for us along the river.
Another 4 hours or so through small towns and countryside, a lunch stop where we enjoyed a cassada pollo (chicken, rice, smashed beans, etc) and we met the tractor that was to take us on the last leg of today's journey. Again we moved the bags (a good reason to travel light!) into the wagon (complete with school bus type seats) hooked up to the tractor which, according to Mike, was an International but the wrong colour.
A very bumpy but scenic 1.5 hour later we arrived at the Magsasaya lodge which is right on the edge of Sarapiqui National park. At one time it was a farm that produced pepper and paprika but the government purchased most of their land when Sarapiqui was declared a national park. They converted their home into a jungle lodge with 7 rooms and 5 bathrooms which had to accommodate 16 people so we shared a room with Gesine and Reg. There's no power but they have solar panels and a generator. Here there are two seasons. The rainy season and the rainier season so solar power is not dependable.
Luis is a resident naturalist who offered to take us for a night hike. We found it ironic that the “old folks” are the ones who took him up on the offer. The younger bunch were too tired.
The first part involved crossing a “bridge” over a river which consisted of a huge, rotting log with a cable for hand rail spanning about 40 feet which, of course, had me totally freaked out when Luis suggested we go only two at a time since the log is getting old. Then we climbed a rock and mud path for about 45 minutes, just listening to the sounds of the night jungle and hoping to see some nocturnal creatures. We saw evidence of wild pigs and heard lots of monkeys and frogs but didn't see much. Going down was more difficult especially since I didn't have a light. Apparently when I asked Mike to get the lights I didn't specify that he should get one for me too so only got one for himself. Then I had to cross that bridge in the dark and it was now quite wet since it had rained for part of the hike. How many times do I have to face this ridiculous fear before I overcome my serious dislike of heights??? GRRR
Thoroughly exhausted and covered with sweat we arrived back at the lodge in time to hear the dinner bell. After a delicious meal of fish, spaghetti with a cilantro seasoned tomato sauce, salad, beans and rice we sat around and chatted while some played a drinking game. I was done in and ready for bed at 9 pm. Thankfully, our bunk mates are "old folks" as well so we all were in bed early and up with the sun.
Friday, March 2
Happy 50th birthday to Gesine! We were up long before the 6 am alarm so got to enjoy coffee and fruit at leisure before our 6:30 am hike. We all donned rubber boots (snake protection) and headed off for a hike through fields and forest where we saw several different frogs, birds, plants and listened to the incredibly varied noises of the jungle. Luis spotted a few snakes as well including the very venomous pit viper. Thorston, the snake lover, got some great photos of it.
Back at the lodge in time to hear the dinner bell and get treated to a very tasty typical breakfast including gallo pinto (rice and beans together with spices) eggs, sausage and fried plantain. Mike opted to go horse back riding so I walked up with them, took some photos, walked a bit on my own and headed back for a shower. It's only 9 am and I'm dripping with sweat so the cold shower actually felt really good. Some were going for a hike back in the National forest and I thought about it but the idea of crossing that bridge again …. nope. Mike went horse back riding with a few others. Again, definitely not for me so I just spent a couple of hours relaxing and reading. Isn't that what normal people do on vacation?
Early afternoon found us hiking again up and down a rocky, muddy path to find a swimming hole. It was gorgeous, a little cooling oasis in the hot jungle. The water was crystal clear mountain water and very …. refreshing.
Gesine and Thorston hadn't had enough of the horses so they went again and enjoyed a very exhilarating ride with some great views. The ladies of the house taught some of us how to make tamales the traditional way, wrapped in banana leaves.
Dinner was barbecued beef with indigenous veggies and fruit cooked a different way again. Jorge (our guide) had planned ahead and had a cake for Gesine who couldn't have had a better 50th birthday. Next was a campfire where we roasted marshmallows and taught the others how to make smores. Apparently that's a Canadian delicacy. Lol
Jorge finds our group amusing. While others scream and complain when they find a giant spider or scorpion in their rooms, members of our group call the others to come and take photos and marvel and the strange critters. You just learn to always wear shoes, turn on a light or use your flashlight to thoroughly check, flip back your sheets and pillow and keep your packs closed so nothing can crawl in.
Saturday, March 3
Luis offered to take us on a morning hike before we left at 10 am so some of us got up early, packed our gear and left it in the hall, gobbled up breakfast of the tamales we'd made the day before, gallo pinto and eggs and donned rubber boots. Some opted to sleep in. I don't know why. You can sleep any time but you can't hike in a rain forest every day. It was very kind of Luis as he'd already done MUCH more than the package included.
Luis said it was a “nice” one hour hike. Right. First was straight up hill, then down over rocks, tree roots and mud and some was a tiny path on the side of a steep hill that had my heart racing. Of course there's no such things as guard rails and the ground is so spongy there's often landslides.
Although we'd often heard the monkeys, we hadn't seen any until today. Howler monkeys were making their usual racket and we spotted a family of spider monkeys swinging around like crazy. They appeared very upset to see us watching them and screamed and scolded like crazy. When they started throwing things at us, we decided it was time to move on.
We'd spent so much time watching monkey antics we had to really boot it to get back in time. That meant climbing the side of a hill with no path through jungle, poking at logs and leaves to make sure there are no snakes hiding. Eventually we found the road and headed back to the lodge to find the others pretty much ready to go. I was soaked with sweat. I could have wrung my shirt out. No chance for a shower so a quick sponge bath, change the clothes and load the gear onto the tractor wagon. 2 days of sunshine with no rain! WE are blessed.
An hour and half, switch to a van and on our way to La Fortuna with a quick stop for lunch at an iguana rescue centre.