We got up for breakfast this morning around 6am, loaded our bags on the bus, and were on the road by about 7am. And they really did have rice, beans, and even fajitas for breakfast. No soy milk, however, so I’ve had to adjust to drinking my coffee black. The next four hours or so were spent on the tour bus, getting out of San Jose and into Braulio Carillo National Park. The traffic reminds me a lot of Los Angeles, with motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic and the level of assertiveness that people drive with. Even so, the difference in what our concept of a city is compared to here is quite apparent. Columbus is probably bigger than San Jose, and that’s just our state capital compared to their country’s capital.
Braulio Carillo National Park reminded me of driving through the Appalachian Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway – winding roads through steep, thickly wooded mountains. We just drove through it, so we didn’t see much beyond the road.
Once we got to the other side of the mountains the terrain was much more open and flat, occupied by rangeland for cattle or household farms. At one point we stopped to look at a banana plantation. As if on cue, a Chiquita truck pulled out from the driveway, most likely full of the very bananas we were looking with new perspective. The heat and humidity were stifling – just standing there by the side of the road felt miserable – I can’t imagine picking bananas all day in it.
Another hour or two and we made it to our next mode of transit – a boat through the canals to Rana Roja, our hotel near Tortuguero. Along the way we saw a wild iguana and a caiman. The ride was about an hour until we arrived at our hotel on the waterfront. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was very wrong.
Once we docked at the waterfront bar, we walked along a path lined with tropical flowers, past a pool with a waterfall, and along a raised boardwalk through the jungle to our rooms. Someone pointed, “Look!” I did a double take. Monkeys. Wild monkeys, just clambering all over the roofs and through the tree tops. And later, a tree-frog, glued to the side of the railway, fast asleep, but vibrant all the same. Bright green and red-eyed.
After dinner we went on a frog walk with our tour guide, Mario, around the paths of the hotel. The little tree frog near our rooms was still there, and Mario picked him up for us to see – a white belly, bright blue ribs, and little yellow feet. Over the next hour or so we were tracking down dink frogs in the trees with our flash lights, and found a massive bull frog. On our way back to our rooms, I spotted another frog on the boardwalk rail – a yellow frog with red webbing between the toes. I kept trying to get a closer picture, until it actually jumped onto my phone. And then onto my neck. I could feel it’s sticky little feet on my skin, crawling into my hair. It sprung onto a nearby leaf eventually. I guess that was my initiation into nature.