The road from Grecia to Zarcero was not bad at all. Nothing much to complain about. Unusual for me! Little to no rain… hills and road conditions not too treacherous…
Zarcero is a small, picturesque and charming mountain village known for being surrounded by coffee plantations AND its big blue and pink church.
I strolled through the topiary gardens, which is one of Zarcero’s major tourist attractions, and found myself marveling at the many shrubs and various shrub creatures adorning the park. Pretty cool, I must admit... thought I did have a difficult time trying to figure out what some of the bizarre shapes were supposed to be.
* I must note that I left Zarcero with a full tank of gas! Go, me!
Once outside the town, the spooky and thick Halloween fog moved in and made it near impossible to see more than 5 feet in front. On a narrow, winding road, peppered with pothole pits, pedestrians, pets, speed bumps and, in some spots, sheer drop-off cliffs at the pavement edges, it was quite dangerous... and more than a little nerve racking.
Desperately needing to pee and needing a well deserved break from driving through cream soup, I veered off to a local pub. I thought I might have a beer to ease my stress and let the fog ride itself out and out of my general direction. The stress evaporated immediately, but the fog held strong.
It wasn't going anywhere.
73km more to La Fortuna took longer than one might expect… and I think I have to realize that there is no such thing here as 100km per hour, to which I gauge most destinations by. A more reasonable expectation would be 15-20kms per hour.
Every kilometer along the way, you have to account for fog, road damage, milk trucks… and my personal favourite, people that just stop in the middle of the road to have a chat with their friends.
The second I arrived at my new Eco Lodge destination, I knew it was going to be a much more magical experience than that of my last eco-lodge on Tortuguero. The girl at the reception was friendly, informative and then accompanied me along to the little bungalow I would have for the next couple of nights.
I was originally supposed to stay one night, but as soon as I pulled up, I knew I would enjoy my experience so much, I immediately opted for a second.
Maybe my ass is sick of driving.
Yep. Nailed it.
It’s not the cheapest eco-lodge in Costa Rica, but it comes fully equipped with a restaurant, its own rainforest stroll, gardens, bird watching and frog finding tours and… did I mention the cuteness overload?
My rustic, little bungalow is set amid the forest and presents a perfect opportunity for me to relax and just get back to nature. At least… as naturey as I can possibly try to be.
I was lazy for the afternoon. I did a walk through the premises with my good camera and tried to channel my inner photographer in order to really capture the intimate details of the rainforest. I have to admit, I didn’t fail miserably, as I originally thought I might. Even though no one is probably clamoring to buy my prints, I don’t think I did that badly! In fact, I was quite pleased with my results.
At 5:30PM, I put on my running shoes, got out my flashlight and camera, and headed down to reception to meet my Frog Night walking tour guide. Seemed a quite fitting thing to do on Halloween.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t over enthused about doing this walk. It didn’t really seem like something I would be particularly interested in. Online blogs and guides had highly recommended it… and it seemed a normal touristy thing to do… so who was I to question or go again the norm?
Sign me up!
From the moment we hit the trail, I was mesmerized.
We hadn’t even ventured 1 minute into the night, when a sprinkling waterfall of urine came splashing down through the leaves, hitting us all. We had just been peed on by a kinkajou!
Never heard of it in my entire life.
Kinkajou’s, as I have now discovered, look like rat monkeys and can be considered like the raccoons of the trees. Apparently they are very aggressive, and typically attack the face or genital area. Probably not a good pet.
Now that one has officially pissed on me, I feel we are more than well acquainted. Though I still probably won’t get one as a pet.
Not sure if it's bucket list worthy... but I can officially say I have been peed on by a kinkajou. How many other people have that claim to fame?
I almost feel it belongs on on my resume.
How our guide, Juan, managed to not only entertain and educate us all with stories of the wildlife, but also locate different species, using nothing more than a mere flashlight to guide the way, is beyond me.
The entire evening was incredible and I would jump at another chance to do it again.
We saw- and in not particular order;
~ a baby bat, hanging upside down inside a termite nest. I don’t normally pride myself on peering up into termite nests, but the guide knew it was in there, so got us all to take a look.
~ an armadillo. I have never seen one before!
~ fresh water crab. I asked Juan if it tasted like salt-water crab, still slightly apprehensive to broach the whole crab conversation again. He told me they tasted more like mud. Hmmm….
~ an abundance of frogs including the Red-Eye Tree Frog, Poison Dart Frog, Glass Frog, Splendid Leaf Frog, Brilliant Forest Frog… and a few more, but after awhile, names escaped me. I’m not even absolutely positive that these names mentioned were 100% correct.
~ some kind of tiny lizard.
~ toe-biter. Again… another thing I have never heard of or seen before. They’re like giant water bugs… and very similar to cockroaches.
~ centipedes and millipedes. LOTS of them.
~ a few enormous meaty spiders ~ I believe they were called Red-Bellied Orb Weavers… and they only emerge at night, to build their web. Our guide picked up an ant at one point, and threw it into one of the webs. He did this in order to demonstrate how the trap line vibrates when prey is caught, notifying the spider, who rushes to the web, bites and paralyzes the prey and then wraps it in the web silk for later consumption. He wanted to show us a “National Geographic documentary” … and that, he did. It was appalling… yet morbidly fascinating.
~ a few snakes. Three, actually. One was a juvenile Eye Lash Viper, just relaxing on a leaf, minding its own business. The other was small and brown… and we watched it slither up a branch, ever so slowly and carefully, behind a tiny green frog… and attack. Two National Geographic documentary moments in one evening. It was grueling. Educational… yes… in the competitive world of the tropical rainforest food chain, but still torturous. The frog was grasping for breath, fighting for its life… and his webbed fingers kept reaching out, desperately attempting to grasp onto anything, as it was slowly being devoured. Perhaps a little too much for me to watch, and I found myself turning away. The last snake we saw was the Fer-De-Lance. This is the most dangerous snake of Central and South America, and causes more human deaths than any other American reptile. When we passed it, it was coiled up on the side of the path… and Juan made sure we were all moving very slowly, yet quickly, and far out of its initial reach. He kept instructing us to be careful… very, very careful…
I had to laugh, as Juan, was adamant that no one go ahead of him on the trail… and I don’t think anyone questioned or challenged it.
Nay danger, mate.
I know that I was perfectly happy trailing behind, like a wee minion. I'm always good with someone else getting eaten before me. My flashlight was on constant ground patrol, ensuring nothing was popping out from below. A girl on our tour brought it to my attention that things did have the potential to come at me from above, as well…
That changed my position… although only temporarily.
It was difficult running an continual surveillance on left, right, up, down, forward, behind… but I made a valiant effort.
One of the ladies in our group was much like the nature enthusiasts on my boat tour, in Tortuguero. Eagle eye. If there was a tiny green frog, the size of a toe nail, sitting on a green leaf, she saw it. In fact, everyone managed to catch sight of something impressive.
Me? I developed a particular talent for spotting grasshoppers.
After enthusiastically locating about three, everyone lost interest in my area of expertise and my treasures were no longer stop-worthy..,
I had to up my game.
Juan has been conducting evening rainforest walks for well over 15 years, and as well as being quite an eagle eye himself, was is also somewhat of a photo taking pro. He would casually hang back, watching us all zoom in with our smart phones, taking our blurry, grainy shit photos. Finally he stepped in and took control, showing us how to best utilize our phone cameras for the ultimate in nighttime wildlife photography.
All of a sudden, I had joined the ranks of well-known international wildlife photographers… and all I needed was a quick lesson on my iPhone.
… though I’m not entirely confident this skill will extend past my spooky evening walk…