Day 11/23

Morning

Today I depart at 07:15. I had a reservation for the Arenal Observatory Lodge but sofar I have no confirmation. I try to call them from the reception, but the phone is not picked up. At the same time I am thinking to return to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Yesterday I have spoken to a few people that told me it is very beautiful there. The same I have also read about the place. Bijagua is the village and according to one of the books, the Heliconias Lodge is the place to be.

Driving is super fast here compared with to the roads of a week ago and within the hour I am in Bijagua. I am curious and start to look for the lodge. After asking around for a bit I find the road leading to it. As bad as it can be and it is always the question where it will bring me; a modern complex or a rotten junk yard. The road is getting narrower but ends at a reasonably modern looking lodge. Computers, credit cards and even fast internet turns out to be available. I am sold immediately. I arrange a cabin for only 60 dollar, which is quite cheap. I cancel the reservation for the Arenal Observatory Lodge for today. It appearred to be confirmed in the mean time. I make a new reservation for tomorrow.

The cabin here is actually 70 dollars but I get it for 60. If I want to make use of the trail, then I pay 10 dollars extra. Must be some kind of Costa Rican logica, but I do not understand it (-; The weather prediction for Arenal for today is very nice. If this changes into bad weather tomorrow, I most probably ditch a beautiful photograph of the volcano for the second time, but that just has to be.

I change clothes immediately and enter the trail. They have three suspension bridges here hanging 30 meters above the ground. But before I get there I see a small sign indicating another 2.5 kilometer path through the forest to a pond. As I don’t have something better to do and it is quite early in the day I take this trail first. It is very different from the other trail with the bridges. The trail is very narrow and really traverses throught the jungle. It is covered wit leaves, branches and other debris. Especially during the first 1.5 kilometers I check the path in front of me very carefully for snakes. The path has been cut free from the jungle and it is very clear that it is maintained on a regular basis. The trail ascends, how else can it be, and ends up in a real climbing exercise with some slippings. Sometimes the trail is interrupted by fallen trees or completely washed away by water. Further up the trail is steeper and is covered by red/yellow clay that is very slippery. The ‘steps’ get bigger and bigger until they are almost a meter high. Meanwhile I have to look very carefully where to put my feet and what to grab. No idea what animals live here and I have read something about Fer-de-lance and Coral snakes on the trail. Although it is not completely clear whether this is here or somewhere in the surroundings.

At about 3/4 of the trail I see my first snake: a small pit viper. So they really are here. This one just screams to be photographed. It stays very still, but his little eyes register everything.

Pit Viper

I shoot various frames to get everything sharp, but despite good software, I have not been able to produce a good, completely sharp composition. This awaits further experimentation. When I am finished I have to pass him and this is a little bit scary. Now he also moves somewhat.

I see also two very weird spiders. The front is just like a normal spider but the backside looks a bit like a space ship: a kind of ascending black and yellow shield with a sting on both sides. They are too small to photograph and the web flies everywhere in the wind.

A couple of times I slide completely away and ask myself whether to continue or turn around. But now I have been climbing for so long, it just can’t be far away anymore. The trail becomes more difficult to follow. Once I fall down quite hard when I have to climb a vertical drop-off of slippery clay and slip away. In reflex I grab around with my arms to keep myself standing. That is dangerous, because you don’t know what you are grabbing. Look first and then slide away becomes my new motto.

Finally, after 2.5 hours of hard work (1 kilometer per hour, faster is barely possible) I arrive at the pond. I shoot a couple of photographs here and see thick clouds rolling in above the pond.

Jungle Pond

Time to go back. I am not very fond on following that path in thick fog.

Going down does not go that much faster then going up. Again the slippery clay is quite a challenge and again I slip a few times. In hindside I should have taken more water with me. I am completely soaking in sweat. I shoot some photographs of the trail.

Jungle trail

A spell of sunlight changes the lighting completely and sprinkles diamonds of light.

Jungle trail

Difficult to see but this part is close to vertical. Almost I step on the snake I saw earlier. I though it was farther down the trail, but luckily I spot it in time, and that only because I decided to take a short break here and looked around.

I complete the other trail with the swinging bridges. I will return there tomorrow morning for some photographs. Now, I see the difference between this rain forest and the ones in New Zealand. Everything here has almost the same tint of green. In New Zealand there were many kinds of green. In that sense it is a bit more boring here (-;

Afternoon

After the walk I talk for a while with the owner. He tells me that before 1982 the forest was full with wildlife. Even Jaguars and Ocelots were seen on a regular basis. In a period of 10 years the forest was hunted completely empty. Aguti’s in particular must be delicious. The consequence of this is most of the cats and a part of the snakes are gone as well. They try to stop the poaching and very slowly there has been more wildlife in the last years. But apart from the snake and one Aguti I have seen nothing else today. This, while many times I stood still to look around for a few minutes to try to spot animals. Checking every branch and treetop. This I have learned yesterday. By just walking around you miss many. You really have to look for them actively.

Drugs has become a major problem in Costa Rica, this is especially true for the smuggling of Cocaine from Colombia to the north. Smugglers enter the country from both sides and fight their wars in Costa Rica. Cutting of head and hands is a trademark of Nicaraguan smugglers. Brrrrr…. What a shame that such a beautiful country is troubled with this shit.

Many young people go to the cities to find work. The people here try to interest the kids in nature again and hope to keep them here instead they instead of becoming victims of Western temptations.

Suddenly someone spots a Sloth. After looking for a while in the trees I see him as well. He is hanging up side down and stretching himself. One of the employees runs in front of me to a place where we have a better look. I am fiddling with the camera for a while because it does not want to take a photograph. I just don’t get it. Then I discover that it is still working in timermode, because I shot a self portret earlier. Stupid! This is not the first time that this happens. Two girls also want to have a look through the lens and scream for fun. Meanwhile, the sloth has rolled up and hangs like bag of potatoes in the tree, flying half a meter back and forth in the wind. But I now do have a photograph of a Sloth in the wild.

Sloth

Evening

I make a reservation for a night tour at the butterfly center close by. I guess I’ll just have to wait how that is going to work out. Finding the center is a bit more difficult then expected, but soon I find it.

Before it is getting really dark we visit the garden and see beautiful Heliconias with large flowers, taste various kinds of fruit and eat cinnamon right from the tree.

I am also allowed to hold a Boa Constrictor that feels a bit cold and moist, while it is not really wet. I may also hold a typical Costa Rican tree frog: the green one with the red eyes and those long toes. This is a very funny feeling. Every finger is a little suction cup and his hands wrap completely around your finger. Cute little animal this is. We also see three bats hanging under a banana leave. Furthermore a sloths somewhere high in a tree. Tomorrow I will definitely return to photograph the frog, Hiliconia’s and bats. That can become a nice session. When darkness falls, the nighttour really begins. Between 17:00 and 19:30 we walk through the forest and find a lot of spiders in all sizes and types and even one measuring 8 centimeters. Some frogs, a scorpion, a few moths and a couple of marsupials of which we first see the eyes as a kind of flash lights in the tree.

I shot a lot less photographs than expected today, but I have had a nice day after all. I receive a confirmation of the Tiskita Lodge for in a few days. I am really looking forward to this one. It is a fruit plantation close to the ocean, where lots of fruit eating birds like Toucan and Parrots visit. Well over 300 species of bird are regular visitors here. I also get a nice tip for a lodge somewhere in the mountains in the middle of Costa Rica where de Quetzal can be seen. I send them an email and am hoping to visit them the day after tomorrow on my way south. With the lodges in the south, already good for 8 days during this trip, the route fills up very quickly. First I thought to travel via Braulio Carrillo National Park to visit that park on the way, but that does not fit into the schedule anymore. Hopefully the three lodges in the south will make up for that.

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, Costa Rica Dry Season 2011, Day 11

Download the original gpx file here.

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