Friday, October 22, 2010

jungle beach party

We dropped off our stuff in the little bungalow duplex and wandered back to a thatched roof restaurant. There were about eight tables, but only two had lights on above them. One was populated by four middle-aged guys from Orange County, so we seated ourselves at the other. We were completely exhausted and equally ravenous. There seemed to be only one guy working. He brought us our drinks: I had a local beer and Deb had a mango smoothie. The food was delicious, and not just because we hadn't eaten all day, it really was quite tasty. We devoured our meal and tipped generously (we think). Then we made our way back to the room with the help of our tiny flashlight and promptly passed out.

I don't know what time we woke up the next day and that was a welcome and wonderful change. We didn't have a flight to catch. We didn't have to drive 100 miles to our next destination. We didn't even have the pressure of making the most of our day. We were here for three whole nights and it was time to relax. We went to the restaurant and ordered two American breakfasts. We were still too dazed to worry about eating authentic cuisine; I wanted eggs and bacon, but mostly I wanted coffee. And really, what's most authentically Costa Rican than coffee?

Today we were going to the beach. We packed a bag and put on our brand new bathing suits. We had to make certain to pack out sandals and wear shoes because the trail to the beach stretched a mile through the rain forest. We were well-rested, we were excited to be in a new country with an exotic ecosystem, we were fueled by bacon and coffee, and we were on our way.

We went through a gate in the fence on the edge of the resort and we were immediately enveloped by the jungle. Huge leaves bordered the trail, while others hung overhead blocking the sunlight with their giant fronds. The towering trees were wrapped haphazardly with vines and giant blue butterflies the size of birds darted through the few rays of sunlight that the thick canopy of foliage allowed. Suddenly, I saw a long upright tail moving through the brush, the end curled slightly. Was it a monkey? We'd only been in the forest for a few minutes and we already had our first large mammal sighting. As it emerged from the brush, we saw that it wasn't a monkey. It wasn't a tapir. And I was quickly running out of rainforest animals that I was familiar with. It looked like a cross between a possum, a raccoon, and a monkey. We would later learn that it was a pizote (or coati, in English). It scampered off into the jungle.

I noticed some movement on the ground and bent over to see several dozen leaf-cutter ants marching in a line across the trail. I could tell they were leaf-cutter ants because they were each carrying a huge piece of leaf. They diligently made their way from one side of the trail to the other before disappearing back into the jungle. A line of unladen ants made their way in the opposite direction, past their burdened brethren, as they headed back for more leaves. We learned to keep an eye out for such processions as they criss-crossed, back and forth, along the length of the trail. At each of the many crossings, the ants had carved out small trenches with their years of harvesting.

As we made our way through the forest, we kept our eyes open and watched our step.

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