Monday, January 24, 2011

quest for monkeys

We headed out for another trek through the jungle. After getting caught in the dark the previous night, we made sure to give ourselves ample time to find those elusive capuchin monkeys. We walked for some time, never veering far off the path. Although our surroundings were still overwhelmingly foreign, especially the constant sounds, after a couple days the exotic had, by degree, become more familiar.

After spotting a pizote or two, I rounded a corner and saw a dark shape emerge from behind a large tree. It was a large bird, the size of a wild turkey but shaped more like a dodo, stouter and thicker than a turkey. The bird was entirely black, like almost blue-black, with a red mohawk-like crest. I tracked alongside it, trying to get a good picture without getting too close, but the low-level light of the early evening demanded a flash. So, long-story-short, no pictures of the big, black dodo bird with the red hair.

I'd discovered my big bird on a detour and now we were headed toward yesterday's beach at Deb's behest. Our eyes scanned the trees for any signs of curly tails or adorable monkey faces. We ran into another couple who informed us that they'd passed a whole bunch of monkeys further up the trail. (I don't actually know what a large group of monkeys is called. Bunch can be used casually for a group of almost anything. Bananas come in bunches, and monkeys like bananas—so there's that. Okay, I just Googled it and, according the one website I looked at, it is a "cartload of monkeys." But "cartload" is too ridiculous, because it sounds a lot like "shitload," which ironically is what I'd originally written before replacing it with "bunch." The website also said "troop" or "troupe," so let's go with that.)

We were getting close. The other couple had just seen a troupe of monkeys only moments before, in a big tree near the trail bridge. We walked quickly, scanning the trees as best we could without tripping over a root or tree branch. After arriving at the bridge, we scanned the trees in every direction, but there was nothing there. The monkeys were on the move, but we didn't know in which direction. We we heading back in the direction of the camp when we heard the hooting sound Pedro had taught us earlier; the monkeys sounded close. We walked back the length of our troupe expedition to the place where we'd met the other couple. We could hear the monkeys hooting, but were unsure which direction the sound was coming from. Deb walked off softly in one direction, I went in the other. We walked as silently as we could and held our breath, listening for the slightest movement.

Then, off the trail, high in the tree, I saw a monkey walking slowly along a branch. I whispered as loudly as I could to Deb, who had disappeared around a bend on the trail, that I had a monkey in my sights. Luckily, she could hear my loudly quiet news and we soon stood there silently watching the monkey. We could now leave Costa Rica wholly satisfied. It was a great relief.

We heard a loud crashing overheard. Another monkey had just made a rather noisy landing on a huge palm frond high above us. We looked up and could see his silhouette on the huge slatted leaf. He quickly made his way to a long branch from a neighboring tree and scurried quickly to the trunk. Here, he planted his back feet and leapt through the air about ten feet before grabbing another thin leafy branch that swayed heavily under his weight. He climbed it without pause and continued on his way. Then, we heard another crash on the first leaf above us.

Suddenly there were half a dozen monkeys within view all at once. They varied in size, one of them clearly carried a baby monkey on it's belly. Another paused on one tree and repeated banged a small nut against the branch. Still more monkeys arrived. We now counted over a dozen. One by one, they each made there way along the path the monkey had taken. Some of them stopping for a snack at one particularly large palm tree before continuing on their way. It was a monkey rest stop along a monkey highway that we'd been lucky enough to stumble upon during monkey rush hour. We stood there for some time, watching each monkey traverse their tested route at the point where it crossed our trail.

I tried in vain to get a good photo of a monkey for quite some time, but the monkeys were too far away, the light was too low, and I couldn't hold the camera still enough. My best photo is just a blurry approximation of a capuchin monkey. If you'd like a clearer view, I recommend Google Images.

As we walked along the trail, back toward the resort, the monkeys continued their movement through the trees on our right. But their route was much further from the trail now and we could only spy them in the distance now and then.

That night after dinner, Deb and I went for our nightly swim in the pool. While we were submerged, the sky decide to open up and dump a rainforest-sized amount of water us us. And as if that wasn't impressive enough, the power to the resort went out and we were plunged into darkness. It was truly amazing to behold. The surreal beauty of the moment, however, was soon interrupted by a pair of tipsy Canadian couples carrying umbrellas and flashlights. They descended upon our serene scene like drunken Japanese lanterns. Deb fled back to our cabin and I soon followed after imbibing a Crown Royal and Coke. We had to rest up for tomorrow. We were heading to back to San Jose in the early afternoon, but in the morning we were going zip-lining.


  1. Damn Canadians, ruining the moment.

  2. You guys got off easy - Andy and I were dive-bombed by a herd? flock? troup? shitload of bats while lazing in that pool one night.

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