5:00 in the morning doesn’t seem quite as early when there is already a little bit of daylight coming into the window. Which is what I kept telling myself to try and coax my body out of bed. I knew that if I forced myself to get up the reward would be worthwhile. After a plate of scrambled eggs and a scramble of getting clothes on and teeth brushed and daypack packed with amenities (mostly snacks) Andrew and I were off to Parque Nacional Cahuita.
We were on a mission to see animals in the wild. At 5:45 we approached the “locked” gate – it had rope slung over both sides to keep it together. So, we went around the gate on the beachside and started walking in to the park when a voice said, “Chicos!”
Then a man who was obviously very lonely rattled off a bunch while Andrew and I stood there smiling and nodding and Andrew saying, “Sí.” every once in a while. My Spanish is así así – unless I am ordering at a restaurant, then it is perfectó – but the basic gist of the diatribe was that we had to wait until 6 in order to sign in to the park and to please remember that it is a donation based entrance fee but if we were entering on the other side of the trail it would cost us $6.00. Also, we have to sign the guestbook so if we don’t sign out within 12 hours they can start the search party.
We waited until 6 and watched the sun actually come all the way up over the cloudy horizon. This was not as exciting as it could have been had there been no clouds, but we were thankful for the cover as we were about to enter into an approximately 8 to 120 kilometer hike through beachside jungle.
I love starting my morning with coffee, sometimes a latte, sometimes a cappuccino. But starting my day off with a family of Capuchin Monkeys woke me up like no caffeine would ever do. Right as the lady with the park passes was opening up the roped gate, a family of monkeys came to watch us enter, pose for photos and determine the meaning of “SQUEE!!!!”
I think for an iPhone camera the photos I got aren’t so bad.
We signed as the first visitors into the parque and trod onward through sandy jungle. The Capuchin were swiftly replaced by Howlers. I would post my Howler pictures, but they basically look like brown blobs in jungle so here is a link to Howler images instead. I saw them. Up close. Pretty neat.
I have to say that despite my morning cup of squee, I was exhausted. It was like I had caught Andrew’s slothiness from the prior day. Andrew often teases me that I can go from asleep to Ethel Merman in 30 seconds or less. But this day I just couldn’t find it in me. Instead, I was kind of grumpy. The hike was magnificent, but mostly silent. About another hour into it and I was getting ready to call it a day.
Then this happened:
Andrew and I almost became spider lunch. This spider was as big as my palm and his web was made with steel guitar strings. Andrew used the web to sharpen his machete to cut down the tree that this spider had spun itself to in order to clear the path.* At this point my heart was beating so fast I was never going to sleep again, so I figured I may as well continue to hike.
Not more than ten minutes after that I paused to kick some sand out of my Venice H2 Persimmon Orange/Rust Keen’s (which I LOVE for travel – seriously this blog is not supported by commercial dollars, though it should be. Buy these shoes they are fantastico!) when there was a rustling beachside on the trail. All of a sudden a family of raccoons were hanging out eating noni.
If you’d have told me that I was going to be enthralled by raccoons eating fruit while in Costa Rica I would have scoffed at you and shown you the sloths in a bucket youtube (find it yourself). These raccoons were more foxlike than their Norte Americano cousins and were fricken adorable. At one point I had to remind Andrew that they were not cats and to stop calling them over to him. When we turned away from the raccoons to continue hiking I checked his pockets and the daypack just to make sure we were only going to smuggle a Bichon Frise** back home and not a family of raccoons to boot.
Onward we hiked. We saw many a hermit crabs (aka squatters). We were more careful about watching ahead of us for spider-traps. So much so that Andrew spotted this:
Soon thereafter we ran into some park rangers who were coming up from the other parque entrance. They stopped and chatted with us for a bit and asked us if we’d seen any animales.
Me: Andrew? Huh?
Me: No. No Peresoso. Monos! Y arañas, y tarantula, y parrot. Andrew, how do you say parrot?
Them to Andrew (in Spanish): You speak good Spanish, where’d you get this silly girl?
Andrew (in Spanish): Thanks! My mom taught Spanish for college students and I picked it up by osmosis. This girl? Just super lucky, I guess! She’s dumb, but cute.
Me: Y cómo se dice raccoon?
Them: Mapeche. Hasta! (in Spanish to Andrew) Is she always this excited about animals?
Andrew (in Spanish): Oy vey!
And that was when we turned around on the trail and headed back. The next trail map we hit was about 1.5 kilometers from our turn around point and it said there was another 3.5k to go to get back to the start. The whole time back Andrew and I scanned the trees for peresoso but could not find any. We stopped to eat at one point and the park rangers caught up. We were just getting ready to start hiking some more and I was looking at the trees through the binoculars in hopes of seeing a sloth. The park ranger came up behind me and asked me if I was looking at the sloth.
Him: Allí (and he pointed with his park ranger stick to exactly the spot I had been looking at through the binoculars and suddenly, out of nowhere a sloth appeared).
Him (to Andrew in Spanish): Oy vey!
Andrew and I stayed and watched the sloth do a lot of nothing while the rangers went ahead of us. About two minutes later they came running back for us and told us to hurry. We jogged up to a new location. There in front of our very eyes was a sloth. DOING SLOTH STUFF. It was adorable! We watched and traded up the binoculars with each other, until we could no longer see the sloth. Then we laughed at each other about how many sloths we’d probably seen and not noticed on our trip.They really do blend in well with the trees.
We continued to head back home. At this point I was exhausted. About every .5 k Andrew would ask if I needed water, or food, or rest, or for him to stop asking if I needed anything. Then suddenly, I got jungle eyes.
Hey look, there’s some Howlers!
Hey look, there’s some more Capuchin.
I was so excited at being able to see every animal, I started looking in every tree for a peresoso. And still I could not find one.
Me: It’ll happen Andrew. I am going to have my first unassisted sighting. It’s going to happen today.
Andrew: There’s probably a sloth sitting on the hood of our truck right outside the park.
Me: Hey look, there’s that family of raccoons we saw earlier, they are up in that tree that’s 200 yards away. You can’t see them? OK. See about 100 feet up the tree where it forks? Now look at the next fork up from that. See that tail swishing?
Then I hit a wall. I seriously bonked. Every step was a struggle and I was just out of juice. But thankfully, we could see the open gate to the parque. We signed our time-out by our names and smugged at each other at having been the first ones in and look at all those people who already signed out though they came after us. Then there it was, just minutes from our truck. A peresoso. In a tree. I spotted it. Unassisted.
Andrew had very nearly called it with the on the truck quip. So, he gets spotting points as well for the sloth IMO.
We eventuated back to the B&B where I took a quick rinse and slept for 3 hours, followed by 3 hours of forced awake time (During which Andrew and I grabbed some guacamole and more meat on a stick. We also shared a cocktail. Andrew had 2 sips then declared himself drunk and then started being a veritable Chatty Cathy – or as Andrew says when he’s drunk and explaining that he is not chatting more than when sober – Chatty McCathy.), followed by another 10 hours of sleep. Squeeing is apparently exhausting.
This morning we awoke bright and early – Ethel Merman in full force – and headed On The Road to Quepos. I totally think of myself as Dorothy Lamour and Andrew is just like Bing Hope. I drove the entire 6.5 hours (with an hour stop for lunch) because the stress of Andrew gripping the handle of the passenger side door and making a cringy face is less than the stress of Andrew being frustrated by having to pass trucks on a two-lane curvy highway through the mountains. Although, about a half hour into the trip I had to agree to stop looking like I was trying to spot peresoso in the trees instead of watching the road.****
About an hour into the drive Andrew took to saying, every half hour or so, how much more relaxing this drive was than the one to the coast where he was driving and hating every minute of it.
We got to our new B&B in Quepos and settled in.
Then the monkeys came by.
Our B&B is situated right at the edge of the jungle and monkeys play their monkey games right outside our window!!!!
After a trek down the mountain, through a horse parade which made me very upset (do not get me started on forcing horses to walk funny or letting your horse foam at the mouth while riding them in this heat!!!! I could totally be a member of PITA if I didn’t like eating animals so much), a light bite, a grocery store trip and a trek back up, we settled in to dual-blog (in case you don’t read my footnotes, Andrew is blogging about this trip too, kind of a she said/he said: andrewberkowitz.com/blog). That’s when we realized the Internet in our cabin didn’t work. We kept trying and when it did connect it was so slow it was like being in the early 90’s.
The place we are staying in is through Airbnb.com. I believe ratings are everything. A slight complaint to the owner and we ousted a young “couple”***** who had just arrived and moved into their suite with amazing connectivity. We offered to buy them a drink in return but they would have none of it and weren’t the least bit interested in Wifi. The owner also comped us a drink. Well, mostly me. I think Andrew may still be hung over.
*This is how I remember it. If you want a different version, see andrewberkowitz.com/blog 3/2/2014.
**See andrewberkowitz.com/blog 3/1/2014
***We are writing and publishing our respective blogs at the same time, and I am therefore uncertain of specific content; however, it is very likely that Andrew’s blog corroborates. I dunno. See for yourself at andrewberkowitz.com/blog 3/2/2014
****The agreement MIGHT have been to actually stop looking for the sloths, but you can probably find out at andrewberkowitz.com/blog 3/2/2014
*****They had just met that day. He from Alabama. She from Calgary. They were very sweet.