25 January 2011

tortuguero and a thief

For Thanksgiving break, I went to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast. Getting there was kind of a production, as it's on an isolated strip of land that can be reached only by boat or airplane. Even though it is so hard to get to, it is the third most visited national park in Costa Rica because its beaches are key nesting sites for many of the world's most endangered species of sea turtles. Tortuguero means "land of turtles."

Arriving at the village of Tortuguero by ferry

Aside from eco-tourism-related activities, there's not much to do in town. After checking into the hostel, the first thing I did was hit the beach...

...then I took a stroll around Main Street...

...and then I visited a museum about sea turtles. This skull is supposedly from a gigantic sea turtle, but I don't really believe that, do you? It just seems too huge. Maybe from a whale???

The highlight of the trip was definitely seeing sea turtle hatchlings scurry from their nests to the ocean. They were so tiny! A lot of people were picking up the struggling ones and carrying them to the ocean...totally illegal and against nature.
Sorry the picture is sideways...I don't know what happened and can't figure out how to fix it...does anyone know?!

Beautiful sunset

For dinner I went to this amazing restaurant called Miss Edith's with some new friends, an awesome couple from Austria. Miss Edith cooks a lot of the food in coconut milk. Yum! Another good place to eat was the Budda Cafe. The second day I was there brought a horrible storm with flash floods, so I was not able to leave the hostel (the water was up to my knees in the area surrounding the hostel, and I didn't want to risk it). So I stayed in and became BFFs with the other people there.

On the last day, I went on a nature canoe ride with some new friends to look for some wildlife.

We saw a bunch of great blue herons and capuchin monkeys (please excuse the poor quality)

I had seen loads of capuchin monkeys at Manuel Antonio National Park, but the ones in Tortuguero were really cool because they are not used to humans and are therefore much wilder. This one was using a coconut to beat open the tree trunk to get some food from inside.

This father bird was screaming at us to stay away from his nest. I think he is a neo-tropical cormorant, but don't quote me on that.

Some other wildlife we saw were great green macaws, river otters, green herons, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, jacamars, iguanas, various parrots, blue morpho butterflies, Jesus Christ lizards (so named because they walk on top of the water), emerald basilisks, crocodiles, toucans, and green turtles.

I had some time left before I had to catch the ferry back to my first bus, so I went to the national park for a while. This is their entrance station.

Most of the water from the previous day's storm had receded, but the trails were still pretty water-logged. No one is allowed in the park without rubber boots. If you don't have your own, you can rent a pair at many places around town.

Doesn't this leaf looks just like the one in The Very Hungry Caterpillar?

I didn't see tons of wildlife while hiking in the park, just some monkeys and lots of these little guys:

The most memorable part of the trip came when I got back to my hostel to check out before heading to the ferry. I was organizing my things when I realized that my wallet was gone, along with everything important I brought with me (cash, credit and debit cards, copy of my passport, emergency phone numbers, etc). I knew I had it when I went into the park, as I had to pay my entrance fee, so it must have "gone missing" while I was in the park. I ran back to the park to explain the situation to the rangers, and one of the rangers offered to take me on an ATV to check the trails I had hiked. Alas, the wallet was nowhere to be found (is anyone actually surprised?). The ATV ride was actually pretty fun, and it would have been totally awesome under other circumstances. I really did not know what to do, because I had no money to get back to San Jose, and no way to reach anyone. I was pretty convinced I was going to have to sell myself on the streets of Tortuguero or wash some dishes at a restaurant or something to raise money to get back, but luckily the ranger gave me 10,000 colones (~$20 U.S.) to get back. And then asked for my number. Yeah.

Of course, the ferry I was supposed to take was long gone by that point, so I went to a dock to wait before the next one came a few hours later. Fast forward to me walking to catch the ferry. This pre-teen rides up behind me on his bike and asks me if my name is Luisa. I say yes, but I'm really thinking, "Who are you and how do you know my name?" Here's the rest of our convo:

Boy: They found your wallet!
Me: Really? Where? {How do you know my wallet was missing?}
Boy: On the trail!
Me: Oh, wow, I can't believe it! {Hmmm, that's strange, because it definitely wasn't there when I went looking for it and searched the trail four times a few hours ago.}
Boy: Are you taking this ferry that's about to leave?
Me: Yes.
Boy: Ok, I'll go get the wallet for you. Stay here.

Boy pedals off furiously and returns several minutes later with my wallet. Of course, there's no cash inside anymore, but everything else is there, miraculously.

Boy: What's my reward?
Me: ???

All in all, a very strange situation, but I'm just glad I got the wallet back and that I was just pick-pocketed and not mugged (I mean, I'm pretty sure that's what happened...my wallet couldn't have fallen out of my closed backpack...but the crazy thing is, I passed only one other person the entire time I was hiking).

After the ferry, I caught a bus from the dock to the bus station. Almost home! But because I caught the last ferry of the day, by the time I made it to the bus station, the last bus for San Jose had already left. What to do? Luckily, there were some others in my situation (that first bus driver had stopped about every mile, so a lot of people had missed the San Jose bus), and we learned that we could catch a bus to Cariari, and from there catch the last bus from there to San Jose.

We all rushed to that other bus, hoping that we would make it to Cariari in time to catch the last bus to San Jose. After a ride that seemed to take forever, we pulled into the Cariari station right as the San Jose bus was about to leave. Whew! An uneventful bus ride and a cab ride later, I was back at my apartment. Never been so glad to be home!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I was incredibly jealous until the last part, then I was less jealous (just a little though). Several points: 1) That looks very much like a whale skull. Turtle skulls are not at all the same shape. 2) I am VERY jealous about all of the wildlife you saw. And you sounded so blase about it all. 3) I want you to stay there long enough for me to come visit so we can go there together. Okay? Okay.