What The Water Gave Me

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“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake – Aye, what then?”
 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The park itself is a large expanse of wilderness where the tropical rainforest meets the Pacific. It’s packed full of monkeys, sloth, exotic birds, butterflies and a huge array of other animals.

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I followed a family of Raccoons (beach-coons, as we decided to call them) across the beach to a spot that they’d clearly smelt from a decent distance: a pile of somebody’s left over lunch at the edge of the forest.IMG_2317

Trying to cram as much of the food as possible into that little mouth of his!

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What at first appears to be a beach full of moving rocks is actually herds of hermit crabs scuttling around. Here’s a particularly tiny one!

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An adorable little squirrel monkey, playing about in the tree tops.

The town beside the park has an incredibly relaxed, mellow atmosphere; locals are dotted about with their boards in the surf whilst the tourists (yes, unfortunately there are a lots of them) soak up the hot Costa Rican sun. There are also numerous boards for hire. Perfect.

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On our first night in this paradise, one of our group members was leaving the next morning so we decided to give her a send off on the beach, unsurprisingly involving copious amounts of alcohol. The inevitable swim which followed was so fantastic that I had to go back in the following night: not only is the idyllic beach entirely isolated and star-lit but the ocean is teaming with phosphorescent plankton so that when you swim it lights up specks of greenish light all around you. Absolutely stunning. The best night time swimming I’ve ever experienced.

The downside was that the $20 note I had been keeping in my bikini fell out into the water. As I’m on a very strict budget you can image that I was pretty cut up about this, so when my, rather intoxicated, self realised it was missing I went back down in the dark to try and find it – with a candle of all things! It was such a hilariously fantastic moment when I found it, washed up on shore with the shells.

The cherry on top of a perfect night was spotting a two-toed sloth making it’s way along the telephone wire a couple of metres above our heads on the walk back. We watched it’s slow voyage for about half an hour, particularly enjoying it pulling off leaves to eat from the nearby trees. Another lucky up-close viewing.

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Darkness Between The Fireflies

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Next stop: Monteverde. My frustration with the health and safety rules continues. The Monteverde cloud forest itself was in fact so cloudy that we could barely see anything on our three hour hike through the park. The hummingbirds however in the national park’s ‘humming bird garden’ were simply stunning: ranging in many different luxurious colours and sizes.

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We decided to explore the lower forest that night and stumbled across a number of different creatures including agoutis (like a small version of a capybara), racoons, numerous fireflies, white-nosed coati and red-kneed tarantulas. We were also harrased by the tarantula wasp, which apparently gives one of the most painful stings in the world. It kept landing on our clothes – my back for example or our guides neck. Not nice! The forest became unusually quiet for a significant period of time – the reason soon became apparent  We got a very brief glimpse at a mountain lion wandering through an old farm!

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‘Headlight click beetle’. When in the air it shines about twice as brightly as the fireflies. It also has a nifty way of flipping itself over when it’s stuck on it’s back: It tucks it’s legs in and makes a loud ‘click’ noise with it’s wings plopping back over onto it’s front!

ImageI have to admit that I was completely unaware that scorpions reflect UV light! Pretty cool.

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Such Great Heights

“Life is an adventure, dare it.”

 – Mother Teresa

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Bungee over the canopy at Monteverde cloud forest. Hard work trying to convince the company that I’d be fine barefoot (I left my hiking boots in San Jose!) but as you can see I managed to get through to them. The platform is 143m high. Check it out if you’re in the area – the company is ‘extremo bungee’.

Born To Be Wild

A Brush With Authority

I had a brush with authority

Not only did it tell me

What to paint and when

But also which colours to use.

– Roger McGough

Unfortunately, so far I have been rather frustrated by the tourist industry in Costa Rica. The raw country itself is simply beautiful but is spoilt by the high price tags on activities/entrance into ‘natural’ areas, not forgetting the large numbers of tourists. In comparison to the rest of Central America it has the highest number of tourists and (undoubtedly as a result of this) it is by far the most expensive.

Another thing that greatly frustrates me is the ridiculous obsession with health and safety concerning any activities, for example rafting, rappelling, even walking! I personally get frustrated when I’m told what I can and can’t wear in my free time. They are my toes. If I want to run the risk of stubbing them (which I have already done) then I will bloody well do so. This stubbornness runs back to my childhood when I would refuse to wear a raincoat out, insisting that I had the right to risk getting cold if I wanted to!! Of course, though, they have to introduce these obligations to prevent people from suing them when they injure themselves – the whole system is just ridiculous.

Anyway, on arriving into La Fortuna I decided against any organised events and did not particularly relish the idea of paying to see a waterfall so I went out for a walk into the countryside where I stumbles across this magical little place:

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A large waterfall pool off the side of the road where the illusive locals were out enjoying themselves. The pool was incredibly deep, perfect for diving into and, what’s more, they had tied a rope swing onto one edge resulting in a terrifying but adrenaline pumping ‘Tarzan’ swing into the water.

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The bovine locals looking inquisitively at a sopping wet gringo heading back towards town with a smile on her face…

 

Monkey On My Back

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Proyecto Asis, across the border now into Costa Rica, is a small wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre where it’s possible to ‘volunteer’ for a day. On our way through from the capital, San Jose, to La Fortuna I was dropped off the Bus at the nearby town ‘Javillos’ and made my way over to the project. The experience wasn’t quite what I had expected. Although we had a fantastic introduction to the animals in the centre, the actual volunteering consisted of solely the preparation of the food and the feeding of the animals. Great for seeing some of the local wildlife but not giving you the feeling of being particularly useful! If you want to get familiar with the animals and have a more ‘hands on’ experience it’s certainly necessary to volunteer for at least a week or two.

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The majority of the animals in rehabilitation had been confiscated from homes where they were being kept as pets, for example the white faced monkeys which I introduced you to in my previous post, spider monkeys, a lazy Kinkajou, Macaws, A young boa constrictor, White-lipped Peccaries, Parakeets etc. My personal favourites where the two orphaned baby white-faced monkeys, who desperately clung onto each others backs and tried to suckle from your fingers! So adorable.

The spider monkeys were also very fond of human company, even running over to hug the permanent volunteer worker when he walked over to their cage!Image

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http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g309226-d1231711-Reviews-Proyecto_Asis-La_Fortuna_de_San_Carlos_Arenal_Volcano_National_Park_Province_of_A.html