At the end of day three our boat docked at the Laguna Lodge just outside Tortuguero National Park. I felt I landed in tropical paradise wonderland. Laguna Lodge is on a narrow finger of land with the Caribbean Sea just behind the lodge and the canal right in front with houses visible among the jungle on the other side. Tortuguero is famous for its turtles where every night during August the mama turtles emerge onshore from the Caribbean, climb up the sand, dig a hole, lay its eggs, and then go back down to the sea.
The Laguna Lodge reception looked like a marvelous oversized hobbit house with bulbous brown exterior broken up by windows. Our room was in a bungalow with two chairs in front, a fan but no air conditioning, and a note saying if we didn't want our towels washed every day leave then hanging up and help save water--my first stay in an eco hotel Now I walked back to the lodge and sat in front of the bar on the canal watching the dazzling sunset over the canal framed by the green green jungle of the opposite shore. We were told that after six we were banned from the beach to let the turtles lay their eggs but could sign up to go watch with a park ranger for the next night. We shouldn't swim in the Caribbean because of sharks and we shouldn't swim in the canal because of alligators and caimans but we could swim in the little wading pool by the bar in back. I immediately went back to take a walk down the Caribbean beach amidst sand, turtle holes, and driftwood, and returning our guide Jesus Toledo said, "There's a boa constrictor over there." A few steps away I stared at a small snake wound up in the bushes near the pool.
Next morning the entire group but me left at 8:00 to go cruise in a small boat the canals of Tortuguero National Park while I went wading in the surf of the Carribean. I had been dealing with schedules for a whole year of teaching during the time of cutbacks and having fantasies of relaxing on a tropical beach so this was my day. Next I lay in the hammock looking out over the canal: the small boats coming and going on the canal framed against the jungle. I had been wound up like a frozen icecube but a year's worth of tension melted in that that surf, that hammock and that day. After lunch I followed a huge iguana that emerged on the sidewalk near the dining room. Again I lay in the hammock staring at the jungle on the opposite shore and then hung out in the pool talking to the tour members who had returned from their excursions. After dinner--pasta made to order and grilled fish--I didn't go out to watch the turtles lay their eggs but hung out again in the bar overlooking the canal watching the lights twinkle on the opposite shore.
Next morning we left Tortuguero in the boat zooming down the canals and then the California River when we got stuck in the shallow water. Our guide made jokes, "Now it's the women's turn to get out and push." Only there are alligators and caimans in the water. Our fearless guide rolled up his trousers, got out of the boat, stood in the water which came up to his knees and pushed and pushed and pushed. I was afraid we might we stuck on the sand bar. He pushed some more. Still stuck. Finally, the motor started, the boat moved slowly. Then the boat picked up speed and we were off!
Back on the bus we drove through the banana plantations and then up into the San Carlos Valley north of San Jose with its rolling green hills covered with pineapple and sugar cane plantations as well as lazy cows in the fields. We stopped in a Collin Street Bakery's Finca Corsicana, the largest organic pineapple farm in the world, to gather in the reception room in a circle hearing a worker there raise up in an pineapple telling us how to choose one at the supermarket. He told us that they are all ripe so choose the one that has just arrived and that the farm was trying to develop a market for organic pineapple. Then he took up a knife and with assured hand cut up the pineapple in bite sized pieces to give to us--it was wonderful pineapple! Now I was eating pineapple at every meal. We stopped in the Arenal Monoa Hotel near the town of La Fortuna next to Arenal Volcano, its tip cloud shrouded. Arenal is Costa Rican's only live volcano whose eruption in 1968 destroyed the town of Arenal and killed 68 people. The volcano now cloud shrouded at its tip still erupts from its side.
The sixth day we drove through more sugar cane, teak and orange plantations in full bloom by the road as well as a small town with a bridge beside an iguana tree. I saw the amazing sight of at least 20 iguanas hanging in all the leaves of the tree. Our guide Toledo said the iguanas live in the tree over the river because they are partial to the leaves. Then our bus stopped in a little town where we walked to the dock to get on a boat which took us on the Rio Frio through the Cano Negro wildlife refuge. We glided on the boat through a dark jungle on each side stopping when the guide saw a troop of brown spider monkeys high up on the tree including a blonde monkey he called Blondie. The guide called out monkey howls to the monkeys and they responded with their own screams. Our guide was in love with Blondie, telling us how it was extremely rare to find one blonde spider monkey but he had spotted two on the Rio Frio! Further down we stopped at the Nicagraguan border (the Rio Frio runs into Nicaragua) and nearby our guide saw another troop of spider monkeys with the other blonde monkey--a baby monkey called Goldie. More monkey howls and screams between the guide and the monkeys before we boated away.
Back in the bus we returned to the little town of La Fortuna by the town plaza to shop. I headed just behind the church to the large shop Mercado de Artisanias that sold crafts. There I bought a shawl showing a green volcano erupting yellow orange lava from the top against a blue sky with huge orange flowers to the right and a red eyed green frogs on the right and left hand bottom corners. Right diagonal from Mercado de Artisanias just east of the church on the main street of La Fortuna was an upstairs gallery with paintings of the volcano, monkeys and birds. Across the main street was a store that sold amazing crafts by Costa Rican Indians--the ceramics were gorgeous heavy brown painted plates and cups. The artists in all three shops were making amazing paintings on canvas and pottery of all the birds, reptiles, animals and plants we had seen in the rain forests. After shopping we stopped at a hot springs spa with 40 different kinds of pools, lazing in the different levels of pools: some boiling hot, some medium hot, some lukewarm, some cool, some with waterfalls, and one with a huge waterslide. The hot springs were a lovely way to end an amazing day.
Causes Julia Stein Supports
Doctors Without Borders