¡Pura Vida!

Eyelash Viper @ Tortuguero Nacional Parque

Around 7am we both dragged ourselves out of bed, got ourselves ready, packed our bags up and hit the breakfast room at 7:50am ready for our free pancakes and coffee. Shortly after inhaling our breakfast, we called an Uber, bid our temporary farewells and waited for our Uber. So much for “meet your driver out front in 1 minute”; we waited 20 or so minutes before he arrived, and I sort of wished he hadn’t bothered.

To start with, he didn’t even bother getting out of the car to greet us or help us with our bags into his boot (which is fine, we can carry our own bags, but then, whilst remaining comfortably seated, let us open the boot to find a whole bunch of crap taking up the whole space, he still didn’t say a word to us. Alice then went to the passenger seat to place her bag in the front, and this is the first time he decided to speak, sorry; not speak but yell at Alice to watch the door, he didn’t want her opening the passanger door because he had parked next to a cement footpath. Alice in her most British way of ever so politely yet passively aggressively explaining to him that the door was no where near the footpath, popped her bag in and got in the car. I did the same on the other side but closed the door a little too heavily for his liking so I was next to get a stare and a slight telling off. This is the point where he got told off in my best Spanglish, one for being late and two for being a wanker. Needless to say, the rest of the trip was in silence.

At the bus station we were directed to the ticket windows, chatted up by an old man with no shoes selling lottery tickets and yelling at tourists. We grabbed our tickets and jumped on, what we thought to be a pretty lush bus, especially compared to the transport we are used to. This bus had windows, fabric seats (rather than sweaty pleather) and we couldn’t see the road under our feet.

This was not the first sign we had seen of the economic richness of Costa Rica, there were sets of three bins on each corner for recycling and decent waste disposal where there normally isn’t a bin at all, no rubbish lining the streets, no children or women vending anything and everything. The people looked vastly different too, not just ethnically but lots of people had braces (adults), wore much dressier clothing and lots and lots of make up.

Ten minutes in and we were desperate for that artic air conditioning that we have been moaning about for the past four months; it never came, so we sat sweating our butts off for the next two and a half hours as the French girl in front of us has shut the only nearby window because it was apparently bothering her hair. We switched to another hot and sweaty bus in Cariari, but at least the windows on this bus worked and we could get some fresh air flowing. Another hour and a half along one of the bumpiest roads on earth, we arrived in a little shack on the edge of a river. Here we loaded into the little passenger boats that would take us to Tortuguero. We opted for local transport which saved us heaps of money, local buses plus boat cost for both of us under $30 where as just the shuttle from San José to the boat dock excluding the boat trip cost $55 per person. The public transport in Costa Rica are definitely where you can save money but they are not nearly as efficient as El Salvador and not always going directly where you need them to go. Costa Rica seems geared towards richer non backpackers who can afford a $50 car rental per day.

Before we boarded, we quickly ducked into a little store to try find some food to cook that night as we had been told there wasn’t stores or ATMs in Tortuguero. After I knocked a box of Kitkats off the shelf and the lady just laughed at me and repeatedly told me it was fine as I apologised profusely, she also told us that there were not only supermarkets, but three of them, plus a cash machine. Brilliant. I picked up the kit Kats, apologised for the thousandth time, purchased a guilt juice box and we jumped on the 20 passenger boat.

Canoeing @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

An hour down the canal we spotted our first ever sloth (amazing!!) and after another 20 minutes we had reached Tortuguero.

As soon as our shoes hit the ground we were approached by numerous companies and people at the dock, with the passengers names on clipboards. We had messaged a few places to get a good price on accomodation and tours, and confirmed the ones that we had chosen, whilst also letting the others know we wouldn’t be staying with them. Our guide and our accomodation showed up to great us, as well as another hostel that hadn’t even responded to us but yet had our names on a board, so we were left standing there with three people trying to whisk us away, while we slowly worked out what was going on. After a minute or two of organising and sending people away, we managed to work out who was who and walked to our accomodation with a guide from the company we had booked to do some wildlife watching with. Jorge, our guide, walked us to our accomodation whilst explaining the tours and packages they had to offer.

After we checked in at La Casona, we went for a little walk along the beach, grabbed some shopping and started preparing dinner as we were booked onto the night tour that night. Tortuguero was great, clean and really set up to handle a lot of tourists. The locals were all super friendly, Pura Vida was said to us multiple times a day, it was a great feeling.

It was very hot and humid to say the least about the weather, the type of humidity where you get out of the shower and you can’t get dry.

Tortuguero village is surrounded by the Nacional park of the same name. It is only accessible by boat or plane and is best known for the copious amounts of sea turtles who come here every year to lay their eggs. Tortuguero means “turtle catcher” in English, although we were not in the right season for that, we were here for the jungle.

The park is home to over 60 species of frog, 30 species of freshwater fish, over 400 bird species including Great Green Macaws, three species of monkey and many other reptiles, butterflies, insects and sloths.

Juvenile Bare Throated Tiger Heron @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

Purple Gallinule @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

At the hostel, we met an ancient Labrador called “Tia” who, although was not Rodrigo’s dog (the guy who half owned and ran the hostel, another hostel and a tour company), lived with him and followed him around everywhere. She was completely in love with him and although he wouldn’t admit it, loved her just the same. There was also another dog that we met, albeit briefly, called Yoyi. Once we told rodrigo we had seen Yoji, he wanted to know where he was as “he is naughty and causes a lot of trouble”. The dogs on the island were all healthy (as in, when you put on a bit of weight and everyone says how “healthy” you look) and super happy, it was nice to see.

We started getting ready for our night tour, which was hellish as it consisted of wearing as much clothing to cover as much skin as possible to prevent insect bites whilst in the jungle, while the weather remained hot and humid. Ready and sweaty to go, 15 minutes prior to leaving, it pelted down with rain. We decided to hold out until the following night in the hopes of better weather, so we striped off the layers, found ourselves some hammocks and enjoyed the sound of nature at its best.

The following morning we woke at 5am, jumped on a canoe and spent the next 3 hours being towed through the canals of the Nacional park by Jorge. The jungle towering above us, the noises coming from within was deafening.

Hungry Eyes @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

On our canoe trip we saw;

White faced monkeys and babies, Howler monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Caimens, Iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, so many birds- Green Maccas, Parrots, Stack bird and baby, Sungrebe (apparently people come from all over the world to get a sighting of this bird, and we saw two!), Bare Throated Tiger herons, Kingfishers, Jacanas, Green Herons, Great Curassow, Boat Billed Herons and many many more!

Our guide, Jorge, told us that Tortuguero park will see around one thousand visitors to the park per day during the high season. For such a small village that seems absolutely insane and somewhat impossible. We were very happy to be there in a less popular season even with all the rain.

Breeding Female Sungrebe @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

Female Great Curassow @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

When we got back, we grabbed some food, chilled out for a couple hours then we went back into the jungle, but this time on foot for a walking guided tour. Our guide for this tour was Ray and unfortunately we had a “relatively” unsuccessful walk but we did manage to see; A Yellow Eyelash Viper (which was amazing), a keel billed toucan, some very cheeky Spider Monkeys, blue grey Tanagers, lizards, some cool butterflies and other birds.

The Creepy Boat Billed Heron @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero The Cheekiest Spider Monkey @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

The walk was about two hours and the weather had turned pretty quickly so unfortunately we didn’t get to see any sloths or macaws which is what we were hoping for.

That same night we headed out on a night tour, this time we went even though it was raining. The rain cleared pretty quickly though and we had a reasonably dry hike. We managed to see; a Red Eyed Tree Frog (my new fav), Cane Toad, a Snake, a few cool insects (or what Alice thinks are cool), loads of sleeping lizards and a family of raccoons.

We unfortunately didn’t get a glimpse of any turtles, it is just the very beginning of the season for the Green Turtles and even though the night before’s group saw one, we weren’t lucky enough.

Red Eyed Tree Frog @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

We had a bit of a relaxed, sleep in kinda day the next day as we planned our next adventure in Costa Rica. We went for a wee little walk on our own to where our guide said he thought the green macaws might be hanging about during the day. After a while of waking and looking we gave up and headed back. Just as we had made this decision and taken about three steps we heard the unmistakable squawk of a macaw! Two Great Green Macaws! We stood and watched them for a while, we also made the mistake of running into a little patch of jungle to get better photos, but instead got malled by mosquitos, so quickly turned around.

The Handsome Great Green Maccaw @ Parque Nacional Tortuguero

Cricket @ La Casona Tortuguero

That night we watched the local guys playing football, as we had the day before. As one of them scored he ran up to a tourist and waved his arms to celebrate, she acted like he had just robbed her, out her head down and quickened her pace. We laughed so hard he saw us, he laughed with us and we helped him celebrate his next goal.

The next morning we had planned to go to the Poas region to climb another volcano and let Alice chase some humming birds around. We found out very late that the volcano had erupted some months ago and the National Park was still closed! No matter, we changed our compass to La Fortuna (another volcano with lots of wildlife) and were leaving on the 5am boat to try to catch around 10 consecutive buses to get up north in a day! ¡Pura Vida!

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