One of my goals for this trip is to learn to accept the heat. When the temperature rises it takes me extra effort to do things, whether it´s using white-knuckle willpower to get out in the midst of the day, or super-human effort to get up early and start the day before roasting time.
Manuel Antonio National Park was the destination today. I did get up reasonably early, on time for make-it-yourself pancakes at the hostel. But then the trees needed a good staring-at (somebody has to do it) and I just started reading a good book last night.
When you get to the park later in the morning, the admission cost increases by a quart of sweat. Much as I´d like to stay here longer, the road beckons and I leave tomorrow; it is essential to go to the park today. Monkeys await.
This is the most popular park in Costa Rica. Meaning it is an excellent park with high ecodiversity, but there are crowds. Loud crowds — the wildlife must need earplugs.
I signed up for a guide, but the tour company had a problem with my ticket to the park, which seemed like a hint to just enjoy it on my own, with my heart instead of my head. Good call — the guide groups were cumbersome and chatty. Solo I could head down interesting trails and stand still for a time, letting the jungle happen around me.
At one point I was warned back from yellow caution tape blocking a trail because of snakes ahead near the stream. But I want to see snakes! Especially a fer-de-lance, a poisonous little pit viper. Sometimes they´re bright colors and easy to see, but they can blend into the leaves on the path. They´re territorial and not afraid of anything. And you´re pretty much toast once bitten, slow-dying, miserable toast. I´m not sure what I would do if I saw one. Ask it to pose for a picture, I suppose.
No such luck on the vipers, but there were many other interesting creatures on the hike. Off the main path to wait. It was like being in Avatar. Many impossibly-colored butterflies flitted past. One had to be five inches across sporting electric blue wings. There were several types of ants of strange shapes, plus jumbo-size wasps and bees.
I went to the end of a trail that had a platform overlooking a cove far below the jungle. It was surrounded by bushes of big red flowers. No one else was there, and I rested for a while, watching raptors overhead, including a trio of birds with flying silouettes like pterodactyls. Jurassic Park meets Avatar. After a while I was joined by an irredescent hummingbird, who ended up parking on a branch near me. I never saw one sit still so long.
A group came along, scaring away my buddy. But a troop of white-faced monkeys came our way, probably looking for food. Don´t smile at monkeys, because showing your teeth is aggressive. Don´t feed them, because it is dangerous to them. And don´t stand under them, it is potentially disgusting to you.
On my way back there was a younger kid walking in front of me. He was finding wildlife along the way, including a snake escaping into the undergrowth! I only caught a glimpse, not enough for an id. Which is okay, since I don´t really want the last sight of my life to be the open jaws of a fer-de-lance.
The park closes at 4 pm, and I managed to slip around to a cove while everyone else was leaving. I hung out on the deserted beach, watching the hermit crabs´version of fashion week. There were thousands of them scurrying across the sand. There was also a slender crab about an inch and a half across dressed in sand-colored and textured armour.
I found a back way out of the park. Unfortunately, it was high tide and the way out was underwater. So there was an actual reason for the closing time…
There were a couple guys in flat boats offering rides back to the public beach. I figured I could wade across, it was only a foot or two deep. Well, until it wasn´t. But I was planning for a swim before heading back to the hostel.
I lazed in the lukewarm ocean water for an hour, watching the sun set, telling myself that I´d stay just one more minute. The minutes stretch and warp here, twisting around you, rendering walking impossible. Eventually darkness hit, the minutes unwrapped, and it was off to the bus stop and a much needed shower. Sweat is fine and good, but not a great dinner companion.