This weekend my group and I headed out on our first solo excursion. We planned a trip to Tortuguero, a beautiful National Park in the northeast of Costa Rica, on the Caribbean Coast. We met up at 7:30 on Thursday morning, and a taxi, two buses, a boat ride, and more or less 6 hours later, we arrived in Tortuguero about 2:00 in the afternoon. Although our travel there was exhausting, it was cheap, only about $14.00 a piece round trip. Another student, Gina, got us a great package deal at a little hotel called Casa Marbella. We payed $60.00 each for two nights, two breakfasts, and two tours of the park. Que bueno!! Tortuguero Village is a tiny little peninsula, with a river canal on one side, and the Caribbean Sea on the other. In some parts of the village you can see both just by turning your head from left to right. Thursday afternoon the group split up and everyone explored the beach and the little shops Tortuguero Village had to offer. A local helped me set up a reservation for dinner at "Miss Junie's" restaurant where we enjoyed traditional Caribbean cooking. I ordered coconut prawns and had my
first experience of receiving prawns including their heads and legs.. I tried to not be alarmed, but was quick to remove the head and legs before eating them haha. After dinner we checked out the two local discotecas, and danced a little, but the bars were pretty much empty. I struggled to sleep as it was extremely humid and HOT, but luckily my jungle juice repellant kept the bugs away. The next morning at 6:00am we went on a boat tour of Tortuguero's canals. We saw monos (monkeys), y pajaros (birds), y iguanas, y un cocodrilo (croc), y una tortuga! Tortuguero National Park is the most lush, beautiful jungle I have ever seen. I asked our guide Roberto about one of the trees and he told me it was called "sangro." I asked if it had medicinal purposes because the word "sangre" in Spanish mean blood, and he said yes, that the tree's sap is red and can be used to stop bleeding. Cool! After three and half hours of exploring the canals, we returned to our hotel where we sat out on the river and enjoyed our complementary breakfast of fruit, coffee, and pancakes. Then Helen and I found
a pair of shady hammocks and took a luxurious two hour nap! Later I walked around the town and did some damage shopping. There were some really amazing local paintings and jewelry that I couldn't pass up. To save money, our group brought sandwich makings, cereal and pasta so we wouldn't have to pay for eating out. After having a little sandwich lunch, Nneka, Annamarie, Charis and I went to a little cafe for some cocktails and just sat on the river and talked. Nneka and I enjoyed a drink called "huracan" (hurricane) which consisted of two types of rum, and passion fruit, pineapple, and orange juices. DELICIOSO! It is so nice to break into smaller groups, because it allows us to get to know each other more intimately. I think some of my favorite parts of this weekend were the conversations I shared with some of the other students. Later we all showered and Gina and Rachel made us our spaghetti dinner. After dinner we walked around the town and passed time before our 10:00pm night tour on the beach to observe the tortugas nesting their eggs. I was so excited to see the turtles, and unfortunately we all
had an unnerving experience on our tour. There were many groups of people on the beach where the turtles were nesting. One group at a time was allowed to get close to one of the turtles to watch her lay her eggs and bury them, before returning to the sea. Our group went up and saw her laying her eggs and then walked maybe ten feet away. When the next group went up they weren't quiet and startled the tortuga. She ended up leaving her hole before she had finished laying her eggs, and dropped the rest of them on the beach on her way back to the sea. I have never experienced something so awful and sad in my life. I hated that we were a part of ruining such a beautiful process, and caused one turtle distress. Feeling defeated, our whole group returned to the hotel. It was cool to watch as one by one, several turtles slowly made their way out of the sea and worked their way up the beach to lay their eggs. And we did get to see one turtle complete the process and safely bury her eggs, which made us feel a little
better. But overall I think we all felt that what we saw probably happens a lot on these tours, and we couldn't help but feel our money wasn't actually going to a good cause in protecting the turtles. I am still thankful I got to see the large turtles, just regretful I saw them in the way that I did. We decided to head back to Heredia the next day, both to save money, and because it was pouring. I arrived safely at home last night around 6:00pm and shared a delicious dinner with my madre Lorena. I was surprised to come home to a reorganized room with a larger desk and different curtains! I like the changes though. Today was mellow. I went to Helen's house to have lunch and study for my first Spanish exam tomorrow. After reviewing the material with Helen, I feel prepared. Overall it was a great weekend, besides our one bummer turtle experience. Tortuguero was breathtaking and I am so thankful I got to visit there in such good company.
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