Rhymes with turtle...


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Published: April 17th 2014
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Trying to fall asleep in San Jose is a bit of a challenge to say the least. It's bad enough trying to outsmart your messed up body clock but when you add into the mix massively amplified music and incessant train honking it becomes nigh on impossible. It's therefore a bleary eyed group who meet in the hotel lobby at 8am, bags packed and ready to travel to Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast.

After a short van ride to the coach station we stuff our main bags in the hold then try to find a seat on board. Half of us squeeze long legs into seats with enough leg room for a ten year old and the rest have to stand. We are taking the same road through the cloud forest and unfortunately after about half an hour we hit a road block. A couple of ambulances whizz by the stationary traffic snaking off into the distance. An accident, a landslide or perhaps a combination of the two is halting our progress. After a while we get going again and I look out for a bridge crossing, ready to take a photo I'd missed the last time I was on this road. The two rivers that meet and then run under this bridge are different colours, one orange and the other blue, the orange one's colouring due to the minerals in the ground surrounding the volcanic area it runs through.

After a couple hours passing through lushiously green, hilly landscape we arrive at another bus station. The humidity and heat really hit us as we get out off the coach and sit waiting for our next ride. A cute little toddler keeps us entertained trying to run away from her big sister involving lots of giggling and squealing.

We have been promised a 'chicken bus' for our next ride, a bus that takes locals out to the farms in this area. On we get and squish our long legs into even tinier spaces. I'm sat by myself so wait to see if a chicken carrying local sits next to me. A lady with the hugest bum ever plonks herself down and my leg space diminishes even further! As more people crowd on we are disappointed to find there is zero chicken quotient. Later on at a stop to let people off the bus, great excitement ensues with the appearance of large blocks of cheese for sale. We rename our latest transport the 'cheese bus'!

We are passing through farmland now with large banana plantations hugging the roadside. All the bunches are protected by blue bags with tiny 'breathing' holes to prevent birds and insects damaging the fruit. There are groups of white cattle grazing alongside very skinny horses. A few of the farm houses have a goat tied up outside and accompanying dogs are sunning themselves on the porches.

After about an hour and a half of Costa Rican road massage to my left knee and posterior we arrive at Delux Toilets! Well you would think this was the destination from the number of signs proclaiming such wondrous facilities! At $1 a pop I didn't get to test their wild claims! I drag my wheelie rucksack case down to the river (best piece of travel kit I ever bought - can take it anywhere) and we sit and wait for our boat to arrive. Tico time later we load all our luggage onto our boat and hop on board.

Our hour or so long boat ride winds through tropical forest with huge towering trees, lush undergrowth, ferns and palms all around. This is the Rio la Suerte or 'Lucky River' leading to the Tortuguero canals and our final destination for the day. We start to spot exotic birds almost immediately. We see tiger herons, a turkey vulture (distinguished by its red head) and flashing past us from branch to branch is a green kingfisher. A shriek from the other side of the boat alerts us to something exciting and despite the risk of tipping the boat with us all leaning over to one side we all get a view of an American crocodile! Realising that falling into a river with a crocodile smooching about isn't the best of plans we rearrange ourselves into a more steadying formation in the boat!

The boat driver has to be pretty skilled and alert to avoid all the hidden tree branches and trunks littering the river. The water is also very shallow in places which doesn't help.

We continue round a bend in the river and someone spots hanging nests up in the trees. It turns out they belong to the Montezuma Oropendula bird that I'd seen on my day trip with Eric. We also see a female Anhinga Cormorant and some more of the blue Morphus butterflies like the ones we'd seen near the Basilica at Cortago.

One of my favourite birds is a small blue heron. It's so delicate and petite compared to the grey herons we get back home in the Broads.

Sunning itself on a sandy bank is an emerald basilisk. It's a stunner and poses for photos before suddenly running off. Apparently they are able to run acrosss stretches of water too.

To finish off our boat trip we see both howler and spider monkeys up in the trees, a beautiful irridescent Green Heron, a Black Vulture and a pretty white and yellow Cattle Egret and we're not even into the national park yet!

The boat pulls up at Tortuguero whose shore is lined with wooden, single storey buildings, some with pretty decked, stilted areas jutting out over the water. We check into our rooms and find we each have different towels and flowers arrangements on our beds from hearts, to turtles, to fans and in my case a couple of boats. Even the end of the spare toilet roll is made to look like a little mouse!

We set off on a little walking tour along the one main track of Tortuguero which is lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, a supermarket and a police station complete with police QUAD BIKES!

At one restaurant our tour guide Brian goes over to have a chat with a mate and beckons us to come inside saying there is someone he'd like us to meet. We go inside and there sprawled on the floor, legs akimbo and clinging onto the edge of the decking balustrade is none other than a very cute SLOTH! Apparently it had made its own way there and seemed pretty happy to stay put with the inevitable paparazzi tourists snapping away. Photos taken we settled ourselves down for some much needed food and drink consisting mostly of pizzas and pina coladas. I bucked the trend and got myself a veggie stuffed crepe covered in loads of yummy stringy cheese. I also tried our tour guide's strange concoction of a drink - lime juice with lager added and then salt sprinkled on top. It was surprisingly tasty and very refreshing.

Back at my room, with the sound of the Caribbean Sea crashing on the shore just a few hundred metres away, I was quickly lulled to sleep, alarm clock set for 5.30am ready for a wildlife watching canoe trip the next day.

And the reason for this blog page title? Well Tortuguero means turtle and as you know nothing rhymes with turtle!


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