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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: 10.5414, -83.5021
Costa Rica 1 - 8 April
At the end of the previous blog we had arrived at Trogon Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota. What a contrast with all our previous stops. It was very cold at night and although the sun shone during the day there was only about 3 to 4 hours that were pleasantly warm. We never managed to be comfortable despite the fires and hot water bottles.Plus, we were at an altitude of 2,500 metres, rising higher as soon as we left the Lodge to walk and increasing to 3,500 metres at the highest point.
I had not realised how little oxygen there was at this altitude. The first morning we went on the early morning Quetzal hunt and had to climb a hill. I raced up with the guide, not wanting to miss the Quetzal he had spotted. I was almost at the top when suddenly I couldn't get enough air to breathe. My heart was pounding and I felt like a fish trying to breathe out of water. After 3 or 4 minutes I returned to normal but I had learned my lesson and paced myself afterwards. We did catch up with a Quetzal later and
watched him guarding the nest and changing shifts with the female. He is a stunning bird and posed on a branch so we could take photographs, knowing he is a star!
Although the location was challenging for us, Trogan Lodge is a beautiful place, situated on the Savegre River which runs right through the Lodge, not only providing the hypnotic sound of running water but also feeding trout ponds which are full of fish destined for the restaurant. They were delicious. The Lodge is one of the best managed eco resorts that we have visited.
The gardens are full of flowers but rather confusingly for me, they represented all the seasons at once, Lilac trees in bloom, apple/cherry blossom, Hydrangeas in full flower as well as numerous varieties of flowering Fuschia at the same time as some trees are bare and others losing their leaves. A real garden of Eden if one can cope with the cold nights!
We had to book the taxi to take us back 7 kilometres to the main road to catch the San Jose bus. We had the same man who had collected us. When we arrived at the stop it was very cold and damp, the
cloud had descended (or even ascended as we were over 3,000 metres) so we could not see far. Our driver, Juan, was lovely, we tried to say goodbye but he said , no, he was going to wait with us until the bus arrived to make sure it stopped. It was a relief as if the bus had not turned up, the next was 2 hours later and it was not a comfortable place to stand and wait. Sitting in the car was definitely preferable. The bus arrived after half an hour and the driver climbed down and greeted our driver like long lost friends before getting us loaded aboard and we were on our way again. An hour later we had returned to tropical hot and humid climes, and we could breathe easily, what a relief!
San Jose was just an overnight stop on our journey to Tortuguero in the north east of C.R. It was also the place to leave our 2 large bags as in order to reach Tortuguero it is necessary to take a boat for a little over an hour to reach the village, and in theory you should not have more than 10 kilos of
luggage each. We are well on the way to this with cameras, binoculars and computers, so we had stuffed a change of clothes and minimum toiletries in our hand luggage and left everything else behind.
You can travel to Tortuguero independently but it is a complicated journey so we opted to use a travel company, Jungle Tom's Safaris, who run day and overnight trips to Tortuguero but if they have space, fill their minibus with people who just want to use them for transport.This saved us worrying about having to connect with a boat at a certain time.
We were at the appointed meeting place at 6am as instructed to be collected at 6.05am and met another couple who were doing the same journey but they did not know the name of the company they were traveling with, although they had a phone number. As they had the same joining instructions we assumed we were probably going on the same minibus. We sat and waited and waited. At 6.30 they called their company to find out what was wrong and were told that the bus was delayed as some passengers were late, but it was on it's way. They also told the
company that we were waiting with them.
The minibus arrived at 6.50 and the driver jumped out, called the name of the other couple and helped them on. I stopped him and said we we going too but he was very abrupt and said, "Is your name Scott?", (the name of the other couple) when I said no he said then you are not on my list and jumped into his seat and drove off before I could say another word. We had not seen a name on the van so thought perhaps it was a different company. We waited 10 more minutes and then I decided that was enough. I went back to the Hotel (just around the corner luckily) and asked them to phone the company. For some reason my phone would not work. They did and put me on to speak to the Jungle Tom organiser. We had been left off the list! They said not to worry they would send the van back, so 20 minutes later it returned with the other couple saying triumphantly to the driver, we told you they should be with us!
The van did have a name on it but it was small
and on the opposite side of the vehicle so we had not seen it and he had been so rude and abrupt that he had not stopped to listen so it was his own fault he had to return. It is unusual to encounter that sort of behaviour here. He was not the usual driver and had been flustered because he was late. After that it was a good journey and we saw a sloth, a banana plantation, toucans and Rhinoceros beetles on the way.
Tortuguero is remote, positioned on a narrow strip of land between the Caribbean and the inland 'canals' which criss cross the area and make it difficult to build a road. As it's name suggests, turtles nest here in large numbers and traditionally their eggs have been collected by local people. Now however it is a National Park area so the eggs and turtles are protected but people are still allowed to collect eggs at certain times, for example the first couple of days of the nesting season as those eggs are likely to be damaged by turtles laying eggs on following nights. This compromise seems to be working well and local people know they can make
a living from the tourists who come to see the turtles. We did not go out at night to see if we could spot one as it is only the odd Leather Back who comes to lay at the moment as it is still early in the season.
We took an early morning boat ride through the canals and saw Caiman, birds including a Potoo and Roseate Spoonbill, both of which were on our list, and the amazing Emerald Basilisks, and Red Eyed frogs. Toruguero is a relaxing place with an interesting trail into the National Park and definitely Caribbean in atmosphere, in contrast to other areas we have visited so far.
The only problem at the moment is Jim and his camera. From time to time the humidity has been too much for it and it fails to turn on, but usually it dries out after a little while and returns to normal. However yesterday when this happened it started giving out error messages and doing lots of weird things like clicking non-stop when it dried out enough to switch on. I am having flashbacks to when we were in Lanzarote and Jim had similar problems with his last camera,
(I am sure Paul and Sheila will remember, it became something of an obsession?). It is happening again! We are waiting for the boat to leave Tortuguero but Jim has been to the shop and bought a plastic container and rice. He has sealed the camera inside with the rice, hoping it will dry out. So do I otherwise this might go on for some time.
We are returning to San Jose for a couple of nights to collect luggage and plan our onward journey to Nicaragua. I am looking forward to seeing just how different it is there. Will let you know in the next blog.
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