Very humid tropical rainforest

Trip Start Sep 30, 2009
Trip End Dec 04, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I had no clue, whether I would be sharing the shuttle with other people, but I must admit I was still surprised, when it was a full sized modern bus with plenty of other people that picked me up. Apparently, Pachira Lodge sell these packages that include transportation to and from the hotel, and we were well around 35 people, when we finally had picked up everybody and were heading for the Caribbean.

As for San Jose, it did not leave a very nice impression on me as we drove around its streets, and I am glad that I was not going to stay any longer. However, from what I could see, San Jose certainly gave the impression of Costa Rica being a wealthier country than Guatemala - they even had ordinary busses servicing the city - did not see a single chicken bus.

The beautiful countryside revealed itself to us and we drove through the Braulio Carillo National Park. Rarely have I seen so many beautiful shades of green. We stopped for breakfast at El Ceiba restaurant at 8.30 and we were all pretty hungry by then. After a short break we continued, and as the paved road was replaced by dirt road for the last 1 hours of our trip, we drove through one pineapple and banana plantation after the other. The coolest thing was that we actually drove by the plantations of both Chiquita and Del Monte that both are famous brands back home. However, I will never think of bananas in the same way after I saw this worker having to drag – on a chain – 20 or so clusters of bananas for sometimes 3 km or more. And needless to say, that they do not earn much.

We made it to the canals and from there it was a 1 boat ride – including a small refreshment break – before we reached Tortuguero. The scenery was nice as we sailed into the rainforest and jungle. It is not called the rainforest for nothing, as it started drizzling a little bit during the ride.

We arrived at Pachira Lodge, which is a great hotel located in the jungle just on the opposite bank of Tortuguero village. There is plantation everywhere, and you walk either on elevated wooden path ways or on concrete pathways, both of which are absolutely necessary because the ground it so moist. After our lunch we had an excursion to Tortuguero village, and then it really started raining – and typically I had only brought my umbrella and not my rain poncho. However, that did not prevent our guide from telling us the story of the village and how it has made its survival on tourism and especially turtle conversation. Unfortunately, the turtle nesting season is over, so I guess I would have to come back another time if I want to see either a leatherback or a green sea turtle. Our guide was really good, and luckily we managed to find shelter from the rain while he was being informative and the Caribbean Sea looked menacing in the background. Despite everything, Tortuguero still seems like a poor village, and impression that did not change when afterwards I was walking around town. It was still raining, so I went and sat near the water at Budda Bar, a really nice place, where I could enjoy a glass of wine and feel lucky and happy – rain or not.

It was still raining when we got back to the hotel, but that certainly did not prevent me from going in the pool. After all, it was there for a reason! Most of the other tourists are from Spain – or at least Spanish speaking, so I ended up with this two American couples, of which one is a couple on their honeymoon. However, I do use all the other chances I get to speak Spanish, however I must admit that it took all my concentration last night, when I was invited to join these 3 Spanish people from Madrid and tried to participate in the discussion while they were talking fast – very fast – and a different Spanish that I have been used to. I am proud, though, that I was able to chip in and ask questions once in a while, although I was only able to understand 50 % of their words, although knowing the context – Spanish wines and different countries – did help. So after some 20 minutes in their company, I excused myself to hit the sack - I would have to get up 5 AM the following morning!

The place is characterised by receiving larger groups of people every day, each of which only stay for 1 or a maximum of 2 nights. I ended up talking to this couple from Pennsylvania and another American couple from Staten Island on the first days of their honeymoon. We did not have that much in common, though, although it was somewhat interesting although not fascinating or intriguing to listen to one of them telling about his time in 'NAM and the other one of his time in Iraq. Also found out that none of them seem to be in favor of the much disputed health plan of Obama, but I would not try to argue with them, although free health care for everybody ought to be a human right.

I woke up before my alarm clock to the distant sounds of the howler monkeys and the birds, and while I was trying to open my eyes, I could hear an employee going around knocking on our doors to ensure we would get up. There is no telephone, radio or TV in the rooms, so other means must be used to get people up. However, it was a little to six, when we conjourned at the dock, in the pouring rain. It was raining like crazy and did not look much forward to spending two hours in an open boat. So the trip was postponed for two hours, giving us time to linger around and have breakfast first.

It was actually clearing up by 8 AM, and all equipped with either our own rain ponchos or those you could borrow for free from the hotel, we started touring the canals. We entered narrow canals with the most amazing vegetation on each side of us. It really was the wild forest. We saw mostly birds and even a cayman (small crocodile) hiding near some logs and only sticking the head up. I must give it to our captain and our guide that they have incredible eye sight for spotting even the smallest animals. And in fact we also got to see a turtle. Well not a sea turtle, but a tiny freshwater turtle sticking only its head up.

After a couple of hours we were back at the hotel, and miraculously it had stopped raining on our tour. However, my camera had started acting up a little bit, and I suspect it likes the humidity just as little as I do. On the other hand, here is only around 25-28 degrees, which is the only reason why it is not too bad after all. But this place being defined as a "very humid tropical rainforest" and with rain 300 days a year and an average rainfall of 6-7 meters, I suppose it would be difficult not to experience rain here.

The guide only gave us hour break, before we should go on the small hike in the forest surrounding the hotel. But first of all, we should ensure to grab some of the rainboots also offered by the hotel. And there sure were necessary! The pathway was filled with mud puddles and sometimes your entire foot would sink in - and occassionally more. You could not stay put for long or otherwise it was really difficult to extract your foot again. Our guide showed us a lot different vegetation, and even a wandering tree. No, nothing like the Ents in Lord of the Rings, but they are able to grow new roots and move toward whereever there is sun, which is the scarce resource below the canopies. Even though he was searching for them, we did not find any snakes, although an exotic spider did attract some attention.

After lunch we had the afternoon off, and I took advantage of that and went for a small dip in the pool. However, going into a pool is less appealing when it is overcast and you do not really feel warm - and only humid. I also booked a deep tissue massage, which was great, although not inexpensive.

So now at the time of writing, I soon have to go back to my room and pack my belongings as we are leaving at little to 9 AM. I had a good and very long night's sleep, and when I woke up this morning is even managed to see a spot of blue sky. The Pachira Lodge is a good hotel. The food OK, but it is more the scenery you come here for. However, being secluded on the bank opposite Tortuguero town, you do not have many options other than spend your time at the hotel. I am surprised that they do not offer to refill your water bottles here, and instead you have to buy small bottles for around USD 2 a piece. The drinks are USD 5, and the buffet style meals included in the package are OK but nothing fancy.
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