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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

Dan - Welcome to Centro Bugsville

COSTA RICA | Sunday, 25 May 2008 | Views [1314] | Comments [3]

dead-leaf butterfly

dead-leaf butterfly

Well, contrary to popular belief, Rachel and I have managed to survive our first week outside Blighty with all our limbs intact.  Yay for us.  That´s not to say that we haven´t acquired various things in that time – mostly masses of mosquito and ant bites, which you simply can´t avoid - they are immune to all known defensive strategems.  The journey out was pretty damn long in the end, especially after American Airlines had to do some running repairs on our connecting aeroplane in Miami (its an interesting feeling looking out the window and seeing mechanics doing stuff to the plane you´re just about to fly in), meaning that we got to Costa Rica at 1.00 in the morning in near hallucinatory mode after more than 24 hours without sleep.  Luckily, the taxi guy we´d booked had stuck around for 3 hours (Rachel nearly kissed him), so we weren´t stuck at the airport all night and our hostel was still open too.  San Jose is a bustling small city, which is pretty affluent (comparing it to Cuba, our only other experience of this part of the world).  There are plenty of good cafes and shops around, people dress smartly (Costa Ricans, however well off they are, all seem to take good care of their appearance) and there´s some great public art – like the 100 or-so lifesize cows that are scattered around the streets, painted in different colours and dressed up in different costumes (scuba cow, mechanical cow, cityscape cow, head-first in a mug of coffee cow…you get the drift).

After a couple of days we took the bus to Santiago de Puriscal, about 50km SW of the capital, along a mostly dualled road (this is where we are today – it’s the big lights of the area where we are).  Then we had another 2 hour journey to Mastatal along a not-so dualled road.  Absolutely fantastic scenery, of hills and mountains, either forested or cleared for cattle grazing, which is causing some serious erosion on parts of the precipitous slopes that are everywhere.  Talking of which, bits of the connecting road to Mastatal are due to will fall down the mountain sometime by the looks of the erosion eating away at some of the corners – hopefully not stranding us there!

We´re both chugging through our Spanish lessons.  I think I´ve probably learnt more already in a week than I did in 6 months of evening classes last year, but i´ve a long way to go before I can understand more than the first word of most sentences spouted at me in blublublaa, or formulate a reply in anything less than a minute.  Although Rachel can understand a lot, her lack of verbs is leaving her red in the face with exasperation, so she has a lot to do too!

Surprisingly, the weather hasn´t been half as hot as we expected – it only really rises significantly when the sun is out – which so far hasn´t been that often – instead we´ve had a lot of cloud, rolling down the nearby La Cangreja mountain followed by rain.  Actually rain doesn´t really describe it.  Think of the hardest rain you´ve experienced in the UK – that was pretty hard right? – well now double it, and imagine it doing that for 10 hours, and you´re about there.  It ain´t called the rainy season for nothing.  Still its been a good introduction to the climate – it would have been harder if it had been very hot and humid all the time. 

To all the souls at the sanatorium, sorry RSPB, you´ll be pleased to know that we have been using our binoculars and bird book – I´ve spent a good amount of time getting to know the birds around where we´re staying.  Raucous smooth-billed Aci´s (I think, from memory) perky banded wrens (about twice the size of ours), ground dove (someone put the shrinko-ray on the doves, they´re about 8cm long!), black vulture, golden-fronted woodpeckers, rufous-tailed hummingbird, white necked puffbird, scarlet-rumped tanager, chestnut-backed ant bird, white-collared seed eater, eastern kingbird, great kisadee, red-fronted parakeet… to name but a few.  Its true the birds are fantastic.  I´m converted.  I´ll keep you updated periodically, just to annoy the hell out of you all.  Tell me when it gets boring and i´ll make sure I carry on J.

Talking of expando-wrens and shrinko-doves, there is a bit of a theme here.  Everything seems either much bigger or smaller than you think it should be.  Frogs – the numerous green and black poisonous dart frogs in the forest are shrinko, the frog we saw on the path going to our cabane by torchlight was definitely un-shrinko.  Its body was 10cm long.  And it was fat.  It looked at us with a lazy ´I could move, but i´ve just eaten the world´s largest grasshopper and I can´t´ sort of way.  Talking of the grasshoppers, they´re incredibly loud in the forest, but after a few days they blend into the background ambient noise (although the racoons chucking seeds at the cabane tin roof don´t merge – Marcos, our host, did warn us, but you´re generally woken up a couple of times a night by what sounds like something exploding on the roof).  Then there are giant butterflies (Blue morpho?) that languidly flap around and the tiny leafcutter ants that jog down the tree-trunks with leaves 10 times their size in their jaws and big green iguanas that perch on branches waiting for something interesting and tasty to flap by. As well as the shrinko-expando ray, the bugs also seem to have a confusing fancy dress party going on.  So, there´s the giant grasshopper (15cm long?) with the body that makes it look  like a green leaf.  Then there´s the giant moth/butterfly (12cm wing span) that rests with its wings out, exactly like a dead mango leaf.  If you go near it, it even rocks its body like its being blown by a slight breeze.  There´s also the beetle disguised as a hairy spider (missing two legs, obviously), the piece-of-moss-with-legs bug (yes, it’s a piece of moss, and it walks around, go figure) and the I´m-a-white-flower spider.

Luckily not too much scary stuff yet.  Marcos caught a largish snake of the non-poisonous variety near the kitchen (apparently endangered because people catch them for pets), and one night we saw a largish spider in the forest on our way to bed that in the dark looked exactly like something out of Babylon 5.  We didn´t investigate too closely (seriously - don´t worry mum, there are only a few really poisonous things, and they are few and far between).  The volunteers house is a bit of a bug, amphibian and reptile walk-through - just sit on a bed and watch the things scuttle, hop or fly through.  Luckily the cabane where we sleep is pretty much bug free though, which is interesting, considering it hasn´t got any walls, and is in the middle of the forest.

Enough on bugs for now, I need beans and rice.  That´ll  probably be a topic for another time.

Tags: birds, bugs

Comments

1

Hi Dan and Rachel

Having just come back from my second visit you are both really making me wish I was back there again reading your tales. I feel so happy when I'm in CR and I love the gallo pinto and make it at home for breakfast some weekends! sad or what!. I hope you will get to see much more wildlife.. being there so long you are bound to.. I've spent a total of 6 weeks in the country and have an amazing list. Brilliant birds, orange kneed tantula, scorpion in my room, 3 types of monkeys, both types of sloth and near Arenal volcan recently a jaguarundi (not sure if that is how it's spelt but fab to see). Lots more for you both to experience yet! really enjoying hearing all.

Keep up the good work.

Diane

How are you finding the commune style living at Rancho.. is it recommended so far.

  Diane James Jun 3, 2008 5:51 AM

2

Hi there you two!

Wow what a diary, keep it coming, I almost feel like I am there with you. I am likely to be leaving EA shortly but will keep you posted regarding contact info.

Gonna print this off now so Paul can read it and be inspired too (yeah... right!)

Lots of love to you both. THinking of you often, can't wait for the next update -must be due now!

LOL
J

  Jenny & Paul Jun 4, 2008 9:58 PM

3

Just read your journal! What an adventure! Hope it continues so. Take care, Peter & Lyn June 8th.

  Peter & Lyn Jun 8, 2008 8:48 PM

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