Wednesday 11th October – Sarapiqui

Seems that my assumption that I’m over the jet lag is a myth…or maybe it is just the noise of the animals and the lack of curtains that saw us awake at 5am. Eventually we admitted defeat and showered and dressed before heading to the communal area at about 6.15!  Alex, the owner, a 67 year old Costa Rican, a former trucker in the USA, and owner of the lodge was around and preparing the table for breakfast.  I used it as a chance to catch up on my diary and uploaded previous days writings as the Wifi at the previous place had been patchy.  Ed caught up on dealing with a cottage booking!

 We were steadily joined by the rest of our group and had a breakfast of fresh passion fruit juice, coffee, toast and fresh pineapple.

At 7.45 we took a taxibus for a short journey from the lodge to La Selve biological reserve.  This reserve was set up a few decades ago to try to preserve some of the old forests from destruction and now takes in a variety of landscapes including primary forest, secondary forest and old disused agriculture land.  We were taken for a guided walking tour along well maintained paths by a ranger.  His eyesight was amazing and he managed to spot a wide variety of birds, iguanas and reptiles including a yellow viper and a toucan.  He also showed us the nesting hole of a bat which had climbed into a wooden post and he was able to give us some history of the park as well.  Fortunately the sun stayed out although it got increasingly hot and humid. 

A list of what we saw:

  • Iguana (photo)
  • Bat – in a wooden column!
  • Broad billed Motmot bird (photo)
  • Blue jeans poison dart frog
  • Arboreal termites
  • Millipede
  • Toucan collared aracari
  • Oropendula (bird with yellow tail feathers)
  • Golden web spider
  • Bullet ant
  • Slatey tailed trogan (red and blue bird)
  • Eye lash viper (yellow)
  • Black throated trogan
  • Kapoch tree
  • Grasshopper (mot mot foot)
  • Green ibis
  • Picory
  • Crested guan

 The tour finished at 11.30am and we travelled back to the lodge to a welcome beer from the fridge!

For lunch, Fran arranged for another taxi to take us a couple of miles up the main road to a roadside Soda.  Soda’s are cheap local eateries in Costa Rica.  As we stepped out of the taxi the heat hit us and we spent the next few minutes acclimatising to the temperature and humidity again. Three of us ordered a beer (cerveza) to drink, but it seems that it was lost in translation as we all ended up with a fresca, a strawberry iced milkshake.  It was, nevertheless, very refreshing.

Some photos of our treehouse from the outside and the view from the balcony:

After lunch we headed back to the lodge.  The afternoon had been dedicated as R&R and so after a short time trying to spot more birds and the resident sloth (not yet seen) from the communal area, four of us decided to walk the 15 minutes into the main town to grab a drink and pick up some supplies.  The town seems to be mainly on one strip, with all the usual shops set in similar one room units with shutters that can be closed and the compulsory football pitch.  The heat of the day hadn’t yet diminished, although it got increasingly cloudy and after a quick drink, we had a heavy shower which meant that we got pretty damp…but the coolness was quite refreshing.

We spent the next couple of hours relaxing, grabbing showers and spotting tree frogs before walking back into town for food at another soda.  The portions were huge but very tasty. By the time we got back it was 9pm, so I had one more drink with a couple of the other travellers before retiring for the night.

Tuesday 10th October – Tortuguero to Sarapiqui

We were up early again and had a tasty breakfast at the hotel of scrambled eggs and pinto rice.  The coffee however was not great and we’re still to taste some really good coffee in Costa Rica.

We met for our scheduled departure of 8am and transferred back to the same river boat for the return journey upstream. The sun was bright and the colours on the water amazing. 

On arrival at La Pavona we met a private bus, which we will be using for our next three transfers, for the 3.5 hour journey to Sarapiqi.
On the first part of the journey Fran explained some of the key income of Costa Rica, 47% of which is derived from tourism.  The next biggest industry is agriculture with pineapple, bananas, coffee and tapioca being the most exported crops.

Before we reached the made road we stopped to spot our first sloth…a two fingered version who was in the tree above the road.  By now it had started to rain, but we all decamped from the bus for a better view!

We moved on heading back to the interchange that our first bus stopped at.  Here we pulled up alongside a fruit shop/stall and were able to try some of the local fruits, including sour sop, amberella, rambutans and also a local sweet, tasted like coconut, looked revolting but was very tasty!

The final 45 minutees of the journey to Sarapiqi was along long straight roads with agriculture on either side. We arrived at our hotel…more of a jungle lodge really, and were allocated our rooms.  Ours is a treehouse with a tree growing through the centre of it and also in the bathroom!

The lodge is situated amongst loads of trees and shrubs and from the communal area you can see loads of exotic birds.  We also saw a rather large iguana climbing a tree just 10 m in front of us.

After deciding what we wanted to do over the next couple of days, we walked into the town and had some food and a beer. We’d decided that this would be a ‘rest’ day and so once we had returned to the lodge, we spent the time sitting around and relaxing with the odd bit of bird spotting.
We got a taxi a bit later to a local restaurant where we were also able to spot a couple of the ‘famous’ green tree frog with red eyes!  After returning to the lodge I finally felt that I had beaten the jet lag as I managed to stay awake until 10.30pm chatting with our fellow travellers.

Monday 9th October – Tortuguero

So… It seems that there is a cockerel living next to our room as we had a very early morning wake up call. 

We had to get up at 5.30, just after sunrise, anyway to meet the group for a canoe tour of the national park. After a quick coffee, we walked to the other end of the village to the national park entrance. There we donned life jackets and got intoa very small canoe!

Just after we set off the heavens opened – seems the sun screen that we’d hopefully put on wasn’t needed!

We didn’t the next 3.5 hours leisurely cruising around he rivers and inlets, looking for wildlife. Fortunately the weather did improve and we were able to spot:

  • A number of birds, including a small blue heron
  • The different sorts of monkey that live in the park – white faced capuchins, howler and spider monkeys. 
  • A Caymen
  • Various lizards a iguanas including a ‘Jesus Christ lizard, so called because it can run on water.

We arrived back at the hotel at about 10 am and then Ed and I walked into town for some breakfast and a coffee! 

We returned to our hotel for a shower and then spent the next couple of hours relaxing and also managed to fit in a late lunch in a cafe overlooking the river.

Next stop was a jungle walking tour and we met the group at two to head back to the jungle! By now the sun was out and it was pretty hot and very humid. The trees have some protection however and we spotted some burrowing crabs, leaf cutter ants, a few spiders and another spider monkey! 

After the walk the group had a drink and snack and drink at another cafe. The chocolate ice cream milk shake was just what I needed! 

We now has a few hours to kill before the final activity of the day…a night walk to spot titles in the beach. The jet lag was still playing havoc with our body clocks and so we spent much of the time relaxing and snoozing. We meet up again with the group at 9.30pm and with Cloyd, the guide who took us on the canoe Safari earlier in the day. 

The rules are very strict about access to the beach and include a maximum group size and control about where groups can be in order to looking disruption to the turtle. Sadly, it t also meant that we could not take photos. We headed off to our designated area about 15 minutes walk away from our hotel and once we had arrived waited for one of the rangers to contact our guide. Within a few minutes one of the rangers came to say that there was a title laying eggs back up closer to our hotel and so we retraced our steps.

On arrival Cloyd changed from using a whole torch light to a red one so as to minimise disruption. The turtle was at the top of the beach, at the start of some bushes in a hollow that she had dug above a deeper ‘nest’. We were able to see add she layed some eggs and they fell into the nest. Then, once she had finished, we saw her cover the eggs before camouflaging the nest site. She then summoned up her remaining energy and headed slowly back to the sea where we saw her eventually disappear under the waves. Apparently turtles will do this a number of times each season and lay a dressing number of eggs each time ranging from 130 down to less than 100. It was an absolutely amazing experience and I felt privileged to have been able to observe. 

It was now almost 11.30 pm and so we all made our way back to the hotel for bed! 

Sunday 8th October – San Jose to Tortuguero National Park

I slept well, perhaps not surprising given the 22+ hour day yesterday although I was awake very early and in the end gave into the inevitable at 5am.  Costa Rica has pretty equal length days and the sun was rising by 5.30am.

We were packed and ready for breakfast at 7am.  Breakfast consisted of a continental style buffet, with scrambled eggs with cheese, rice and beans, juice and fresh fruit and bread.

We congregated at 7.30am for the short ride to the bus station where we were to catch the 9am bus to Caribiri.  It was already warming up and thankfully the coach had air conditioning.  Not so welcome were the 80’s ballards that were blaring out of the speakers.

The journey followed the main road upwards for about 30 minutes into the mountains surrounding San Jose.  Towards the top, the road went through a long tunnel and on the other side we were into the mist of a high valley. For the next 40 minutes or so the road descended into the valley.  The sides of the road were tree covered on one side and with steep drops into the valley on the other.

After about an hour the coach stopped for a brief rest before travelling he remaining 30 minutes to a town called Caribiri. This was the coaches final destination and so we got off the bus and were hit by the heat! We transferred directly to a more local service and onto a bus without air conditioning.  We waited for some time for the bus to depart as the temperature steadily climbed!  Eventually we departed, only to stop 2 minutes down the road to collect more passengers, a mix of tourists and locals.  Once underway the bus made regular stops to drop off and pick up passengers as the temperature indicated at the front of the bus hit 37°C.  The whole journey took almost 2 hours, with the last 30 minutes on an unmade road surface. The land on either side of the road was given over to agriculture – a mix of banana plantations and cattle with the odd tapioca crop thrown in.


We arrived at our next staging post where we were to transfer to a river boat for the final 60 minute journey into Tortuguero. The boat was a narrow flat bottomed one and it quickly became clear why – the river here is very windy and shallow and only smaller boats can navigate the channel. Once we had boarded we proceeded down the river and for the first part of the journey the driver was keen to slow down and point out some animals and birds on the side.  The last 20 minutes of the journey was on a much wider channel which took us down to the small town of Tortuguero.

We were dropped off just outside our hotel, Miss Junie’s – lodge type accommodation, where we were given a welcome drink – a tamarind and ginger based drink – which had a rather unfortunate brown colour but was pretty tasty nonetheless.


We were give our room allocation and went to drop our things off before meeting up for an orientation walk.  The maid had left the towels in an intricate display!

We walked through the town with Fran pointing out the various ‘sites’.  The town sits on a spit of land between the end of the river on one side and the ocean on the other.  There are no motor vehicles on land in the town and it is not actually accessible by road at all.   The town is mostly dedicated to tourism now and the main strip is a series of booking agencies, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants.  The temperature was still pretty hot and very humid and we were very pleased to stop at the end of the strip for some food and refreshments, not least because by now it was gone 4pm and we had not eaten since breakfast.  The food was delicious and the cool beers very refreshing!


We discussed the options for the next day or so and agreed that we would have a relaxing evening and pack all of the activities, including the late night walk to spot turtles into the following day.  We headed back to the room and had a shower before wandering to the bar at the hotel for 6pm.  We were both pretty tired and after a couple of drinks and some cards, we agreed that it was time for bed and we were both asleep by 8pm!  I’m positive that it was nothing to do with age, and everything to do with the time difference and heat!

Saturday 7th October – Madrid to San Jose, Costa Rica

After a good nights sleep we caught the shuttle from our hotel back to the airport at a very respectable time of 8.30am!  However, I think that we were both still half asleep having not yet had a coffee and we struggled with the automatic bag drop and check-in, only to be told once we had done it that we could have used the business class check-in! Our next challenge was to find the lounge….we went up and down stairs 3 times, going round in circles following the signs before we eventually located the lounge.  On arrival, we were told that it would be better if we headed to the other lounge, located in the satellite terminal as that is where our flight is from!  So we retraced our steps and got the underground train to the terminal and then joined a chaotic and lengthy queue for passport control.

All checked in!

Once we’d been checked through, we found the lounge and finally were able to have a coffee and some breakfast.  By this time we were both a bit ratty and needed some caffeine – easily distracted and annoyed by other travellers ‘getting in the way!’  That said, once we had some food, we started to relax and feel like we were on holiday! 🙂 img_20171007_0953563417581203074201949.jpg

Great view of Iberia tail planes for an aeroplane nerd like me! 

We boarded our flight and settled in for the 11 hour journey to San Jose.  A pre-departure Cava helped to make the settling in easier!  The departure and climb were, thankfully, uneventful, and soon we were being served with lunch…appetisers, followed by a choice of main course (I had the Bream) and then a dessert!

There were some nice views of Spain and then Portugal before we headed out over the Atlantic for a featureless flight over the sea.  I managed to watch 4 films and then about an hour before landing we were served another lighter meal.  I also used the 30 minutes free wifi for novelty value!

We landed in San Jose on time after an 11 hour flight and after a bit of a queue for immigration, we retrieved our bags and met the transfer.

The ride to the hotel took about 30 minutes and we checked in to the Don Carlos Hotel. The hotel is in the old colonial style, and our room was overlooking a small courtyard with pool.  With a couple of hours to kill before our welcome meeting, we located a cash point and then took advantage of the bar for our first beer in Costa Rica.

Our welcome meeting was at 6.30pm and so we headed to the meeting point to join our fellow travellers.  Our guide is called Fran(cesco) and there are 7 other travellers as well as us – a range of countries represented…although unusually no Australians.

The welcome meeting turned into a welcome dinner and I had the nachos with beef while Ed had chicken with rice.  Seems like we’re going to get used to rice and beans over the next couple of weeks. Both meals came with mashed beans…which had a slightly worrying colour and consistency (think small cow pat), but actually tasted very nice.

By 8.30 we were both ready for bed, having been awake for almost 22 hours.  A 7.30am start in the morning for a public bus to the Caribbean coast.

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