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Day one in Costa Rica

Breakfast buffet. Are there two sweeter words in the world? Anyway, after snickering about how clever it was to have hot showers, we swanned downstairs to the pool area, to partake in our buffet breakfast.

What do they serve for breakfast in Costa Rica? I hear you asking? Something exotic? If by “exotic” you mean “rice and beans”, then yes, exotic it was. However, I haven’t had much in the way of rice and beans lately; it was good rice and beans, and furthermore, they had delicious fresh tropical fruit, cereal, scrambled eggs, toast, banana loaf, and cookies to supplement it. So all was well on the breakfast front.

A hanging bridge in the national park

We had a tour planned, so 10:30AM found us sitting in one of the lounges waiting to be collected by the tour company. I must explain, at this stage, we were well and truly accustomed to Nicaragua style tourism, which is really great but a little... rough. Cheap, but rough. So we sort of forgot what tours targeted at wealthy Americans would be like, such as in Costa Rica. We also conveniently forgot that although Nicaragua and Costa Rica are next door, they have very different histories... like Costa Rica hasn’t been shattered by a recent war, hasn’t been suffering from drought, and is a mecca for American tourists. So you can imagine our surprise and being picked up in a very smart bus with about twenty other people, a very professional bilingual tour guide, and a microphone in the bus so he could narrate and crack jokes the whole way to the rainforest.

The blue and yellow rivers meeting

The drive out was pleasant; a lot of people whinge about what a dive San Jose is, but I really couldn’t see that much of a problem with it myself. We drove out of the city up into the cloud forest, on the main road towards the Caribbean that deals with 80% of Costa Rican freight traffic so there were lots of trucks. The road was windy, and the clouds were rolling, and the banks on either side of the road were covered in bright green vegetation, it was all very lovely. Our descent took place through the national park that we were heading to (it’s a BIG park) and when we came out of the clouds you could see rolling mountains covered in green. Pretty great, for people who have seen Australia... and a drought stricken Nicaragua. There were landslides and waterfalls around the road, and also a great big semi trailer that had tipped over onto an embankment. The driver was bloody lucky... had he tipped over one hundred metres before or after where he did he would have taken a tumble with his truck down the sheer face of the mountain. After passing that the trucks in front of us slowed to a crawl. We also saw a yellow river and a blue river joining... the yellow river came from a volcano, and the colour comparison between the two as they joined was pretty impressive.

Dave took this shot of the sloth through the telescope which was pretty clever really...

When we arrived at the bit of the national park we were stopping in, we did some walks around the place, admiring butterflies and a bridge with a river full of fish. We were served our included lunch at the cafe (guess what it was. No, really. Guess. Okay. You win. Rice and beans.) and managed to see an electric blue butterfly and a tiny hummingbird, and then the park rangers set up a telescope so we could catch a glimpse of a sloth that was lounging in one of the trees above us. Very cool. We then watched a video about how the aerial tram was constructed with minimum environmental impact, and then we got on the tram.

Other people in an aerial tram car

The trams seated six people and a bilingual guide, and followed a path that varied between about a foot off the forest floor to one hundred and twenty feet off the forest floor. It was pretty fantastic. It had a little canopy over the top, but as Dave and Kaleb were in the front seat they found that they were better off wearing their rain ponchos because amazingly enough, it rains a lot in rainforests. We toured the track with our knowledgeable guide. There was such an amazing variety of plants, colourful flowers, orchids, vines, and insect life out. And looking over the forest? Green, green, some splashes of colour, more green as far as the eye could see. We went over some lovely little waterfalls. We saw some more tiny hummingbirds right up close. We even saw a toucan through the guide’s binoculars. All in all, great stuff.

Check out those attractive rain ponchos!

When we were finished on the tram, our guide took us for a walk through the rainforest, to show us some of the things that we missed from being in the air. We saw a massive ant hill, and this particular breed of ant whose bite is more severe than a wasp sting. We saw two baby pit vipers. Tiny little things they were, but apparently they have a nasty bite and will grow up to be a metre long and eat rodents. AND we saw another toucan, AND a woodpecker, WHO WAS PECKING WOOD. How cool is that? It was good to take the walk because it meant we could touch things (not the pit vipers or ants obviously) and get a feel for what it was like at the bottom of the rainforest. At the end of our walk we were free (and encouraged) to go into the severely overpriced gift shop, but none of it was overly tempting except the extremely pricey macadamia nuts which of course we scoffed a bag of. We then returned to our bus and guide, and made our way back to San Jose.

Pit viper—cute little thing, isn’t it?

We decided to go out for dinner because the hotel had a list of advised restaurants on the wall, and what’s the point of being in the big city if you can’t go out for international cuisine? So we went out to a very smart looking restaurant with a very exciting fountain fishpond arrangement, expansive seating areas, and a whole load of trendy folks. Dave immediately fell in love because the service involved a whole load of staff on their feet the whole time, and if you so much as looked hesitantly at your dish, or the coins, or anything else for that matter they were over at your table like a shot trying to be helpful. I certainly would never provide that much customer service, but I’m not trying to make a living in Costa Rica.

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