Monday, October 27, 2008

Costa Rica 10/18 (Day 4)

On our third day in Costa Rica we went on a really fun zip-line tour. They had a photogragher on the tour with us and we will post about that day as soon as those pictures arrive from Costa Rica. In the meantime, we are jumping ahead to day. On day four we visited Manuel Antonio National Park. It was an amazing place. We hired a guide to go lead us through the park, who appropriately was named Manuel. He was great. Apparently (approximately 10 years ago) the Costa Rican government set a program where it trained high school students as naturalist guides to the National Park. Manuel was one of those students. For the last 10 years he has been leading tours and he is passionate about it. At one point he found a flower on the ground that he surmised had been picked by a "pirate" guide (as you get near the park [and assuming you look like a tourist] you will be approached by a number of people in official-looking shirts who attempt to convince you to hire them as guides before you get to the "real" guides; the pirate who approached us with pretense that he wanted to inform us that the entrance to the park had been moved [which was technically true]). He was pissed. His voice dripped with scorn. In any event, it worked out for us because it was one of those cool flowers that smell like garbage (to attract fly polinators). He also got agitated in describing how Dole had exploited the rainforests and that, because of Dole, Manuel Antonio wasn't acutally old-growth rainforest anymore because the old-growth trees had not yet returned. Finally, we learned from Manuel about the difficulty of normal Costa Ricans to visit the United States. Manuel indicated that he had wanted to visit the U.S. National Parks for years, but that he was unable to get a Visa. He stated that he had even considered marrying a friend (who happens to be a U.S. citizen seeking permanent status in Costa Rica) so that he could have the chance. It was striking to us because our own ability to travel anywhere in the world we want on a whim is basically assumed.

In any event, we were impressed by him. He is currently writing a book on the park (which our concierege (more on her later) is editing. He, like other professional guides carried a telescope to help spot animals. Without him and his telescope we would not have seen nearly as many animals. The picture above is one of the many three-toed sloths that we saw in the park that day.

Although not that exciting to many people, as an avid composter Suzette finds fungi very interesting. We won't bore you with fungi fun facts, but we just loved these orange mushrooms.
We also saw many of these land crabs in the park. They were very exciting to see because you would look down at an area of forest floor and realize that all those brightly colors things on the ground that you thought were just leaves or flower are actually moving crabs
This is just a cute lizard.
This might be the most amazing photo that we took during the whole trip. What is is that raccoon doing you ask? Eating an iguana of course, couldn't you tell! This is not something that most people get to see, even in Costa Rica. In fact, our guide was really bummed because he had left his camera at home that day and was not able to get a shot of it. The other really amazing thing about this is that person who noticed this was not our guide (in fact he had walked right past it) but was our ten year old daughter, Lena.
This is the one that got away.
This is another sloth having a good scratch (taken through the telescope).

After our tour of the park we stopped on the public beach to get lunch from the "Chicken Lady." I am sure that she had a real name, but our guide insisted that everyone calls her the Chicken Lady. We all had Chicken or Fish Casado and Lena pronounced that the Chicken Casado that she had was the best Chicken Casado of the whole trip. As you can see from the look on her face she was really enjoying lunch.

We don't have anymore pictures from this day because after lunch we dropped off our camera and everything else that we didn't want to get wet at out rental house and headed back to the National Park to swim at Manuel Antonio beach, which is considered by many to be the nicest beach in Costa Rica. For us Northern Californians it was amazing to think that the warm water that we were swiming on was the same Pacfic Ocean that we had back home. The kids had great fun body surfing and getting really sandy.

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