While staying at Arenal, we saw many of these birds–the Montezuma Oropendula. They’re pretty big…the size of a large crow, maybe.
But the awesome thing about them is the sound they make. Most of the time they make a chipping sound, but then all of a sudden, they’ll roll their whole body forward with their tail up in the air, and make a sound that is exactly the sort of thing you hear when making it to the next level of a video game (hence my nickname for them). Cracked me up every single time I heard it. This was the best sample of the sound that I could find, but it still doesn’t quite do it justice.
Here’s how to zip line. First, let go of all sense of self-preservation and survival. Put on a helmet that will only contain the mess if you hit a tree, strap yourself into a harness and put on some ratty gloves. Carry around your own personal pulley contraption. Allow a complete stranger (who isn’t fluent in your native tongue) to attach you to a cable that is anywhere from 50 (practice run) to 750 meters long and dangling above the rainforest canopy. Grab onto your little pulley device, lie back and tuck your knees into your chest. Relax your arms and allow said complete stranger to push you off the platform. Travel along cable at speeds that may reach 50mph. Try to overcome terror and look around a bit. Spread legs apart to slow landing and avoid bisecting yourself on cable. Land. Repeat.
(this picture by our new friend Paul. It’s me. We did this on the last day of the year…certainly a memorable way to send off 2010.)
Yesterday morning I caught up on much-needed sleep and didn’t get up until 10. Which is good, because this morning we were up at 6:30 to take a walk down a hanging bridges trail. It was very cool, but because there were so many of us, the bridges wobbled a lot as we crossed them. I would have like to take more time to stop and look around (once I stopped being terrified, that is). We’re doing another bridge tour tomorrow, so maybe I’ll get a chance then.
We arrived at Arenal Observatory Lodge this afternoon after a lengthy bus ride. This is our last stop of the tour (well, except for one last night in San Jose before we leave). It is unfortunately cool and rainy, but it’s been that way for 10 days; it’s bound to change soon, right? At least our room is quite comfortable, and just down the hall from the lounge, from which I write.
We spent the weekend at La Cusinga Lodge on the southwest coast. This place was beautiful, with bungalows set among the trees, blending in with the jungle perfectly. Everything was made of local wood and stone and offered a fabulous view of the Pacific. The food was all organic and local and our group had the whole place to ourselves, a little Christmas oasis.
Today we left La Cusinga and arrived at Hotel Villa Lapas, slightly farther north. It is a larger compound with about 80 rooms, group in units of 6 rooms each. The rooms are your typical hotel fare and of course there are many other people here. The grounds are very nice and there’s nothing wrong with the place, it’s just quite different from where we’ve been.
Our guide tells us that nearby Carreras National Park, where we are going tomorrow, is one of the best birding spots in the country. The group’s total count has topped 200; the previous record for this trip was 165, but there are some serious birders in this tour. Doug and I and several other people are skipping the morning “bird walk” (walk 5 paces, look at trees for 10 minutes, exclaim over sightings, walk 5 paces….), in favor of the afternoon “hike” (walk at a normal pace, but stop if anything interesting is sighted). Also, I need sleep. La Cusinga was beautiful, but between the bugs, our resident gecko (who knew they were so loud???) and the 4am howler monkey alarm, I did not sleep well.
After tomorrow, we had to Arenal Volcano for a few days and then return to San Jose.
Here’s what Doug didn’t say about the monkeys and the toucans. They are awesome!!! There are easily a couple dozen of the monkeys running around in the trees, leaping from tree to tree, and grabbing handfuls of whatever up there is good to eat. Then…the toucans came. And it was the epic battle of Monkeys vs Toucan–who would reign supreme?? Well, it turns out 5 toucans can make enough noise to irritate the hell out a bunch of monkeys, and to cause one young monkey to find his mom and cling to her. The toucans celebrated their defeat of the monkeys by feasting at the tray of bananas that is left out, and continuing to shriek while the monkeys hung back. The toucans finally left, allowing the monkeys to reclaim their space among the trees.
We’ll see if the battle repeats itself tomorrow….
After this morning’s quetzal (pronounced ketz-AHL) hike, we went back out after breakfast to hike to some nearby falls. The group wound up split into two: the slow-walking Birders, and the faster moving Walkers. Doug and I were among the Walkers, who actually made it to the falls, unlike the Birders. The thing I noticed as we hiked along is that every single surface is covered in green–low growing groundcovers, tall trees, but very few shrubs.
This afternoon, after lunch, we were driven up to the top of a hill in ATVs to take a 3 hour hike down. On the way, it started to pour. Buckets. Another woman and I decided this didn’t look like fun and came back down, and were soaked through anyway. I spread my stuff around to dry and took a hot shower; Doug appeared only 1 1/2 hours later, saying they hadn’t stopped at all, just trudged on down. I’m glad I missed it. Hopefully there are not too many more rains like that.
We arrived in San Jose late last night (early this morning?) and my Spanish lessons were sufficient to get us a cab and make it to the Hotel Buena Vista, where we promptly fell asleep. We have no grand plans for today; we need to rearrange our things in our backpacks and I need to clean up the conditioner that exploded inside my toiletries kit. We’ve already seen our first hummingbirds. We’ll meet our traveling companions at dinner tonight, then off to our first adventure tomorrow!