Monday, 24 August 2009

Rara Avis, spiders and other thrills

Ocati looking around for some lunch...

Rara Avis, Nun's Torments and other wildlife.....

Since I started this trip I have been looking forward to traveling to Costa Rica and especially to its National Parks and other protected areas. Everyone told me how much I was going to enjoy it, just the type of place where the environment and its wildlife were protected having become the main source of foreign currency.

However, I was also very aware of previous disappointments, places that friends and travel guides had described as awesome, teeming with wildlife. Places like North Laos that have been raised to the ground, where all forest has been supplanted by rubber trees.

So far Costa Rica is living up to all my expectations. From what I can see, and have learned, the 30% that is protected seems to be properly protected with just some minor problems in a few remote areas. Although deforestation and agriculture is expanding through the country large swathes are still havens for wildlife.

Vultures waiting for us to fall down some cliff

As soon as Glenn got here we left San Jose and headed to Rara Avis, a privately owned Natural Reserve on the border of Braulio Carrillo National Park. This is the second largest expanse of rainforest in Costa Rica, and the park has mostly been left untouched with no tourism to protect its wildlife.

Rara Avis sits on the side of the park at a high point and it is an adventure on its own to get there. The bus from San Jose is followed by a two and half hour tractor trip uphill on a track that goes from bad road, to dirt track, to a series of pot holes in which the tractor sank from time to time, followed by us in the trailer behind.

A cute spider

The last 3 kilometres had to be trekked as the path was so badly damaged by the rain that you get thrown around too much.

Rara Avis is one of those rare places where the environment and economics seem to have met, without becoming so expensive to become prohibitive to the normal person.

We have spent the last three days trekking around the reserve, mostly with guides. As always in the rainforest you don't get to see much. There are no jaguars waiting there for you, and most of the animals, birds and butterflies you see are so rude, never happy to wait for you to get the camera out and focus on them. Most don't even bother coming out during the day, just no manners. We did get to see several gorgeous butterflies, some poisonous frogs, red and bright, and pacas, a type of rodent that grows up to half a metre.

Waterfall by Rara Avis

I am proud to say that I saw a snake, a poisonous one, and didn't have a scooby doo moment, there was no screaming, no running, no throwing my friend in the way of the snake.

The staff that work or volunteer in the station are mostly locals who have been employed to ensure the wealth that tourism brings is spread to the community, bringing new allies to their cause. There are also a couple of Americans, one a volunteer to help with the English speaking customers.

Glenn losing badly

We will take with us the memories of cheap thrills, and cheap jokes. I love the Spanish nickname for the Black Palm, locally known as Nun's Torment, its roots looking like dildos...

And a Tarzan moment...

On leaving Rara Avis, we still had to walk the first three kilometres, and were then offered horses instead of the tractor. Horses, being more intelligent that people, refuse to go all the way up there.

Once we were a bit more comfortable on the horses we decided to trot, the slow walk was sending us to sleep and the rain was falling hard. We even managed to gallop for a bit. I have now decided that I am going to have to learn to do this horse upset me by always veering to the right, as if if it was a Tory....

I really enjoyed the horse ride. It must have been funny to see us trying to keep our cool, trying to look like Indiana Jones, while each time the horse sped up our eyes jumped out of their sockets with sheer fear. Nonetheless my stomach hurts from how much I laughed.


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