Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Honeymoon - Day 18 - Cano Negro Boat Tour

We had a boat tour today of the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge which runs along the border of Nicaragua.  We weren't sure what to expect but it turned out to be the wildlife highlight of our Costa Rica trip.  We saw more wildlife in a half mile stretch of the Rio Frio than anywhere else in the country. I think I took over 500 photos on just this one tour.  We even got to see the extremely rare albino Howler Monkey!  Click the title to read on....

Today we were absolutely blown away by wildlife.  We boarded a shuttle with the Canoa Adventura tour company for a 2.5 hour drive north towards the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge which lies nearly on the border with Nicaragua.  Our guides name was May (real name hard to pronounce) and she was very nice.  Like our guide the day before she had gone to school to be a guide and for English.  Along the drive she told us all about the region and pointed out various fruit crops and cattle farms to us along the way.   

I kept a keen eye out for animals the entire way as I have been doing in this lush country and I spotted a massive lizard up in a tree.  It looked like a full size alligator in the tree.  I excitedly showed our guide who didn't seem too impressed.  I felt pretty stupid when we then pulled over at the "Iguana Cafe" in Alajuela where we found trees next to the restaurant so covered with iguanas that they looked like iguana ornaments on a heavily decorated iguana christmas tree.  

The males were larger and orange in color while the females were smaller and grey.  They didn't seem to move very much except to nod their heads occasionally in annoyance if another crawled over them.  Although there were many the one I spotted from the van was easily twice the size of any of the ones in the tree so I didn't feel too bad.  Apparently, the cafe has taken on rescuing them and the trees around have become a sort of sanctuary for them even though iguana meat is common in meat markets around the country and they are not endangered.

We continued on another hour after the iguanas down an extremely bumpy dirt road to the Rio Frio (Cold River) where we were provided some great Costa Rican Coffee and then boarded our silent river boat for the 2.5 hour tour up the river.  The tour was absolutely amazing.  Right from the start we saw a ton of water birds including kingfishers, ibis, anhinga (snake bird), herons and many more.  

We also saw many capuchins, a ton of howler monkeys and even a small family of spider monkeys with cute babies in the trees.  We saw about 15 caiman in the water as well and a nest of babies on the shore that we pulled up to, much to the disdain of their mother nearby.  We also saw an emerald basilisk which our guide told us was the Jesus Christ lizard (runs on water) but our animal guide told us differently.  

I sat in the front of the boat in the sun for the entire trip snapping literally hundreds of photos with a young kid next to me with a film camera that maxed out at 24 pics a roll.. I should have gotten his email address to share my photos but didn't think to ask.  When we turned around, only about a half mile up the river and returned to the base we went a lot faster which must have pissed off the howlers as they bellowed at us angrily from the trees as we tore by them down the muddy river.  

Back at base were were served a traditional Costa Rican meal of beans and rice with lettuce and some chicken in the rice as well and then desert of sweet rice pudding.  It was hot as hell so I also grabbed us some beers from the nearby bar.  From there it was a pretty chill ride back to Fortuna where we got back to our room around 4pm.  On the way back we saw more exotic birds alongside the road and lots of farmland of pineapples, oranges, and other fruit.  

After relaxing in the hammocks and taking a dip in the cool pool for a little while with beers we ended up getting some dinner at the very cool Lava Lounge just up the street.  Once again Emily got ceviche and I got a Caprese Chicken sandwich with mozzarella and balsamic.  We just got a couple drinks as once again I had bought a 6-pack of ron and colas from the market up the street to save some money (we didn't like the attitude of the bartender at the hostel either).  

The restaurant was super cool and had rolling film of the Arenal volcano eruptions that occurred from 1968 to 2010 when all activity abruptly stopped.  It was cool to see the volcano's bright orange glow and lava rolling down the slopes on the video screens but it would have been better to see it in real life 4 years ago.  Despite the volcano not being currently active the area seemed to be doing just fine with tourism and the local hot springs are big draw but with temps in the high 90’s Emily and I had no interest in visiting them.

When we got back to the room Emily seemed really tired again but I heard activity downstairs and had about 5 beers to drink rather than haul them to Monteverde the next day.  While Emily chilled out for a bit I headed downstairs to join the brother-sister combo, the Texas girls and two solo travelers (a Brit and from Vancouver, BC) for some drinks.  I was totally out of my element and clearly a decade older then all of them (except the Brit who said he was close to my age with a wink), but I still had a good time and they got a kick out of my Ron Swanson shirt.  They gave me the nickname "old balls, or low balls" or something silly like that and I asked if they needed permission from their parents to be out after 9pm and how the prom went for them... 

Emily came down briefly but I ended up following them out for a beer at the Lava Lounge again which had quickly become a fun reggae night there with live music.    After 5 strong rum and cokes I was certainly feeling it but when the sister told me she was born in 1993 and they all got up to dance just before the music stopped I started to irish exit... as I left I heard someone yell they were headed to another bar so I quickly got the hell out of there before being talked into that craziness.  Turns out I made the right call as the next morning I heard there was a lot crazy stuff that went down when a group returned drunk at 2am and got into a fight with each other.... might have been them....

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