This was actually my third time in Costa Rica. The Mate and I visited Son One when he was first working there six years ago. Then there was the time my zoologist dad took me deep into the jungle for an Organization of Tropical States conference when I was sixteen (I was too scared of the rainforest to walk alone–correctly, as it turned out, because the assembled biologists later discovered an extremely venomous fer-de-lance viper on the trail).
But it’s still a shock to realize how DIFFERENT Nature is there. Oh, it looks inviting as all get-out, from above.
But get in close, and it’s red in tooth and claw–even the plants. Like this ficus, or Strangler Fig, enthusiastically murdering its host tree.
In the jungle, it’s everyone for itself. Even a lowly fencepost becomes a host.
And don’t even get me started on the army ants. (Not pictured: army ants. You’re welcome.)
Because Son One is a classic naturalist, which is to say nuts about dangerous critters, he was REALLY hoping for a sighting of either a puma or a fer-de-lance–preferably both. We struck out on both, this trip, although we did score some stunningly large paw prints, and this official Pile o’ Puma Poop on the trail:
Son One did manage to find one fer-de-lance (terciopelo, in Spanish, which means velvet–has anyone actually stroked that snake??), but he hasn’t sent me the photo yet, so here’s one from our last visit:
But of course, of COURSE, Costa Rica is way more than things that want to kill you. It’s also a splendid riot of sound and scent and color. Like this motmot which welcomed us on our first afternoon:
And of course, of COURSE…monkeys. Since Son One’s specialty is taking people far from the madding crowd, we had an entire troupe of Capuchins to ourselves. (Here’s where I decided I need to invest in a zoom lens for my phone, but you get the idea.)
This thrilling wildlife encounter was somewhat undermined when we stopped for coffee at a place which puts out fruit for the birds…which the monkeys, of course, gorge on.
As we headed back down toward the lowlands on a road whose steepness I couldn’t possibly capture with my phone, this tree caught me eye. The locals call it “Gringo Tree” because it looks like a white person with bad sunburn. But this particular one looked like E.T.
I‘m not saying North American Nature doesn’t have weird stuff. Just not THIS weird. Or wonderful. See you in the lowlands for Part 3!