The jungle now seemed to close in on us. It was getting more difficult to see into it and it was hard to see it as a jungle. It was so thick I could really only focus on what was directly beside me. Of course, I tried to keep my distance from the branches and giant leaves that dared me to brush against them. We were now into what is called primary rain forest. The part that is the oldest, densest and most untouched by any outside elements. (like man!) They had made the pathway here as narrow as possible in order to disturb as little as possible, but still promote study and tourism. The path, like all other jungle paths, wound its’ way around trees and vines and meandered uphill and down. But mostly uphill! Along the way we were treated to mosquitoes, beetles, centipedes and millipedes, more toucans and we even saw the legendary bullet ants. They are about an inch long, red and mean. I guess the bite is similar to the feeling of being shot and is very painful. The guide was quick to point one out when he saw it. We were allowed to look and get as close to them as we wanted, but at our own risk. I noticed that everybody gave them the respect that they deserve!
There were nine of us on this tour, all going single file with L and I bringing up the rear. We had stopped to take some photos and the group got a little bit ahead of us. As we were catching up to them and rounded a corner, I saw the guide dive into the undergrowth. It kind of startled me because I didn’t know what was going on. I soon found out as he reappeared carrying a SNAKE! It was a small one, smaller than a garter snake, but a SNAKE all the same. It squirmed and wiggled in his grasp as snakes are prone to do when caught. It was all covered with dirt and leaf debris which the guide kept brushing off it so we could see its’ color. It was a harmless pink bellied litter snake. And it did have a pink belly. We were not offered the chance to hold it (thank goodness!) but he did hold it up for everybody to get a close inspection. Close inspection to me means from at least three feet away! I was glad when he very gently returned it to the jungle, placing it in exactly the same spot where he had captured it. There was a bit of a delay then while everybody dug around in their bags looking for first aid stuff for him. He had caught the SNAKE in some briars and had managed to pierce himself pretty good on one of the thorns. I would have run screaming for a medic, thinking jungle poison, jungle poison! Except you can bet anything you want that I would never have made the dive to capture a SNAKE in the first place! But he didn’t seem overly concerned about it. I did see him later, after we returned to the compound, in the bathroom scrubbing his hand like crazy with soap so he must have had some concern. He just didn’t want to scare anybody.
The tour continued on and we passed many more interesting plants. Tons of stuff we would have overlooked, or not recognized, were pointed out to us. Like a giant leaf that had purposely been folded in half by something. Turns out that bats do that to make a shelter for themselves during the day. We didn’t see one though, just where it had spent some leisure time. The real highlight of the tour came when we heard some thrashing in the jungle a bit ahead and to the right of us. The hair on my arms stood up, not knowing what it was. The guide motioned for us to stop and be quiet and just wait. We were rewarded almost instantly by being able to see two peccaries (wild pigs) cross the path in front of us and disappear into the undergrowth on our left. We walked up to where they had crossed and could clearly hear them but no way you could see them. They are just too well camouflaged. We were extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time. You can go forever in the jungle and never ever see one.
We finally came back out, after a three hour tour, to the suspension bridge. I could not believe that we had been walking for three hours. The time went by so fast. There is a buffet cafeteria at the compound, mostly for feeding staff, but for $10 US each, one can get a ticket and eat there. Since our next stop was further up the same road, we thought it would be foolish to go all the way back to town and then have to pay a taxi to bring us all the way back out, we decided to splurge and have lunch “with the staff”. Another one of our mistakes and live and learn things.
The lunch was one of the crappiest buffets I have ever eaten at. And to add insult to expense, not all of the items were available to paying guests, like us. Some of the stuff was only for staff and volunteers. It was not self serve either. You had to point out to the servers what you wanted. They would then tell you if you could have it or not. A really shitty way to do business I thought and a total waste of $10. That was $30 total and we can only hope that some of that money goes to fund research since it certainly more than covered the cost of the crap we ate!