Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Costa Rica 27

Why is it when traveling that everything has to happen so early? Today was no exception. Another early bus to our next destination, La Fortuna.

We enjoyed another communal breakfast prepared by our host and got to watch a multitude of birds eating from the feeders so close to us. Among them a Scarlet Rump Tanager. And it lived up to its’ name! We were enjoying that brief lull that occurs when the meal is over but you don’t yet want to push your chair away from the table when Alex, our host, called for us to come look. He had spotted the resident sloth high above us in the trees.
It was a female and she had her baby riding along on her back. She was, as is sloth nature, making her way slowly along a branch. Alex explained that she was heading from one tree to another for a different kind of leaf. Must have been tired of the menu she had been eating! As we watched and as she made her way to the slender end of the branch, her baby carefully dismounted and got left behind on the thicker part of the branch. With the baby safely off loaded, she reached the entire length of her arm, which was quite long, and grabbed a branch from the neighboring tree. Once she had determined that it was sturdy enough to support both her and her baby’s weight and not send them plummeting to their deaths far below, she waited for the baby to climb back on board and she was off. Well, that sounds like a race horse, but believe me, these things move so slowly it almost seems like they are not moving at all. It was truly an “Animal Planet” moment and we thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
Have I mentioned that sloths only come down from the tree tops once a week? For some reason, they need to be on the ground to poop. The one flaw nature gave them because they are very vulnerable to predators while on the ground. But, even though the show wasn’t over, we had to get going.

Once again Alex came to our rescue and drove us into town to the bus station. Once there, B and I guarded the bags outside while L when in and purchased the proper tickets for us. We were headed to La Fortuna where the great Arenal Volcano is located. We were going to have to go to San Carlos first, via chicken bus, and transfer from there.

The bus out of Sarapiqui almost immediately entered into the surrounding mountains and our road started to climb. Gently first but then ever steeper. The roadside ditches and trees gave way to vast vistas of steep rolling hills going on forever. A sea of various greens and incredibly vast valleys. We could see the mountain tops in the distance, occasionally obscured by the clouds that seem to be ever present in these jungles.
The bus would stop whenever somebody was standing by the side of the road and flagged it down. There were no official bus stops along this route. You just stood by the edge of the road and waited. Among the many people we picked up and dropped off along the way was a group of young teenage school kids. All in crisp, clean uniforms, hair freshly washed and groomed. Once again proving that poor does not mean dirty. I always marvel at how people can keep their clothes so brilliantly white.
We passed many houses along the way. Some just dots far away, leaving me to wonder how these people got to them. Some were almost on top of the road. Many had livestock grazing in the yard or in a little pen. I saw no gardens, as in vegetable garden. I wondered about this. Surely many of these people grew their own food? Maybe they were away from the house or located on some more fertile piece of their property. Now and then I would see clotheslines full of clothes, providing much needed dots of color in this otherwise oh so green environment. The houses in rural CR almost all have either red or green corrugated steel roofs. I thought that this would be simply awful and was pretty stupid here. Can you imagine what it must sound like when the rain, which comes quite frequently, hits on it? Not to worry though. It appears that the steel is there to protect the real wooden roof underneath it. They use corrugated steel like we use asphalt shingles in the USA. Pretty smart really. Even though the sun was shining and it was another hot day, every person we passed or picked up was carrying an umbrella. This was, after all, the rainy season and a good storm can develop in just mere minutes.

The bus continued to climb higher and civilization left us for awhile, not to return until we got closer to San Carlos. Once again I found us crossing huge mountain bridges that spanned rivers engorged with recent rains. We would be driving along and I would be looking out the window (L always let me have the window seat. He is so sweet!) at a wall of green formed by massive trees and lots and lots of bushes and then, suddenly, there was nothing. The bushes cleared and I was looking down and away across one of the many valleys in this area. It was one of the most beautiful bus rides I have ever taken. I found it interesting also that as we climbed higher, we left behind the standard Brahma type cow and started to see what I consider more of a dairy cow. I don’t know whether it had to do with families needing milk or a different kind of pasture that was more suited to dairy cows. We were only going to see the dairy type now for several days and not encounter the Brahma type again until we descended to lower elevations.

We had enough time in between buses at San Carlos to grab a candy bar and a Coke. Nice lunch. Our next bus pulled into its’ bay right on time and left right on time also. Buses do seem to keep to a schedule down here. We carried on to La Fortuna and arrived with no problems, mishaps or further adventures. Just a nice, safe, sane bus ride.

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