Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Booyaka! Junglist Massive!

We head out to explore this captivating little village....and the heavens open. Everyone scatters like skittles, seeking refuge from the torrential downpour. This is the first time it's even come close to raining since we landed in Costa Rica, but boy does it come down! Well we ARE in the middle of the rainforest now, the clue is in the name. Duh! 

There is a type of water rat indigenous to Costa Rica that is completely transparent, so much so that you can see it's internal organs through the skin, and we are in serious danger of being mistaken for a little family of these rats, such is our anaemic pallor. Although it's wall-to-wall sunshine here we have been plucked from a bleak English mid-winter and then trapped in the concrete jungle of San Jose city for a week, and now that we are soaked through to the skin our resemblance to these pasty water rats is uncanny.

 Darkness falls. it's time to make our first foray into the fray, a night trek in the jungle. We douse ourselves liberally in the battery-acid that is 100% DEET, which prevents mosquito bites....but also happens to melt the skin from your bones in the process. Mum emerges from her cabin in a full-length camouflage burkha - she ain't takin' no chances with those badboys. Andy are I are similarly over-dressed, with me in a long-sleeved top, cargo pants tucked into hiking boots and waterproof jacket. Andy resembles a paranoid bee-keeper, also covered head-to-toe. We look like we're going into battle. 

To our abject horror, we rock up to the meeting point to find the rest of our group practically in beachwear, and Roberto the guide is half-naked in a white vest and hot pants ensemble.


After explaining to Mum that the weapon the Italian contingent are brandishing is actually a selfie-stick and not a golf club to defend themselves from predators, we hike past iridescent fireflies into the rainforest in single file, the only other light coming from the various flashlights bobbing up and down. Roberto hands me a spare torch, and I'm swinging it back and forth like the arachnophobe that I am, trying to ensure that no creepy-crawlies are about to land on my shoulder. 

The guide soon points out various exotic creatures - iguanas with punky crests on their heads, geckos, crickets, huge menacing-looking spiders, green coiled snakes balancing on branches - it's a veritable feast of wildlife. Our favourite sighting of the night is the red-eyed tree frog, who is balancing on a leaf with eyes closed and limbs tucked in, and at first glance resembles a green matchbox. That is until Roberto gently shakes the leaf and his eyes spring open and he spreads his feet to reveal red webbing and little red suction pads. It's like something straight from the pages of National Geographic and we snap away in awe. He's not bothered by our presence at all, and I even give him a gentle stroke as he poses lazily for a selfie with Andy, fixing him with a bemused expression.

Next up is the Jesus Christ lizard, so-called due to it's remarkable ability to walk on water, and the specimen we find standing majestically on a branch really does think he's God's gift, stretching his neck to survey his kingdom as we hold our iPhones a few inches from him like invasive paparazzi.

The iguanas stand stock-still when our attentions turn to them, posing stony-faced like Russian supermodels, fully aware of their beauty and how to use it. As we head deeper into the undergrowth, Andy mimes for me to be quiet as he reaches out and tickles De Mamas's neck with a thin stick, sending her shrieking into the air as we crack up behind her. No-one wants to be last in the procession in this pitch-black forest, so it's a constant elbowing battle to stay close to the guide. The Italian girl in our group narrowly misses copping a face-full of web, as an angry spider runs in front of her, furious that she's damaged his careful work.

The humidity is stifling and we are all sweating like the proverbial pig at a disco, so after a few hours of oohing and ahhing whilst attempting to keep our mouths shut to avoid swallowing the wildlife we head back to bed, ready for more Bear Grylls-style adventures at the break of dawn....

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