Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Nice to meet ya, anteater!

With the new sunrise we decide to venture into the rainforest next to our cabins for a cheeky pre-breakfast hike, hoping to catch another glimpse of yesterday's sloth. We figure the lazy lump couldn't have gone too far. The rainforest is like a treasure chest full of the most opulent jewels, and we cannot resist opening it over and over to take another look.

As we have now progressed from novice hikers to stealthy sloth-hunting ninjas, our attire reflects that - gone is the full suit of armour, replaced by vest top, shorts and flip flops, and in Andy's case no top at all, as we casually saunter into the jungle. Occasionally we pass newbie explorers, dressed like SAS operatives as we were on that first day, taking no chances in full camo, not a millimetre of visible flesh, and we smirk knowingly as they gawp in wonder at the confidence of these three curious gringos before them who dare to enter the rainforest dressed thus.

We flip-flop our way confidently past giant spiders spinning their webs at eye level, as startled lizards zip across our feet and huge-billed toucans fly silently over our heads. By weaving through the forest and onto the beach and back, we attempt to cover all our sloth-spotting options. On the beach we come across the remnants of eggshells left behind by giant green sea turtles, who along with hawkbills come in great numbers to lay their eggs every year between July and November.

Soon we are greeted by a large group of spider monkeys making their way across the jungle canopy overhead. We watch in delight as they move down lower, until they are only a few feet above us, the baby one sitting on a branch munching noisily on the juiciest small leaves, mum nearby, and dad swinging about and hanging upside down just above. They stay like that for a while and we are buzzing with the excitement.

We journey on, but don't find our sloth.

Disappointed, Andy and I stop to look at a huge insect on a leaf when some leaves and debris fall from a tree above. Looking up, we get the best treat yet : a cuddly-looking anteater is upside down in the tree directly above us, aggressively pulling away at the bark with it's paws and hungrily sucking up termites from a nest there.
It is not bothered by our proximity at all, and we edge ever-closer, really pushing our luck since we gained this new feisty attitude. Andy is so close he could could touch it, and we all gaze in wonder as it's long nose snuffles about, tongue protruding to enjoy the booty it's found. It's tawny-and-black markings make it look as though it's wearing a pair of Super Mario-style black dungarees, and combine that with it's soft fur and teddy-bear ears and we soon crown this our new favourite animal. Eventually he's had his fill and disappears back up the tree whence he came.

Feeling pumped,  we skip back to the cabins for breakfast, passing another anteater right at the top of a tree on our way. Packed and ready to go, we take a river taxi across the way to our next resort, which is an ecolodge called Toucan and Tarpon buried even deeper in the jungle.

As we arrive, a family of howler monkeys are playing on the tin rooves whilst underfoot trails of leafcutter ants are busy at work cutting perfectly symmetrical holes in leaves and transporting the pieces to their home. A huge spider is sitting in a web between 2 cabins and Andy picks up one of the ants and feeds it to the spider, which I chastise him for - we don't want the bloody thing getting even bigger, thanks!

We are eager to go on another adventure, but Sue the property owner warns us that it's extremely boggy on this side of the river and advises us to take go with the guide (a local guy called Ever) or at least take some wellies from the laundry room. We blow out Ever in favour of the boots although the fit is not great, and make our way clumsily in these huge clown-like shoes into the forest behind our wood cabins. She wasn't joking. Within minutes De Mama is face-down in the thick mud, unable to haul her boots from the bog as they are too big. The boots stay wedged in position and she plops forward. It reminds me of the giant native turkey that Roberto pointed out to us a few days ago - as soon as it caught sight of us it fell noisily out of the tree, seemingly hitting every branch.
Proper funny!

Once we've finished laughing hysterically, we haul Mum from the swamp and attempt to continue. It's tough-going, as the boots are suctioned down into the bog, which almost comes over the top of them, making progress tedious and a tad scary. I'm sure the animals are sniggering from the safety of the canopy. The effort pays off and we see a group of red-crested woodpeckers (think Woody Woodpecker) hammering away at a tree, several toucans and a tiger heron. Mum stacks it yet again, and Andy and I are roaring with laughter as we haul her from the sinking, squelchy gunk. Any chance of seeing more animals vanished when we started making so much noise, so Mum returns to camp looking like a naughty dog who's been rolling in mud, whilst Andy and I stroll back totally spotless.

After a restorative siesta, we take a river taxi across to the Wild Ginger Cafe, the most upscale eaterie in Tortuguero, located alongside a strip of forest backing onto the beach. We kick off with a cocktail each and await our delicious mains. Mum starts going purple in the face, so much so that we are concerned a passing explorer may mistake her a rare red-faced baboon...

Uh oh.

 Anyone who knows De Mama knows she cannot suck a winegum without getting pissed, and very rarely does she attempt to. I get my hardcore drinking prowess from my dad; mum is the biggest lightweight I've ever met. She stumbles out of the flashy restaurant to 'get some fresh air' and luckily Andy returns her a while later looking vaguely human again. I've no idea what the Maitre D thought was happening, but she styles it out and we agree that she will have to stick to virgin cocktails from now on, the big wuss. 

After a feast of shrimps, pasta and naughty melting chocolate desserts, we head back to our cabins....and are greeted by a huge cockroach above the bed. Next follows a Benny Hill-worthy scenario with Andy chasing this repulsive creature in circles around the room. Eventually we get some sleep, but I have one beady eye on the door all night, especially when I realise that point of entry for the cockroach is the large gap under the door, which a snake could slip through with ease. Lordy!

The night brings more rain, and we are all awoken by the deafening sound of the downpour hitting the tin rooves. Well it's a good job we came in the 'dry' season. Did I mention that the cabins have no walls?  it's just a wooden lattice on all 4 sides with a thin layer of mozzie-proof mesh on top, giving the feeling that we are lying unprotected on a bed in the middle of the jungle. Which I suppose we are. Jaguars, armadillos, wild boar, tapirs - these are just some of the other local inhabitants sharing the jungle with us tonight. I push that thought from my mind as the sound of loud reggae drift over from the other side of the river, the rhythmic beat sending me off into a deep sleep....

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