Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Day 4, June 2 
I was awakened at 5 am by a cacaphony of bird sounds, but by 6 they had quieted down. Apparently, when the temperature rises, they cease their calls.  Arenal Volcano, which I can see from my front window, was still shrouded in fog, so I will wait another day for a photo.
This morning was clear and we headed north towards the Nicaraguan border to take a cruise on the River Frio. On the 1-1/2 hour bus ride, we passed through sugar cane, pineapple, and teak plantations.  "Plantations" might be using the word loosely. We saw numerous fields with plants, but the surrounding areas were nothing like "Tara." Most of the houses along the road, which probably are the homes of many of the workers, were extremely small.  All of them, including most commercial buildings, have corrugated metal roofs, which must be useful for dealing with so much rain. I wonder if you can hear the rain on these roofs inside the houses.
The River Frio runs through the famous Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. Early on the water, we spotted a cluster of white faced monkeys cavorting in the trees. They are also known as "capuchin" for their black cloak and cap and white chest, neck, and shoulders, which resemble Franciscan friars. 
They swung from the top branches, venturing down to take a look at us and then returning to the upper limbs. Along the way, one of them grabbed an egg from a nearby bird's nest, causing a lot of excitement, and he ended up on the ground to suck out his prize, even tilting the broken shell to get the last little bit. I understand they are very clever and considered the most intelligent of New World monkeys. Later we saw (and heard) a group of black howler monkeys, named for the male's loud and drawn-out  throaty roar. 
As our modest one-level boat continued downstream, we also saw an adult caiman, which is similar to a crocodile, along the shoreline, and later, two small ones basking on a log. We saw a number of birds, including herons, egrets, kingfishers, anhingas, and snake birds.
While we were on the boat, it started to pour down rain, but it didn't really bother us. Our guide took us all the way to the Nicaraguan border and crossed over it so we could say we were in that country. I am photographed here with my two new friends- Mollie from California and Shereen from Singapore - on the border.
Afterwards we ate lunch in the city of Los Chiles, a short walk from the river.
Then back on the bus, returning to our hotel at 2:30. On our own, a group of 16 of us (we've bonded nicely) hirrd two taxi vans and headed to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. We followed a self guided trail of about 2.5 miles through 620 pristine acres of lush rain forest, punctuated by a series of 14 bridges suspended over ravines. The trail is composed of bricks with holes in them that seem to prevent slipping. Shortly after we arrived, it started to pour down rain, but hey, we're in a rain forest. We all got soaked, including those of us who brought rain gear. But seeing and experiencing the bridges was worth any discomfort -- they were awesome. The larger ones really do bounce and sway, but they are very secure with their thick metal ropes and fencing on the sides. They cross ravines that must be 20-30 feet deep and provide a sense of being totally immersed in the jungle. We could reach out and touch the mosses and ferns on the trees. It started to get dark while we were there and we were the last to leave.
We had another lovely dinner in the covered but open air hotel restaurant and turned in early.

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