Tuesday, April 11, 2006

::[costa rica]::

for spring break '06, sam and i caught a flight down to costa rica for some quality time with nature. we hiked through cloud forests and rainforests, chased all sorts of amazing wildlife, zip-corded through the canopy, rode horses through the countryside, watched lava spew from an active volcano, simmered in hot springs, bummed in beachside hammocks, and ate our body weight in hearts of palm. plus, it felt great to dust off my spanish and berate taxi drivers who were trying to rip us off and befriend hostel owners for special attention. in no particular order, here are some highlights from our trip...


a view of the rainforest near arenal. while hiking through it, we took to the hanging bridges, which were constructed to help people get a closer look at the canopy.

at monteverde, we explored some old growth cloud forest, where collosal ancient trees are draped with epiphytes - plants that are suspended by branches because they get their moisture directly from the air. the dangling roots of the epiphytes eventually reach the ground and sometimes kill off the original tree, until all you have left is an enormous, hollow network of epiphyte roots that looks like a tree but is far from it. to the right is an owl butterfly with irridescent blue wings (i couldn't catch the open wings in time).

sam and i chose a route between monteverde and arenal that required several hours of horseback riding. rafael, our campesino guide, showed us the way. it turned out to be the most beautiful leg of our trip. we forded a river three times and trotted through lush, windswept valleys and rugged cliffs. being able to see the tranquil landscape untouched by roads or vehicles was pretty breathtaking.

trekking through forests tired us out, so we spent a few days lounging about samara beach. we found a fabulous hostel right along the ocean with hammocks strung between palm trees. we napped in them all day long. post-card perfect.

while we were at samara, a storm front passed through, which made for a spectacular sunset and lightning display afterwards.


a capuchin monkey hanging out in the trees. these guys are pretty mischievous. they like to sneak out and snatch food from unsuspecting tourists. one stole a bag of croissants from a french couple lounging at a beach next to us. cheeky monkey.

hahaha, wow. here we have a very...well-endowed...howler monkey. by well endowed, of course i mean vocally. the howler monkey is the second-loudest mammal in the world - you can hear it up to five kilometers away. only a blue whale can emit a louder sound. what, did you think i was talking about something else? like his enormous white balls?? really. get your mind out of the gutter.

this lizard looks exactly like a velociraptor. doesn't it? creepy...

there were sloths aplenty at manuel antonio national park, although they were hard to spot because they don't move at all. we found it useful to have a guide along who was trained in tracking wildlife. our monteverde guide led us on a wild chase through the cloud forest after a bird call that we never would have been able to pick out on our own. it turned out to be the call of the elusive quetzal, sacred bird of the mayas. we saw both a female and a male, but for some reason my camera was simply not cooperating. i hope you can get a sense of how beautifully colored the quetzal is from the blurry photo...

my camera decided to cooperate a little better with this "black turkey bird", also found at the monteverde cloud forest.

it's so weird to see ginormous iguanas sunning themselves out in the open. surprisingly, they camouflage very well. usually, you only catch them out of the corner of your eye when they move.


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