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Costa Rica Day 6: Mommie and Babies on the Rio Claro

‘Daddy?!!?’ Lily bolts awake and shouts loudly, looking around.  She’s lying right next to me. ‘lily dear, I’ve got my arm around you.   It’s just thunder and lightning.  Go back to sleep.’

She does, and is snoring again quickly.  I can’t sleep with the pounding rain and thunder on the tin roof of our hot cabin.

Emma gets up at 1 am and announces to everyone that she is awake, and doesn’t like it.  None of us sleep well, Trish and Lily the best perhaps.  I’ll be lucky to get a few hours before our 4am wake up call to go hiking for night predators.  But not until the storm passes.

Night Hike

Kenneth knocks on our door.  ‘Come in’ I mumble, not remembering that every one of us is stark naked because it’s so goddamn hot.  Trish throws her sheet around her still healing scars on the new boobs.  They still look good, I think.

The forest is surprisingly quiet even for 4am. Kenneth shows us a cool yellow and black striped grasshopper.  But the real scene is the devastation of the storm.  This was the first good windy storm in a few months, and it blew trees, vines and branches everywhere on the jungle floor and across the trail.

We don’t see that much.  Kenneth wonders if the animals are still hiding after the big storm.  The howler monkeys announce the coming of daylight with roars.  Birds erupt with calls, hoots, chirps and squaws.  It’s another day in the jungle.

Planning the Corcovado trip

Corcovado National Park is not an easy place to adventure. That’s the way it’s intended to be. Access to the park is limited by ticket and guides are required.  There is no car access to the park.

You can fly in on an expensive 6-seater aircraft, boat in from either of the two major towns on the Osa Penninsula, or walk in which is at least 10 miles.  It’s possible to do it as a day trip, but not recommended.

There are several dozen guides in the area, but they don’t advertise well. You have to do a little research unless you are staying locally.  I got Kenneths name from a good bit of research on trip advisor.  We communicated by email for a few months to arrange our 3-day, 2-night stay here.  The most complicated part is getting in and out. Once you are here, it’s just hiking, eating and sleeping (sort-of, anyway.)

Rio Claro Trail

The girls are holding up well despite the lack of sleep and normal luxuries.  The hikes are hot and hard, but as soon as Kenneth stops and motions us to be quiet, time stops and we use every sense to catch a glimpse of a new animal.

Corcovado has (approximately) 140 species of mammals, 367 birds, 117 amphibians and reptiles, 40 types of freshwater fish, and it is estimated that there are some 6,000 types of insects.  Although Kenneth points out that most of those mammals are bats including three of the Earth’s five known vampire bats.

‘It smells like Anteater’ Kenneth says.  He moves off the trail and beckons us to follow.  Unaware of Kenneths cue, Lily talks loudly (mostly to herself) about the time she made football-sized pancakes with her friend Ben.  We have to shush her. “It’s an Anteater mommy with a baby on her back” he says.

And sure enough, a ‘baby’ – almost the size of the mommy herself is being carried up the tree.  Anteaters move pretty slowly.  They are related to sloths and more distantly armadillos.  We spend several minutes watching them climb slowly up the tree.

We are on the Rio Claro trail, the one we took yesterday part-way until the rains forced us to turn around.  It’s blocked in several places because of fallen trees.  Park rangers will eventually cut through and clear the trails, but that might not be for weeks.

We stop to look at common brown lizards and how they play dead.  Emma is amazed to be holding a squirmy reptile at all, much less one that is so convincingly pretending to have died.  In between goofy tween comments and mild displays of attitude, she’s been really excited by the animal life in Corcovado.  She has also been a voracious reader – she’s on her fifth book of the trip.

The trail opens up to the beach where the freshwater Rio Claro hits the ocean.  A group of 10 or more squirrel monkeys jumps from tree to tree playfully above us at the edge of the beach.   There is another mom and baby monkey but I can’t get a good picture. So cute.

Ken sets up his scope and motions us over.  He has spotted a crocodile in the river.  The ridged prehistoric back is clearly visible up close, but I don’t know how he saw that from so far away.

The wildlife is amazingly unafraid here.  You can get really close.  Kenneth pointed out these bats, including the mommie and baby in the lower left, right outside the station.  I had a coati walk up within 10 feet of me as I was drinking coffee in the morning.

The iguana we found at the Rio Claro beach, was completely unafraid.  We could have picked him up and eaten him.  (You can eat iguanas and they, naturally, taste like chicken.)

Lily yells “I spotted Tapir tracks!” and sure enough she has.  Tapirs are the largest animal in the park, typically 7 feet long and 2-3 tons.  They are very endangered.  We saw one yesterday near the lodge.  She insists that she will follow the tracks to see Tapir, but soon forgets as we turn around and head back for lunch.

Swimming hole

In the afternoon we head back to the Rio Claro to find a swimming hole in which to cool off.  We begin with the toughest hiking of the trip – up and down steep muddy ‘trails’ covered in exposed slippery tree roots and thorny vines.  Lily talks to herself loudly about ‘Canadian Hamsters.’  (We don’t understand it either.)

Kenneth motions us to follow him.  It’s an armadillo!  They are so rare to see because they are generally nocturnal, but Emma gets a glance before it goes down the armadillo hole.

It’s just a bend in the small river with a sandy bottom, but nothing has ever felt better than the fresh, cooling waters of the Rio Claro after two days in the jungle.  Our exhausted bodies and minds perk up instantly as the gentle current pulls some of the grime off our hot skin.

Lily stays in the longest, folding her arms in fake annoyance when we have to leave.  But we have a mile to hike to the beach before dark, and the sun is going down.

Babies and Mommies

As we hit the beach, the orange glow of the sun is comforting, even if hot.  We get a good view of a roseate spoonbill heron, which Kenneth says is pretty rare.

It’s low tide, exposing a mossy layer of plate rock 100 meters long out to the edge of the receding pacific ocean. Hermit crabs scatter everywhere underfoot.  We stroll in the sand, enjoying the freedom of movement after being tightly contained by the jungle trails.

Kenneth stays focused on the darkening rainforest, and says “mother and baby Tapir!”.  For the life of me, I can’t see what he’s talking about.  It’s too dark.  We silently follow him back under the canopy of trees and vines for a better vantage point.

It’s a mom and baby Tapir bathing in a shallow pool of muddy water.  The mom sees us, but doesn’t run. We are far enough back to be non threatening.  She licks her child with motherly care.

Maybe it’s just sweat from the jungle heat, but I think that’s a tear in my eye.   I’m so appreciative of Trish, the mother of my babies.

In many ways she isn’t a conventional mom.  Trish doesn’t bake cookies or read stories at night.  She doesn’t pack their lunches or dress them up in special outfits for holidays.  That’s not her thing.

But she has the archetypal virtues of a mother.  She is patient, calm, loyal, uncritical and understanding.  That is the kind of unconditional love our kids really need.  Trish loves her girls in the deepest possible way.  And it brings joy to my heart to see them together on a trip like this.

Jungle exhaustion

We ate dinner a while ago.  Kenneth again cooked up hearty fare – chicken, rice and beans and a salad.   It’s dark, still, humid and hot in our room.  The solar lights went out an hour ago at 9pm but I can’t sleep yet.  Lily and Emma passed out at 8pm, Trish not much after.

I look back at yesterday’s post don’t even remember writing it.  Today’s probably isn’t much better.  The heat, and grit, and bug bites and soreness have really taken a toll, not to speak of the sleep deprivation.  I can’t think.

The girls seem to be surviving, but I’m glad tomorrow is our last day.  This is tough stuff for kids.

 

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