Trip to Tortuguero
2. May: Today we're set to leave to Tortuguero National Park, which derives it's name from the turtles, which come it's sandy beaches to lay eggs. We are supposed to be picked at 6:20 opposite San Pedro Mall, so we need to get up really early. We have breakfast at 5:40, do some last-minute packing, run to catch the bus to San Pedro. We're there early, Madeleine had warned us that they might be late, so I sit, relax, and start updating my diary. At 7:00 at last the bus arrives, we're the 4th and 5th passengers and we get the last seats. Shit. The guide, Bernie, gets on my nerves right at the beginning, he is loud, brash, cocky, and sniggers all the time. The a/c is way too cold and I ask for it to be turned down.
We drive through a cloud forest area and then through Brulio Carilio National park, which has a highway through it! Our guide explains everything in Spanish. I'm too pissed to even listen. It's a nice drive and even rains a bit and then the road keeps descending till we reach the lowlands. It gets warmer, the rain has stopped, and we fork off from the road to Limon and drive in the direction of Siquierres. We see pineapple plantations and then huge banana plantations. We stop at one and watch workers cutting the pods, others are sorting them, washing them, packing them and loading them onto trucks. The good bananas are exported, the bad ones go to the local market.
Beforehand we had stopped on the way for breakfast and we get to talk with the other travelers, who are a Belgian family of three consisting of a man ("I'm a diplomat"), his wife (who doesn't seem to grasp any conversation) and their very young, spoiled daughter, who rarely smiles. She is here on volunteer work and they've come over to visit her.
The plants themselves are sprayed with insecticide, and they are good strong, green, healthy looking plants. They all have blue plastic bags around the fruit, which prevents insects from getting on them and also provides additional warmth for growth.
We stop again to watch a tree full of huge scarab beetles, kids have picked some and placed them on branches, which they hold out for us to photograph. We can touch the beetles, which are slow and lumbering, their bodies are velvety to the touch. Amazing insects!
We then reach a port "blanca ", be get onto a very flat boat, which turns out to be quite a power machine, with a huge outboard at the back. It skims amazingly smoothly at high speed over the flat, tranquil water of the river. Tortuguero can only be reached by water, there are no roads leading there. We stop on the way for a drink, there is reggae music and several young black Rasta guys milling about.
We continue on to Laguna Lodge, and on the way the boat stops a number of times to view all sorts of wildlife on the river, there is a crocodile, several birds and monkeys. The lady manager is already waiting for us at the lodge and gives us a good reception with a welcome drink. We get our rooms, which are very nice and above our usual standard, and then head for lunch with cabbage, cucumber, tomato, good sauce, meat, rice, vegetables, dessert, fruit juice. Everything is included except bottled drinks.
The Hotel has a canal/river on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, and it's a nice beach with lots of strange logs of dead trees littering the beach. There are dangerous currents here and swimming is unfortunately not allowed. In the afternoon, we tour to Tortuguero village, which is a really small, local place, very laid back. It has a turtle museum (I didn't fancy there was anything in it, so I skipped), I bought some postcards and even found the post office, which was actually run out of a local flat. Unfortunately, they're out of stamps. We've been joined by a Dutch and an Italian couple.
It is hot and humid. Bernie knows a lot and has rehabilitated himself with me. He's switched to English. Dinner is similar to lunch, there's Spaghetti with chicken pieces. Next morning we need to meet at 6:15 to start the dawn tour of the park.