Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Las Tortugas y Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja

The beaches around Tamarindo host leatherback turtles in the winter.  This largest species of turtle crawls ashore several nights of the year, digs a nest deep in the sand, and lays a clutch of eggs.  The explosion of development in the area - and the accompanying light and noise pollution - have been discouraging turtles from laying eggs so the Ticans founded Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste as a safe haven for the turtles.  For a mere $25 you can have a guide take you out on the beach and see the action. 

We had arrived at the visitor center at 10pm and sat through a short informational movie and then found out the catch - the leatherbacks come ashore within three hours of high tide and on Friday night, high tide was at 1am.  So we settled down with a deck of cards and waited until 12:30 when word quickly spread that the turtles were here.  The five of us piled into our tiny Suzuki Alto and held our breath as we drove over some big bumps to the beach.  After a short walk/run through the sand we came upon the leatherback.  She had dug a 65 centimeter deep nest and was busy laying eggs.  After 45 minutes or so she was finished and started packing sand around them. 

In a day or three, the biologists will dig up the nest and move the eggs to a more secure location so dogs and the like don't dig it up.  And hopefully in a few weeks little baby turtles will climb out and make their way to the sea.  Photography is banned during the laying so I can't share any photos of the night, but I can recycle a photo from my trip to Thailand two years ago of hatching sea turtles.

 

On Saturday we bid adieu to Olivia and on the trip to the airport Bailey practiced his Mongol Rally defensive driving skills.  A cop pulled him over for driving 80 kph in a 60 kph zone and said there would be a 20,000 colones fine which could be paid in cash or at the bank.  Bailey said he'd rather pay at the bank, and the cop replied it would cost 30% more.  Bailey countered with "The rental car company said don't give cash to cops."  But this conversation was in Spanish (he's the most fluent by far of all of us) and for cash he meant to say "platas" - silver or change - and actually said "platos" - dishes or plates.  Well the cop didn't exactly know what to do about being bribed with crockery and just let them off without a ticket.  Score one for not being gullible tourists.  If only Russian police were as compliant!

On Sunday Bailey, Mattson, Ellen (a Washingtonian who coincidently ended up in my Spanish class) and I headed for Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja.  It's one of over a hundred volcanoes in Costa Rica and slightly less active than Arenal.  On the hike up, we found a bunch of trees that were fun to climb.

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As well as numerous armies of ants marching across the forest floor.

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After 5 km of hiking we broke out of the clouds and were treated to a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

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Continuing up we followed the sign for "Crater Activo" and headed for the rim.

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When the weather turned a bit sour - strong winds driving raindrops hard into our faces.  Some of us brought jackets and long sleeves.  Others of us improvised.

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Finally we reached the crater's edge where the warning sign said we could stay for 15 minutos before we might succumb to "los gases pueden ser toxicos." We tempted fate for a full 20 minutes to get some shots of the bright blue boiling caldera lined with yellow sulphur and venting gas.  The clouds made photos a bit tricky and as always the memories are more vivid than the jpegs, but they turned out alright.

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On the way back down we stopped to soothe our tired feet at the Rio Blanco.

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Which quickly devolved into swimming and cannonballs!

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Now we're back in Tamarindo for the week - getting up to watch sunrise from our surfboards (it coincides with high tide) and studying our Spanish on the veranda while watching our resident iguanas - Snowball, Snowflake, and Ice Cube.

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1 comment:

Jealous Liv said...

That hike looks awesome!!