My first day without Paul by my side finished. I’d hoped this would be a one day only blog-spot, but it would be a full 3 days until Paul was back up and doing activities again. After the hot springs it was clear that he wasn’t feeling well.
Today would start a quiet one; we enjoyed a simple buffet breakfast, we chilled out by the pool, I booked a night walk for the evening (perhaps Paul would be better by then, but no), and we watched the birds fly around the hotel grounds. At the back of the hotel is a little nature trail, which takes you down to a river – that was just about bearable for Paul.
The night tour I booked was another tour from EcoTerra, a “Nocturnal natural experience“, more specifically – a night tour specialising in frogs.
The route to the tour was a super-bumpy ride, Paul wouldn’t have coped with the short 20 minute ride. Unlike the birdwatching, another couple had also booked, so the 2 person minimum was met. I was joined by an American couple – Susan and Mikael. Mikael was born in Argentina and his Spanish came in handy. (He and Susan had both worked for Gillett – they’d frequently visited the factory in Isleworth, UK with its famous Gillett clock – the clock that created the definitive sound of childhood at my grandma’s).
My guide was Mirliana, and my driver, Yeudy, the excellent wildlife spotter from the birding tour. True to form, on the drive out he spotted a crested caracara high up in the treetops and a sloth. We stopped at each to get a better look. The couple didn’t understand my passion for photography, and my desire to capture the experience in picture form, but they were nice company.
We arrived at Casa Méndez, the family home of Otto, his wife Mary and their children, where we started our night tour. Otto began by explaining to us (or to Mikel and the guide in spanish, who translated) how he set up the place. He is a landscape architect and had converted his land into a haven for frogs. It is now home to all 22 varieties of frog native to this part of Costa Rica.
He was inspired after a friend’s frog photo, which was taken on his land, won a photography competition. He saw the potential and promptly converted his ornamental plant farm (which is also what much of the village uses their land for – La Tigra’s speciality is ornamental plants, its name is a misnomer – tigers have never been here) into a perfect place for frogs. Otto wanted to invite tourists to his property but it had to be done in the right way; he decided to only offer tours to one company and so limit the number of people trampling through, too many people would otherwise disturb the frogs.
Otto’s whole family is involved in the business, his wife provides welcome drinks (gala melon for us), a full dinner after our walk and is mostly responsible for the beautiful homemade recycled art, jewellery and photography postcards that they sell in their cute little shop. I was very happy to support the business and came away with (too) many lovely pieces. Anyway back to the night tour.
Our driver was, as ever, an amazing spotter. He was consistently the first to see many of the frogs, including all of the popular Blue Jeans frogs (or strawberry poison dart frog). It was strange to see these, they are day time frogs, and should have been sleeping. I was super super excited, thinking that it would have been great to see this frog but never actually expecting to see it, let alone four of them!
Yeudy was like an overexcited child, and after hearing the call of a cane toad was practically lying down on the floor to find it, which he did. The toad was hiding under a bridge and was significantly larger than the others we saw.
Around the gardens we spotted:
- Common dink frog
- Cane toad
- Common mexican tree frog
- New Granada cross-banded tree frog (or masked tree frog)
- Strawberry poison dart frog (Blue jeans frog)
- Gaudy leaf frog, 2 or 3 in one area
- Emerald basilisk lizard
- Black river turtle
Yeudy’s English was much better than it appeared during the bird tour; I think he is just shy in front of other Costa Ricans who he thinks can speak better English. His cheeky nature came out too. When we came to a clearing we found two oddly shaped square metal rails in the floor. He told me that we’d need to go through them to go on, and game for a laugh I foolishly crawled through. I found out later it was the remains of an ancient latrine (it hadn’t been used in years!). Well it got everyone laughing at dinner to say the least.
Just around the corner we looked out on a beautiful night time vista; we could see out into the valleys of San Carlos, the only lights in this nighttime landscape.
Otto has an attention to detail; around the path are beautiful leaf-shaped stepping stones made of concrete. He had designed his own template, which he was very happy to show me. It was all handmade and designed to be an exact copy of a real leaf, all his own idea. He explained to us that the alignment of the tiles encouraged the eyes to look out towards the view. It emerged at dinner that he was also the landscape architect responsible for the gardens at La Luna. He proudly informed me that the space had been entirely flat when he got it and that all the intricate water features naturally flow down to the river at the bottom of the site. Although the ‘natural’ river walk we’d taken earlier had been designed by the owner who’d planted all the trees he liked best.
I had a lovely evening with this welcoming Costa Rican family, guide, driver and American family. Swapping culture and experiences. For dinner we had:
Back at the hotel, I found Paul watching a good film about Martin Luther King - Selma, so he wasn’t too unhappy. I showed him some pictures and he was very jealous to hear about the blue jeans frog. I have realised how much I enjoyed this tour and how fascinating frogs are - there was a leaflet for SAVE the FROGs - I think I might sponsor them for a year. Frogs really are a great indicator for the healthiness of a habitat.
We had earlier in the day changed our transfer to Monteverde from an Interbus by road at 8am to a “bus, boat, bus” transfer that left at 2pm. This gave us a little more time for Paul to recover plus the opportunity for a little sightseeing on the boat, and perhaps a less horrible journey to endure whilst still not feeling quite right.
This left me with some time to enjoy a morning walk along the riverside trail, taking pictures of the birds, howler monkey and flowers. I was too late to the pool to take a swim before breakfast but enjoyed one afterwards, and found the hotel’s hidden jacuzzis that Otto had mentioned the night before. They are beautiful and secluded but if you didn’t know they were there you could surely miss them entirely!
I had booked a reflexology treatment and chocolate wrap as a last minute treat. My sunburnt back wasn’t yet up to a massage but the aloe wrap worked wonders. It was a relaxing hour and 15, and with a heavy heart it was time to leave and we boarded the (late) bus to Monteverde. Here I realised Paul hadn’t actually left the hotel at all and was disappointed for him.
The journey was nicely split between boat and road travel and on the water we had new views of the volcano, fresh air, and a little bit of wildlife to spot. We happened to join the mini-bus with the noisiest girls on the boat, with headphones on we watched the beautiful mountainous landscape unfold around us. After a pit stop (and an ice cream for me) the Welsh girl of the group struck up a conversation; her story of the last 5 weeks at a rescue centre, her university choices and interviews etc – Oh to be 19 again. Another girl, also volunteering at the centre was British but had grown up in Cyprus, only attending university in the UK. They had made friends with an American pair in La Fortuna and were heading to a hostel.
Well that’s me folks, over to Paul for the remainder of our Costa Rica trip. Normal service has resumed. To Monteverde!