Thursday, November 18, 2010


Look at this sea turtle that had the nerve to ruin my sand shot. We had just walked onto the beach and chatted with a French couple (the French are like the potholes here. they're everywhere... jk) who had been scouring the sands in search of the elusive little turtles when this little guy showed up. As he 'clawed/finned/flippered' his way out of the nest and the race to the sea began ! 
 Chelonia mydas aka Chelonia mach-5
NaCl-iest !

Here's a video of the race

well, that's almost how it went down.

The pics are from a recent trip to Tortuguero "Land of the turtles", which is a long stretch of beach and jungle along the carribean side of Costa Rica (Provincia de Limón). Tortuguero is a ridiculously humid area which receives 250 inches of rain a year and due to it's combination of marine, wetland, and lowland tropical rainforest habitats.. it has a crazy amount of biodiversity. The fact that it's an important nesting site for 5 species of sea turtle (Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, & Teenage Mutant Ninja), has a nice chilled carribean culture replete with dirt roads, and is only accessible by boat/airplane means that it is exponentially cooler than chepé (San Jose) and one of the greatest places in Costa Rica to visit. Sorry the rules of sigmoidal growth don't apply here cuz there is no carrying capacity for the coolness of spotting green macaws, baby sea turtles, eyelash pitvipers and enjoying an imperial on the carribean. 


When we asked a couple of cops about the crime they said the only real problems they have is some drug issues (it's the carribean, so of course ganja is everywhere), the occasional altercation, and poachers. It requires mentioning that the cops were strolling down the beach taking photos of turtle nests with their cell phones. 

We dropped our stuff off in our $8 a night cabina (with rugrat pillow). Meandered through the dirt roads and alleys in search of a cheap supper. Leftover delicious burger patties on stale bread and some 10cent bananas. Not quite a breakfast of champions, moreso a supper for the stingy! Following the 5-star cuisine we headed out to the beach to infiltrate the national park and do some night hiking. With my trusty headlamp leading the way we were off!

Night hikes are on par with spelunking or underwater basket weaving. It's as if you're able to see everything in a different light (ha.) or in 3D. But it's moreso like watching paranormal activity in an Imax theater... with giant wolf spiders everywhere... and bats that fly inches in front of your face.

Exploring Costa Rica through all the senses, especially taste.
 - Disclaimer - 
Snakes below (don't worry there are no planes/Samuel L. Jackson)
We weren't sure if it was a non-venomous Milk Snake (Scolecophis atrocinctus)
 or deadly venomous Coral Snake (Micrurus mipartitus). 
So we picked it up!!!

Haha, just kidding. It was dead when we encountered it (the good ol' poke it with a stick test proved it).
This lil guy however, was alive and venomous... and remarkably beautiful!
 Bothriechis schlegelii

We may or may not have spent 30 minutes taking pictures of this sucker. 
What's crazy is that it's a fairly small snake (this one may have been 11 inches max) and typically is in vegetation at shin/knee height... just at the protective boot line...
but no worries! It's a high bite/survival rate

The next morning we were off at 5am to find some more baby sea turtles and then take a rented canoe out into the canals. We yet again attempted to infiltrate the national park (this time through the canals) and were nearly in when a couple of rangers told us we were despicable, horrible people. 
(they politely informed us about the entry fee)

so we said...nah, lets explore elsewhere (and por dicha we did)
After nearly being dumped on by a male crane we stopped for breakfast, or as we considered it a 9am lunch.
Chef Oli whippin up some of his signature Avocado/Tomato sandwíches.
- They're a ridiculously delicious staple of our hikes

Then we made our way into this tiny canal

Which elevated the trip to a whole nother level.

We saw Green winged macaws, poison dart frogs, an otter, spiders, and a caiman. 
caiman !!! like 3.5 feet long

After exploring the canal and getting thoroughly rocked we headed back to the mainland to buy some bananas, japanese peanuts, and super cheap lemon cookies, - all part of a delicious and nutritious breakfast !
While we enjoyed our $2 meal we sat and watched a little guy catch a fish with his handy dandy wal-mart fishing rod, then picked up our stuff and headed to the docks. We arrived bought our tickets and sat back to watch the festivities (Nov. 4-7 is 'Turtle Fest'). Reggaeton blasted in the background, a creepy clown dazzled the crowd, and some guy sawed away at a log with reckless abandonment in an attempt to carve a... turtle/hand/head ?¿

- Interpretive art... gotta love it.
Here's a lil bit of the action
However, the injustices known as our 'spanish projects' had yet to be done and required a early departure...  in other words, we experienced Tortuguero in a half shell.

Tortuguero couldn't have come at a better time, as the day before my friend Oli got mugged in suburbia while (the only comical part about the story) walking two poodles. Him and the dogs are ok though ! 
In all seriousness, it's a problem which seems to be increasing at an incredibly rapid rate. Especially in San Jose, which although it has some good aspects... the bus terminal, El Steinvorth, & graffiti . . . the majority of the city is a congested foul smelling mess. It may seem like a biased gringo point of view, but it's a perspective which ticos of the surrounding central valley recognize. Tortuguero was so drastically different (admittedly due to the lower population of people) from San José that it seemed like an entirely different country. It was truly a breath of fresh air (literally and metaphorically) which demonstrated a side of Costa Rica which at times, can be tough to find.

Hasta Luego ! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's 72° ..... and I'm cold

Although the news has been rolling in that it's ridiculously warm up there in Iowa and that the no-shave november beard, typically a necessity for the brisk and uninviting weather change, is quite unnecessary this year. That's fine and all for you guys, but we've got it rough down here. With the change in seasons (ridiculously relentless rambunctious rain to..... sun) comes a cold front just in time for Christmas.

- There are Christmas lights on some of the houses next door. The palm tree leaves continue to shine bright green and show no sign of falling... looks like i'll have to find a different pile of decomposing matter to jump in!!! (well, maybe not...)

That sun which finally (might) continue to shine... has been illuminating Heredia for the past two days and it's been stupendous.

- It's also got this song stuck in my head

To break any sort of chronological order... I'll jump back a few weeks before the sun broke through the grey weather.

- After getting back from Panamá on Monday I had an epic take home test for thursday to complete (3 days of nonstop statistics, essays on sexual selection, and lots of coffee) which was immediately followed by a 10 page paper on the evolution of Oophaga pumilio in Bocas del Toro for monday.... followed by a research (conducted while under the influence of 3 hours of sleep and copious amounts of coffee) project on sparrow population size in Heredia & San Pablo.

In case you were wondering... there are approximately 267 rufous collared sparrows per kilometer squared in San Pablo
-wikipedia it.

After I pulled out of my sleepless/coffee induced coma it was time to celebrate globalization at its finest: 

The holiday is in a weird state of cross cultural awareness... but that didn't stop us from costumes, 90's music/salsa, and the grilling of 10+ kilos of steak and sausage. Jen's host mom didn't have a grill... but she did have a flower stand, car rim, and oven rack.
That's Caitlin, she made her own costume (typical folklorical dress)
- mine's homemade as well
We filled up on food, chatted, danced, had a random kick-off (Germany-Capoeira vs. USA-Taekwondo), and got some nice stares at the bus stop. 

The congregation of foreignors, sorry party, wasn't the only throwback to the States. Last week I registered for spring classes... : /

Plant Ecology
Organic Chemistry & O. Chem Lab
Spanish Phonology
Creative Writing
Latin American Anthropology

A pretty good mix.... although chemistry isn't certified organic by the USDA or grown homerange... meaning a bunch of adverse side effects due to chemical overload. bummer. The other jolting reminder is the fact that classes are coming to a close (November 27th is the last official day of the program) and the rest of the study abroad group will be headed home...
- that's our spanish class (germans, americans, austrians, and Alexa - our profesora tica)
- and that's the jungle behind the classroom which is somehow more captivating than imperfect subjunctive

It's one of those bittersweet cliché moments where you realize time flies (even if it's 30 minutes late for everything -still making good use of that).
nevertheless, it's about time for a month of unrestricted travel