Getting to Tortuguero
Last you heard from me, I was on a six-hour layover in Texas. Well, it started pouring. And planes were delayed all over the place. I was stuck there for 4 1/2 more hours! Already nervous about my scheduled arrival of 9 pm (after dark) by the time I got into Juan Santamaria International Airport it was 1:30 am.
Luckily, my cab driver understood English, so when I arrived at INBio, he was able to help me communicate with the security guard who referred me to another guard who showed me to the albergue (dorm.) It was quite the relief to get to bed.
The next morning I met with the executive director, Pablo, and he showed me around INBio, which is one of the banding sites, and gave me a bit of an orientation. I’ll talk more about INBio after I go back to actually band there.
The next morning I had to haul myself to a bus stop and get to downtown San José, bound for the Terminal de los Caribenos, which is where all buses bound for the Caribbean side of the country depart from. But when the bus I was on arrived at the last stop and everyone got off, there was no terminal to be seen. “¿Dondé estamos?” (Where are we?) I asked the bus driver. “San José.” Gee, thanks. Eventually I made him understand where I needed to go and he pointed down the next street, but I had no idea how far it was. Thankfully, it was only a few blocks to struggle with my two backpacks. I managed to get a ticket and get on the bus. We drove through Braulio Carrillo National Park and after a while we stopped for a break and a man came on selling pop and bags of chips, except instead of potato chips they are made of things like plantain and (I think) cassava.
After another while we arrived in Cariari, where I had to haul myself another several blocks to another bus station and get a ticket for La Pavona. It was HOT and humid. My bags are heavy. And I didn’t know exactly where the bus station was or which one was the bus I needed. So by the time I made it on the bus I was dripping in sweat. I made my way to the back of the bus, probably with a look of concern on my face as all the seats were full, and an older lady got up and let me have her seat. I didn’t want to accept but she insisted. Then someone behind me offered me agua (water) and asked if I spoke Spanish. “Un poco.” (A little.) Then German. I said “English” and so I was asked “Are you well?” Apparently I looked very ill! That actually almost made me laugh. The bus soon departed and wound its way through banana plantations and after a while it stopped and another guy got on the bus, selling Coca-cola and chicharrón (fried pork) and strange citrus fruits (they were partially peeled but people seem to eat them by sucking out the pulp.)
Finally, we made it to La Pavona, which is really just the point where the boats for Tortuguero depart. I was told to just buy a ticket on the boat and not pay attention to people trying to sell you a ticket before you got on, but things have changed, and you do need to buy your ticket at the stand. So I missed out on the first departing boat. The other boat there was being loaded with fridges and mattresses, a reminder that absolutely everything in Tortuguero comes in through the canals, on narrow little boats. A second passenger boat arrived and we all climbed aboard, but apparently we were 4 people too heavy. No one volunteered to get off, and we all had to wait for a bigger boat to arrive. Finally, though, we were off. It has been a very dry year so the water is quite low, and what is apparently usually a 1 hour journey took 2 hours. But the better for birding! There were Little blue heron, Great egret, a Bare-throated tiger-heron, Mangrove swallow, Green kingfisher, Belted kingfisher… Groove-billed anis! A black bird with a red rump flew across the canal– Scarlet-rumped cacique! Collared aracari! (A type of small toucan.) Other passengers saw monkeys and crocodiles, which I missed, but I did see two Neotropical river otter come out on the bank.
When I arrived at the main dock in Tortuguero I knew I had 2 options, to walk to CCC (Caribbean Conservation Corporation, which is the old name for the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s John H. Phipps field station), or to take a water taxi. There are no roads, no cars. Just boats and the occasional bicycle. Usually I am all for saving money but I had enough walking with my bags! Plus immediately as I disembarked a man asked “CCC?” “Si.” And a mil colones (100o colones) later (about $2) I was here.
So that is the story of my arrival in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. I’ll continue it soon and include pictures– I hope. My computer is acting weird (the picture only takes up 3/4 of the screen, and is dark, so I can’t edit photos properly) and my camera is having problems (hopefully I can clean the lens contacts again and it will be fine.)
But for now, speaking of Bare-throated tiger-herons….
(This is a juvenile. We didn’t have a big enough band for his legs, but so what?!?)