Costa Rica: Friday, May 20: Caño Negro and a Long Drive to Monteverde

Next morning after coffee and iguanas, we hit the road for Caño Negro, a wildlife refuge near the Nicaragua border.

The drive there took us through plantations of pineapple, papaya, bananas. All of which Yen had seen before in Hawaii, but I still made him stop so I could take a photo.

We followed the guidebook’s suggestion of skipping the refuge on foot, and headed into Los Chiles for a boat tour. Signs led us to the harbor, and as soon as we parked a man came running over to bargain for a three-hour tour (mm hm). We paid, used the baños, and were told to sit and wait for el capitan. Presently a kid about 13 years old came screeching up on his bicycle. We watched an exchange between him and our price negotiator, then were told, “The captain is here!”

He either spoke no English or refused to, but either way conveyed animals he spotted along the tour through a combination of using extremely simple vocabulary, and just pointing until we finally found the animal on our own. He did a great job spotting little things we never would have noticed.

I, however, noticed this on my own.

Yep, that’s a head in the water. Later you’ll see why we were surprised to see people swimming in the water.

This is a snake bird, and we saw them all over the river.

Reason number one not to swim: caymans.

It was hot as hell when we were out there. A little our own fault because we were touring about noon, but also mere geography made it hot – the climate is completely different from down by Arenal. Given the heat, a lot of animals were snoozing, including these howlers.

Here you can see the vast superiority of Yen’s camera.

Much of the time when el capitan stopped, it was to point out these little lizards along the shore.

‘nother snake bird.

Yen has named this a chicken bird, and I accept it.

Kingfishers everywhere. I love their chattering.

I think these are tree swallows? They were all over the place, not just in Los Chiles.

This is some kind of heron, possibly a green-backed?

Now, I don’t know what this bird was. But I love his giant eyes.

I’m awfully proud of this one, because I spotted this guy even before el capitan could. This, of course, is the real reason I would never, ever swim in that river.

Sorry, Yen. I know you don’t enjoy having your photo taken. But who am I to resist?

Here’s the view as we finished the tour and headed back toward town.

After that adventure, we drove back south and stopped in La Fortuna for lunch. We were pretty dubious about stopping there after all of the great food we’d been having: it’s a complete tourist trap. But Yen’s spidey sense told him this particular soda would be good, and he was correct as usual. That giant glass of mango juice next to me was my second glass of it.

A last glimpse of Arenal Lake as we’re driving around it to Monteverde.

There aren’t any more photos from this day. We left the paved roads and began to head up hill in pitch dark. I believe we had a top speed of 25kph, but between the scrappiness of the car and Yen’s tenacity, we did just fine (including when we came to a bridge that was out and signs instructed us to veer left and ford the creek). We ran into a few people over the next two days who wanted to rant with us about the quality of the roads, and when the found out that Yen had made the drive in the dark, every single one of them stopped, drew back, and looked at him with stunned, silent respect. We wouldn’t realize why until the journey back.