My first forest
We have already become a group, being herded happily! We were up for an early start, something that I would probably eventually get used to, although coffee at 6 am, on a holiday? What’s going on?
Still, the sun was warm and the air heavy with humidity. We drove the main road out of San Jose and through the Cloud forest of the national park, Braulio Carrillo, the road disappearing into the mist as we climbed higher.
This was our first glimpse of rainforest/cloud forest, or at least, the outer edges of it. And simply, it was big. And green. Everything was bigger than your average, leaves big enough to be used as umbrellas, trees towering overhead. And there was every imaginable shade of green lining the road, from lime to olive. I’ve seen it all on the documentaries, I’ve seen it on films, but to see it for real is incredible. It is the sheer density of the vegetation that is so striking. If there is light to be had, something will grow there.
Our bus driver was eagle eyed this morning and slowed as he passed locations where he knew sloths would be hanging. We saw one way off in the trees…at least we could tick that one off even though it was a dark fuzzy shape in the distance. But we did spot a river otter, chasing through a small river and even our guide was excited by its appearance.
A boat to Tortuguero
Arriving at the river, we boarded a boat to take us along narrow canals through the Tortuguero National Park. What a serene way to enter a holiday destination, even if the water was so low during this dry season that the guides occasionally had to get out and push the boat through the water. Not something I would particularly want to try, especially having just stopped by a 6ft crocodile basking on one of the sandbanks, exposed at this time due to the extremely low water levels.
Briefly stopping at the visitor centre, the guide explained how this area was secondary forest; in the mid 1950s, the area had been harvested for wood – so much of the forest had been stripped bare. Even more of a blow was the realization, at the time, that the hardwoods were no good and they were left in the rivers to rot. 60 years on, the forest is rapidly regaining its biodiversity, although with many gap filling plants growing and the sunlight hitting the forest floor at a greater percentage than you would find in primary forest, there is obviously still a way to get back to pre-harvesting days (about another 150 years or so, I think).
Tomorrow, day 3….another early start….