Cayman in the river on the way to Tortuguero
As I began planning a second weekend trip, my travel buddies and I decided that we wanted to visit the other coast, as we are lucky enough to be in a country that touches both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea within about 6 hours from each other. Tortuguero
, a popular nature and wildlife lovers destination, was at the top of our list. Most people get there by going with an organized tour, but since we are money-strapped, Spanish-speaking and independent, we decided to do it on our own. All the guidebooks and web sites said it was really difficult to do it without an organized tour, but I was pleased to find that this was not the case- probably just propaganda so that we would pay a tour guide for something we could easily do ourselves.
Crocodile on the bank of the canal!
Take that, tourist traps!
So Carey, Shannon, Rohan and I took a bus to Cariari
, hopped in a minivan with some German girls we met to the port, and boarded a boat which took us down a canal and into the town of Tortuguero. There are no roads to Tortuguero. It is completely isolated, hence the multiple forms of transportation to get there. Although it took work to figure out which buses to take where, everyone at the bus stations was very helpful and there was always a bus/minivan/boat waiting for us when we arrived. So when we got in the boat to Tortuguero, we met Gerardo/Leonardo (none of us could remember which one was actually his name), a helpful but annoying tour guide who attached himself to us for the weekend.
Iguana keeping us company on the dock
Point in favor of Gerardo/Leonardo: he spotted a crocodile just chillin' on the riverbank about five minutes into the boat ride. As you can tell, we got to see him up close! Point against Gerardo/Leonardo: he reminded me of Tony (Those of you who followed my Spain blog know that Tony was the bartender who loved me and went nuts in Barcelona when I left. Ger/Leo had some of the same mannerisms, and told me that I could be his girlfriend approximately five minutes after talking about his wife and 8-month-old baby. Sad and creepy, but very Tony-esque.)
Still, it was helpful to have Ger/Leo around because we signed up for the Turtle Tour, a must-see if you're ever in Tortuguero. During turtle season (approximately March through October), hundreds of turtles come to the beach in Tortuguero to lay their eggs before swimming back out to sea.
My travel buddies to a tee!
There are professional "turtle spotters" who search at night with an infrared light for the turtle moms-to-be approaching the shore. When they spot one coming out of the water, they allow her to scope out a good spot to lay their eggs, then get the groups of tourists to watch the miracle happen. We got to see four different turtles laying their eggs! First, I literally saw the eggs coming out of one of them. Sounds gross, but it was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. Then, she covered the place where she had laid the one-hundred-ish eggs, flinging sand on all of us. Then I actually got to touch her foot and watch as she slowly scooted down the beach and back into the ocean. Sadly but understandably, flash photography (or any light of any kind) was strictly forbidden and enforced with the threat of a $1,000 fine and possible jail time.
Howler monkey! Their howls sound like dinosaurs!
It was comforting to know that they were so serious about protecting their turtles.
The next day, we got up at 5 am to go on a canoe tour with Ger/Leo to see a lot more wildlife. We saw three different species of monkeys, tons of birds, caymans, crocodiles, iguanas, and more. I think my pictures are worth 1,000 words here.
Aside from the wildlife tours, there isn't a whole lot to do in Tortuguero. It's one of those places that is a good one-night trip. I loved the wildlife (and the Caribbean cuisine!), but I did not like that absolutely everything was in English and that tour guides looking for temporary work outnumbered locals. Still, I would definitely recommend making a one-night visit if you're anywhere near the area.
Now I'm back in San Pedro and life is getting pretty hectic.
Cayman peeking out of the canal
Today is Independence Day, and everything except TEFL was closed for the day. Go figure. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go out with Maricruz, my host sister last night to a bar called "El Cuartel" that (for my readers in Bloomington) reminded me of Jake's, except with more of a Latin flare. It was packed with people, the music was great and it was so much fun to go out with Maricruz and some her friends.
Now I have a ton of work to do this week and next as I am nearing the end of my TEFL certification. Everything (including where I will be living starting next Saturday) is up in the air right now. But there are some exciting opportunities and I can't wait to get settled, wherever that may be!