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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monkeying Around in the Jungle

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
         As promised in my last post, and before too much time elapses, let me continue the report on our trip to Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, the beautiful organic farm and conference center we visited with our good friends Penny and Joel last week. Truly, every day brings an adventure here so that if I fail to post for more than a day or two, I have too many new stories to tell to return to the old ones.
         But the Arenal Hanging Bridges tour that we took was too good not to mention and offer you a picture or two. Unfortunately, the photos I took with my older digital camera in no way capture the awesome rain forest canopy vistas that we enjoyed and Penny’s new camera ran out of battery halfway through our hike so her picture gallery is no doubt limited to the numerous shots she took of a monkey swinging through the trees above us before we even left the parking area. We were also greeted by a couple of magnificent macaws, their turquoise feathers shining in the light as we entered the park.
         As we crossed the first of 15 bridges over deep canyons filled with enormous trees and ferns and palms and other tropical plants, we spotted several monkeys in nearby trees. Suddenly, one of them jumped into the foliage just a few meters above Penny’s head! He eyed us curiously as we did him. Then as we began our walk, another monkey made a stupendous leap of some 30 feet or more from one tree to another, simply flying through open space and easily grabbing a limb as he landed. Now that’s something you won’t see in the zoo!
         I was most astounded at the size of the plants and feel at a loss to convey their magnitude. Again, the photos simply don’t do them justice. Individual fern leaves as big as a car; huge fronds on palms standing dozens of feet high; gigantic tree trunks, sprawling at the base of trees that soared upward into the canopy, their tops out of sight. The open suspension bridges allowed us to peer down into narrow rushing rivers below and view picturesque waterfalls streaming down the canyon walls. Birdcalls and cacophonous insect sounds were all around us and we would probably have seen more wildlife except for some noisy and rude Gringos behind us, laughing loudly and hollering out to each other. We finally asked them to lower their voices in accordance with park rules, only to have them respond with arrogance and nasty comments. We wondered exactly what their purpose was in coming to such a place of nature if all they wanted was to party.
         Back at FLN Lodge, we all had a chance to enjoy their non-chlorinated swimming pool, which is kept clean by an ozonator system, in accordance with their exacting organic standards. Never more than five feet deep, one could walk from one end of the pool to the other but I enjoyed more swimming than I had done in years. It was invigorating and just the right temperature, warmed slightly by the sun. While Penny and Joel went off for a horseback riding tour on our last day, Layne and I paddled around the pool then walked through the very magical Sacred Seeds Sanctuary, a garden area devoted to preserving the herbs and plants used by Costa Rican Indians for healing and health. It was there we encountered some enormous black spotted caterpillars, at least four inches long, marching along branches one behind another and clustered on leaves in the arbor. Then a climb up the lookout tower finished our morning just before Penny and Joel returned from their ride. (Below is a view of FLN from the tower.) But with clouds obscuring the summit, neither they nor we got a full view of Arenal Volcano. We truly hated to leave this wonderful resort and Layne and I hope to return to attend one of the educational conferences they offer where we will learn more about how to grow organic foods in a sustainable biodynamic garden.
         On another topic, I mentioned those two puppies we tried to help in my last post but I don’t think I’ll go into that drama too much. Suffice it to say, our efforts as Good Samaritans resulted in both of them being neutered - that’s the good news - but also an unfortunate misunderstanding with the folks who run the animal rescue operation near us. They somehow expected us to adopt the dogs when, of course, as temporary renters here we were in no position to do that. We are happy that the two pups got some medical attention, however, and we trust that they will be adopted as soon as their health allows.
         Finally, yesterday’s adventure went way beyond anything Layne or I had expected and we trust it won’t be repeated any time soon. We were riding back to Atenas from San Jose by bus, as we usually do, but fresh rains earlier in the day had made the roadway slick. It’s an extremely curving road, with steep downhill sections and hairpin turns. On one descent heading into a curve, our driver began braking hard, and then harder still, as the bus swerved and struggled for traction on the roadway. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and bump as the bus crashed into the dirt and rock embankment! Holy cow! Although several people were standing, fortunately no one seemed to be injured (and no one threatened a lawsuit as would undoubtedly happen in the USA).  There was considerable conversation in Spanish all around us as we all wondered what the damage was and we looked out the window to see what we could. The driver checked things over and within just a few minutes, we were on our way again, none the worse for the wear. But we noticed that the rest of the trip our driver took at a much slower pace, for which we were grateful. 

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