Costa Rica

Extreme close-up of one of the most beautiful snakes in the world – the golden eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii). Though it comes in several colour phases, the most striking is undoubtedly the golden morph. With the pronounced superciliary scales above the eye it is easy to see how the snake earned its name. This shot was taken in the wild in La Selva biological station adjoining Braulio Carillo national park, Costa Rica.

So, I say that I’m going to start writing my blog again and then days, even weeks pass. I don’t call, I don’t write. You’d be forgiven if you called me a deadbeat blogger. Well, not quite but I’ll let that one slide. I’ve finally arrived in Costa Rica after having spent much too long in convalescence and the warm rush of night air that assails me as I step off the plane is a welcome change to the frigid Canadian air. Unlike my more adventurous days in Thailand and Borneo when I stepped off the plane at 11PM, took the bus and wandered several hours in the street at ungodly hours looking for a hostel while being constantly accosted by transvestite hookers, this time ’round I grabbed a taxi. Straight to the hostel with a little wandering around, but no adventures I’m afraid.

The following day I opted to take off right away rather than spend a rest day in San Jose, so I kitted up with dry soups, rice and tuna and headed for the Tracopa bus depot to Buenos Aires. Fortunately the buses are respectable, somewhere between the economy and deluxe class of their South American counterparts. From B.A. I took another bus to Las Tablas; however, buses tend to have a narcoleptic effect on me and so I fell asleep about 20 minutes into the ride. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes about an hour and half later, when I asked how much longer to Las Tablas the other passengers looking out the rear window pointed and jabbered at me in their strong Tico accents. I gathered that we’d passed it at least 30 minutes ago. I hurried off the bus was letting off the last of several passengers in a small town. I motioned to the driver to get my bag, told him I was supposed to go to Las Tablas. Again received some indecipherable harangue before he dropped the bag at my feet and mounted the bus. Still groggy and somewhat out of sorts I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something. I’ve got my backpack, my shoulder bag…oh, OH! I pounded on the bus that was pulling away with the one bag packed with expensive camera gear stowed in the overhead above my seat (Now I never usually do that, not just for this reason that I might forget it, but it is also pretty welcoming to thieves). The bus gained speed, looked like it was about to take off unheeding of my frantic poundings, but finally stopped, and with it my heart. I reached the front doors limping and told the driver that I still had a bag onboard. As I mounted the steps he chided me discouragingly and said that he would get it if I could kindly describe the bag. Breathlessly I described it and he returned a minute later holding my precious cargo. Accepting it I sagged into the ground, a puddle of relief.

Now of course I was in some town that never counted on being in, no real idea where I was and the last of the buses going back in the direction of Las Tablas had already left (or so the admonishing bus driver and vulturish taxi drivers told me). Eschewing the cheaper option of just staying put I let myself be persuaded to take a taxi all the way to Altamira (About the price of a cheap flight I got totally screwed yet again by a taxi driver quoting first American and then Costa Rican currency). Nevertheless it took the guesswork out of taking several buses the following day and it did turn out to be about an hour, most of it along an unsealed road. Night falls and I manage to adhere to plan of reaching the park, only just!

Amazing how early the day starts here. Already at 5:00 am I hear the birds chirping away and the early stirrings of people. Having not seen a single gas station since arrival, I enquired from the hostel owner where I could get gas and where the park entrance was. Having made the requisite reconnaissance I returned to the hostel, packed my things for travel-readiness, took a shower and finally after much procrastination took off for the station. Now it’s only a couple of kms, but it is all uphill. The road is bereft of any leaf or shade and the sun was as merciless as it has ever been. Every few hundred meters I collapsed, prostrate like road-kill, not a sign of life until 10 minutes later, taking a judicious sip of water I would revive myself for long enough to drag my sorry corpse another 100m. And so the uphill battle to Altamira station was waged. It didn’t take long for my water to run out and I looked longingly at the rivulets of sweat, tempted like seaman dying of thirst on the ocean. All the same, the sweat continued to fall, the skin burned and the muscles complained.  For a brief moment I took a self-portrait and as I lay withering under the sun, my limbs curling inward into the entomological form of death I instantly regretted capturing this moment for posterity. Why on earth would I want to remember this years hence? I ticked off the unnecessary items in my bag. Why did I bring that? I am a macrophotographer, what am I doing with a 300mm lens? If only curses were grams so that I could readily do away with the weight. A mere 2 km, but it took me well over 3hrs to make it, my sorry hip complaining the whole way.  Water I gasped when I reached the top, where can I get some water?!! I looked around but saw only a cement topped storage well. I had reached the summit but there was no one to hear my faint cries of “Agua. Por l’amor de dios, Agua!”

I had finally made it to this ‘remote’, ‘isolated’, ‘off the beaten track’ station only to find that they had power, water and any number of utilities which rendered the majority of my survival gear redundant. The tears of bitterness were a bitter draught that did nothing to assuage my seemingly unquenchable thirst.

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