after only two hours of sleep, i jarred myself back into consciousness and got ready to leave for my costa rican vacation. prior to leaving, i weighed all my bags and discovered they were 10 lbs heavier than the 25 lbs weight limit imposed by the costa rican airline when we make our local transfer once we got there. there was no way i could reduce my load anymore, most of the weight coming from my electronic gear. i figured i'd just face the consequences once i got there. my sister came at 8:30am with my father, and she drove us down to logan airport.

either saturday morning is a really popular time for traveling or maybe the FAA issued another terrorist alert advisory (or perhaps a little bit of both), but the american airline terminal was packed with people, most of them waiting in line, either to check in or to pass through security. we had an 11am flight to miami to catch and we had 2 hours to get through this mess before that could happen. we waited in line, slowly advancing, one eye on the clock. an american airline admistrative guy came out and asked my father and i where we were going. we didn't quite understand, i said "costa rica," my father said "san juan" (he meant to say "san jose"). the man seemed annoyed that we couldn't give him a simple answer, so he brushed us aside and asked the people waiting in line behind us the same question. anyone going to miami was allowed to join a shorter line that had just opened. i followed the man - who by the way had this little pencil moustache - and tried to ask him if we could skip to the next line as well, but he completely ignore me, feeding off of his power trip, flashing his hand in my face. i glared at him briefly, then went back to my father and told him we could take the express line, not knowing if we really could or not. the guy was kind of an asshole and i should've gotten his name so i could write american airline about their diva hiring practices. other than that man though, everyone else at the american airline counter was very courteous and helpful.

after we got through the security checkpoint with 10 minutes to go before 11am, we realized that the flight was actually 11:45am. my father called my mother while i tested out my ibook to see if there was any wireless internet at the airport, the answer being no.

the flight from boston to miami was uneventful. we got center seats, which meant no window view, but less bumps through the turbulence. even though it was right during lunch, american airline didn't serve any food unless you consider a choice of half a can of soda and a bag of pretzels some sort of quality in-flight lunch. there were tv screens mounted throughout the cabin playing some cbs shows (everybody loves raymond, david letterman highlights), but you had to pay $2 for a pair of headphones if you didn't have your own in order to hear the audio. even though i couldn't hear anything, i couldn't stop watching it. it was hard falling asleep sitting along the aisle, people kept on brushing against me when they went to the bathroom and as they went back to their seats.

the flight from miami to costa rica was more "interesting", as i would soon find out.

it was my first time in miami, and the place had that weird artificial air quality that a building with constant air conditioning in a hot and humid environment can get. what struck us immediately though, besides the processed air we breathe, was what we saw outside of the airport - even though this was the middle of the day, the sky was nearly black, a massive storm was heading our way. our connecting flight wasn't for another hour, and since we were denied our midday meal, we got food at the airport, two school cafeteria quality sandwiches (i got a ham and cheese on pumpernickel bread, needed some mustard, which it lacked) and a fruit drink, all for the airport bargain price of $15. we went to go wait by our gate, and that's when bad news hit us: all flights out of the airport are temporarily suspended until the thunderstorm passes us.

so we waited. at one point i sat next to this john carpenter lookalike with glasses and an english accent, on his way to boston after visiting his girlfriend in tobago. "where in boston do you live?" i asked him. "arlington," he replied, "northwest of boston," he needlessly added. "oh, i know where that is, i grew up in belmont," i said (belmont and arlington and cambridge all border one another). he had that passive aggressive angry tourist edge to him, telling me these stories about his crazy travels without actually looking at me, like he didn't really care who was listening.

nearly three hours later, our flight was cleared for takeout and they started boarding the passengers. everyone got on the plane, slightly disgruntled but there's nothing anyone can do about a passing thunderstorm and nobody wants to ride through one of those in a plane anyway. 3 hours delay isn't that bad, and besides,

getting [it] on

getting off
we'll be in costa rica in another 3 hours, so all is well. so we thought. it's a bad sign when you see one of the airplane repair guys walking down the aisle. after what seemed like an unusually long time, the captain said the good news was the water valve was broken (so we couldn't load any water into the plane) but they fixed it, but the bad news was the flight crew has reached the end of their shift, so they're going to leave, and we won't be able to go until the replacement flight crew arrives. everyone on the plane voiced the same feeling of disbelief. after another bit of waiting, the captain comes back on and gives us only bad news this time: the flight crew hasn't arrived yet, but it doesn't matter, because everyone has to get off anyway with our carry-ons because apparently the original flight crew violated some sort of FAA safety law when they left the plane with the passengers aboard, so everyone has to recheck in. there was a roar of collective "this sucks" from the passengers, as we gathered up our stuff and left the plane. coming out of the gate, it felt like we left miami - for miami.

so we waited again. finally the new flight crew arrived. all passengers were allowed back on the plane. after what seemed like yet another period of waiting, the new captain starts off by telling us his crew was originally supposed to go to london but imagine their surprise when they were told that they needed to fly down to costa rica. he apologized for the delays and the slew of bad news, then let out one of his own: while doing their customary last minute safety checks, they discovered a dent in the front entrance door into the plane, so they need to get some flight engineers to take a look at it, make sure it's structurally sound, and then fix it, otherwise the plane will have to be put out of service and either we find ourselves a new plane to fly or we all spent the night in miami, with no guarantee that american airline will foot the bill. the plane nearly rioted. you have to understand that a good percentage of the people onboard are of latin descent, and when they get fired up, they take action. there was any angry mob of people rushing to the front of the plane in an attempt to get the captain to explain further what was happening. all this drama unfolded over the announcement system, as the captain told everyone to remain calm, that it wasn't his fault or the fault of his crew, that they're just as fustrated as we are, that all we can do is wait some more, as "you got to be kidding me" as it sounds.

i don't even know how long we waited. all i do know is we got to miami at 3pm and didn't leave until 1am, 10 hours later. what should've been a routine flight that would've taken us no more than 3 hours and delivered us safe and sound in san jose, costa rica at 6pm central time, ended up becoming a airline traveling nightmare of mythical proportions. the only good thing was the captain put his foot on the flying pedal and got us to san jose in a little bit over 2 hours. it was 2am central time when we arrived. we didn't even know if our family friend was there to pick us up anymore.

after we went through immigration, after we picked up our luggages and went through customs (a man just collected our customs form and waved us through, we didn't even get our bags inspected like some other people), we exited the airport, greeted by a barricaded perimeter of receivers, people holding signs for tour groups, groggy-eyed family members and friends, or taxi drivers looking for fares like hungry vultures. it was easy to find mr.hsu our family friend, all we had to do was to look for an asian face amidst the crowd of indigenous costa ricans.

we found how that mr.hsu had visited the airport twice already, trying to pick us up. the man stationed at the parking lot exit even recognized him, they exchanged some words in spanish as if they were old friends. he drove us to his house on the other side of san jose, in the guadalupe area. being in a foreign country, signs written in language i don't easily recognize, the new sights, new sounds, it's a bit of a culture shock. but it felt good knowing that we were safe now, in the hands of somebody who would take care of us, no more delays because of bad weather, of ending shifts, of damaged doors. we got to his place, where his wife was still up, waiting for us, along with their three cats. she had some beef soup heating for us on the oven, as well as some chicken curry. i took a shower to wash off that traveling grime then finally went to bed in one of their daughters' empty bedrooms, surrounded by stuffed animals and posters and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. i slowly lost sensation in my body and fell asleep.

today's count: 57 photos

frankie goes to hollywood -
do you know the way to san jose?

after only two hours of sleep (notice the pattern?), i jarred myself back into conscious and got ready to leave san jose for drake bay down in southern costa rica. the hsus had breakfast waiting for us and we met one of their daughters. we left their house at 7am, mr.hsu giving us a ride to pavas, a small local airport. there was a lot more to see passing through san jose early in the morning during the daytime. like the trash, they don't just leave it on the curb, there are actually these elevated trash cages, to prevent wild dogs from picking through them. all the houses were heavily fortified, tall gates, bars on windows, even though it looked like we were driving through a suburb. there was a surprising amount of joggers, which made me jealous, what i wouldn't give to go on a run. it also goes without saying that all the signs are in spanish, but thankfully they drive on the right side of the street.

mr.hsu stayed with us until we got our boarding passes, then he left. at the weigh-in, i didn't have to pay a penalty even though my luggages were overweight (the actual luggage was 14 lbs, but my carry-ons were 21 lbs). a rather large woman who was ahead of us in line got incensed when the airport guy asked her to get on the scale so she could be weighed. "no way," she said, and started shaking her head and waving her hands in defiance to flight safety. her husband had to coax her into doing the right thing. at 8:30am all the passengers boarded the plane, a twin-engine propellered twenty-seater, a row of single seats on the left, a row of double seats on the right. my father and i were one of the first few people to board and both of us grabbed left-facing window seats. our flight attendant was also our co-pilot, she briefly went over the safety rules, and we wheeled around the runway for the takeoff. from the window of i could actually see one of the wheels of the plane lift off from the ground as we became airborne.

every visit to a foreign country should start off with a flyby. from the air, you can learn a lot about the country. costa rica is a lot of green hills with little dirt roads that snake through them. we saw a lot of farms with neatly arranged crops, perhaps coffee plants, one of costa rica's main exports. after about an hour, we arrived at drake bay. the aiport, or should i say runway, was just this empty stretch of grass-covered landing strip. the weather was different from san jose. the capital is built on top of a hill, so it never gets too hot and there's always a plesant breeze. here on the lowland of the osa peninsula, the weather is how you'd expect a jungle to be, hot and humid. there was an suv waiting for us with a carload of returning passengers. the plane itself was heading to yet another destination. those going to drake bay got off, and they brought out our luggages, which were transferred to the luggage rack on top of the suv. we piled into the vehicle and went on our way to the resort, while those who were waiting got into the plane.

even though the ride was probably a few miles at most, it was through bumpy dirt roads. we were thrown inside the suv like rag dolls, and i started to get motion sick. when we stopped by the edge of a river 25 yards across, we thought the driver was playing a joke on us, that is until he drove right across the river, the water almost coming into the vehicle. that was just one of several rivers we crossed. finally we stopped by a beach, with no resort in sight. i thought maybe this was some sort of scenic rest stop, but the driver told us to follow a man who was carrying our luggages onto a motorboat beached on the shore. a boat ride to take us to the resort! i didn't remember reading about this in the description. we rolled up our pants, took off our shoes and socks, and followed the captain into the boat, where we went across drake bay to the eponymous resort along the edge of a small river. on the riverbank was a baby crocodile sunning itself, about 3 feet long. none of the native costa ricans on the boat bats an eyelash.

when we got there we were met by a man named miguel who said in broken english that we could go into the dining room and get some breakfast before going to our cabin. we told him we wanted to see the cabin first, maybe freshen up, before eating. he was a little hesitant because i think it broke some sort of resort protocol, but after a quick phone call, we were told we could see our cabin first. we got cabin 20 out of 22 cabins, at the farthest end of the resort. the room was modest, wooden shutters, venetian blinds, screen windows. two beds, one twin, one queen, a ceiling fan, a mural on the wall with some sort of sea landscape. the first thing i did was to take a shower. i was worried at first when only a dribble of water came out from the shower head. "ah, cold showers only," i thought with dismay, but a minute later the water turned hot. the shower stall was large, perhaps big enough to fit 9 friendly people. the water never did come out any better than a soft dribble, but it was hot (heated by their solar panels), and from what i've read about some of the other resorts around here, that's very much a luxury out in the wilderness.

after my shower, after we changed into some clothes more suitable for the hot and humid climate, we walked to the dining room.
along the way, i was snapping photos of tropical flowers and some insects, including a large brown grasshopper (about the length of a finger). finding insects i've never seen before makes me happy. inside the dining room, there was two plates of fruits and some juice waiting for us. on the wall was three glassed encased panels of insects. i just stood in front of them while eating my food, thinking about the kind of insects i'd find here. along one wall was some indian handicrafts for sale, wooden masks and potteries. on a table were several nature guide books, to help you identify the animals you'll find here in costa rica.

we went back to the office where we checked in for real, a woman named maleni was there, she basically gave us the info about the resort, about their services and the things we can do. since this was our first day and we had nothing scheduled, we basically wandered around the place on our own. we walked around the shoreline facing the pacific ocean, volcanic rocks forming tidepools. hermit crabs were everywhere, as well as sea snails. occasionally we'd see a fish or two. we found a carambola tree, my father picking a ripe fruit off of the ground to eat later. mimosas grew like weeds, their leaves closing as we walked through them. we went back to the cabin, where it started to rain. even though i told my father a few times before we left, he didn't bring any rain gear, not even an umbrella, so he went back inside while i stayed out a little bit more, walking a stretch of sandy beach.


rocky beach

crab shell

seed in water

sea snail

ghost crab trail

beach orchid

tropical skipper

lightning bug

around noon we had lunch at the open air bar, which had a panoramic view of the bay. it had stopped raining by then as well. we sat with an old couple from alberta, canada, john and maggie. this was their second season at the drake bay resort, so they were seasoned veterans who could tell us what the different tours were like. they saw macaws earlier this morning, and squirrel monkeys constantly run on the roof of their cabin. they also told us where to go to see black vultures.

after lunch, my father and i went on the path behind the resort that snakes through the forest. not too much wildlife, we heard the songs of birds and the distant howl of monkeys. a few insects (including a trail of leaf cutter ants), some interesting vegetation. we walked until we ended up at a deserted beach (cocalito beach), waves crashing on sandy shores, tall palm trees swaying in the wind, their coconuts dotting the floor beneath them, a living postcard right before my eyes, a landscape so beautiful that it intoxicates and makes me never want to leave.

reluctantly, we returned to the cabin, where i took another shower. we didn't have any shampoo so i had to use the soap to wash my hair, which left it dry and frizzy, one of the casualties of remote vacations. i felt physically dehydrated and having only slept 2 hours since thursday night, i was tired as well so i took a nap, i got the queen bed while my father took the twin. with the ceiling fan on, the cabin was pretty comfortable, cool enough to use a blanket. the ocean, just a few hundred yards away, sounded like the highway.

after only two hours of sleep (i think i'm only allowed to sleep for two hours), my father woke me up to go down to the dining hall for dinner at 6:30pm. it was dark outside and we needed a flashlight (in my case, the ultra bright LED headlamp). fireflies winked on and off in the darkness, the first time ever i've seen fireflies in action, and they made my father nostalgic about his days as a boy growing up in taipei. we were first two there and sat down, soon joined by john and maggie, then the two blondes living two cabins down from ours. the girls had been out at sirena today, one of the places in corcovado you can visit, and were talking about the animals they saw. i was busy hydrating myself, drinking as much fluid as possible. maleni came around, asked us how we were doing, and took our order for what we wanted to do tomorrow, which was to visit caño island.

we went back to the cabin after dinner, the illumination of my headlamp picking out cane toads in the darkness. i checked my coolpix 4500 manual to learn how to use the manual focus. after some weblog note taking and photo organizing, i recharged one of the camera batteries (so happy this place has electricity!) and went to bed after my third shower of the day, the sound of a cicada buzzing so loudly outside that i slept with earplugs.

today's count: 333 photos, 2 audios, and 1 movie




my father and i were in the dining hall by 7am for breakfast. the two blondes joined us, their last day at the drake bay resort, leaving via boat to the landing strip later in the day. from the dining room window i could see all sorts of wildlife, hummingbirds visiting the feeder, squirrel monkeys jumping through the tree branches, and a flock of colorful tanagers looking for kitchen scraps.

an hour later we got ready to leave for caño island, met our tour guide gerald ("geraldo"), a french looking, leathery, blue eyed man who got my father and i suited up for snorkeling, getting us some gear from the equipment shack. we waited on top of the loading dock for the rest of the group to show up. i talked with a woman named dee, who was distracted by an iguana resting high up in some bamboo stalks. she and her husband were also leaving today. we were both scratching our head wondering how the iguana got up so high and how it'd come back down. i saw an amazing spider i'd never seen before, thorns on its back, white speckled with black dots, kind of looked like a miniature crab. we met the other half of our island trip, vicki and suish from california. "are you chinese?" she asked me after hearing my father and i speak mandarin. "my mother thought you were japanese," she told me. yeah, i get that a lot as a matter of fact.

the weather was gorgeous, blue sky with big dramatic puffy white clouds. via powerboat it took about 30 minutes to get to the island. from the gps i knew we were traveling 30mph, the boat would slap the water every few seconds as it bounced up and down on the waves. despite the choppy ride, it was actually quite soothing, with the ocean wind and the sun overhead, i nearly fell asleep. we stopped a few times whenever we saw dolphins, which were easy to find, any place on the water where there were a lot of seabirds meant dolphins down below. i don't get seasick, but once we cut off the engine and the boat was just rocking on the water, i started to feel queasy, until we started moving again.

caño island is a fairly deserted island. it's far enough away from the mainland that nothing big lives on the island, other than some insects and reptiles and seabirds. the handful of people who do come are here to relax, sit on the beach, do some snorkeling, walk the trials to the mirador to see the view from the top of the island or check out some archaelogical artifacts, mainly these stone spheres believed to have been carved by the original indigenous people of costa rica. as soon as we arrived on the island, it started to rain. no surprise, as a large cloud could be seem hovering above everything from the ocean. 10 minutes later it stopped, and the weather was back to nice again. gerald and i got into the water to do some snorkeling. vicki and suish were on the shore fighting with their equipment (they didn't bring flippers, so they probably couldn't snorkel anyway). my father got some of his gear on, but we forgot that you can't wear the mask with glasses (fortunately i put on my contacts before leaving the lodge), so i'm not sure how much he could see, but he went back on land after stepping foot into the water. gerald and i bobbled on the surface of the water, watching our snorkeling team disintergrate back on land. we both decided to take a raincheck on the snorkeling because 1) the waves were too rough and there were sharp rocks nearby and 2) there were jellyfish spotted further out near the prime snorkeling sites, and everybody else had already gotten out of the water because of them.

my father and i went hiking through the trails. before we even left the ranger station, i saw these beautiful tiger ants crawling behind the back of the hut,

so called because the yellow iridescence of their abdomen causes black banding that resemble tiger stripes. they look ferocious, and i heard they bite, but later when i asked gerald he said they were harmless. caño island is a good starting point for our costa rican visit. there are no guides to tell us what's what, but left on our own, it gave us more opportunity to explore at our own pace. and despite the lack of critters (i still managed to find some), the vegetation on the island is amazing, our first taste of jungle flora.

a little bit over three hours, after walking the whole trail (a hard walk for a little hot top view of the island from the lookout point), we came out of the jungle, where we found everyone already eating lunch. a blackish grey snake slithered across our path. gerald told us there's two kinds of snakes on the island, both non-poisonous (the other kind is the boa constrictor). we joined them for food, watching the hermit crabs comb the sandy beach for food, a handful of some other vacationers sunbathing. gerald demonstrated how the tender ends of palm fronds can be eaten. soon afterwards we headed back to the lodge, there was some drama with vicki unable to get back onto the boat, but we managed, everyone got back to drake bay resort in one piece.

i took a shower then slept until dinner. some new people joined our ranks for the evening, faye and jonathan, a young british couple, and don and janet, an elderly couple from new jersey. faye and jonathan were fun to talk to, the bright eyed exuberance of vacationing youth, faye even had vacation cornrows in her hair. don and janet i detested though. they didn't seem like much at first, but soon it was obvious they've done a lot of traveling and were shameless destination droppers. "oh, we've been to the antarctic circle, you must see tanzania, zanzibar is great this time of the year, when i was india on my way to nepal, etc." don's even been to cambridge, having graduated from MIT. i mean, i guess at that age they deserve a certain amount of concession, but i found their behavior rather distasteful. i wasn't the only one. john and maggie, who last night were the center of conversations, were noticeably quiet throughout the evening. don's pretentiousness didn't end there: he was also unfortunately all about digital photography, and when i asked him about the specs on his camera, he was more than happy to list them (some sort of olympus with an unwielding 10x zoom). i asked if he brought a laptop to download his photos, and he said he a "device with an lcd screen," an obvious reference to smartdisk flashtrax. that bastard! however, the excellent flan for dessert made up for the bad company.

after dinner we went back to our cabin, but got caught in the rain without an umbrella so we waited out the storm at the bar. there was an american woman there who asked us if we were here for the night tour. "no, we're just waiting for the rain to stop." that's when suish and vicki showed up, only to learn that the tour would be cancelled due to the rain. the night tour actually sounded interesting, with the possibility of seeing live tarantulas and getting to use one of those night vision scopes. i made a mental note of it. once the rain started to slow down a bit, my father and i ran back to our cabin. i perused my daily catch of photos, then took a shower and went to bed.

today's count: 222 photos

to get to corcovado national park requires an early start. we got to the dinner hall at 6am for breakfast, dropped off a bag of dirty laundry, and by 6:30am everyone was really to go. off in the distance i saw a pair of squirrel monkeys sitting on top of a palm tree. coming with us was don and janet, faye and jonathan. our guide was manuel, whom i didn't like very much initially because he seemed very serious, but he'd turn out to be the best guide we've ever had. we all piled into the boat for the 40 minute ride to san perillo, the closest ranger station in corcovado. we were told to wear our tevas for yet another beach landing, but my father and i, already seasoned veterans, just wore our hiking boots, taking them off when we get to the beach.

the weather got cloudier and cloudier as we approached san perillo. by the time we arrived, it had started to rain. i was fine on the boat, but when we came to a stop for the beach landing, i started to get a little motion sick from the rocking. once we got on land, there were some rangers who said something to manuel in spanish and pointed to something in the grass, a snake eating another snake. the one doing the eating was a musarana, which feeds on other snakes. the one being eaten was a fer de lance, a deadly viper of the costa rican jungle.

musarana eating fer de lance

manuel set up his spotting scope. i figured he was just drying off his equipment,

but he pointed to it for us to have a look, and we saw a bunch of bats roasting underneath a large branch high up in some trees. this was just the first of many ocassions where manuel scared us with his amazing ability to spot animals. while waiting for the rain to stop, manuel gave us some history behind the park, and showed us some of the specimens lining a table, including various animal skulls, critters preserved in jars (including a deadly sea snake), and an assortment of animal footprints, including the tapir and the jaguar. it was like being in a museum, except all these animals actually lived here, like we could go into the forest and actually see them, that was pretty mind-blowing.

sea snake

animal skulls

tapir footprint

the rain didn't seem to be stopping. we watched the hermit crabs run around on the ground, like moving rocks. we finally decided to head into the forest and hope that the rain would subside eventually. to get into the jungle we had to cross a small river that ran into the ocean, about 15-20 feet across and knee deep. we took off our shoes and waded across, putting them on at the other side. we headed into the forest. manual explained to us that we were in secondary forest, that a long time ago before the place was made into a national park, people lived here, that's why there are some non-indigenous trees. the rain never let up. it wasn't a big deal for me, i had my umbrella, by my father had zero rain gear, and he was carrying his video camera. what he ended up doing was wrapping the camera in a plastic bag like an upside down hot dog bun and trying to shoot horizontally so he wouldn't get rain in the lens.

despite the bad weather (although it wasn't all unexpected, it is a rain forest after all), we did see a lot of larger animals, waiting out the downpour. we saw bright red and black manakins (little tiny birds), a pair of scarlet macaws, an anole (a lizard that flashes a red wattle when threatened), a leafcutter ant trail with no ants (washed away? or perhaps hiding), male and female trogons, howler monkeys (howling throughout the forest), and a spider monkey (manual shook a tree so we could see the monkey hiding in it). we'd walk a little bit with manuel up in front, he'd stop and listen, then set up his spotting scope and let us see what he found. although trekking through the forest with a guide meant less self-exploration, without manual we wouldn't even have seen any of the animals he spotted for us. manual was definitely an animal guide, but occasionally he'd offer up tidbits on unusual plants, like the walking tree that can "walk" through the forest, sending down new roots and relocating itself to a more fertile spot.

walking tree



crested owl

spider monkey

leaf mimic katydid

there's also a bunch of things growing in the forest all with monkey-names: monkey brush, monkey pot, monkey cup, and monkey ladder.

monkey brush

monkey pot

monkey ladder

our trek through the forest brought us back out to the beach, then we went back into the forest for another hour and a half of hiking, returning to the ranger station we originally arrived at. manuel was not only our guide but our waiter as well, serving sandwiches and salad the resort had provided for us. the rain had died down to drizzle by then, but we were so soaked it didn't really matter anymore. my feet were dry though, but the cuff of my socks were all dirty and my shoes were covered in mud. i brought a pair of clean socks and put them on. there was some shouting as somebody spotted a large (6-8 feet long) crocodile sunning itself out on the beach.

after lunch, it was back into the forest, this time to see a waterfall. more animals were spotted, including a crested owl (looked like a big fat cat), a tiger heron, some blue morpho butterflies (fluttering too high to take their photos), and a basilisk aka jesus christ lizard, so named because it can run on the water when startled. manual demonstrated this by throwing sticks at such a lizard rest on a log by a riverbank. it ran away running on the water. there were a lot more little streams crossing our path, and we reached a point where it was impossible to cross without getting wet, and there were enough rocks in the water that walking barefoot would be dangerous. manuel told us to just brave it, since back at the lodge they had free overnight shoe cleaning/drying service. once we got to the fall everyone took the obligatory photos, then we went back downstream so people could swim beneath a smaller waterfall. my father and i kept our distance on land, not wishing to get any wetter than what we already were.

we came back to the ranger station once again. with a touch of irony, the sun finally came out, just as we were about to leave. although we couldn't have nice weather for our jungle tour, we would have it going back home on the boat ride. i licked my lips as the salty spray of the ocean water got on my mouth. although the ride was still a little bit choppy, it was soothing and i almost fell asleep, the warm wind blowing in my face.

back at the lodge, we picked up our bag of clean laundry, still warm to the touch in this tropical climate. i took a hot shower at the cabin. my father was outside cleaning our hiking shoes and left it at the office to be dried for tomorrow. the past two days at drake bay i've taken a nap around this time of the day, but i wanted to break out of that habit, experience more of costa rica, so i forced myself to stay awake even though i was tired. we walked around the beach along the resort a little bit, but the weather was still slightly rainy. afterwards i came back to the cabin to sort my photos while my father went to hang out at the bar.

close to 6pm my father came back to the cabin. i went to go use the bathroom and saw something small on the tiled floor that i thought was an ant. upon closer inspection, it was a tiny scorpion. i wasn't prepared to test the potency of its infantile poison, so i just left it alone. we departed the cabin to go have dinner at the dining hall.

dinner was excellent, grilled shrimps and mushrooms on a skewer. maleni came around the tables asking us what we wanted to do tomorrow. my father and i wanted to see the sirena biological station, further south of the corcovado national park. "we want to go there because we heard you can wander around by yourself," i told maleni. "no no no," she said, "you can't do that." apparently we heard wrong, but sirena is so remote, there has to be a guided tour otherwise if we got lost, it'd be impossible to find us. regardless, that's where we were going tomorrow morning

afterwards, i waited down by the bar for the bug tour. after hearing about it last night, i knew it was something i had to do. i wore my father's spare pair of sneakers because our hiking shoes were still being dried. it was starting to rain, so i brought my umbrella. gerald tossed me his poncho because he heard i didn't have any other rain gear. though the tour should've been cancelled because of the weather (like it was yesterday), it was suish and vicki's last night here so there was no other choice. tracy the "bug lady" showed up with her assistant. they had on those heavy duty thigh high rubber boots, good for muddy jungle trekking.

when suish and vicki showed up, we went into the forest for the night tour AKA bug tour, the same path behind the resort my father and i took when we walked down to cocalito beach. it was pitch dark except for the beams of our flashlights and headlamps. despite the rain, we managed to see a lot of insects and other creepy crawlers. there was hidden dangers of course, tracy told us how they saw a fer-de-lance last night when they headed back home, so we had to be wary of snakes. we saw a lot of tailless whip scorpions (some as large as 2"), which look menacing but are not poisonous, although they do bite with their formidable pedipalp pincers. tracy caught a few in her hands to show us the pedipalps but freaked out and threw the scorpion on the ground when it got too frisky.

tailless whip scorpion



tracy walked with a long stick and would poke around in holes to see if she could get anything to come out, particularly tarantulas, which are pretty common (although we never did see any). her assistant walked further ahead, scanning the jungle for insects. tracy showed us how to find spiders by putting the flashlight at eye level and shining it into the dark. spiders, because of their many eyes, reflect back as green. we went into a grassy field heavy with dew to try out the technique. amongst the glistening water drops i was able to catch several spiders. we also saw a horde of army ants moving their biouvacs in the middle of the night. tracy told us army ants carry things below their legs while leafcutter ants carry things from above. i walked with tracy and her assistant, talking about bugs (the best time to see certain insects, the scorpion in my bathroom, etc.), while suish and vicki lagged behind on a different entomological wavelength. i found out she's actually lived in costa rica for almost a decade, and has a little nature resort of her own catering to people interested in the macroscopic world. she's currently in the research phase of a book she's working on about the roles of insects in different cultures. the bad weather almost made it easier to find bugs, a lot of them were stationary, waiting out the rain. the tour only lasted for an hour (the rain got heavier) but i could've stayed out all night.


giant millipede



when we got back to the resort, tracy let us play with the night vision googles she had brought with her but didn't use because of the wet weather. under the dry canopy of the open bar, we played around with them, seeing things in the dark in that characteristic night vision green hue. there was a moment of awkwardness when i was saying good bye and didn't know whether to tip or not. i decided not to, figuring it might demean their scientific research. i went back to the cabin, took a shower, then went to bed, a satisfying day of nature watching finally coming to an end.

today's count: 307 photos, 1 quicktime movie, and 4 audios

we had breakfast at 6am, another early start. outside, maggie was feeding a squirrel monkey in a tree. there was a professional photographer there, taking publicity photos for the website and brochures. off in the distance, i saw two toucans fly by overhead, their silhouettes unmistakeable, a line of a beak seen from below. by 6:30am everyone who was going was waiting on the top of he dock, just ourselves and faye and jonathan. our guide would be manuel again. my father bought a cheap clear plastic poncho from the office while i wore the gerald's rubberized poncho from last night.

the boat trip down to sirena would take 1:20 hours through some very choppy water. our boat captain must've been a seasoned fisherman because he navigated the ocean as if he owned it. we were basically surfing the waves with the boat, steering in a zigzag pattern. it was raining like crazy, and i started to have doubts about if we'd see anything at sirena, whether it would be like yesterday, trudging through rain. the only thing poking out of my poncho was my head, and it rains so much i couldn't even breathe. it was a miserable hour and a half. when we finally got to the shores of sirena, the captain shut off the engine and slowly started attacking the waves, approaching the rocky shores. i felt really queasy, with the boat rocking back and forth. eventually we made it close enough for the beach landing, and fortunately my father and i decided to bring our tevas (we though about ditching them before we left, since the past two beach landings were on sandy beaches). the good news was the rain had stopped when we got on shore, and the weather was getting warmer and brighter.

we understood at that point why it had to be a guided tour: sirena is remote. at least san perillo had a ranger station. here in sirena, it was just nothing, one side of the the beach you had the rocks and the ocean, on the other side a dense rainforest. we all scattered to use the bathroom, then gave manuel our beach shoes so he could hide them and we wouldn't have to carry them with us. manuel told us about the swarovski spotting telescope he uses (he's been having some humidity issues and the people at the company won't return his call even though he calls them everyday) while directing our attention to a toucan sitting on top of a tree.


scarlet macaw

scarlet macaw

collared peccaries

grey eagle

spider monkey

spider monkey

mantled howler

mantled howler





today's count: 274 photos and 6 audios

i woke up at 6am, the last time i would be waking up at the drake bay resort. the weather of course was nice, blue sky white clouds, which was ironic since we had 2 days of rainy weather, and now on the day that we're leaving, suddenly everything becomes nice. i didn't mind it very much, at least it'd mean our flight back to san jose would be trouble-free. i used the bathroom and took a shower. i then packed up my things: basically, throw everything into the duffle bag, and anything sensitive (like electronics, or items i'll need on the flight), i took with me in a carry on bag. we had our last breakfast, then went to the office next door to settle our bills: the additional trip to sirena, the bug tour, and the beer tab my father had ran at the bar. we had an hour to kill so we waited back at the lodge, packed bags waiting on the bed, counting down the minutes until we left.

8:30am came along and all departing guests waited above the loading dock, john and maggie, don and janet. it was going to be an interesting ride, since i sensed that john hates don. we got back our hiking boots after they spent a night in the dryer. we all got aboard the boat, which took us across the bay for our final beach landing, of which we've all become experts at. once we landed, further up on the beach was the SUV that'd take us through the bumpy jungle roads to the airplane landing strip. our luggages were stowed away on the roof of the vehicle. on our way there we even managed to pick up a hitchhiker, who latched on to the side of the SUV. he wisely decided to get off when the vehicle made it's first of several forays through mountain streams. 10 minutes later we got to the landing strip, just as soon as the plane was about to land. onboard i saw all the passengers peering with anticipatory excite at the jungle adventure they were about to have. we were like the seasoned veterans, battle scars and all, looking right back at them. it reminded me of when we first landed, when the roles were reversed, when we were the rookie jungle trekkers.

to be continued...

today's count: 382 photos

content forthcoming...

today's count: 250 photos, 2 audios, 4 quicktime movies

it was hard to sleep any later on a day when i didn't have to wake up so early. as soon as the sun came out, i wanted to wake up, but forced myself to sleep some more. having gotten out of bed at 5 or 6am every morning, i've gotten used to waking up early. i finally woke up aroun 7am when i heard voices in the kitchen. everyone was up, and i had some orange juice. i watched a little bit of cnn headlines on television, curious to know what's been happening in the world the last 7 days. two synagogue bombings in istanbul, fast winds in the northeast causing fires and power outages, dc sniper case, florida right to die standstill.

to think, by tonight, i'll be back at home in cambridge! in some ways it's felt like a long vacation, and in other ways a short one. waking up early and hiking through the corcovado rain forest felt like two days in one. i couldn't keep track of what day it was, so far away from civilization, and i wasn't the only one. now that it's nearly over, one week seems like a short amount of time. back at home, i go through weeks like tissue. it's been an activity packed week, every day something planned, today being the only day that we having nothing going on except flying back home. it's been so busy that i haven't had time to inquire about getting stamps for postcards, let alone getting the actual cards. no souvenirs either, other than the few trinkets and t-shirts i bought for myself at the coffee tour gift shop and the butterfly farm. all i have to offer the people back home is about 2000 photos and some stories. i wonder if my roommate has been living at my place, and if so, if he's turned on the heat, and if that's true, if he remembered to turn it down when he's not there like i told him to? i'm so afraid that i'm going to go home and get a $300 heating bill for the month of november, but i guess if he's willing to split the cost, it won't be so bad. other than that, i have no real anxieties about going back home.

to be continued...

today's count: 40 photos