Up at 3:45 AM to begin the day traveling to Caño Negro with friends Jeanne and Chris, we arrived at their place an hour and a quarter later. Bill and Chris crammed our bags and cooler in the back of the Hyundai SantaFe along with their belongings. After a quick bathroom check we were off and away on a four day trip to a region new to most of us. Chris, maker of fine fly fishing nets, see http://www.Brodinnets.com, had used his piscatory talents there several years ago and was eager to do so again.
We chose to take the route via the beach and then drive northeast through the very arid Guanacaste region and then east over to the wetlands, a seven hour trip. Suddenly the vegetation became green, and we passed a large finca with freshly shorn goats and sheep. The last thirty-two kilometers were a gravel road which was generously wide and pretty well maintained. Several bridges were being reconstructed. Unfortunately, we saw a large area of farm land being cleared which we realized later is likely for a pineapple plantation.
WAZE showed us the way until we got really close to the Caño Negro Lodge where we were to stay for three nights. As directed we turned left and suddenly I realized the destination flag disappeared. We retraced our steps and asked a kind young man on bicycle where to go. Ah, we should have turned right! Not much further on we arrived!
Many birding tour groups stay here but aren’t overwhelming. They all have the birder look with long sleeves and pants, hats, and low slung binoculars. Some also sport tripods with cameras and oversized lenses. At least they know how to be quiet and are leaving the wildness to nature. In the evening before their dinner buffet they would convene in the lounge and obsessively review how many of each type of bird they scoped. Jeanne referred to it as their life list.
The pool was welcome after a long drive as we were able to refresh and get a bit of exercise. Dinner entrees ranged from excellent to mediocre with a skimpy glass of wine costing almost six dollars! That night we slept as though we had been up for days!
The first morning was another early rising as the guys were signed up for a fishing trip at six. Bill was going along to photograph the big catch. The rain which had poured at times during the night wasn’t letting up so they decided to postpone until the next day.
Jeanne and I were to take a boat tour at nine to look for birds. As the rain had eased our handsome husbands chose to go along with us. A single man our age had also booked the tour. We were guided down to the river by a local man who chatted with us in Spanish and led us to Jimmy and his covered boat. As soon as we got underway we were shown birds common to the area and new to us. My favorites were the kingfishers, green ibis, and roseated spoonbills. The boat billed herons reminded me a bit of Opus. Caimans lined the banks, some cooling themselves with jaws opened allowing us to view their carnivorous teeth and pink interiors. Occasionally there would be a sudden huge splash by tarpon or other native fish catching their mid-morning snack. A troop of howler monkeys were napping in pairs high up in a tree. One awoke to scratch and then settled back in. At the point of return were a group of fishermen standing in the water as they worked their lines while having to worry about caimans as they aren’t interested in eating humans.
After a snack of cheese, crackers, nuts, chips, and salsa downed with beer and wine it was time for a siesta and then another swim. Dinner choices were luckier this time. The soups may be some of the best options, along with the fettucine in a cream sauce with broccoli and bacon!!! People seemed to enjoy the sliced bananas flambé. I thought the ice cream might have thawed a bit and then been refrozen.
Early to bed as Chris was bound to go fishing the next morning, come hell or high water. The latter was unfortunately what happened as the water continued to be muddy, especially after a heavy night rain. Just as the guys were about to take off in the boat the heavens opened up again. Bill opted to return to the hotel as this wasn’t a photo opportunity.
After breakfast and a bit of a rest it was time to rejoin Jimmy for another birding excursion. Just as we reconvened at the river Chris returned from his disappointing non-event. He went back to take a nap while the three of us motored upriver to see even more birds than the day before. Pale-billed woodpeckers are smaller versions of pileated woodpeckers. A black-headed trogan sat still for us and was exciting to see. One turtle was sunning itself and another surfaced near some caimans still as statues.
Lunch in the restaurant, another nap, a chilly pool dip, showers, dinner, and another early bedtime finished the day. The next morning we ate, packed the car, and settled the bill. The return route chosen was to exit in the other direction to give us new vistas. The gravel road was only nineteen kilometers and took us past an incredibly vast orange orchard. Hundreds, if not thousands, of pickers must be needed to harvest it all. Sugar cane and pineapple plantations were also impressive in size and continued when back on the main road.
We all preferred the green rolling hills and mountains even though this route meant eventually traversing San Jose. Queso palmito is a local cheese which Jeanne and Chris like. We had never tasted it so stopped by a roadside market to purchase some. Humility abounded when I asked the owner, in Spanish, what the difference is between this cheese and mozzarella as they look and taste the same. His reply was that he doesn’t speak English! I turned to Chris and laughed saying I was speaking Spanish! I tried again but neither of us really understood what he was saying. Something about one being boiled. Google didn’t seem to have any clarification, either.