On Sunday night, Rich and I took a walk in the jungle. Yes. At night. With torches. And a guide. And some Frenchies and a English woman (Axl Rose was not present. Something about being in the jungle makes me wonder if he has ever actually literally been in one himself. And don’t even get me started on Slash – imagine how many mosquitoes and worms and spiders would find themselves entangled in his hair??!). We were picked up from Monteverde at 5pm and arrived at the park just as night was falling… As our taxi pulled into the grounds, a small mammal darted in front of the car, illuminated by the headlights.
“What was that? Coati? Monkey? Capybara???”
No… It was the resident dog. But still. Wildlife!!!
We met our group and, armed with torches and dousing ourselves with insect repellent, off we went into the night.
Our first observation was a line of leafcutter ants, strolling along in twos, fours, and sixes across the path, each carrying huge triangles of leaf on their heads. There were thousands of them, trailing through the night in the thousands. Their purpose? No idea, but they work and work and work and work and only stop when it rains (and then they only stop because the scent of their destination has been washed away).
As we admired the ants and their diligence, the cracking of twigs underfoot drew our attention away. Shining our torches over yonder, we espied not one, but around 25 coatis, scurrying around in the bushes. Coatis are weird cat-possum-monkey-ish mammals (they look a little bit like lemurs, only not as friendly) – I, unfortunately, was so overcome with seeing such a large group of animals (that weren’t ants) that I was too slow to get my camera out. They milled around looking at us for a few moments, then disappeared into the night. We heard them for the rest of the evening, in the trees, squealing and fighting and making sweet, sweet lurve.
Our next stop was at a huge strangler fig. Huge. And strangly. When other trees are wee behbehs and just shooting their little sapling stems out of the ground, a monkey or a sloth might stroll along, happily munching on a fig and then do a little poo on the brand new tree. As the tree grows, the figs grows around it, and when the tree finally gets tall enough, the strangler fig grows down and twists its strangly roots all around it, killing the tree and standing in its place. They’re pretty beautiful and incredible trees (the English lady kept saying “Oooo, it’s very Middle Earth, isn’t it?” and the Frenchies kept muttering “Non, non, tis more, owyousay, Avatar” and our Costa Rican guide had no idea what anyone was talking about, proclaiming that he “hated movies and books and only read about botany”) – but that’s a bit mean, don’t you think? Such is life, I guess…
Anyhoo, when the host tree dies, it disintegrates inside the fig, leaving a big enormous tree with a hollow centre. We got to go inside the tree – a little bit scary but quite incredible…
Down the path a little further, we stopped at a burrow in the ground. A torch was shone into the hole, and we were told to stand back about a metre, in a semi-circle around the guide. He picked a small twig and prodded it around inside the hole (sounds rude – sorry). One of the Frenchies said “Ooo, I can see it!” and I said “What? What? What is it? A bunny? A mole? A…” and the English woman said “A TARANTULA!!!”.
I nearly vommed and then nearly collapsed with shock. Out toddled a massive, MASSIVE black furry spider, with orange knees. She bumbled over the twig and up the side of the path and over the guides hand.
Rich said “Quick quick, take a picture” so I took a photo of the top of the guide’s head as he leant over the beast. I was sure that merely pointing a camera in the direction of the spider would cause it to leap up at me.
Pulling myself together, I got a little closer, zoomed in a bit, and got this:
It was hideous. But also, well, kind of pretty amazing. Although they have eight eyes, they’re pretty much blind, and rely on vibrations to catch food, or get the hell outta dodge and back into their burrows. We stood looking at her for a good few minutes, before she ambled back into her hole.
Everything after that kind of paled in comparison to the monster arachnid. We saw a much smaller (but still massive – the size of a huntsman?) spider making a web between two trees. Saw a few birds that were startled from sleep by our torches. Saw a teeny tiny frog, half the size of my little fingernail, sitting atop a leaf in the rain. And then, like that, two hours were up and we were back in the carpark.
I’d had all my fingers and toes crossed for a monkey or a sloth, but I’m kinda glad we didn’t. Seeing that big huge spider was thrilling enough, even if it WAS in a total ‘Arachnophobia’ kinda way. I think a monkey or sloth sighting would have detracted from that, like a cherry on the top. We have another week and a half in Costa Rica – plenty of time for monkeys and sloths!! And (gulp) more tarantulas…..