sloth sloth me do

This is possibly the greatest thing I have ever seen in my whole life.

I love her ‘scale of emotion’ ratio she chats about with Ellen; I have that too. I often have to stop watching YouTube clips that are too cute because I start crying. Which is OK when I’m at home – alone – but not OK when I’m at work or on the couch with the girls. Not that I’m looking at clips of animals while I’m working or anything.

I’ve never really thought that much of Kristen Bell and/or Dax Shepard, but seeing this makes me want to invite them over for dinner. And not just because I’d want them to bring a sloth. But because they seem like all-round nice peeps.

But secretly I’d be hoping they brought a sloth.

welcome to the jungle

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:

O gosh...

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…..

san jose to la fortuna

It may surprise you to know that I have ‘Do you know the way to San Jose?’ stuck in my head. For three days now. And I only know that first line. So it’s quite an annoying earworm…

But I’m not surprised that that song was written. Do you know why? Because there are hardly any street signs in San Jose. There are signs pointing you in the general direction of where you want to go (San Ramon, Volcano, Aeropuerto), but no ‘Main Street’ or ‘San Jose Way’ or anything like that. Apparently peeps get around based on the location of an old tree, or a supermarket, or a big rock.

Anyhoo. We arrived in San Jose on Monday afternoon after a loooooong day of waiting, flying, waiting again, wandering around the airport, eating, flying again, our second flight actually flying 45 minutes longer to avoid weirdy weather patterns, then finally, landing in San Jose to grey clouds and drizzly rain and a cool breeze. Our driver, Frankie, sped us away from the airport in his rickety ol’ hatchback, cursed a traffic jam, shook his fist and yelled sarcastically ‘Gracias, GRACIAS!!!’ at an equally rickety hatchback that cut us off, and (this was the best part of the drive) stopped the car on train tracks. Yes, train tracks. Isn’t the first thing you learn in driving school NOT to come to a halt on train tracks?

I could see a train approaching, but fortunately, the traffic was soon moving again and we were off before we had our own ‘Super 8’ moment.

After about an hour of speed, squealing wheelies, and honking horns (not to mention the tunes spewing forth from an AMAZING local radio station, which featured – in this order – ‘Turn back time’ by Cher, ‘I should be so lucky’, by Kylie, and ‘Crazy’ by Icehouse – brilliant!!) we arrived at our destination: a small guesthouse on the outskirts of town.

Ken, the keeper of the inn and dad of the family, welcomed us with two beers, and a muy bueno dinner of garden rice, salad and fried plantains. Nom!

Happy pooch

When kittehs attack

The next day, after an equally nommable breakfast, we packed our bags, patted the family pooch, wrestled off a coupla kittens, and we were off, on the road to La Fortuna with our driver, Leo. Leo spoke little English, and we speak little Spanish, so it was an interesting drive and a good opportunity for me to brush up on my Spanish language skills (even though, when he was asking me if I was feeling sick, I thought he was asking about the weather, and replied enthusiastically ‘Si, si, bonita!!’. Aye yae yae!

After three hours of highway, winding mountain roads, steep gravel tracks, and a stop to buy lychees from a boy on the street (a HUGE bag for $2!!), we arrived at our destination: Finca Luna Nueva Lodge. On the road in, Leo stopped the car, opened the window and whistled. I looked out, and there, right in front of my eyes, was a SLOTH!!! CUDDLING A TREE!!!! Tres amazement….

And then – equally amazing – when we walked into our room, THIS INCREDIBLE TOWEL SCULPTURE WAS ON OUR BED:

Towel art, ala Dog (note the leaves used for the eyes and nose, and the petal tongue)

But of course, there are dangers that come with being in the middle of the jungle. Since we arrived, all I can think about is:

a) seeing a snake

b) seeing a tarantula

Each of these thoughts is then met with the more horrific thought of:

c) what if said snake/tarantula bites me/lands on me when I’m strolling about the place in a humidity-induced stupor???

So for every tarantula/snake thought I have, I think immediately of sloths, and their funny smily sleepy faces and their stupidly long limbs, and that’s usually enough to put the slithery, poisonous, hairy-legged fears to bed. Not in MY bed though – ew!

ouch ouch, that REALLY flippin’ hurt

The other week I paid a delightful visit to the travel doctor for some all-important immunisations. I’m usually not too fazed by overseas travel and injections and the like – I’ve never really bothered with it before – but because we’re headed to the Amazon (or The Amazin’, as I like to call it) my mind has started going bananas with thoughts of:

  • getting bitten by a monster mosquito and getting malaria
  • getting bitten by an evil sloth* and getting rabies
  • a piranha leaping into our boat and splashing dirty river water into my mouth and getting Hepatitis and/or Typhoid

The likelihood of any of this happening is slim to none, but the more I think about it, the more I think “ESSENTIAL”. How terrible would it be to sustain a life-threatening illness at the hands – nay, TEETH – of a rabid dolphin??? Dreadful.

So off I went. I told the doctor:

“Just give me the essentials, and don’t try to scare me into thinking I need EVERYTHING”.

She said:

“Well, you HAVE to get Yellow Fever. And you should also definitely get Typhoid. YOU CAN DIE. AND WHAT ABOUT HEPATITIS A AND B??? AND A FLU SHOT?? AND RABIES????? And did you know there is a currently a MEASLES EPIDEMIC IN PARIS??????”

She was doing a great job of quelling the ol’ nerves. Doctors are really very excellent at spying vulnerability and injecting them with not one, but 4 needles full of revoltingness. Well – I had 2 that day, and go back for the 2 “big ones” next week (LIVE ANTIBODIES!!!!! Party on!!!!!).

While at the travel doctor, I also had to have a blood test to see if I was still immune to rubella, measles and mumps. Everytime I think of someone with the mumps, I think that they look like that guy with the salami stuck on his head from that movie Hellboy, but I’m pretty sure I’m just getting mumps confused with ‘meatface’.

Mumps or Meatface?

Anyhoo, I’m usually quite fine with blood tests. Needles don’t really bother me, unless I’m looking at it, which I DON’T DO. The nurse looked at my inner-arms, found them both to be suitably test-worthy, and jabbed a big long needle into my right inner-elbow. It felt OK, and then – POW – it didn’t feel ok. In fact, it FLIPPING HURT!!!

The nurse said:

“Oh… Sorry…. That’s going to leave a bruise”.

I thought “Bruise? Pft. Big deal.”

He pressed a cotton wool ball on my arm, tutted a bit at himself, looked at the tube of blood extracted from my vein, shook it around, tutted a bit more, then said:

“I don’t think we got enough blood out of that arm. I’m going to have to do it again.”

Fortunately, my left elbow vein was more forthcoming and the blood tube filled up quickly and, thankfully, painlessly.

I went on my semi-merry way, with a sore tetanus-arm and a relatively sore blood test arm. I took myself straight to the Gasometer and had a cider and a huge plate of fried chicken, followed by the most enormous slice of carrot cake I have EVER SEEN and felt much better. Until later, when I got quite a bad tummy-ache. But it was worth it.

The apology for the blood test was not heartfelt enough. Nearly two weeks later, and the avocado shaped and hued bruise has only just faded. I’m so glad the weather has been so bloody cold lately, lest the world be confronted by my hideous junkie arm. Bleck!


* I’m pretty sure ‘evil sloth’ is an oxymoron. Need proof?

Meet the sloths from Lucy Cooke on Vimeo.