Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Feet Hurt

June 30, 2013
It’s been a long weekend and all of us are feeling it. 
Friday morning started as usual. Get up at 6am, decide you can push off taking a shower until that night, have a stare down with the giant spider perched on the bath tube watching you pee (I was convinced he was going to go into attack mode at any second), and pack your bag for the day. Only this time, we packed for three days. We were going on an adventure to San Gerardo.
It’s a tricky place to get into. You drive for half an hour to one of the peaks of the mountain and then march 5 km down its side to the station/lodge where we stayed. Since it was the rainy season, the side of the mountain was not a nice sloping path but a muddy slippery death trap that would have been more suited to tobogganing down then attempt to hike it. That being said, hike down it we did. Slowly. As if in compensation for the mud, we did come upon some spectacular views.

We reached the lodge safe and sound and “unplugged from the world” in El Bosque Eterno de Los Ninos (The Children’s Eternal Rainforest). There was no debating the point that we had hike out of the high elevation cloud forests and were now in the rainforest.

We arrived just in time to miss lunch. (Meals were made for us, one of the perks of the station. Oh boy was it good food!) Every room was equipped with two sets of bunk beds and a bathroom. What the stay did not include was hot water. Showers were very...bracing. After resting our feet for what appeared like no time, we set out again on a hike in the forest in search of the elusive Umbrella Bird. While we did not see any Umbrella Birds, our hikes were never dull. Professor Sean is full of information about the area and has a habit of showing us the native fruit growing on trees. He also has a habit of trying them.

Returning to the station for lunch, we once again set out (this being our third hike for the day). But this hike has a destination at the end of the trail: a waterfall! We frolicked and played in the shallow pool and took turns being pounded on by the cascading water. The walk home was accompanied by the very uncomfortable sensation only ever achieved when wearing wet clothes under dry ones.

Thoroughly exhausted, we returned to the lodge. Though some we not as exhausted as others for Professor Sean, his duaghter, and Kaitlin went on yet another hike around the lodge. Tessa and I did the sane thing and sat down  in the lodge with nice big mugs and tea and coffee.
 As luck would have it, another professor, a frog specialist this time, was giving a lecture on disappearing frogs. (As in huge crushes in frog populations, not magical can’t-see-anymore. Though that would have been awesome.) He welcomed us to the small class and our feet rested as we snacked on homemade donuts and more tea.
After an eventual dinner where a GIANT SPIDER decided to join us from the ceiling, we went on, guess what, another hike. A night hike this time. The Frog Professor lead us through the dark path, pointing out wonders as we went, one of them being a glow in the dark fungus. He also told us about the golden frog that lays its eggs in puddles to avoid predation. The down side to this is that there is a very limited amount of food. You don’t want to be the smallest or slowest tadpole in the puddle. Professor Sean, frustrated by I think the slow pace of the hike and the somewhat pushy students that accompanied it, traveled on further up the trail to where a small stream crossed it. It was here that we had a great score with regards to animals: a baby vine viper and a red eyed stream frog.

We crawled into perhaps the most comfortable beds ever that night. (I’m not sure if they were little mattresses from heaven because we were so tired or because our back at the Rockwell farm are not that comfortable or because they simply were actual mattresses from heaven. Unfortunately, I had a creepily real dream about giant spiders on my bed and woke up Kaitlin but otherwise we spend a night in uninterrupted sleep. That is until the sun rose, giving us a breath taking view of Arenal, a perhaps active volcanos that peaked out from the next valley over. Of course, everyone had to get up to take pictures. We then promptly returned to bed until a more reasonable hour (meaning 6).
The next morning we attempted to hike down to the bottom of the valley to go see the river. This hike boasted some of the steepest trails we had yet to hike down. However, we were arrested mid descend by a poisonous jumping viper in our path. (Who’s idea was it to give snakes with fangs the ability to jump?) So back up the mountain we climbed. I’m actually grateful of the viper’s perfect timing because by the time we got back to the station, we were all huffing and puffing. I’m also grateful that Siobhan had asked Professor Sean to lead. He spotted the snake soon enough, barely, to let us all make a quick escape. After a good and filling lunch, most of the group took a needed and well-deserved nap. 
Our final hike in San Gerardo consisted of us returning to search for more Umbrella Birds, which we again did not find again. Despite this let down, we did enjoy other birds in the canopy. Some Professor Sean could imitate so well the birds would answer back. 
The next morning we hiked back up the road and out of the valley back to Monteverde. The hike, despite the rain the previous afternoon, was not a muddy or slippery or long as I expected it to be. We returned to the Rockwell’s where, pushed by Kaitlin’s enthusiasm, we went on another hike around the Stuckie farm to check and find more bivouacs. And all before lunch. 
It had begun to cloud over on our walk and our search for ants was slightly hindered by how dark the understory became. 
Ah that merciful rain. It started to rain just as we returned to the house for lunch and has not stopped yet. So no more hike planned for today. Thank God. 

July 2, 2013
24 hours without power and counting. You realize that it is actually easy to live without power here. You get up and go to bed with the sun, you read a book for entertainment, use a flashlight to take a shower, and, unlike the weather in the mid-atlantic right now, the temperature is rather cool and pleasant. It’s surprisingly easy. Until you have to cook...and you run out of powerless stuff to do. Then it’s really just annoying. Why are we without power? Apparently there was a miscommunication yesterday as to who was supposed to pay the electric bill. So ICE (the power company) just shut it off! No notice. So that’s fun.
Yesterday we made two attempts to go on a high elevation hike. The first was hindered by the fact that we forgot a machete. The path, being overgrown, was at some point impossible to follow without one. So, back to the house we went. It was at this time that we realized that we had no power. Thinking it was just lines down and expecting it to come on very soon like it had the last couple times, we continued on our merry way. We collected ants for thermontolerance trials and got to the point where we about to start when we realized we had no power which means no heat block. 
Kaitlin, Tessa, and I went on a hike around the Rockwell farm to scout out some more colonies which was a failure. Most of our colonies emigrated while we were away so we have to either track down the old ones or find new ones. After a lunch of pbnjs, we set out once more on our high elevation hike. We got about as far as we did the last time when the heavens opened up and it poured! At some point Professor Sean, his glasses drenched and therefore unusable, called it and we hike back up the mountain in the rain. Everything was thoroughly saturated with water: our backpacks, our pants, our underwear, and even our socks. And when you think it couldn’t possibly rain any harder, the gods, just to spite you, somehow make it true. It wasn’t just rain, it was little tiny daggers that would could feel pounding on your shoulders. It was an impressive rain. 
Last night we also figured out why our hummingbird feeder keeps getting drained so quickly. Though we have a ton of hummingbirds coming to our feeder, every night the sugar water level would drop drastically. Last night,  while telling ghost stories and making shadow puppets by the candle light, we noticed the feeder shaking. Upon shining a flashlight on it, we saw...wait for it...nectar bats! We sadly didn’t get any pictures of them, they moved incredibly quickly. However, Kaitlin did get some great pictures of some of our hummies this morning. 

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