Days 16-18: the amazing Costa Rican rainforest with bullet ants, sloths and honeymooners.

We hit peak luxury in the Costa Rican rainforest, and perhaps peak experience too.

It was a heady 3 days and impossible to do justice. Indeed, writing about wonderful experiences is not that interesting. It reminds me of the comedian Michael McIntyre’s autobiography – the whole (funny and readable) book was about his struggles to become famous, deal with his dad’s death and convince his wife to marry him. When it came to writing about his incredible success, he deleted it all. Success is boring he said, what can you write – ‘Did a gig and it went well’?

We drove 3 hours North East from San Jose into Limon province. Lola and I got out of the minibus and into a raft. There were 3 other people, a guide and a safety canoeist, we proceeded to raft down the Pacuare River for an hour, finishing at our lodge.

We had given up on the rafting two months ago as it is meant to be for Over 12’s, but somehow they relented for Lola. Cesca was deemed too young. It did not matter than 20 other rafts left at the same time. We are hardly breaking new ground on this trip and rafting may be the most eco-friendly activity: you use no pollutants, you leave no litter, you leave the river exactly as you found it. You consume no resources beyond a bit of muscle power as the water is travelling downhill whether you hitch a ride or not.

So we started in heaven and the three days was beyond bliss, a cocktail of luxury, isolation, privilege and deep, hardcore nature. With the camp running at 10% capacity in the off season we received a lot of attention. Beyond the Pavlovian desire for tips, the staff’s relentless optimism seemed genuine. They have a passion for their country and their wildlife and they are smart enough to know they have to preserve what they have. Digging deeper, they say the Government actually does some good in protecting both the national parks and the indigenous tribes who live (on the whole) in the old hunter-gatherer ways.

We also encountered a well-known tribe called the Honeymooners – characteristics include wistful gazing into each other’s eyes, talking about your wedding and looking at your phone a lot.

The rainforest is unlike anything we have experienced. The growth is supercharged, as if a mad scientist had concocted the perfect growing conditions with year-round heat and rain. Trees grow upon and within trees, climbing over each other to reach the sunlight; seeds left on tree branches by birds germinate through sheer excitement and their roots can grow 15 metres in thin air down to the ground just to find water. It seems like most parts of the food chain have enough to eat.

Insects? Everywhere. Billions of them. This made some of our hikes a bit tricky as Cesca would scream ‘insect’ whenever we saw ants and she would refuse to walk over them. After 3 days we almost got there (!) and could tell leaf-cutter ants, tiger ants and bullet ants apart. There were a few unlucky creatures who came into our room to observe the prone humans and they sadly had a close encounter with my magic flip-flip. Bad karma. If we were tougher we would re-house them.

Ahhh. Sloth mum and baby.

We won’t list all the animals and insects nor all the activities. Instead here are our top 3:

  • Bullet ants. The longest ants you’ll ever see and they rate at the highest level on the Schmidt index, which is a categorisation of insect bite or sting pain levels by a Mr Schmidt who used himself to test them. The name ‘bullet’ comes because that’s what a bit feels like. Our guides were truly fearful of these ants.
  • Sloths. Sleeping up to 20 hours a day, they can hang in the trees and sleep as their fist is naturally clenched unlike ours.
  • Toucans. Majestic and our new favourite animals, or co-favourite alongside turtles, pandas and unicorns if you are 7 years old.

There is endless more detail to write but we won’t.

I will try and upload some audio of the rainforest but I’m battling with youtube which wants it in a video format not audio. Bear with me.

As for ‘peak’ experience, when you are at the top of the wave you need to come down, and we’ll see this is what happens.

We’ve had it too good for too long and we need to re-set the bar.

Highly poisonous frog. Nickname: blue jeans

Walking palm tree – roots grow on one side, it can move 60cm a year

The local Cabeja tribe use banana leaves as a mattress

Various activities end 15 metre up a tree and you rappel down

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