Sunday, July 10, 2011

In the lovely Costa Rica

Wednesday was Costa Rica day!
Right before we got off the ship, as we were going to get breakfast, we looked on the big screen to see this:
Pretty far away from our lovely little Utah County, and we got to see a news report from American Fork, Utah.

Wolf and I used a private tour guide in Costa Rica instead of going with an excursion from the ship. We absolutely loved it. When we compared our tour to a similar one done by the ship that a different couple participated in, I was glad we did our own little thing. The price was about the same, but ours was about twice the length and we did more than they did. We went with Charlie Soto Tours. We even got to shake Charlie's hand before getting handed to a different tour guide in a lovely air conditioned van. About twenty minute into the tour, we learned that we actually missed our group, somehow so we got put with a group that was doing a different tour. Thankfully, both of our first stops was the same, so we were able to switch to our rightful group.

Costa Rica is poor. As we drove along our merry way, I would glance out the window and see sights like these.

Our first stop on the tour was the Tortuguero Canals. We took a little boat through them. They are an extensive system of manmade and natural canals that connect little villages to the ocean. When the weather takes out paths and roads, the villagers can get around using the canals. Somewhere more inland, on these canals, is the nesting site for four varieties of turtles. (One of which is named the Tortuguero Turtle, surprisingly enough.) We did not go that far in, but during our hour long tour, we did get to see a lot of different wildlife and plants. (You won't see any pictures of Wolf until later on in this post, but while I remember this, pay attention to what he was wearing. I thought he was absolutely crazy.)

Here is a bird. (These subtitles probably help a lot.)

Another beautiful bird

Common basilisk

This is looking from the Tortuguero Canals to the Ocean. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water.

A real life common basilisk or Jesus Christ lizard. Why is it called the Jesus Christ lizard? He can run on water.

As we were just sailing along, one of the ladies in our group let out a gasp and pointed at a really long and skinny green snake cruising through the water. Our tour guide said we were really lucky to see one of those snakes in the water; they have been known to jump in the boat before.

See those beady eyes and that little nose? This was the cute little cayman we saw.

Monkey, just hanging out

This bird was showing off his wingspan. If I had a wingspan that wide, I would show it off, too.

Another monkey

Our second stop in this wonderful day was a Del Monte banana plantation. This plantation is huge; it is over a hundred acres. The plantation was rather different than I thought it would be.

This picture was taken on the road coming in. After getting off the main highway, the road we took was a dirt road and well worn. There were huge potholes and it was a rather bumpy ride.

These are what real, live Costa Rican banana plants look like. They were shorter than I thought they would be. Here are all the random facts you have wanted to know about bananas. Bananas do not technically grow on trees. They are banana plants. The large upright stems are called pseudostems. Each pseudostem can produce a single bunch of bananas. Only one bunch of bananas ripen at a time on a banana plant. One bunch contains between three and twenty tiers; each tier holds between three and ten fruits. It takes 54 weeks for a bunch of bananas to fully develop (that's a year and two weeks for those of you following along at home). Bananas grow pointing up, not hanging down.

And here is almost the same picture as the one above it.

The little hanging things right below our lovely tour guide's hand is a bunch of baby bananas that fell off their stem.

One thing that interested me the most in this whole banana process is that it seems really old fashioned. When bananas are ready to be harvested, a young man goes out on a pulley device to the section where the bananas are ripe and cuts the bunch down with a machete. He then carries them over his shoulder to the pulley system and attaches them to the line. After attaching several bunches, he uses the manual pulley system to take them to this part of the plantation.

The bananas are sprayed down by water. Some ladies take the bunches and cut them into the stereotypical bunches you see in a store and then the bunches are put in these pools. The bananas move down to the other end of the pool by the force of the spray of the water.

Here are the bananas after they are harvested, still on the pulley line.

The last stop on our tour was the Brisas De La Jungla Zip Line. If you are ever in that part of Costa Rica, I would highly recommend it. We had little baby bananas as a snack as we were put into harnesses, given a helmet, and handed a pair of heavy gloves. This is a nervous Wolf.

Somewhat excited Wolf

This is how excited we each were to go on the zip line.

Although we sadly did not get any pictures or video of the rest of the zip line, this is what the ladder to the first platform looked like. We climbed to the top and then hooked ourselves to a cable securely fastened to that huge tree. When it came our turn, the guide at that platform would connect you to the zip line going to the next platform and send you on your way. The first line was long and gorgeous; you got to see the rainforest on the right side and on the left, there was a break in the forest to let you look out over a river. There were 13 platforms and 12 cables total. The longest cable was 270 meters (885 ft) long and the highest we were above ground was 80 meters (262 ft).

I borrowed this picture from the Zip Line's website. We were connected to two cables going down. This made accidents or injury almost impossible.

And...the last picture we have from Costa Rica is my favorite animal when I was in 7th grade. A neon colored poison dart frog! We did not touch it or try to eat it.
The tour was supposed to stop at a Costa Rican grocery store so that some people on the bus could pick up some Costa Rican coffee (apparently really good) but I am glad we did not. We got back to the dock about fifteen minutes before we were supposed to be back on the ship. After a quick stop by the shops in which I bought some sweet leather navy butterfly earrings and Wolfie bought a metal lizard (that description does not do his lizard justice), we jumped back on the ship. Wolf and I were both exhausted after this action packed eight hour day.

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