Due to a large breast cancer walk Sunday morning we were to miss our San Jose city tour and headed directly to the day's main activity, a gondola ride through a primary rainforest. Modest homes, some gothic in nature reminiscent of New Orleans trademark shotgun houses lined the back streets we took out of the city. As we moved further out the landscape became more industrial. Auto workshops and dealerships became prevalent, razor wire ubiquitous. Further still we passed a hillside tangle of shacks pieced together by the poorest and most desperate of the nation's citizens from salvaged scraps of corrugated sheet metal. The scene outside the bus window changed to farms utilizing the rich soil and the heavy precipitation, mixed with almost impossibly lush natural vegetation. Huge fern fronds protruded from walls of green punctuated by bright splashes of tropical flowers. The rich green flowed down mountainsides into deep valleys. The tallest of the trees soared above the mountains crests. Going through the only tunnel in Costa Rica we enter Braulio Carrillo National Park. We cross a bridge over the "Muddy River". Named for it's dark brown color it is actually a rich stew of minerals gathered from the nearby volcanoes.
We entered the private reserve where the gondolas that would take us through the rain forest are located. As we near the loading platforms it begins to rain, and rain, and rain, after all it's called a rain forest for a reason. Despite the sodden conditions the ride is extraordinary. The forest contains layer upon layer of growth. Vines climb up the towering trees. Aerial plants send roots to the green forest floor beneath. Orchids and bromeliads fill the branches. We, and everything we had with us got soaked despite our rain pouches purchased specifically for this trip. Our camera is ruined. Thankfully my husband had the foresight to buy insurance when he purchased it. Our phones would suffice for the remainder of the trip.
Back on the ground we slogged along a trail in the unrelenting rain. We saw tiny pit vipers curled in the underbrush. Diminutive bats napped under broad leaves they chew in a particular way to form a protective tent as shelter against the soggy elements. A poison frog the size of a dime displayed it bright red body with what seemed like a self assured sense of pride. A pair of parrots flew overhead announcing their presence with their loud call. Our guide is remarkably knowledgeable, almost childlike in his joy of the interlocking intricacies of nature. You could tell he was one who loved his work.
A group of very wet people boarded the bus for the ride to our next hotel. Enroute our guide announces that we are ahead of schedule and will have 30 minutes in the town of Fortuna located near the foot of Arenal, Costa Rica's iconic volcano. My husband and I realize, as we roamed through the shops that surrounded the main square, that our rooms at the hotel are probably not ready so the guide had to come up with a way to kill time. It is a most pleasant act of murder. We purchased Christmas ornaments that will serve as seasonal mementos each year of our adventure.