Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Alberto and I just arrived in Tortuguero, on the other, Caribbean side of the country. We almost didn’t make it.

Late afternoon yesterday, we left the rush hour traffic chaos of San Jose behind to head for the north side of the country, temporarily suspending our Quest for the Golden-cheeked One in search of other, more easily found avian quarry. That's right - we took a break from birding, to do... more birding. Skies again were overcast and it was raining lightly as we got on to Highway 32. At the toll booth, the toll booth lady warned us of an accident up ahead. We thanked her for the warning and told her we’d be extra careful. Soon we found ourselves going higher and higher on a winding mountain road, and encountered dense fog – clouds – and heavier rain. Half an hour later, we saw a truck with a smashed front by the side of the road, and some ambulance and police cars parked around it. We passed this, and thought we’d be on our way but five minutes later encountered another, much, much bigger accident. This apparently had just happened, because ambulance, police and fire department trucks kept coming in with shrieking sirens as we waited in line, at first with motor running.

As people got out of their cars to take a look, see what’s going on, it became evident that we were going to be here for a while.

Or, to be more precise, seven long hours.

We arrived at the scene at 7 PM, were stuck there until 2 AM, and by 3 AM were able to resume normal driving speed. One hour later, we got to Caliari, our intended base from which we were to travel further to Tortuguero, the world famous sea turtle preserve. We decided to sleep some more in the car, figuring it was relatively safe to do so at a gas station where several trucks were parked, no doubt with sleeping truck drivers in them.

We got up around 8 this morning, had a rice and beans breakfast, and decided we would spend the morning birding the area between Caliari and La Pavona, from where a river boat was to take us to Tortuguero.

We got to La Pavona around noon. La Pavona isn’t a place, it’s basically just a bus stop and a parking lot where travelers heading to Tortuguero can park their vehicles. That’s all.

Here, our vehicle pulled the same stunt on us that it did on the first day in Costa Rica. The car alarm wouldn’t respond to its remote, making a hell of a racket for a few minutes before shutting everything down, in no-start mode.

But this time, it took us a full two hours of fidgeting with the car alarm’s wiring before we got the car to start again. Almost missed the bus to our boat because of this. Alberto in all this haste forgot his binoculars and was helped by a friendly local who drove him back to where our car was parked for his bins, while the friendly boat people waited for him. When he returned, happily waving his binoculars, we were set to go.

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