28. A Jungle Hike

Saturday 7/10 Yesterday morning before I tried to chop my finger off Jorge was doing some yard work near our house while we were sitting on the balcony (where we normally spend most of our time) and he stopped to chat a little bit. He asked us if we wanted to go for a hike with him in the jungle and up the mountain one day. We had talked to him about this before but never picked a day. We told him that we really would like to go on a hike with him and asked when would work. He was free Saturday morning and said he would meet us here at the house at around 9am. Wear long sleeves, long pants, rubber boots (he was surprised and proud that we each had a pair of those) and bring some water. Awesome, we were looking forward to this!! 

9am Saturday morning came and Jorge met us by the house dressed in his long sleeves, long pants, boots and machete and we were ready to go. He led us up a path that he keeps chopped very near our driveway and we stepped into the jungle for our first time since we’ve been down here. It didn’t take long before the path that he kept clear ended and he started chopping a new path for us to make our way through the jungle. Within the first few minutes he chopped a small tree and made a walking stick for me. I joked and asked if this was to scare away snakes. He joked back and told me it was to make sure I didn’t roll down the hills we’d be hiking in. (Keep in mind—this is all communicated using my VERY choppy Spanish and lots of sign language. It’s actually fun to talk to him in this way and we are teaching each other so many things as we do this). As we hiked he would pause and point out things like certain trees, plants, birds, etc... He would also take his machete and knick a tree on a certain side. We later realized he was marking the path back. It would be very easy to get turned around in the jungle! 

There were so many gigantic trees, trunks that even if 6 people tried to put their arms around you probably still couldn’t reach. He says that these trees are hundreds of years old.

We walked through giant leaf cutter ant houses which can be over 10 feet wide and have dozens of entrances. I can only imagine how much bigger they get underground. These ants don’t bite or bother humans, but they will decimate plants in just a few hours if that is what they are hungry for that day. 

You can see what was left of the small trees (now sticks.) This entire area is their home.

He pointed out birds and other things he saw as we walked as well. It was so quiet and peaceful (tranquilo) out there that it felt like there was no one around for miles, even though we knew we weren’t really that far from the house and every now and then we could hear a loud motorcycle on the mountain road we were heading towards. 

After an hour of hiking we had come to a road. Jorge indicated that we would walk up this road to see some spectacular (bonito=pretty) views of the ocean. Before we had gone very far on this road, Ramie recognized it as one that we had driven up last February when we were out exploring. At this point we knew Jorge was right and that there were some spectacular views up here! We didn't want to tell him that we already had been up there and just enjoyed the hike, discussing family, and work. We found out Jorge actually worked in the US (New Jersey) for a few years before returning to Costa Rica. We walked with him up the mountain and as we went he continued to point out cool plants, birds, and other things. He pointed out fruit trees and told us that if we ever find water apples, they are delicious and we have to try them. As we climbed there would be breaks in the trees that we could see down to the ocean and see Whale’s Tail. We would stop to admire the view for a few minutes, maybe snap a couple of pictures, and keep going.

We hiked up the hill for a while, and we made it to a point near the top that had a large open lot with the most spectacular view. We stopped at this exact spot last February and still thought it was amazing and nothing had changed. We took some more photos and admired the view of the ocean, the town, and just everything that you can see for miles and miles. There is an island about 30 miles off the coast that is a protected preserve type area. We took a snorkeling tour out there on one of our past vacations, a very cool place, but you usually can’t see it from most vantage points because of the haze/humidity in the air. Today we could see it from up here, and it was so neat to know that you could see something over 30 miles away. 

It had been about 2 hours since we left the house, so we decided to turn around and head back down. We didn’t talk much as we came back down the mountain, just enjoyed the scenery. At this point Ramie was also starting to get blisters from his rubber boots and it was getting painful to walk for him. We came back to the point on the road where we went back into the jungle to go back to the house and we made our way back down the paths that Jorge had cut when we went up. About half way back through the jungle Jorge stopped and pointed up at a tree and said a word that I had heard before but couldn’t remember. We looked where was pointing and saw a big termite nest on a tree and we gave him a nod and figured he would keep going. Then he said the word again perezoso. We must have given him one of our typical confused looks, and he made the slow climbing motion he has used before… Sloth!! We looked harder, and there it was. On a tree behind the tree with the termite nest was a baby sloth!! Now that he had pointed it out, I realize that I will probably never find a sloth in a tree on my own. They curl up on a branch and just look like a lump- or like a nest. Jorge told us that this was a baby and the parents were probably nearby in another tree. We looked around in nearby trees, but unfortunately didn’t find the parent sloths. After looking for a few minutes, snapping some pictures of the sloth (that really don’t show it all that well considering how well they camouflage themselves) we continued on our way back down to the house. 

Sorry about the image quality. Our phones just don't have that great of zoom.

It had taken about an hour to get from the top vantage point back down to the house, so now it was about noon. We thanked Jorge, told him how much we enjoyed hiking with him and would definitely go out in the jungle with him again if he wants to.

We really did enjoy our morning hike. In all, it took about 3 hours and was about 5 miles according to our fitbits. I’m really glad that we have been walking and running on our hills by the house, otherwise this really would have been exhausting and I don’t know if we would have made it all the way in the heat and wearing the long sleeves, pants, and boots!