Friday, August 10, 2018

Costa Rica Adventure - Day 3

[Composed 8/1/2018]

Today we had two amazing jungle adventures. The first was a guided walk through Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. As the name suggests, we crossed 15 bridges, 6 of them suspension. But it wasn't being suspended hundreds of feet above the ground that scared the kids: it was the bugs. When we started on the path, all three kids were freaking out over the few flitting insects near by. The thing is, we didn't actually get bit by anything today. I mean, the bugs in my backyard are far more vicious. Fortunately, after about 20 minutes, they'd calmed down and started to enjoy the scenery. By the time the hike ended, the kids were racing ahead of the group, just having fun.

We saw or heard a number of interesting animals: from howler monkeys, to bats, to frogs, to lizards, to a poor tarantula that just wanted some peace and quiet in his little hole. We saw a white hawk and a couple of other interesting birds, too. We also saw a puss moth caterpillar, which is the largest, cutest, and fuzziest caterpillar I'd ever seen. It was also, the guide explained, the most venomous thing we'd encountered all day. Touching that tribble like creature would result in 12 ~ 24 hours of intense pain. Nature sure is full of surprises!

I was curious how I'd do on the suspension bridges given my fear of heights. Ultimately, I did fine. The bridges had enough wiggle in them that I didn't exactly relax while crossing them, and I was always holding on to at least one railing (cause you know, if the bridge collapses, hanging on to the railing is what saves you). After the first bridge, J. and T. were comfortable with the bridges and did the remaining ones without flinching. D. was like me: holding on every step of the way. Of course, being quite a bit shorter than me he had to stretch his little arms to the max to keep a grip on the railing. But he pushed through it without kvetching. On the final bridge, D.'s and my slow crossing worked to our advantage: we were treated to a number of spider monkeys flying through the trees, a sight others missed because they had zipped through the bridge.

Between the bugs and bridges, it was a day of facing and overcoming fears. Hurray!

The hanging bridges walk was good prep for the night hike, so the kids started off much more relaxed. Before the hike, we went through the ground rules we'd come up with that day:

  • Rule #1: don't touch anything (especially if it's cute and cuddly!).
  • Rule #2: the guide always goes first.
  • Rule #3: if the guide isn't scared, then you shouldn't be scared.

With these rules in mind, we confidently followed our guide into the dark jungle. We were armed with low powered flashlights, while the guide had a much brighter headlamp. The guide worked hard to find animals for us to see and photograph, and we were encouraged to use our flashlights to do the same.

We ended up seeing a number of snakes, frogs, millipedes, spiders and other creepy crawlies. I was proud that the kids didn't just keep up, they contributed. D. pointed out an orange glass tailed snake. J. found a number of lizards hiding out under large leaves. And T. found a snake, which our guide caught and let her pet. The fact that we were tramping through the woods at night looking for scariest possible things didn't give the kids a moment's pause. Though, T. is still unexplainably terrified of daddy long legs spiders. She can spot and pet a snake without worry, but seeing one of these harmless creatures stroll by sends her into terror. That's fear for you, I suppose.

Both our guides today have been super patient with the kids and me! If there's one thing I know, it's that every plant and animal we walked by in the jungle had some super power and I was going to get my money's worth from the guide to learn what those powers were. I also know that I've got Shira to move things along when I start asking too many questions.

When I talked Shira into taking the kids to Costa Rica, it was exactly the kind of experiences we had today that was in my mind. Seeing monkeys, petting snakes and ogling venomous moths--that's what I'm talking about!

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