Tag Archives: Reptiles

Crossing the Mountain of Death

This morning I woke up at 5:45 for having slept too much yesterday. That was way early, but I guess some days are just like that.

I had breakfast by myself, but were joined a bit later by Jerker (Sweden), Mark and Kathy (Canada) as they were also scheduled for an early leave. We should have been picked up at 7 am, but apparently 7 am meant 7:45 (hora tica).

Kathy and Mark

Sunrise

We were picked up by La Chanchita (the same boat that took us to Bahia Drake) and the boat was loaded when we left for Sierpe. The same Canadian couple that let me borrow the sunscreen on my way here were on their way to Palmar Norte as well.

The tour from Bahia Drake was quite calm. We took a shortcut through some beautiful mangrove rivers.

We arrived there before 9 am and Kathy, Mark and I exchanged good bye hugs and then I gave the other Canadian couple a ride to Palmar Norte where we finally were able to get money out of the bank !!!

And then I set off towards the coastal highway and the north. I stopped at Dominical for a short break and some lunch and a visit to an art gallery where I got a few souvenirs. At this moment I had still not decided whether I should travel by the coastal route or cross the Mountain of Death. The last time I crossed the mountain of Death I was scared shitless and it was soooo cold. Less than 7 C. The road was wet and slippery, it was raining and buses and trailers were passing eachothers in curves that ended up 400 meters down. For a week now I have dreaded the Mountain of Death. El Cerro de La muerte got its famous name because in the old days when travellers were crossing the mountain from the south to the capitol area, they often froze to death because of the temperature differences from the coastal areas. In the later times it kept its name due to serious traffic accidents with cars over the years.

And just because I was scared to cross the Mountain of Death – I decided I had to go that route ! All the rest of my trip has been pure extreme sport. Why not this trip?

Just 10 kms from the Intersection I found Costa Ricas biggest Reptile Park – Reptilandia. It was awesome. A great amount of rare reptiles and amphibians. You may have guessed by now that I am quite fascinated by those…  Of course I stopped there and spent a good deal of time there.

The route further on was beautiful. Nature was so gorgeous. It was incredibly scenic!. Of course I remembered very wrong how bad the road was and I had a blast crossing the moutain route.


I arrived in Cartago at 4 pm. Just in time for the metropolitan rush … And even better yet… I had no fucking clue on how to drive to get to Heredia where my family lives the easiest way and … My phone was dead since this morning. Interesting !

I stopped at a pet store where the owner was nice enough to let me borrow her phone to call my Tica Sister and ask for directions. A man walked into the store while I was on the phone and he heard me trying to find a reasonable explanation on how to find my way around the city and asked the owner what I needed directions for. So he drew me a map.  A very easy map.

Take to the right at this street, drive until you get to a Y cross, take the left. Continue on that streep until you find Uruca. Take to the right. Follow that car until you get to the roundabout with statues and drive towards the Hatillos and then follow that road until you get to the Pozuelo cookie factory and take a right turn straight after that and drive until you are in Heredia. Then you can call your family.

I must admit. I got lost 1 time only and I managed to find my way back and find the right way. However I spent 4 HOURS crossing San Jose and I had spent only 5 hours driving from far down the south before crossing the capitol area. I was dead tired already arriving San Jose. No battery left on the cell and I stopped at Pops Ice Cream to get some fuel and charge the phone before finding out where I was about to go next to find my familiy. I was so tired I didnt remember I dont eat gluten product anymore and ate the ice cream in a cookie (which resulted in a terrible stomach ache later on) and then finally I managed to communicate with my family and get the last directions on how to get to the house. I found Wal Mart and they picked me up at a gas station just behind it. I was about 500 meters from the house when I didn’t manage to find the rest of the way any more.

Oh man did it feel good to arrive. I was close to falling asleep from how tired I was. I was fed and I stayed up to talk with the family for a bit, but then I was too exhausted and I just wanted to sleep. I think it was one of the most welcome encounters with the pillow in a LOOOONG time :D

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A Night in the Jungle

At 3 PM we met with our guide Pedro outside the guidehouse and we set out for adventure: A Night in the Jungle at Hacienda Baru.

We walked quite slow as we had to escalate quite a lot and due to the 35 C in the afternoon temperatures… we kind of didn’t have the energy to run up the paths. Of course we also walked quite slow because we were searching for animals, amphibians, reptiles and insects.

All while we were surrounded by the deafening sound of millions of cicadas. Did you know that some Cicada song can reach 120 db in loudness, being among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds? This is especially notable as their song is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans.

The first thing we found was millions of nymph shells. The Cicada lives underground for most of their life as a nymph and when its time comes it crawls overground and hatches out of the nymph body and becomes an adult.

In any ways this trip was a full jackpot. We saw so many animals, insects, bugs, frogs, birds and things I don’t even know what was. Our guide was really really good.

Our hike up to basecamp took us about 2.5 hours through the beautiful jungle.

During this hike we learned a lot about the local forest. Did you f.ex know that the Pochote Tree has developed thorns on their trunks to protect themselves from climbing leaf eaters that want to eat their leaves?

Learn more abou this in Jack Ewings story:
Who says you cant teach an old Sloth New tricks?

At basecamp we rested for about an hours time and Pedro gave us strawberry juice to cool down with. At 5:30 / 6 pm the Cicadas went to sleep and we could finally hear other sounds again.

As night fell we were told to search with our flashlights towards the trees or bushes to see if we could find animals (eyes reflecting) and in the first three I searched I saw eyes. Pedro set up his telescope and we got to see a beautiful boa snake. It had a yellow/beige belly with a few spots. In the dark it was difficult to classify it though.

At 6:30 pm we started with the Night Hike. We left all of our stuff in the kitchen except the flashlights and the camera and then we set off into one of the trails close to the camp. Magnus had luck and walked straight into a Golden Orb Spider nest. It was quite high up and Pedro didn’t reach up to it. I could probably have reached it at some spots, but not at others not.

Not far from Base Camp we entered a little creek and started walking up a river and oh boy did we see lots of animals here !!!

We saw 4 snakes withing just a tiny amount of time whereof; 2 Common Cat-Eyed Snakes, 1 Coral snake and the last one was brown, slender and I have no idea what species it was any more. The guide told me what it was, but I have forgotten and I cant find it in my leaflet.

The Cat-Eyed Snake is very mildly venomous, but the Coral-Snake has one of the most potent venoms in the world.

We also got to see a Poison Dart Frog !!! YAY ! About time if you ask me.

This is a Red and Green Dart Frog (Granular Poison Dart Frog). They don’t become over 2 cm long and live in humid habitats.

We also saw scorpions, Tarantulas, Other huge spiders, and lots of other frogs like this tiny, but beautiful Red-eyed Stream frog.

Once we got back to camp, Pedro started making us all dinner. Most of it was  ready already and it was just the dinner that had to be cooked over the BBQ.

Dinner tasted delicious and although it was just 9:30 pm we all went to bed straight after dinner. I was sooo tired.

We woke up when the forest started waking up. We were deep in the forest and it was so nice to wake up to birds singing, crickets chirping and for breakfast even 2 beautiful Chestnut Mandibled Toucans came to look at us.

Normally I shower twice a day while down here due to sweat and high temperatures, but Base Camp we only had an open air shower with 2,5 walls. When I entered to check out the conditions there was even a Scorpion inside the shower.

I just decided there and then that I didn’t smell bad enough to shower with scorpions …

On our 3 hour hike back to Hacienda Baru the highlight of our hike was an encounter with the beautiful Green and Black Poison Dart Frog.

We arrived at Hacienda Baru at 10 am and we had had a wonderful experience. It was my first time camping in the jungle and although we all had proper beds to sleep in we still had all the sounds and the sightings that we don’t get to see where all the tourists are :D

First thing I did when I got back though was to take a shower and rest by the pool. That felt soooo good !!!

Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning we slept in. The drive last night was quite exhausting and we were both quite tired, but we were up before 8 and enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the hostel.

We set off for the National Park and we were there before 9:30 and started hiking through the jungle. We met several guided groups looking at animals down the paths and they were kind enough to show us what they were looking at as well.

And at the end of the path, almost coming out of the jungle to the beach – we ran into Magnus’ parents… We knew they were in central america and that they are travelling around, but we had no idea that they were in Costa Rica and less in Manuel Antonio and less even in the same path we were walking on at the same time. Wow! Of course we planned to meet up later tonight before we split up again.

Right nearby to where we met them we found a Howler Monkey sitting in a tree and right next to it a moma Sloth and her baby! They were soooo cute!

Down at the beach we saw a Crab-eating Racoon family trying to steal stuff from peoples bags and running off with the stuff :D

The beach was absolutely beautiful and white beautiful clear ocean. The water temperatures were perfect. Just hot enough to want to stay there forever, but cool enough to cool you off.

The Racoons came and went and there were lots of them. People were yelling at them for trying to break into their bags, but thankfully the famous monkeys were not there because they are known to steal peoples cameras from your hands!
Another perfect reason why you should not give wild animals food.

On our way back from the beach we saw a Fer-de-Lance snake. It was quite well hidden, but a guide with a group had found it and we stopped to watch it with them. Photo is not very clear, but there is a snake there.

Quite exiting. We saw a lot more animals today and among them were the:
Howler Monkey, Green Iguana, Black Iguana, Golden Orb Spider (Nephila clavipes), Tree Frog, Keel Billed Toucans and several Hummingbirds.

It has been an awesome day for watching animals!

Night Hike in the Jungle at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre

We were pickced up from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde by Bernald, our guide, for the Night Hike. We were 10 people all together and we were then taken to Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre where we all recieved a flash light and instructions. If we feel anything climbing our legs – warn guide immediately because it could be a scorpion or snake. Yikes. Hehehe.

We set off and the first thing we saw was a giant Tarantula (and yes it was big).

and then we found a Two-Toed Sloth. They are a bit bigger than the Three-Toed Sloth and they move a bit faster. This one wasn’t moving at all though.

The Two-Toed Sloth is a bit brownish in the color compared to the Three-Toed Sloth that is more grayish in color.

We were also lucky enough to see our first snake today. This one lives high up in the branches so that it can keep warm from the sun. This one is a Green Vine Snake.

Thankfully, not all crawling on the ground are scorpions and this a grasshopper.

5 years ago I bought Jack Ewings book Monkeys are made of Chocolate. In that book the story: There is a Fungus Among us was. This is a very informative story about the Leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes is the most common Leaf-Cutter Ant).

Did you know they walk up to 2kms away from their home to collect new leaves and up trees as high as a 10 story building?
Did you know that only the queen is fertile and that the colony dies with her? She lives for about 20 years though.
Did you know that the leaf-cutter ants don’t eat the leafs, but that they grow a fungus on it?

All the members of the colony contribute directly or indirectly to the cultivation of the fungus. The most obvious of the seven distinct castes of Atta cephalotes are the leaf carriers marching through the forest with their green parasol-like cargo. When they arrive at the colony and deposit their leaf crescents, another caste takes over — the cleaners. Each leaf fragment is meticulously scraped and licked until clean. Later it is cut into smaller pieces, chewed, mixed with saliva and formed into a soft wad. The ants then place some fungus starter material, called mycelia on the medium and place it beside other newly planted fungus in a suitable chamber.
From that point another caste, the fungus caretakers, step in and take over the process. These ants are responsible for keeping the fungus clean and free from impurities and infection. They do this partially by physically removing any foreign life form that tries to grow on either the medium or the bread-like fungus.

A bacterium that lives in a patch on the ant’s skin produces an antibiotic that controls the mold. Beyond that, they have learned how to handle technologies more skillfully than the bumbling civilization above their heads. They can grow a monoculture and they have also learned how to deploy an antibiotic without the target pest’s becoming resistant to it.”

Another thing about leaf-cutter ants. Their homes are HUGE:

And this one is just a small part of it !

Read Jack Ewings “There is a Fungus Among us

We saw lots of other animals as well during this hike like the Woolly opossum, the Northern Raccoon, the White-nosed Coati, A few Red Tailed Squirrels, Bats, 2 Frogs (of a species I don’t remember), several species of fireflies and firebeetles.

It was a lovely trip and I had a great time!

After the Hike we went for dinner at Amigos Restaurant. The bar was full with Gringos as the Superbowl was on. However they had good food and once Superbowl was over all the Gringos left. We had an early night.

Rattlesnakes and fry bread on the menu

sunny.gifTemps are down to +35C today. Feels neat !
Some clouds could be spotted throughout the day.

Denise brought me in early at work today and I had a hectic day to try to finish up as much as possible before the end of the day as I am entering my first week of the holidays now.

The end of the day came way to fast and suddenly it was time to leave as Denise came to pick me up. We picked up Barbara from her work and went home. On the way home we drove past first one and then another honeysellers of the local honey they have here in Arizona. I got one cactus honey, 1 mesquite, 1 orange blossom and 1 Summerhoney with mesquite and cactus and flowers. Awesome. Thats gonna be sooo good :D

Heavy weight but who cares :D

About 6pm Denise took me to the bus station where I cought the shuttle to the airport in Phoenix where Amanda came to pick me up :D
I read a huge amount of my book Spirit Bound in the Vampire Academy Series as well. Its a really good book!

We drove directly from there to meet her parents and brother at the Rustlers Rooste Restaurant where they treated us to dinner :D

On the menu:
RATTLE SNAKE

Amandas parents are so nice, just like her. Not because they treated us to dinner, but because they have an aura of kindness to them and they are really really nice to be around :D The restaurant was awesome. They had a live country band playing for us (and the other guests) and a gorgeous view as the restaurant was located on top of a hill :D


Rattlesnake :D


My lovely host Amanda and her Mom.

It sure was a great day and a great night :D THANK YOU Amanda and Parents :D

The Wild side – Phoenix Zoo

sunny.gifToday we were down to +42C. Morning air humidity 10% but got down to 0% in the afternoon. Not a cloud in sight all day.

I woke up this morning and the blues was all gone… Nah. I really didnt feel blue but I was just reminded about this old song “All the blues are written for you” by Celine Dion when I started writing and got into it. Why should i be blue, I mean its hot, sunny and beautiful outside and it was Zoo day today. Amanda still felt quite sick (although thankfully she got better during the day) so I decided I had to make it to the Zoo even if I would have to go alone.
Amanda searched up the bus schedules for me and shipped me off to the Paradise Valley Mall where I could take the bus.

Today was a first for a few thigns. Taking the buses in Phoenix. Admitting that it may have been a bit hot during the day, EVEN for me. Sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.. Great. Cool. i love trying new things.

As for the bus system as long as Amanda left me at the bus station there was great communication to the zoo, but i would have not wanted to walk there. Its a looong walk.


Animal life is everywhere, not just in the actual Zoo

I took the 44 bus (44th to University) up to the 44th street and Van Buren intersection where I changed to bus 3 the let me off outside thePhoenix Zoo entrance.

However today were issued excessive heat warnings with temperatures over +42C. However considering how low the air humidity is (0%) after midday… it doesnt feel warmer than +39C. No matter how hot it feels, I have not often been in temperatures like this but I like. However my masacra didnt like.It was so hot that on my way to the zoo my make-up (mascara) started melting. I had to take it off! Which was rather easy. It peeled off like nothing.

I dont know how I can love such a heat so much, when its clearly even making even dead things suffer… yikes !


Phoenix Zoo

As for my trip to the Zoo I loved it. I generally love spending time in different Zoos and if there is a good big Zoo I try to go there (Until now I have been to London Zoo, Houston Zoo, San Diego Wild animal park (that is far better than any Zoo), Norway Zoo and several others + Wildlife refugee parks, National parks and other huge parks with nature and animals :D = countless).


A beatiful flower

I spent 4 hours walking around. For breakfast I had water, for lunch I had water and fried sweet potatoes / fried chicken, for middle meal I had water and ice cream… i know sounds like a sweet life but its difficult to feel hunger when your body is so busy keeping the system cool. Im really happy I brought my tanning lotion cause else I would have gotten a sunburn, however I absolutely positively think Im safe now moving over from SPF50 to SPF30. Ill move over to 15 soon enough and then…. THEN… yeah.. I am getting a tan :D


Rhino resting in the sun


A Cheetah walking in the shadows

When I left the Zoo in bus 3 from the Zoo to the 44th / Van Buren Intersection, I had miscalculated the time and I had to wait for almost 1 hour for the next bus to take me from 44th toParadise Valley Mall . I listened to good music and arrived in good time. I spent 30 minutes shopping 1 shorts, 2 shirts and 1 bikini before Amanda picked me up at 5pm.

When I got home Amanda wanted to relax some more and I went to the swimming pool. WOW it felt good to wash off all the dust and sand after todays walks in the Zoo with sandals only. Desert sand is nice to walk on no matter how hot it is (if you have shoes on – if not you burn).
I also spent some time reading and swimming more and reading more before I went home and Amanda and I watched TV before bedtime.

Its still amazingly hot so aircondition runs constantly. Even now at 11:30pm its +34C outside. The lowest temps we have been predicted are on +28C between 4 and 6AM. YAY :D

Going to Liechtenstein for breakfast & returning to Norway

partlycloudy.gifToday was mostly beautiful and sunny, with some clouds to be seen, in the lowlands of Gossau temperatures were up to 27C and in the Liechtenstein alps temperature was down to 20C. Still beautiful and sunny.

Remaining guests: Roger, Ben, Steven and myself.

This morning my alarm was set to 8:30, I woke up before the clock rang due to the damn flies that sat on my face and arms and annoyed I tried getting rid of them. Benjamin and Steven were still asleep and I went out of bed to start packing my suitcase. No point in keeping up the fight. Flies won and I got up to take my shower while the others woke up and prepared their suitcases and backpacks we prepared for leaving. Christine had already left so we didnt get to see her any more.
Before we left though we had to have a picture session with Vinces snakes. First up was Benjamin and he took it very nicely as the snake was just hanging around his neck like a scarf. When my turn was up, the sneaky thing started curling up around my neck. I think in some of the pictures that were taken, I might look a bit scared. Hehe.

CIMG9678-2.jpg

Worse it was for the photograper. Steven was almost dying on himself :D Poor thing. But he did brave considering his snake phobia. In this photo Vince is putting one of the Pythons around my neck. I am still smiling :D

We were ready for takeoff. As we had planned impulsively yesterday we were going to Lichtenstein for breakfast! Pretty awesome actually. Especially since its so close, just half an hour away in car.

Now we were just 5 left. Ben, Steven, Roger, myself and of course our host Vince and we all fitted into one car now. We took off and drove towards the Rhine Valley towards Liechtenstein and crossed the border line. We suddenly noticed a change in car habits. There was a lot more of Lambourghinis and Porches and nice houses.

We drove through Vaduz and Triesen and Triesenberg, passing the Town Hall Rathaus, the Princes Castle, Schloss Vaduz, on the way before taking off towards Gaflei and Masescha where we would stop.

Our destination was a nice little cafe in the hills of the Liechtensteinean alps, about 900 m over sea level, with one of the most amazing views I have seen, over the Rhine Valley, about 900 meters over sea level.

CIMG9716-2.jpg

This nice, old lady took our orders of food and beverages and while we enjoyed the view and listened to some strange birdsounds we had a great deal of fun on this experience that would be the last before we all departed and went in separate directions. We had omelette with ham and soup and I also had one of the best apricot cakes Ive ever had before. The guys had beer, which I envied them a bit but I didnt want to spill the effect of the medicines that finally started kicking in in their work to kill this bad cold I have. Food was absolutely delicious and so it was being with these wonderful people that I have learned to appreciate as good friends these last days.

On our way back home we had planned to stop in Vaduz, but time was running and we did not have more time to spend on travelling. My flight time approached and we had to return to Gossau, SG, to pick up my luggage. All the guys came to the train station with me and it was really hard saying good bye.
Thankfully Ben came with me going to Zurich with the same train as myself and he saw me off at the airport, or else I think I would have cried leaving those wonderful new friends.

The train trip was however a bit sad. Ben feels like family as he is a direct link to Sam (for those of you that dont remember, Sam stayed with me for 3 months last year), and Sam I care about as my brother. We split as I had to enter the passport control to catch my plane and I was on my own again. I picked up a few bottles of local wine from Switzerland and went to the gate. On this trip I did not make a new friend like little Jonas on my way down but I did get to read my book a whole lot. I had to change airplanes in Copenhaguen and with just the right amount of time the plane started boarding when I arrived the gate, so I did not have to wait for long there. I arrived home safely and Im looking foreward for picking up Saffi tomorrow to have company at home again.

Vince, Thank you so much for a fantastic stay, thank you for all you did for all of us! You have been wonderful ! Roger, Steven, Ben it was a great pleasure to meet you all. I miss all of you guys already.