Episode Thirty Three – The Way to San José

The time we spent in Tortuguero felt like no time at all – probably because it wasn’t really any time at all. The community around us seemed to live in a different dimension in that respect: one the one hand, I felt like they were in slow motion compared with us, but on the other, one of their days seemed like nothing in the grand scheme of things. They seemed to plod languorously by the flip-flopped, hammocked permanent residents like the turtles we saw sliding to the sea: I guess ‘permanent’ is the word. There was a reassuring constance about the place – a sense that the community would shift and change only superficially, its roots and trunk remaining firmly grounded and secure.

So when, after our 5am start and long, bustling day of activity and whirlwind wildlife, we were up again at 8 for our ride to our next destination; I felt like a tiny eddy of wind briefly unsettling a puff of sand before briskly sweeping on my way. Better yet, and more cliché for a reason, as part of an endless tide I could just as easily have been a single wave, depositing a little sand onto the beach and washing away a little more.

Give and take, take and give - I like to think I had a symbiotic relationship with Tortuguero...

Either way, I was negligible. Of course, to me the experience was the opposite: I will probably never be an arm’s length away from so many different species of life anywhere else in the world. So many different methods of surviving in a puma-eat-puma climate, from poisonous claws and razor-sharp jaws to lukewarm-blooded, barely-moving forms housing a whole host of algae, moss and micro-organisms in exchange for camouflage and an unassuming presence in the trees.

The sloth is the only animal other than the dolphin which smiles.

I’m talking, of course, about sloths, who carry a whole ecosystem on their backs as they dangle through the trees, all but invisible, between naps. The Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary was one of the first things we took note of on our way into Cahuita, and we vowed to make it a priority during our two full days there.

The eye-catching statue outside of Aviarios. Some scientists believe these giant sloths still exist in the Amazon.

We left Tortuguero by boat to Moín and taxied from there to Cahuita for $10 each, plus an extra $2 each for Playa Negra three minutes on, and the gullible-tourist tax which magically turned $24 into ¢20,000 (the equivalent of $40). Then we rested. We rested in the hammocks suspended on our patio, we rested on the beach while horses cantered past, we rested in a non-vegetarian-friendly Caribbean soda which served me a piña colada and a whole red snapper fish – head, eyes, and bones included – we rested in our shared and mosquito-netted bed.


The next day I rested some more. I say ‘I’ because Mum went out and wandered around, taking in the neighbourhood, while I lounged in my hammock and watched starfruit drop from a nearby tree. It wasn’t until Sunday that we made it to the sloth sanctuary, and even then it wasn’t easy – but the meandering route to the bus terminal and the shame of not having prepared such critical vocabulary as ‘sloth’ and ‘sanctuary’ was one of the most worthwhile struggles of my life to date.

Baby sloth! Ridiculously cute or a teeny bit ugly? I can't decide.

I forget the name of the guy who showed us around, but he was the son of one of the women who seemed to be in charge, and the grandson of the founders of the sanctuary. At first when we met him, Mum and I exchanged nervous glances in response to his abrupt and seemingly fed-up disposition; but as soon as the silly sloth song and informative video were over and the sloths were in sight, he lit up and animatedly chatted to us about all things ‘oso perezoso’.

This guy didn't bond well with the other sloths so they gave him a bunny rabbit to cuddle.

Whatever his name was, the thoroughness and affection with which the guide told us all about the sanctuary, the sloths and the sloth in general made the tour a well-rounded and fulfilling hour or two, and even after meeting and greeting four resident sloths, cooing at babies and taking a serene glide through the canals where we’re told there was a sloth in the trees although, again, I can’t be certain I was staring at the right stationary blob of shadow; we hung out in the café with Buttercup who smiled sleepily at us and reached out her Andrew-Marr arms when we passed by.

It took all my self-restraint not to reach out and pick her up.

As this was our last evening in Cahuita, we picked up some postcards and souvenirs and checked out the bus situation for getting back to San José the next day. There were direct buses every hour in the morning, and then another at 2:30; however, when we showed up the next day for 11am, all ready to go, the bus was full and we weren’t allowed to buy tickets. Instead of waiting a good three hours, we instead bought tickets to Limón on the advice of a friendly fellow traveller who then helped us transfer buses when we arrived there.

I'm going to miss this place...

Back in the capital, we checked back in at Casa del Parque. We were booked in for a day tour of some of San José’s surrounding attractions and our pickup was at 6 the next morning. My malaria pills were starting to play tricks on my system, but I went to bed hopeful that I’d make it out for the tour the following day.

This is what I had to look forward to the next day.

I look forward to updating you all on this last adventure as well as what Grant and I have been up to. However, we’re travelling light to the Pacific and I took the hard decision to leave my computer behind, so you won’t be hearing from me for a little while. I hope you all manage to get on without me! : P

All the best to everyone, and I’ll be back again soon.




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