Day 008 12th Feb 2010. Costa Rica

Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.

Reached port early and we were in the nowhere. Just a port area so we had to take a ship tour to get anywhere.
Minibus packed with anxious travellers ready to explore the rainforest area. Thought this would be the ideal trip to make some comparisons between the rainforests of Australia with those of South America.
Drove for 40 minutes on reasonable road to the forest. Up the hill and had to climb through the fence at the locked gate to the path. Very interesting flora: Heliconias, ginger and palms grow abundantly on the forrest floor and draw hummingbirds, insects and other pollinators to their flaming red orange and yellow bracts. Creeping vines of many varieties grow on the tree trunks and use grappling hooks and other devices to reach sunlight. They twist and turn into intriguing shapes as they smother the tree trunks. Epiphyte bromeliads also adorn branches of trees. The cone shaped plant collects water in its cistern like structure. Further on, the buttress roots have evolved to hold the towering trees steady. The thin flanges radiate out in all directions from the base of the trunk like the fins of a rocket. The largest can be 3 meters high and extend up to 5 meters from the base. 
Walking palms literally migrate across the forest floor only loosely attached to the ground. From a vantage point the Atlantic coastline wove a strip of golden edged blue for as far as the eye could see. The cool breeze was a welcome relief as we were gaining altitude rapidly within the forest.
The soil of rain-forests is thin since leaf litter decomposes rapidly and nutrients are swiftly recycled. Heavy rainfall further leaches the soil.The floor is sparsely vegetated and rain can take up to an hour to reach from the canopy. We could feel the danger as we gingerly transversed the rocks, bricks, timber planks,mud, tree roots and vines.
We reached the first of the suspension bridges; These rather old, rusty and paint peeling suspended walkways 80-92 metres long and 20 metres high, held aloft by steel cables, permit viewing of the flora and fauna. Built for utilitarian purposes before the canopy tour concept took hold they are unnerving structures to negotiate but we braved the experience. Only three more to go; the other two had been washed away by the recent mud slides. Midway across one bridge, a massive tree with spikes all up its trunk, similar to very large rose thorns, rose from the valley some 20 metres below and towered at least as far again above us. Further on our first sighting of a Toucan with his distinctive call and colourful beak. Easily recognised by their over-sized bills they are found from 610 metres to sea level. The keel-billed toucan we saw has a banana yellow chest, a black body and a startling rainbow striped beak. We stood mesmerised for 20 minutes just waiting for him to move to get a better photo. He was more interested in getting food and flew away as quickly as he had arrived. Not as lush and dense as the rain forests of the east coast of Australia, but none the less, very interesting.
Back to the mini-bus and off to a resort high in the hills. Relaxing, cool tropical paradise. Bromeliads perched like cockatoos adorn the branches of all the large trees, are in flower. We are offered a light lunch of the sweetest pineapple, red papaya and watermelon. So refreshing to our parched throats. The little craft shops were full to overflowing with Indigenous crafts including masks with a brightly painted toucan perched on the head of a  tribal person, other timber cavings, ocher pottery adorned with traditional motifs, carved gourds, miniature ox-carts, colourful hemp rope hammocks and coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee. The staple item.
Returning to the ship we cross a river of crocodiles. Many were seen from the bridge over Rio Tarcoles sunning themselves along the banks. Since gaining protection in 1981, the numbers have multiplied and provide a tourist attraction. Back on the highway, the police radar patrol was evident. Several cars being pulled over and presumably booked for some offence not necessarily speeding.  
On board after another exhausting day and time to reflect the similarities of the rainforests of different continents.

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