Day four and the longest Marcos and I had together. As usual we met at 7am and headed off west to Parque Nacional Carara about a 90 minute drive from San Jose through early morning traffic. As soon as we arrived a large male and smaller female gecko greeted us outside the bathrooms, butterflies and hummingbirds played around the bushes surrounding the sign instructing visitors about how to behave in the park and I sensed this might be the experience for 2019 I was looking for. It was.
The trail map I set as the featured image belies the complexity of this incredible park where due to its location the environmental conditions created a place where rain forest meets dry forest. The interaction between the two creates a unique trail walking experience. I found it the kind of place I had to walk very quietly and slowly to avoid unsettling the wildlife. I had to have my eyes focused and my ears open because every branch shake, falling leaf, lines of hard working ants meant the possibility of a bird, mammal, reptile or insect species being around. I heard Growler monkeys and I saw a family of White Faced monkeys, three different species of lizards, a family of toucans, a wonderful woodpecker and armies of ants climbing trees over 100 feet high to clean them of leaves and take them to their colonies. The abundance of tree and foliage species made fascinating viewing in a range of light. I felt I was in a photographer’s playground. Simply put I felt in another world for the time I was in the trail. It was humid, hot and required the use of bug spray ahead of the walk to be comfortable. The park staff were helpful and other walkers were friendly. It was easy to access with good facilities. I felt lucky the wildlife was around to see, after all they migrate around the park on their own schedule. This actually made the experience more exciting because I did not know what I would find which made me excited with anticipation. It was really fun to go slowly around the park led by curiosity.
Marcos recommended we go to the beach town of Jaco for lunch. It was easy to get to and what I think is kindly described as a tourist town. None the less the beach was well tended book ended by forest and ideal for a change of experience for a few hours outside the central valley where San Jose is located. We had a well prepared Casado with freshly caught fish and enjoyed overlooking the Pacific Ocean lap upto the beach. Following lunch we headed off to Tarcoles for an ice cream and to view the afternoon crocodile meetup. Unbelievably I saw 22 crocodiles and perhaps missed even more in the water. I found it almost unbelievable to see so many crocodiles hanging out in their natural surroundings. Amazing!
The whole day was exactly what I hoped to find for a student experience, 1) access and affordability, 2) diversity of environmental influences and 3) those Instagram moments which become priceless the further we get away from them.
We headed back to San Jose and using the Ways App to guide us we took the old route back to the city through the mountains by the old trans country rail line. It was like taking a final sightseeing tour from our trusty 4×4 giving us amazing views as we approached the peak and a great perspective as we descended toward San Jose. We got back at 6pm, checked the car back into the rental car and walked back to the hotel.
I know when I am working with a professional guide-educator when they say something like “John, we talked about the positives, but I want to know from you how your experience with me might have been even better. What can you say about that?” I’ll deal with my response to this and my reflection about this approach in another blog. Briefly, I think any faculty member contemplating a program for an extended program needs a guide-educator like I had in Marcos Pitti. Not satisfied with what we did, Marcos wanted to reflect and improve on his work with me and I think this characteristic displays what I and my students should adopt too which is to experience, reflect and learn to make the next one even better.