Sunday 26 February 2023 – The lack of an appallingly early start to the day backfired on us slightly. According to the B&B information in the room, breakfast was served until 0930. But when we turned up at the lodge at 0915 it became clear that the service had only been until 0900. Nonetheless, Michele, the assistant manager, sweet talked the cook into rustling up a bit of scrambled egg and toast for us, which was very forbearing of them, and so we had a decent breakfast after all.
After that, we actually had a free morning, so I had plenty of time to sit down and update these pages, which sounds fine, but in fact there was a continual distraction as new birds came to the feeders nearby – the buff-throated saltator, for example
and the yellow-throated euphonia.
and so the morning passed peacefully enough until it was time for our first scheduled activity of the day – a cookery class. Now, those of you who know me will be well aware that I am to cooking as David Cameron is to Brexit. But I went along and tried to join in as best I could. Actually, it was an engaging three hours in the company of the Casitas manager, Nana, and her daughter Camilla, spent at the house of Vicki and Marcelino. Vicki is an expert cook of many years’ experience, a pillar of the local community, who is well established as someone who gives demonstrations of cooking traditional Costa Rican dishes. It being Sunday lunchtime, Marcelino honoured the local tradition by watching the football whilst we congregated in the kitchen and were directed by Vicki in the preparation of various materials.
Left to right above – Vicki, Camilla, Jane (stirring it as usual), Nana.
Vicki and Marcelino’s house is of a very traditional kind and they were happy for me to take photos of their very nicely turned-out dwelling – Lounge, kitchen and garden spaces.
It was interesting to note that the room walls don’t actually rise to meet the ceiling, so the house is more of a partitioned space than a dwelling with separate rooms. There is a mix of traditional and modern appliances – an old wood-fired stove next to an electric cooker (and a large LED TV so Marcelino could watch the footie).
Anyone who knows me will also understand my attitude to sharing photos of food, so I won’t be doing any of that on these pages, thank you very much. But it was interesting to see someone with Vicki’s skill at work, and one or two things – such as searing banana leaves in which to wrap tamales – were techniques that I’d never come across before.
The group (yes, including me) prepared tamales, empanadas and tortillas. Yes, we ate some of them as well. Jane practised her Spanish, and Nana translated for Vicki and Camilla and also told us about some of the traditions of life and cooking in that region of Costa Rica – for there are aspects of food preparation that are unique to the area, just as there are aspects that separate those of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the other central American countries. It was a pleasant, if dietetically challenging, way of passing three hours, and Jane and I left feeling very full indeed.
We just about had time for a cup of tea before another ripple of excitement passed through the B&B, because another sloth had been spotted! So we hastened down to the lodge to take a look and to try for some more photos.
It was a three-toed sloth. For all the sloth’s reputation for sluggishness, this one moved quite swiftly. Every time we thought we’d got a decent angle of view, all we had to do was look away for a second and all of a sudden it had moved to a different place. Eventually it moved to where we could no longer see it, but it was nice to have encountered another one.
Then it was time to go out for the other planned activity for the day – a night visit to the Tapir Valley Nature Reserve. So off we went along the now-familiar stretch of road to the reserve, where a small number of people were gathered for their evening and night walk around the trails. Abner, our guide from yesterday, was there, as was another guide, called David, who looked after Jane and me and an American couple called Lisa and Scott. As before, we were equipped with boots, and, this time also, torches to light our way.
It was clear that David was very passionate about the mission of the reserve as he spent quite a lot of time explaining some of the background to what the reserve is trying to achieve. He also set our expectations by pointing out that it was dry season (i.e. not raining much), and so there would be fewer animals around to see. We did find a few, though: a coati, snuffling around for bugs;
a nightjar, just sitting on the path and not minding a bunch of people shining torches at it;
a couple of red-eyed tree frogs;
what David called a Sergeant Bird, actually Cherrie’s Tanager, hiding away in the reeds;
and miscellaneous other frogs,
so not really a bonanza of wildlife spotting, not that it was something that was under anyone’s control. To me it was miraculous what David was able to spot. I was more worried about tripping up and falling face first into a pile of tapir shit, frankly.
On that topic, David was able to demonstrate the seed-spreading effect of the tapir, by showing us a pile of faeces out of which several trees were starting to grow.
as well as samples of the fruit of the tree that they share that special relationship with, the Parmentiera Valerii (commonly name the Jicaro Danto tree). Thanks are due to Jane, who has spent quite a lot of time chasing down the exact name of this tree.
These samples were at the reception area of the reserve to which we’d returned after over three hours’ tramping (and often squelching) around the reserve. We were about to take our leave when David got a call on his radio from Donald, the founder of the reserve, to say that he’d located a couple of tapirs, and they were quite close by. So we rushed out to find them. it was a female (a daughter of Mamita of the previous day) and an as yet un-named male, and they were presumed to be courting. I even managed to get a couple of pictures of one of them (the male I think)
and you can tell that it had just caught wind of us. But it didn’t seem perturbed by our presence, and after a while we left the two of them to get on with their nocturnal foraging, and headed back to the reception to take our leave from David and the reserve.
So, once again we’d been lucky enough to catch sight of the tapirs, which made the evening’s exercise a very satisfactory activity.
Today was our last day in Bijagua; tomorrow we head a couple of hours south, for two nights at La Fortuna and, doubtless, further adventures, quite probably involving wildlife, so I hope you come back to find out what was in store for us.