Thursday 23 February 2023 – We were awake quite early, which is a plus if you’re planning an early morning walk. One thing that has surprised me here is that the dawn is not marked by a tumultuous clamour of wildlife greeting the coming day. I’d expected to be deafened by the calls of strange birds and the howls of, erm, howler monkeys. But it hasn’t thus far been like that. One can just about hear the competing calls of howler monkey troupes – but it’s nearer to a penetrating growl or a gruff barking than a deafening shriek. Apparently the noise they make carries well for distances of up to a mile, and serves its purpose, which is to tell other troupes about location so as to minimise competition for the tree vegetation that is their main fodder.
So it was that we were up in time to depart at around 6am for the morning walk that was described in our Pura Aventura booklet. Although I knew that the route was basically along a dirt road, I had formed the impression that it was a good expedition to see and hear wildlife. My mental images of seeing exotic life forms skittering across the track in front of me or rustling ominously in the undergrowth were, frankly, overblown. The only real examples of wildlife we came across were what we now know are Black Vultures, 17 of which were resting in a tree.
Presumably, the number that were gathered there means that something nearby is on the point of death. Otherwise I can just imagine one of them saying, “I’m bored. What shall we do?” and another saying, “I dunno, what do you wanna do?”.
One thing we shall suggest to Pura Aventura is that they put some flesh on the bare bones of their description of this walk. For a start, it would be useful to know how long it should take. All we knew is that if you start out at 6am you can still be back for breakfast – but that could mean 10.30! As it happens, it took us about an hour and a half, which is perfectly reasonable length of time for a morning stroll.
Except it’s not a stroll. Like the Xandari walk of a a couple of days ago, it was rather up-and-downy.
Exactly how much harder it is than normal walking can be inferred from the statistics from my Garmin activity tracker. Normally, for a walk of three and a half miles, I would expect to expend 350 calories; for this walk the figure was 564. Not that I mind, but I can imagine that some people might be daunted by the steepness and skiddy surface of some of the track.
Another item we shall feed back to Pura Aventura is what awaits you at the top. We were told to expect a gate, beyond which was a track leading to a platform which gave great views over the countryside. The reality differed somewhat.
The vegetation got in the way not only of progress to the viewing platform, but of the view itself. One could just about get this
but only by crashing through relatively dense under- and overgrowth to an uncertain footing unnervingly close to a steep drop. In fairness the thickets would have stopped you from too long a fall, but it wouldn’t be a comfortable experience.
There was a reasonable amount of traffic on the “road” as we walked forth and back, much of it on two (motorised) wheels and all of it greeting any idiots out walking with a cheery wave. We were passed by a couple of chaps on motorbikes on a downhill stretch, only to find that the next uphill bit was too much for one of the bikes
so his mate had stopped, walked back down the hill and was helping him push his bike up to where he’d stopped. We passed them as they were struggling (cheerfully, it seemed) with this recalcitrant bike – thankfully they refused our offer of help – and it became clear that they made it back up to the working bike, which was then used to tow the other along the now-level track.
The implication of this is that a tow rope is an essential part of a biker’s gear in these parts.
We got back to the hotel, where we discovered that we would have got a better chance of seeing wildlife by staying put. Whilst I did various things but mainly had a short kip, Jane sat quietly on the veranda and noticed that there was a troupe of Howler Monkeys moving around in the trees nearby. So she took some photos
including this one of a mother and baby, which nicely illustrates the prehensile tail that is a feature only of new world apes; African apes do not have this, it seems.
You can just about make out the baby clinging on for dear life as mother hangs upside down from the branches.
Jane was good enough to alert me and I got a little bit of video, too.
Then it was time for breakfast, which was once again a good meal, and further gave us the chance to see more wildlife. Jane spotted a Great Kiskadee on the railings opposite us
and a couple of vultures did a bit of yoga by the pool.
This Tree Pose is alleged to help them warm up for the day, or perhaps the heating of the black feathers helps rid them of parasites, or it may possibly aid their digestion.
Anyway, there was no shortage of wildlife action, and it continued after breakfast. As I toiled in a creative fervour over the blog entry preceding this one, Jane once again quietly sat outside to see what happened. And before you know it, along came a lizard – quite a big one, so Jane got snapping.
I managed to get some stills and a bit of video as well.
Jane later saw a woodpecker, sadly it was too skillful at hiding itself among the branches to enable any good photos, but all in all it was a good morning, wildlife-wise and it was an agreeable prelude to spending the rest of the day at leisure. One has to grasp these opportunities while one can, as the next few days would seem to consist of a froth of activity once we reach our next destination.
For tomorrow we leave the very pleasant hotel Luna Azul, and head off in the direction of Bijagua. Most of the day will be spent in transit, or rather in a Toyota RAV4 (only slightly scratched), but there is a possibility for some photogenic excitement en route. You’ll just have to come back to find out whether this is the case, won’t you?