* Note: Click on images to enlarge for better viewing
No one ever stays in Los Chiles, Costa Rica. No one except us that is. Los Chiles is a sleepy little riverfront hamlet of about 7,000 people right on the border with Nicaragua. In fact this border area is still in dispute between the two countries; although hostilities have ceased, animosity has not. Leaving San Carlos, Nicaragua by riverboat, we transited the Rio Frio for about an hour to reach Los Chiles. We spent three nights in this quaint little village; enjoyed great accommodations and had some pretty good meals—getting away from the tipico cuisine of our rustic eco-lodge on the Rio San Juan.
Three Caiman & a Heron
We are getting used to our new currency in Costa Rica, colones vs. Nicaraguan cordobas ($1 USD = 500 colones). A beer in Costa Rica (typically Imperial) runs about 1,000 colones (or $2 USD). For a mere $2,000 USD you can become an instant millionaire ($2,000 USD = 1,000,000 colones). So there you go. By the way, Imperial is a very good cerveza (especially served ice-cold as it is down here); the label comes with a large, black Thunderbird on it and looks very germanic.
American White Ibis in Flight
I’m glad we spent the three nights in Los Chiles, because if we hadn’t we wouldn’t have met Oscar or our boat driver Augusto. Augusto piloted our small river craft down the Rio Frio (Cold River) towards Caño Negro in the ongoing quest to photograph the local wildlife. Augusto was extraordinary in helping me to get the shots I wanted, and we spent almost 3-hours on the river (probably the most beautiful river I’ve ever been on). Leaving the dock early, we were the only boat out and about, and we had the river entirely to ourselves.
Kingfisher Eating Breakfast
Returning dockside 3-hours later the large tour boats were loading their gringo tour groups and just heading out. Unfortunately for them, all of the monkeys, birds, caimans, turtles and lizards were settling in (and out of sight) for the hottest hours of the day. They weren’t going to see squat. And even if they did happen upon some unlucky specimen, their noise and constant chatter were sure to quickly scare them away. Augusto, on the other hand, was a master at gliding his small boat up close and silent providing photographic opportunities only dreamed of heretofore.
Monkeys are the hardest creatures in the world to photograph bar none. Followed quickly by birds-in-flight. And in the bird family nothing is harder to photograph than the Kingfisher: small, fast and very skittish. Augusto got me some great shots of both Howler and Capuchin monkeys, Kingfishers, American White Ibis, Anhingas (Piano bird, Snakebird, Darter or Water Turkey) and the Common Basilisk lizard (aka Jesus, Jesus Christ lizard, or Iagarto de Jesus Cristo, for its ability to run on the surface of the water). In other words, Augusto helped me to photograph the impossible (the title of this post). Photographing some Caiman, and other assorted wildlife, was just the icing on the cake.
Our new friend Oscar, restaurant and tour company owner, arranged transportation (by pickup truck) for us this morning from Los Chiles to La Fortuna. We could have gone by local bus (after a fashion), but the truck saved us a lot of time and inconvenience. We’re finding that it’s harder to get around Costa Rica (at least in the north) than some other countries we’ve been in. We’re staying in a VERY upscale hostel for three nights, and it’s almost like culture shock—a week ago we were living primitive & basic in the Rio San Juan (with the bats and the bugs), and now a few days later we’re living with the beautiful people (A/C, hot water, soft beds and even television).
Today we will be visiting the “Hanging Bridges of Arenal” deep in the rain forests surrounding Vulcan de Arenal. Vulcan de Arenal is an active volcano, often spouting its lava and puffing its smoke, but it poses no real threat to the people of La Fortuna at this time. I saw the hanging bridges 5-years ago when first visiting Costa Rica, and I was pretty impressed. Joel loves suspension bridges, so this should prove to be a real treat for him.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Reporting from Los Chiles, the Rio Frio and La Fortuna, Costa Rica . . .