5th November       TREE OF LIFE RESCUE CENTRE

We explore further down the coast, driving to the small village of Manzanillo hoping to go snorkelling. When we get there, we find the waters are really choppy and the beach is deserted so we have to give the snorkelling a miss for today, instead heading back to Cahuita and the Tree of Life Rescue Centre, located at the end of a gravelly back road track.

Arriving at the centre, we find the owner with a tiny baby Howler monkey casually sitting on her shoulder as we pay our entrance fees!  The centre rescues and rehabilitates animals which have fallen victim to the pet trade, loss of habitat or accidents.

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We take a self-guided walk through the centre, firstly walking through a botanical garden with lots of interesting plants and trees, including heliconias, cotton plants, cocoa plants with large yellow fruit, agave plants, from which tequila is made, anise, used a food colouring agent, cinnamon and black pepper trees and gigantic regal palm plants, amongst others. An explanation panel underneath describes each one.  We seem to have the whole centre to ourselves today which is great.

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The energetic white-faced capuchin monkeys in the monkey area had all been kept as pets, living in bars or people‘s houses.  They are considered a species with a reduced population and are protected by the wildlife conservation law.  When the monkeys grow, they become harder to control and are either shot or left in small cages.

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We walk through the aviary, where a Crested Guan, large turkey-like bird native to Costa Rica walks on the netting just above our heads and looks and sounds quite angry!  Indian peafowl, toucans and a spectacled owl reside here.

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We enter the butterfly enclosure; unfortunately there seem to be no butterflies, but instead a lone inquisitive sloth munching away on the plants. Minu, the sloth is just hanging out, upside down of course in her personalised sloth enclosure with all the food she can eat!  She was clinging to her mother who was found on an electric line.  Every move she makes is super slow and pronounced, occasionally stopping to chew on a few leaves!  She is very friendly, moving closer towards us at a snail’s pace to investigate! Until Martin gets a little too close, and she lashes out him with her long claws surprisingly fast!

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Some howler monkeys hang out on monkey island.

Shakira, the jaguarundi was found alone in a nest whilst land was being cleared with a bulldozer; they are considered to be in danger of extinction.

Coatimundis, racoons, kinkajous, turtles, paca and peccary all live at the reserve.

As Puerto Viejo is known for its culinary delights, we plan on trying out Stashu‘s con Fusion restaurant as a treat but arrive to find it shut, typical we should come on the one day it is closed!  We then decide it might be a good idea to find El Refugio Grill in Punta Uva, but soon realise it‘s not a good idea as the huge pot holes in the road are impossible to see in the dark, making for lots of unexpected bumps. The majority of all the cyclists on the road have no lights whatsoever so we can’t see them either.  To top it off, when we get there, we can‘t find it anyway!  The places nearby are empty and relatively expensive.

So, we drive back to Puerto Viejo and find one which looks busy, Koki Beach restaurant, which is open aired looking out to the beach across the road.  We order a yummy sea bass fillet with mash potatoes and veggies, a tuna steak, cheese and meat stuffed yucca and 2 for 1 cocktails!  If only we could eat like this every night!  Sometimes you just need to treat yourself….

7th November

A long day of driving brings us back to the Pacific coast via volcano Turrialba and Cartago.  We begin to climb up into the mountains and drive through thick fog at an altitude of over 2000m where the traffic makes it slow-going.  We consider staying the night but decide to push through all the way to the coast.  Eventually we arrive just before dark and stay at a lodge in Portalon, a little town down a bumpy track just off the main highway and south of Manuel Antonio National Park which we’ll visit tomorrow.