Costa Rica, Day Two: A Hummingbird Tried to Kill Me

Dramatic? You may think so, but unless you’ve ever had a hummingbird charge at you while you attempted to photograph it, I don’t want to hear any of your lip. We went with Sergio on his bird count this morning, and he showed us the back side of the resort – when the brick trail ended, we kept going. Also, my hiking shoe purchase before we left home? TOTALLY worth the $40 for clearance Columbias. They’re mud-caked Columbias after this morning, but totally worth it.

So what did we see? Well, the hummingbird that tried to kill me, for one. He (or she, most likely. She had a lot of rage) was a purple crowned fairy. Before you make the joke I know you’re about to make, let me stress to you the amount of rage inside this tiny little bird. I had my camera zoomed in on her, messing with the focus – many birds here are smaller than the leaves; digital cameras don’t understand why anyone want to focus on a tiny dot, so I had to fiddle. Apparently Mrs. Sassy McSasserson didn’t like me taking so long, or perhaps she just doesn’t care to have her picture made, but she let out a mighty hummingbird battle cry, took flight, flew at me, and veered off at the last minute.
Other than THAT, let’s see… several types of tanagers, wrens, things that looked like our wild turkeys but smaller and they flew, evidence of wild pig that Sergio assured us were not aggressive. Since he AGREED with me that the hummingbird WAS aggressive, I guess I can believe him. We saw rattlesnake plants that hold nectared water in their blooms, waterfalls, moot moot (I’m not clear on the spelling, but I”ll Google it when I have better Internet access. Until then, if it bothers you, think “kingfishers”, only larger and reddish green) and a bunch of other stuff. So far, no monkeys, no sloths, no pumas. We did see a lot of leaf cutter ants, which doesn’t sound exciting unless you get to see them. 
We saw a lot, especially not in a designated rain forest type area. I have it all written down. The most memorable part – aside from the hummingbird – is when I thought I might pass out or throw up. Let’s just say that not getting a good lower body workout in a few months caught up with me this morning. Stairmasters and inclines on the treadmill have nothing on wet, mossy ground, rocks, and mud. Not muck, like we have in sunny, squishy Florida, but mud. Muck traps you; mud sends you on your merry way whether you want to go or not. For the most part, we went down first, which was hell on the quads as I tried not to slip. 
“Fall to the right,” Sergio suggested when I stumbled. To the right was a rock and moss and fern and tree and maybe snake wall; to my left, a ravine that didn’t look friendly. Helpful advice. 
Our reward at the bottom? The Arenal River, clear, swift water that tumbled over rocks down to… you know, I forgot to ask. We’re only at about 1100 feet here (according to Sergio), so it isn’t that fast of a river, but it still looks like fun. We stood at the bottom of the ravine, watching the water move, and then began our summit. Which totally sucked, because we were out of water, I failed to pack sunblock that would not run in my eyes, and I am fairly certain the Universe was trying to kill me. Sergio was a patient guide, stopping often to write down the names of the birds we saw, explaining things we saw to us while pretending not to notice that all my energy went towards breathing in and out without fibrillating on the path. We finally left the – jungle? forest? rainforest? Really heavily vegetated abandoned piece of property? I have no clue – at a horse path, at which point I decided I didn’t need to have my first horseback experience on a trail so steep all I saw for 30 minutes were my knees and rocks and ants. From there we climbed steadily, stopping for me to put my camera in El Cap’s pack as a way of giving myself enough of a break to figure out if I was about to pass out, vomit, or both. Fortunately, Sergio saw a green hummingbird in a tree, so I was able get it together long enough to get to the road, return to the room, and guzzle about three gallons of water. 
My clothes were soaked, but I don’t think it was sweat. To anyone in Florida who has ever said, “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity”, I have this to say to you: Go screw yourself. You don’t know humidity. My hair has doubled in size in less than 12 hours. I like it. 
Random notes: the path we traveled took us past some litter, which disturbed me. I thought of Pinellas County’s Clam Bayou and the idea that everything drains to the lowest point in any given watershed. The litter here wasn’t as prevalent as back home, but it shocked me. Naively, I didn’t expect to see any at all on the trails. It didn’t look like trash someone dropped; I saw a five gallon bucket. That’s the sort of litter I mean. I see recycling bins at many places, including our resort and the car rental places, but few trash cans. I saw elevated platforms with low sides here and there along the road; invariably, they contained trash in bag and free form. In some ways, this seems nuts – why not a can? In others, it makes perfect sense – they won’t fall over in rain and wind like a barrel. Of course, I assume the loose trash will blow out. 
What else? We went to a market, where I realized my Spanish needs work but isn’t as hideous as I thought. Make no mistake: it still sucks. I can, however, ask for beer and milk and crackers flawlessly – as long as I don’t have to ask for fat free milk or use the word cracker. So, you know, I guess I can ask for beer. And the bathroom. 
Tomorrow, the Arenal Hanging Bridges. We’ve decided to go with Sergio, which I imagine was his plan all along with the invitation to go with him this morning, but he clearly loves his country and knows the animals and vegetation. He talks about swimming with caimans (not as big as our gators) and his volunteers, who seem to be graduate students working on their dissertations. I’d love to plop him down with the Florida Studies group in one of our wetlands classes; sure, he’s all cool and collected in his rainforests, but let’s see how he does in the Fakahatchee. 

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.