Time to head down south for some fun in the jungle and the largest gathering of Dipterists this grad student has yet to see! I figured I’d try and make a travelogue of short entries for this whole experience day-by-day (including the days when I have no internet, so expect some days with multiple posts) which will include some of the highs, lows and miscellaneous stories each day.
Today, we go into the jungle! After a relatively slow, but very good, breakfast at the Adventure Inn, we piled into what was to be our first of three taxis to begin our journey to El Copal Reserve. Our driver Roland was extremely helpful, especially when he realized that the city we were trying to get to was much further than he had originally thought when we had agreed on a fare the night before! Without missing a beat, he drove us to Cartago, found us a 4×4 taxi, and made sure that the driver was ok with splitting what we had paid Ronald! Altogether some amazingly nice people. Mario then drove us through the winding and progressively worsening roads to El Humo, where we met up with our final driver of the day, Maya. After loading all of our gear (and Andrew) into the trunk, we set off for one final, wild ride up into the mountains. As we climbed higher and higher up the mountain and the clouds began to draw closer and closer, the habitat around us changed from sugar cane and cattle farms to beautiful tropical rain forest with flowers blossoming all around. Before we knew it, Maya had us into the lodge with only a few minor scrapes on the underside of the truck! Since Gil is the only one able to converse in Spanish, the rest of us got to look around and ogle over all the amazing places we’d be exploring in the next 4 days, while he arranged our ride back to San Jose and how the lodge worked. The station itself is rustic, but comfortable, and our hosts couldn’t be friendlier, or better cooks! Beto and Patricia welcomed us with smiling faces and freshly prepared lunch (rice, palm heart, coleslaw, and fried beef) and after getting settled into our rooms, we headed off into the jungle to find us some flies!
The weather today wasn’t overly great with constant overcast, making the collecting a little slow and the photography rather uninspiring, but we each came out of the jungle 4 hours later with new insects we had never seen before and ideas about how to make the next few days as productive as possible! A quick rest to pin our insects and tally our birds, then off to dinner (vegetable soup, rice & a burger pattie) and pleasant conversation with Beto and Patricia (thanks to Gil), topped off with dulce, a raw, condensed sugar cane product that was a great way to finish off the evenings meal. Talk of an evening hike quickly ended as each of us realized our beds were calling ever so loudly! Perhaps tomorrow night…
The sections of San Jose and Cartago that we drove through today were some of the better looking Latin American towns that I’ve had the chance to travel to. No mountain-side slums, few run down buildings, plenty of people out dressed for work and ready to go! And the driving was far and away the safest I’ve seen south of the USA!
We heard Total Eclipse of the Heart in both Spanish and English on the way to El Copal, in 2 different taxis… what are the chances?
The drive from San Jose to El Copal was about 2 hours, including 2 taxi changes and some mountain road construction.
The bird fauna here is not what we were expecting, with more lowland Caribbean species around than we thought we’d see.
When we mentioned we studied flies, Beto asked if we knew Monty Woods or Jeff Skevington, who both work in Ottawa at the Canadian National Collection! Jeff is actually my co-advisor, and had been at the station only 2 weeks before we got here. Small world!
Speaking of small world, I happened to notice that the t-shirt Beto was wearing on our arrival was from the YMCA of Hamilton-Burlington, two cities that are about a half hour from Guelph. This is getting weird.