January 11, 2005
We left it until near the end of our visit and were unable to get a booking for the volcano, so it was the riverboat tour of Palo Verde for us. Finding an operator is not difficult. Your hotel can make arrangements, you can check out the places that have sandwich boards on the beach, or you can wait to be accosted by an enterprising local. We used the second option.
We were, happily, an extremely small group: three Canadian tourists (myself, my boyfriend, and another Canuck who was staying in Coco), along with our guide and his young daughter. Roberto picked us up in his van, and we hit the road at about 8:30am.
The drive east to Palo Verde took about an hour and a half, including a tour through the streets of Filadelfia and, partly alerted by other travellers, along side roads to catch sight of various birds. Roberto, as befits a tour guide, was pleasant and chatty and full of information. His English from time to time failed him (what's the difference between a wharf, a dock, and a pier?), but between us we figured everything out. As well as informing us about flora and fauna along the way, he was able to fill us in on some of the depressing details about farming in Costa Rica, such as farm crews rotating melons grown in bleak, plastic-covered rows so the fruit would have that perfect, evenly coloured look desired by North American consumers. Working in the gringo tourist industry was definitely preferable to working the fields.
Reaching Rio Tempisque, we boarded one of the waiting riverboats. Along the river, we saw (and heard) howler monkeys (also audible and visible in Hermosa itself), iguanas, excited capuchin monkeys eager for a free banana lunch, and alligators, also eager for other lunches.
But this is definitely a birder's trip: vultures, ibises, anhingas, kingfishers, spoonbills, egrets, several kinds of herons and, most excitingly, a laughing falcon which had just caught a snake for dinner. The meager 3x-zoom on my digital camera was not up to the task of getting good shots.
We were caught off-guard when Roberto asked us to tip the boat operator (we had nothing but pocket change).
On the way back, we stopped at a pleasant restaurant in Ortega clearly set up for the tourist trade for an excellent (included) lunch of mixed grilled meats and, yes, rice and beans. Then there was a penultimate stop in Playa del Coco to drop off our other Canuck, check out the town, and find a post office to mail our postcards.
From journal A Week at Playa Hermosa