A boat full of monkeys and a river full of critters
The water is not pretty, it is a coffee brown, a brown akin to an old cup of coffee, you know the one; The pot that has been sitting on the burner for three hours, you pour into your favorite mug, add cream and then it doesn’t blend, it doesn’t cream, it just kind of darkens it and changes its complexion. That is what the Rio Tempisque (temp es kay) reminds me of. It is dark muddy water, perfect for hiding the multitude of critters that prey within its banks. Slowly and quietly flowing down the banks, almost undetectably so. It is a virtually unspoiled wild land teeming with crocodiles, lizards, iguanas, birds, snakes, monkeys and tour guides. For wherever there are cool things to see, there are people who will take you to see them for a price.
This was our second time touring the Tempisque, known as the most important river in the Guanacaste Region, and one of the biggest in all of Costa Rica. It is protected and preserved, and it shows. Unlike the Kenai River back home, there are no houses on the river, there is very limited river access, and other than the half-dozen tour boats, we have nary to see a human. Well we kind of changed that nary a human thing this time. You see the first time Tra and I did the tour by ourselves, this time it was the whole family, there’s a crowd right there. But that’s not all. Pastor Lyle invited us on this tour, along with four other families, for a grand total of eight adults and 22 kids. Yep, that’s right 22 kids, and most of them were under the age of 10. Quiet no more the Tempisque be.
Despite the crowd, it was a great trip. We saw crocs and snakes, white face monkeys and howler monkeys, green and black iguanas, birds of various colors and sizes, bats and even an anteater. By far the highlight of the tour, much like the last time, was the white face monkeys. You see this little critters are not bashful. In fact they are self- trained. They know when the big flat boat shows up loaded with brightly colored loud human monkeys, that bananas are not far behind. As soon as our bow hit the shore, the monkeys were on board and the screaming and laughing commenced. Cameras were smoking, batteries dying, memory cards filled and joy was seen all around the boat. The monkeys, well they just did what they do. The begged, stole, posed, grabbed, and even had an occasional fight, right on top of us. When I say on top of us I mean on our heads, shoulders, laps, seats, wherever there was a morsel of banana or apple to be had, they were there. Even if there wasn’t a morsel, but a closed fist that could contain food, they were there. It reminded me of feeding the fish in Hanauma Bay Hawaii. They come right to you knowing that they will be fed and they will not be hurt. They embrace the paparazzi in return for the reward. I truly believe it is something the kids will never forget.
Even the drive in and out to the boat launch was adventuresome. On the way in we saw a wild anteater. Never seen one of those before. I assume he was eating ants, and he pretty much ignored us until one of the other kids decided it would be good to go and try to pet him. He was stopped short, thank goodness. On the way out, Howler monkeys howling away, and I did my best to answer. I think that I may have offended them though because they started jumping and shaking branches and screaming really loud. Drama queens.
Finally, as we sauntered away from them, lo and behold right in the middle of the road a rattle snake coiled up. Danger! As we jumped out of our car and slowly approached, I waited for the distinct rattle and the quick strike, knowing from years of watching the Discovery channel that we need to stay a safe distance away.I was ready to try my snake catching skills, learned from watching Steve Irwin and Billy the Exterminator. Perfectly coiled, I was sure it was waiting for us to get close so it could strike, but alas a local friend poked it with a stick and it did not move. Dead from a fatal head wound, it was still an amazing sight at 5 feet long. And Jeremy, the only one with a knife, was quick to take the rattle as a trophy.
Our day ended with a quick trip to the food court in Liberia, a complete contrast to where we had just been. And as we waited for our food, we scrolled through the pictures on our phones and cameras and shared with each other. If we can determine the best part of the trip by the amount of pictures, then there is no doubt that the clear winners are the monkeys. Perhaps next time we will bring some chicken and see if the crocs will come on the boat like the monkeys did. I’m sure that’s what Billy the Exterminator would do.