I’ll never forget the moment – it was just before lunch.
Actually, it’s a bit more involved than that. You see, my band of culinary adventure junkies and I were off on a waterfall trek, to skip along swinging bridges over a jungle canopy and marvel at Nature's cornucopia near Miravalles Volcano, Costa Rica. It was then, just as our trusty guide delivered us to our ‘Spicy Limo’ (sort of farm tractor/wagon and now our exclusive shuttle to the trailhead) that I first witnessed the object of my affection – a Keel-billed Toucan.
It wasn’t love at first sight, for either of us. In fact, we heard the toucan call softly – a lilting “tchook tchook” – before we actually saw him. He was quite shy, hiding in the canopy, observing us unseen as we arrived and parked. Yet, he was intrigued. It was obvious.
My amazing guide, Diego, knew the little feathered devil was inquisitive. He whistled a few times, called, and coaxed. Suddenly, leaves rustled in the canopy and a blur of color flashed over us as this feathered harlot hopped from branch to branch for a better view. Oh, how he flirted! Yet, he was playing hard to get and our luxury limo awaited, so we boarded our ride leaving him to his amorous tree-top games.
I couldn’t stop thinking about him though, with that circus-like painted bill just like Toucan Sam's from the Fruit Loops box of cereal. Later, even as we hiked the trail on a quest for yet another pristine waterfall, I wondered if I’d ever see that beautiful creature again.
Within minutes along the trail, natural wonders popped up at nearly every step. Undoubtedly Costa Rica’s wildlife is super sexy, a region home to so much natural diversity, yet surprisingly accessible. Giant morpho butterflies the size of your hand – iridescent when they take to the air, yet cleverly camouflaged in repose – along with dozens of other colorful ‘flutter-by’s’ caught our attention. Like kids in Nature's proverbial candy store we were mesmerized as we wandered deeper into the jungle. Cork-screw snails with fine porcelain-like shells, grasshoppers dressed for Halloween, and ants that will eat you alive in a matter of minutes were just a few of our trail companions.
If the visual treats that tempted us along this Costa Rican canopy hike weren't enough, our final destination was the topper! An unreal, minty fresh swimming pool at the base of an ever-perfect 60-foot waterfall, complete with a diving platform. Damn, I forgot my swimsuit.
Tempting as it was, more adventures lay ahead. But wait, lest I forget! My feathered paramour calls! So, back we trek for the next part of the tale, including a wet and very muddy rendezvous.
What happens next? Does she fall for the bird? Join me in Costa Rica, or snag the blog feed below for the latest Spicy Adventure...
When my trusty guide announced he would be driving my 'Spicy' guests and I to Miravalles Volcano for our day trek – via a shortcut – my ears perked up. I love surprises, plus shortcuts on unknown trails thrill me. Somehow, traveling on unfamiliar jungle roads with the potential of getting lost just sounds more fun. Thankfully Diego, my Costa Rican guide, has nerves of steel and I trust his knowledge of the area completely. Comforting, because Costa Rica's Monkey Trail, as I learned later, is a notorious un-paved, pot-holed, slippery mess of a dirt road with a bad-ass reputation.
Lonely Planet guidebook describes the Monkey Trail as one of the top five nerve-shredding road trips in Costa Rica: “…This curvy mountain pass is famous for eating cars. Its narrow, plunging corridors snake through river crossings and shouldn’t be attempted in the rainy season, or with anything less than four-wheel drive. But those who dare to brave the Monkey Trail are in for one of Costa Rica’s most extreme thrills.”
Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, yet we weren’t prepared or disappointed. Thanks again to Diego for the element of surprise… like a wolf leading innocent lambs astray. Fortunately, this trek was planned at the end of Costa Rica’s rainy season so our chance of dangerous river crossings were reduced, nevertheless, a violent thunderstorm had soaked the area the night before.
A good way to start the day,
After 2 river crossings and at least a zillion potholes and pits, 7 km later we pass a sign that reads “Congo Trail Canopy Tour” (that’s another story) then, poof, the bad-ass dirt road turns to pavement and we pop into the village of Sardinal. Just like that, the Monkey Trail ends and the next adventure begins.
Have you traveled the infamous Monkey Trail?