monteverde


03-02-22
From the bottom bunk of my tiny wooden cabin decorated with plaid bedsheets, I thought, “Either sit here or book a night tour.” From La Fortuna to Monteverde there was tourism paraphernalia everywhere - ziplining, extreme hanging bridges, sloths, snakes, butterflies, and then the ever so curious “night tour.”

I jumped in a shuttle full of wide-eyed young couples. We descended upon the barely lit entry of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre in Monteverde. Our guide handed us all flashlights. I stood next to a slouching man wearing an obtrusive square backpack, holding an expensive camera with a lens about two feet long. Our guide carried a tripod with an impressive telescope, which solicited an interrogation from a bespectacled, mousey-looking young man. He employed some elaborate telescope jargon exhibiting (I guess) that he knows a lot about telescopes.

“Yep, that’s what it is,” said the guide.
“Well, I wish I could have one of those,” said the man with a smug grin.

I sighed a silent sigh.
Clearly, I had nothing to do with these people.

More than the wildlife, I observed the behavior of the local guides, the way they made their living, each leading their small group on these curated paths in the forest. The Ticos, for the most part, are so generous: they want to give the tourists their money’s worth. There was a competitive energy in the air among the different guides: who had the keenest eye, who could spot the rarest animal slumbering in the darkness. 

One of the other guides spotted a viper hanging off of a low branch, its body contorted in a figure eight, completely still.  The viper was of course, far from our defined path: to spot it in the thick of the forest was like looking through a diorama of many layers with only a faint flashlight in total darkness. Frankly I don’t understand how the guides could do it. I wondered what it would be like to have a vision so trained and perceptive. My life as a city-dwelling gringa turned me into a dull knife blade: I wanted it too, that sharpness, the ability to see what others cannot see.

Suddenly I felt embarrassed by my imperception.
It became a game,
“Look at that.”
“What?”
“You can’t see it?”
“Where?”
“That right there.” 
A stick insect camoflauged as moss on tree bark.
A frog smaller than a dime.    

Like adult children who needed to be fed by a spoon, the others in the group adjusted their expensive cameras at anything the guides pointed out to them.

“The thing about adult vipers,” said our guide, “is that they’ve learned to economize their venom. The adults won’t kill a human because they know that they cannot eat a human. It’s the babies that will kill you.” 

The guides seemed tapped into an animal folklore that you don’t read about in books. 

The viper sits still for hours and hours waiting for its prey. 

And the birds sleep alone at night, usually perched on an outermost tree branch. The further away from the trunk, the more likely the bird will feel the vibration of an approaching predator.

We shined a flashlight on a plump little blue bird, eyes closed, dreaming of tomorrow.







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