Thursday, July 21, 2011

{Costa Rica 2011} - Day 1 - Braulio Carrillo

We started our day off super early today with a 7am Rainforest Tram tour in Braulio Carrillo National Park. The park was about an hour drive from Tony's mom's house so we had to hit the road by 6am. Now, one thing I didn't realize is that this time of year Costa Rica is on Mountain Time so I was up and on the road at 5am CST. After a long day of traveling and only 5 hours of sleep morning came too soon. But with the breakfast of fruits and Costa Rican coffee that his mom had ready for me and the day full of fun things ahead I had no problem waking up. :)
When we arrived, we told them we had a reservation and they immediately knew it was ours because no one else makes reservations apparently. But because we were so early we had the tour to ourselves so we got a private tour and more attention from the guide which was great. Before the tram, we had a little walking tour to explain some of the trees, plants and animals that we'd be seeing. Our guide, Kenneth, was very knowledgeable and got us up close and personal to bullet ants, an adorable poison frog, and a giant spider. The rest of the wildlife decided to hide most of the morning. Once on the tram, however, he did point out a sloth and its baby up in the top of a tree. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a photo of the sloths. The other thing I wasn't able to photograph was the Morfo butterfly. HUGE and bright blue and too darn fast to photograph.

The rainforest tram is an open gondola that takes you from the rain forest floor up a small mountain and into the canopy so that you can see the various levels of growth of the forest and the wildlife that occupies it. In order to preserve the rain forest, Nicaraguan military helicopters were used to bring in the posts for the tram in order to disturb as little of the landscape as possible. There are 12 posts and 24 cars on the tram with a pit stop in the middle of the ride in case anyone gets sick from the height or needs a break.

The tram system.

They appear to take great effort to keep things in natural condition. The ride itself is about an hour long, so you're going slow enough to actually take in what you're seeing. Kenneth did a great job of pointing out orchids, centipedes, cicadas, and other stuff that I'm not sure any of us would have noticed had he not been with us. His English was really good, too, which helped out the gringa (that's me). :)

Tony, Lucy, Tony's mom Marlene, and me on the tram.

I learned quite a bit, but am embarrassed to admit one thing that I learned. Cashews come from fruits. Yup, they're the tops of fruits. I had no idea. He showed us a picture and Tony's mom vowed to find me some to eat. I can admit when I don't know something, and apparently when it comes to fruit I don't know much! When I was researching our pineapple tour that's when I learned that they came from plants, not trees. So at least I got that out of the way before our tour so I didn't feel like a huge idiot. :) I'll talk about that tour in the next post.
The trip back on the tram gives you some really pretty views of not only the rain forest canopy but also the mountains in the distance. I'm not sure any of my pictures will do it justice. The "broccoli trees" are the ones that stretch far above all of the rest. Oh, as a side note, this was my first time in a rain forest and on a mountain! Good start to the vacation, I'd say!

Lots of rain forest.

Rain forest canopy with mountain in background.
After the tour we hit the gift shop and I was confronted with a huge selection of delicious Britt coffees and candies including samples. I didn't get any coffees at the gift shop since it'll be cheaper in the stores but I did get a couple of baby sized Britt dark chocolate covered treats: coconut and cocoa nibs. Happiness in the palm of my hand. :)
Delicious Britt candies for the drive to the pineapple plantation.

If you're ever in Costa Rica and you are looking for a good way to kick off your vacation with an easy to get to tram tour that gives a nice intro to the area this would be a good option. For non-residents it's $50 for the pre-tour walk and tram ride.
Happy after my Braulio Carrillo tram tour.

We then had to figure out how in the hell to get to our Pineapple tour and set off in that direction. I was literally bouncing in my seat I was so excited to get there!

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