They are also sometimes called Tink frogs, but I only just learned that from Wikipedia. The people in Costa Rica call them Dink frogs, and most of them don’t know that dink also means something else, so it’s cute like when your mother calls people wankers without knowing what a wanker is. Dink frogs earned their name from the extremely loud (especially when you consider that the noise maker is the size of your thumb) ‘dink’ sounds at night, and they are just one of the teeming millions of species that make the jungle so wonderful or so creepy, depending on your tolerances.
Before I re-insert myself into the roiling waters of DQs, FEI and MM, I simply must share a few of my impressions of Corcovado, which is in the south-western corner of Costa Rica. If you are interested in getting off the grid, getting lost or getting relaxed, I can highly recommend it. As long as you don’t mind the drive. Oh and your ride needs to be a 4×4 because of the rivers you have to cross in the last 20 km stretch of dirt road that is so rough everyone in the vehicle looks like a bobble head. You can actually strain your neck keeping your head from hitting the side window. No joke.
I had never really been in proper jungle before, and it made quite an impression – not just on my intestines, either. There is so much life, so many living noises, that it’s difficult to form coherent thoughts while you are there. The dink frog was one of the noisier animals that serenaded us, but by no means the loudest. The scarlet macaws can be heard for a mile, with their squawking that sounds almost like talking – the way Dutch sounds almost like English if you can’t quite hear the syllables. Everyone who thinks having these birds in cages is ok needs to see them in the wild to get cured of that bad idea. Scarlet macaws mate for life, and live up to 50 years. We came across three couples sitting in the trees on the edge of one of those deserted beaches you think don’t exist in reality because they are too beautiful. The racket the birds made was deafening but man were they adorable. Each pair sat snuggled up to one another and their behaviour was positively human. They kissed, bickered and acted just like married couples.
But the macaws were not the noisiest noise makers on the jungle block. No, that position at the top of the decibel ladder belongs to the howler monkeys. I learned that there is only one animal on the planet louder than a howler monkey: the blue whale. Now here is the crazy part. A large male Mantled howler monkey weighs only 22 pounds – that’s less than my wiener dog. But those little monkeys are LOUD. “Howler” is a bit misleading and more than a little simplistic. Here is the best description I can give to this haunting, deep and far traveling call. It starts out with some woofing that at a distance sounds a bit like a large dog barking. It then develops into a gutteral moan, and finishes as a deep roar. The frequency is so low that the monkeys sound much closer than they actually are – startlingly so. If I were an 18th century explorer spending my first night in the jungle, I would be TERRIFIED the first time I heard the howlers because it sounds like Godzilla and his cronies are out there in the inky blackness. And speaking of blackness, the faces of these monkeys are as black as the darkest night and so very expressive. A gang of them conveniently decided to have their meal in the trees about 30 m from the house we were staying in, so I spent some time gazing at their faces through the binoculars. I also couldn’t miss their giant balls, which were the colour of silly putty. As with the macaws, I think that everyone who wants to put monkeys in cages should have a little visit to their natural habitat and then decide if we really need primates in zoos.
I did meet a creature in the jungle that I would not mind putting in a cage and poking with a sharp stick. Unfortunately for proud Canadians everywhere, the ignobleman in question is a Canadian. At the very end of the road before you get to Corcovado National Park there is a beautiful lodge – it’s called Luna Lodge and from our brief inspection it looks to be a much better run establishment than Bosque del Cabo lodge, where we were treated either to total darkness and warm beer when the power was not working or to the constant sound of a gas generator when the power was working. Eco lodge my ass. But I wander. Back to the Evil Canadian. Apparently this fellow inherited some land, and is now making life hell for the owner of the lodge who purchased public access to the lodge almost 20 years ago. The Evil Canadian made a no trespassing sign and hung it at the beginning of the (4×4 only) track leading to the lodge. He told us that we were not allowed to cross his land to get to the lodge, in spite of the fact that three national park employees standing 20 feet away insisted that we were within our rights to pass. So we did. When we returned from our delightful lunch at Luna Lodge the Evil Canadian was not around, but a small white 4×4 was parked behind our pick up to block us. A Costa Rican woman announced to us that she was the wife of the Evil Canadian and that she would move the car only when we had paid her $10. Our friend who owned the truck breezed past her, and proceeded to back the truck out through a space between her car and a tree that was about half an inch wider than the truck. The woman tried to stop us by leaning on her car and poking her ridiculous pink Crocs into the path of the truck. I was helping our friend not hit anything as he negotiated the squeeze, and I gave him the arm wave to keep backing up, while telling the woman she’d better move her feet. I have to give this woman credit for having the cojones of a howler monkey, if not the brains. At the very last moment she moved her toes just far enough to save them.
All this was going on in Spanish in front of a bemused group of American backpackers who were looking for a ride back to a shower and a cold beer after five days camping in the park. We offered them a ride at least as far back as our lodge, which they happily accepted. And we foiled the Evil Canadian once more, because he had told them he would give them a ride for $70 USD. I was in the BEST MOOD EVER because of foiling the Evil Canadian, but our Costa Rican friend who owned our truck put the icing on that day’s cake . When we stopped to drop off our backpacker friends, he showed us the no trespassing sign, which he had managed to lift from right under the Evil Canadian’s wife’s nose after backing the truck nearly over her pink Croc’ed little toes. We celebrated by giving the backpackers all the cold beer we had in an icebox in the truck.
I know today’s blog wasn’t actually about horses, but it WAS about animals. I hope you can forgive my self-indulgence with today’s post. If you are just desperate for some real horse world reading, The Carrot has been very entertaining about the upcoming FEI elections these past weeks.