Monday, 16 February 2009

Fer de Lance

This Time Last year

It's a rest day at the Laguna del Lagarto. I watch birds before breakfast and do my laundry after.

I spend the rest of the morning reading on the deck and go for a short butterfly walk in the afternoon. Looked at the caimans in the ponds.

Usual stuff in the evening. Dinner and a couple of drinks.

This Time in 2007

After breakfast we get ready for a paddle up the Rio Bartola. For fun we decide that we will all paddle together in the traditional canoe. I'll take the bow and Carlos will take the stern and Lee and Florence will sit in the middle.

First of all we paddled over to the Ranger Station to see if the Ocelot was there. we;'d heard that they had raised an orphan and it still came out of the forest to visit from time to time. It wasn't there.

At first the river is slow and wide. It's clear too and you can see plenty of fish underneath the boat. Carlos, as usual pointed out the bird-life. The highlight was a Violaceous Trogon. We also saw plenty of Howler Monkeys in the tree-tops. It is very quiet on this river and we saw only one other boat all day. Someone fishing.

The sun beat down, and strangely we saw a Brown Pelican - wouldn't normally expect to see these on a forest river. We saw plenty of Blue Morphos glittering in the air in the dappled light along the forest's edge. At one point we saw a violet butterfly which was also iridescent but it disappeared before we could get too close.

After about an hour we came to our first obstruction as the river turned into a rock field. We pulled up onto a beach and then went exploring on foot to see if we could get any further on the river. The river widened again so Carlos and I pushed and pulled the canoe through the small rapid and everyone hopped back in to continue upstream. We did this three or four times as we continued until finally the river was becoming too narrow to continue.

As Carlos was pushing and I was pulling the canoe, with Lee and Florence still on-board, through our last rapid, I heard Lee say "is that a snake over there?". No more than 2m away was a huge snake lying on the bank. It was about 2.5m long and about as thick as your forearm in the middle. It was also unmistakably a Fer-de-Lance. One of the worlds most deadliest snakes. Apparently you have about 4 hours to live after it's bitten you!

My first reaction was to get a photograph - though I didn't get too close! It was laid out in the sun and didn't move at all whilst we were there. It looked calm, relaxed, confident and unperturbed and possibly full as well. Carlos said they would coil before striking.

Even so Lee said she would feel a lot happier if I got back in the canoe. Surprisingly Lee was quite calm - all holiday she'd been telling us how she loathed and feared snakes.

After turning the canoe around we paddled back past the snake and started our canoe downstream. Somehow we managed to ride through all the rapids that we had walked through on the way up which was quite tricky in a 4-man canoe. We only bumped through once and only ran aground once too. It was here that we saw a troop of Spider Monkeys.

We saw the Brown Pelican again and some more of the violet butterflies as well as a bright green Malachite Butterfly.

When we got to the mouth of the river we again dropped into the Ranger Station and this time the Ocelot Cub was there.

We then got our luggage together and got a ride back to El Castillo on the Park Rangers boat, which towed our canoes back too. We got back to the Victoria Hotel in time for a late lunch.