As promised, Richard did show up around 6pm to inform me and Jay that we would be taking the earlier tour. Fortunately, at the time, I was in the kitchen cooking my dinner, so there was no further encounter with him in the upstairs hallway. He almost didn´t produce my park pass, the bastard, claiming he´d completely forgotten to procure one for me. But then he came back later, pass in hand. Creep.
Anyway, the turtle walk was totally surreal. Our guide, Maria, didn´t seem to have a whole lot to say, and her West Indies patois was incredibly difficult to parse out. The non-English speakers on the tour all but gave up on her. It was a beautiful night to be on the beach: full moon, big silvery waves. Unfortunately there were waaaaaaaaay too many people, despite the whole timeslot dance. The park has a cadre of volunteers to monitor the turtles, tag and measure them, watch out for illegal poaching, etc. When one of the volunteers spotted a turtle laying eggs, we all crowded around for a look. It was cool, but also very weird. I mean, how would you feel if a bunch of people got all up in your business with a bunch of infrared flashlights?? As somebody said earlier in this trip, "You almost want to tell the turtle: Ma´am, I apologize for the intrusion!" True dat. But it was still a groovy and unique experience.
And then we spent a bunch of time standing around on the beach, not getting any further information from Maria, unlike the other tour groups whose guides were spouting off turtle tidbits and other info. We watched one turtle come lumbering out of the surf, take one look at the ginormous crowd, and whip a u-turn back into the sea. Can´t blame her one bit for that decision! We did watch another huge turtle make her way back into the ocean, having finished the work of laying and covering up her eggs. Those things move pretty fast, considering it´s like dragging yourself up and down the beach on your elbows. The whole thing reminded me of that episode of "Ren & Stimpy" where they did the nature show... and if you get that reference, you´re even more twisted than I thought! ;)
Sadly, it's still common practice to steal turtle eggs right from the beach. They're believed, among other things, to have aphrodesiac powers. The Costa Rican government has launched some interesting PR/educational campaigns to discourage this activity, and there were posters up all over town. These are two of my favorites, each taking a slightly different approach to the same message: Hey, dude, listen up! It is so NOT COOL to consume stolen turtle eggs! They do not make you more of a man! Cut it out!
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