It was another early morning taxi ride from Antigua to Guatemala airport but that did at least mean there was very little traffic so we made it with plenty of time to spare. When we’d flown out from Costa Rica we’d been told that in Guatemala they could give us a credit card refund in exchange for our flight delay compensation voucher. So we presented it at the desk, more in hope than expectation, and, sure enough, were told that no way could they do that. For a refund we’d have to go to Bogota, Columbia! Oh well, we were just grateful that our baggage came off the carousel in one piece when we landed a short time later in San Jose.
Once more, Andy and Ana were there to greet us and we were soon on our way back to Labrador. Arriving there was just like coming home after a long trip – including the necessity of throwing dirty clothes in the washing machine! Luckily, Ana has a large capacity one which also washes quickly. And drying your washing in 30+C temperature isn’t difficult. High Summer has arrived here and it was noticably warmer than both Guatemala and when we were last in Labrador.
We spent the weekend with Andy and Ana just catching up really. Not doing too much as the heat was making everyone tired. Siestas all round were the order of the day! Although Jairo did come and visit us bearing a huge bowl of marañón or cashew apple. You are no doubt all familiar with the cashew nut that goes so well with a preprandial (mine’s a G&T, thanks). Well, that nut (strictly speaking, it’s a seed not a nut) grows at the end of a red or yellow pseudofruit, the marañón, which in Central and South America is pulped up and turned into a drink.
The reason you don’t see the cashew apple in your local supermarket is that it doesn’t travel well. Plus, to be honest, the drink made from it is a bit of an acquired taste – kind of dry like a crab apple, say. The part of the plant you do find in the supermarket aisle is that kidney shaped bit at the end and since there is only one cashew ‘nut’ per ‘apple’, in order to get a 350g bag of nuts you have to pick many kilos of fruit, separate out the nuts, roast them and then peel off the inedible outer covering. Only then will you have enough to fill a small bowl. Now you know why they charge you so much money for that small bag of nuts.
For once, it wasn’t us creeping out at 4.50 am on Monday morning but Andy and Ana who returned to San Jose so that Andy could continue to look after those of Her Majesty’s subjects who needed help. Having travelled extensively for the previous 6 weeks it was time for us to put our feet up and relax at home in Labrador for the last few days. Well, I say put our feet up but we couldn’t quite manage to pack the binoculars away just yet. There was, after all, just the chance that we might yet see one more new species of bird to add to our already pretty impresive tally.
We didn’t have Andy’s car this time so couldn’t get to the river but we do have a favourite road close to the house which is reasonably quiet and is full of birds first thing in the morning. Since walking anywhere in the heat is very unpleasant after about 8.30 am we took to getting up just after the howlers started up at dawn. It shows just how rich the wildlife is in Costa Rica that we could walk through a semi-rural fruit growing area, with no primary forest left, and still managed to see, on our very final morning of birding, three new species, a Striped Cuckoo, a Bullock’s Oriole and a wonderful Indigo Bunting, a lovely blue coloured bird. We identified at least 75 species birds in the Labrador area, which is a pretty good total. Our final species count for the whole of Costa Rica came to 320 (plus two from Guatemala) which is more than a third of the birds in the country. Not a bad effort and much of it thanks to the great birding skills of Johan Fernandez plus our single mindedness in getting up so early and then standing there trying to identify the bird we were looking at from a field guide.
Andy and Ana returned from San Jose for our final evening and we went to a restaurant at Caldera for a farewell dinner and for an early celebration of Ana’s non-birthday (she’s a leap year baby and hasn’t even reached school leaving age yet!). We had a wonderful evening and didn’t get to bed until nearly 11pm! We have had a superb seven weeks in Central America and will miss our Labrador home. But then, our own home awaits us with all its familiar comforts and memories. And we have many family, friends, dancing, singing and yoga pals to catch up with, neighbours to talk to, the garden and allotment which await our attention and the everyday routines of daily life to conduct. Plus we can start planning the next trip.
And finally I can take a break from blogging. I hope that you have enjoyed following our journey and that I’ve managed to at least entertain and inform you. Admit it, you probably know more about bird watching now than you ever thought you needed or wanted to know.