Another beautiful day on the pacific coast of Costa Rica!
The plan for the afternoon is a walk through the salt marsh to observe the local plants, animals and birds. It was great to get out into the local vegetation during daylight hours, to experience all that we had head about but haven't had a chance to witness due to working at night. We all had a great time seeing unusual species of wildlife that are foreign to us in the states. Humming birds were plentiful along with other native colorful birds. After several hours of observing the sights, we head back to the research center.
We were informed today that due the the very late tide, our work schedule would be changing, which we were all delighted to hear. Instead of heading out for an overnight shift, we would be leaving right after dinner and would finish up by midnight. We were told to pack our gear ahead of time and to bring it with us to dinner, so we could get a jump on those leatherbacks.
I want to veer off a bit and share with you our dining routine:
Every day, we meet at 11 am and ride to the local restaurant. We are handed menus in Spanish but your choices are quite simple: eggs of some type, optional rice and beans, pancakes or French toast, and bacon.
You really can't go wrong with anything you order and the staff is gracious and delightful. We all start with a plate of fresh fruit ( banana, watermelon, pineapple and papaya), orange juice, and great Costa Rican coffee. You can also order fruit smoothies which really are sensational. While we are eating, a dinner menu is passed around and you select what you would like to eat at your meal (remember, all printed in Spanish). While this is happening, the biologists are trying to get caught up in the local soap opera that is playing overhead. Because they can't hear it, they make up the own storyline and have their own names for all of the characters...all very funny and entertaining! We eat our breakfast slowly while enjoying the conversations and laughter, then leisurely head back to our rooms and prepare for the afternoon event.
Dinner is a whole different experience and it has take a few of us a little time to catch on to the compressed routine: we leave the research center at 6 and within a few minutes of arriving at the restaurant, the plates are distributed rapidly in front of us. There is generally a lot of confusion, as many of us can't remember what we ordered in the morning and now the waiter is calling out the choices in Spanish, trying to find a home for the meals. The 4 non-Spanish Earthwatch volunteers are trying to figure out what he is carrying and if it is our meal. Things finally get sorted out and once that plate lands in front of you, the clock is ticking. We soon learn there is limited time for conversation and the digestion of your food will have to wait. Many of us thought our dining experience would be similar to the morning: chatting, telling stories, and chewing WAS occurring . Within 15 minutes, most plates have been mopped clean and beverages consumed to make sure everything got washed down. Any leftovers ares shuttled to the 3 guys that are at the table and then the precise dividing of the portions begins. If there is a half portion of fish and some beans, it gets precisely divided into thirds and consumed rapidly. If everyone is full, then the remainders of everyone's leftovers gets scraped into a giant Tupperware container, that already has a meal it it for the person who has been left behind to watch the hatchery. A quick spinning hand signal occurs, meaning time to wrap it up and take you last mouthful before jumping back into the van and being shuttle to our rooms. With such drill team precision, most people are back in their beds by 7, in order to catch a few hours of sleep before the night shift begins. Everyone here has very physical jobs so besides walking the 6-7 miles with us each night, they are back up in the AM, re-walking the beach, triangulating nests, or excavation old nests that are buried 3 feet down. All very tiring jobs so the need for a lot of extra calories to keep up these daily activities.
As I mentioned above, today is different and we head directly to our work stations in anticipations of witnessing leatherbacks. Another slow night for those of us on the south and north patrol but the hatchery people got to help with the release of about 16 turtles back into the ocean, most of which were Ridleys along with one leatherback. The moon has now made a slight appearance so it is great not to have to walk in total darkness. Dale and Karen got to witness a hermit crab parade plus crocodile eyes glowing back at them. With or without the sightings of leatherbacks, things are never dull here!