Costa Rica 2012, Part 7.

Scary giant reptiles! But first, coffee. One of Costa Rica’s biggest exports is coffee. We went to a coffee plantation and I learned a whole bunch about coffee. Coffee coffee coffee. For example, coffee flowers smell very strongly like jasmine because coffee is in the gardenia family. And the coffee fruit is edible (the coffee bean we are accustomed to seeing is inside the red fruit) but it is a strong laxative, so one should not eat a handful lest one become like a bear in the woods. This place had coffee plants and cacao plants all over. These were cacao plants.

Coffee plants look like sticks with red and green berries popping out every couple of inches. The coffee bean must be picked by hand and can’t be stripped by machine because they ripen individually. They look like this:

Inside the red berry is a slime-covered beige-colored set of beans, and that slime is resilient, yo, it ain’t comin’ off easy. So what they do is soak the beans in water, where the slime coating ferments and slides off (and apparently this process smells super-gross). Then they commence with the roasting process or they plant them. If they plant them, they look like this:

They have come up with a variety of non-toxic ways to deal with problems that crop up (“crop up!” har!) in the fields. There was this ingenious little device strung up all over the place.

There’s three cups, the top two with the bottoms cut out, a plate, some rum and some water. The insects that attack the coffee plants drink the rum at the top, then fall down through the successive cups until they fall into the cup in the bottom (the one with water) and they drown. Low-tech and effective. Also, there’s a certain worm that likes to eat the roots of the coffee plant, so they put other plants with tastier roots in the with the coffee plants, and the worm eats those instead.

The way the Costa Ricans strain their coffee is using this cotton sock-looking thing suspended above a tin cup. It’s like the original filter. It looks gnarly because the sock-thing gets stained brown so even if it’s clean it looks like it was tied to the shoe of a hiker and dragged all over the trails. But it does the job so people still use this tool.

Okay, reptiles and whatnot. Iguanas! We saw a ton of iguanas. I learned that I love iguanas. I think they’re great. You would think most of the iguanas we would see would be green, but this was the only green one I saw.

It’s iguana mating season, so the males are this vibrant shade of pumpkin orange. They were draped all over the place, being sexy to the lady ‘guanas I suppose.

And then we saw iguana sex! They do it vertically which I think is unnecessary, but whatever. Not my call.

These iguanas were on the Caribbean coast. When we were on the Pacific coast we saw a different type of iguana that was stumpier and grayer. They looked more like Godzilla.

Geckos! Geckos are also great. They were my constant companion. They hung out near all the light fixtures waiting for buggies to show up. I insisted Cricket take many photos of them. Regular gecko. Dramatic gecko. Teeny baby gecko.

This is one of my favorite photos of the trip. This guy was really into his light fixture, literally and figuratively.

• | • | • INTERMISSION  • | • | •

A bug. I like the way he coordinated the white on his back with the ends of his antennae. Moving on.

• | • | • INTERMISSION OVER  • | • | •

Caimans! Caimans are little crocodiles. They do all the same things crocodiles do, like float there with only their heads above the water doing their damnest to be a log. I have a few pictures of that.

Awww, look at the baby! He’s so wee and you can see his little body under the water. So sweet and prehistoric.

This photo is called “Emperor’s New Clothes.” The guide informed us there was a caiman right in front of us, so we all dutifully took photos of this patch of grass, but I don’t know if anyone actually could see said caiman. So now we all have pictures like this.

Turtle shell. I didn’t put an exclamation point after that because, well, he’s dead and frankly not that thrilling. But I liked how you could see his ribs attached to his shell.

On one of our last days in Costa Rica we went to a bird ‘n’ crocodile sanctuary where big lethargic crocodiles laid around on the sandy banks and resembled spiked sacks of flour. We saw a ton of them. And one that was a ton. We’ll get to him momentarily.

At one point our boat captain for the day, I believe his name was José, decided to join the Bad Life Choices Society by getting out of the boat barefoot and feeding one of the crocs raw chicken meat. It was rough to watch because, you know, aaaaaaahhhh DUDE what are you DOING.

As we gently floated down the river, our guide Aaron got very excited because an insanely huge crocodile named Mike Tyson was hanging out near us. Mike Tyson the croc got that name by biting off the tail of one of his rivals. I learned that crocodiles never stop growing and Mike T is very old, so he looks terrible, like Jabba the Hut, all corpulent and flabbalicious. Aaron also told me one of my favorite nuggets of the trip, which is that crocodiles don’t really have any enemies once they reach adulthood and they can die “from elderness.” I have informed many people that someday they will die from elderness, and no one seems to appreciate it as much as me. Oh well. Here’s Mike Tyson.

And while we’re staring at the massive bulk of MT, one of his lady friends sidles up to the boat. How close did she get? Real close.

And the José got out of the damn boat, still with the barefootness, and fed them raw chicken. Aaaaaaaaahhhh JESUS CHRIST José do you have a death wish STOP DOING THAT.

By they way, the entire time we were hanging out on this river that is rife with predators that have eaten living things for forever, some idiot farmer allowed his horses to graze on the banks of the river. We were all like, run! Run away horses and one mule! They couldn’t hear us. They seemed okay. I still worried.

Oh, and I wanted to include a video Cricket took of leaf-cutter ants. We saw them when we went on the night frog walk. They were so cool. They had worn down a path, and some ants were carried giant leaf shards with ants on it cleaning it. Did you know the ants don’t eat the leaves? They take the leaves down into their ant lair where they basically do some farming, and a fungus grows on the leaf, and that’s what the ant eats.

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