Sunday, January 1, 2017

Jungle Hike at Rana Azul

A man and his machete wandering the lovely jungle
Lovely flowers
Great buttress roots on this tree
In addition to great drinks and delicious food, Rana Azul also has a trail that circles thought the jungle. We’re always up for a good hike, so we packed a knapsack full of cold water, binoculars, camera, and bug spray. Amazingly, we saw only one mosquito, and heard another, and we really had no bug problem at all. Location problem…well, that’s another thing. We started out at the restaurant. Though the area all around looks kind of like coarse grass, sometimes you’d sink in up to your ankle, not surprisingly, since this is all cut out of the mangroves. The area is criss-crossed with shallow channels full of fiddler crabs, though there are lots of crabs in the grass, too. The path passed through a mangrove swamp, over a couple of small bridges, and under an open tunnel of hibiscus shrubs into an area of fields and pastures with open gates in the wire fences. Every so often was a sign with words of wisdom, a quote by someone – one was even attributed to J.K. Rowling. Beautiful tropical flowers abounded. Yellow wooden arrows nailed to trees pointed the way up the rather steep path. Incredible trees, plants, flowers, bugs (not pesty bugs, but interesting bugs), and loads of intriguing sounds. One sound – a high-pitched warble – was very similar to the poison-spitting dinosaur that gets Nedry in the original Jurassic Park movie. Finally we found the source – oropendolas! – large black-and-yellow birds that we first saw in Trinidad. They build large hanging nests that dangle from the tree limbs (like weaver birds, if you know what their nests look like). A croaking call turned out to be, not frogs as we expected, but toucans! Unlike the toucans in Trini, which had black beaks, these had beaks of pale green and other colors. The one we watched also had a bright red patch under its tail, and was doing a dance, sharp movements of its body and beak, while it called. We don’t know what it was trying to communicate, but it was fascinating to watch. The path led up to what seemed like the ridgetop, or close to, but the vegetation and trees were so heavy we didn’t have a view down. Now the path started downhill. We followed the yellow arrows, and at one point there was a fork. We went right, but the “path” seemed too much like a stream bed, so we went back and went to the left. This also was like a stream bed, but smoother, and it eventually led to mangrove swamps. Adventures with mud! Chris went first across the narrow planks/posts that (incompletely) traversed the mud. At one point he stuck the machete into the mud to steady himself, and it sunk in about a foot. Eventually, with the help of a long stick I picked up, we were both across. The mangroves opened here into the bay, but a trail led along the shore. More balancing across the mud, this time on mangrove roots and some boards, and we trudged uphill into a meadow. There was a house there, and another beyond in the mangroves. Unfortunately, they were not Rana Azul. After poking around we realized that there was no way through to where we wanted to be, so we backtracked through the mud pits; at least I still had my stick. After following a couple of dead ends, we finally found a yellow arrow…pointing to where we had just come from. Argh! We proceeded slowly, carefully checking for a path, and found one. Was this it? Good luck – Chris found the arrow that should have pointed it out, upside-down on the ground by the tree. He propped it up so others wouldn’t get lost, and on we went, following the now-plentiful yellow arrows and obvious trail. It came out at an area cleared on a hillside with a view down to the lagoon and Mr Mac. Beautiful, but hot in the sun. There was a makeshift wooden table, but we didn’t tarry. Back into the lovely shade and downhill to where we started. The one-hour hike took us four hours, but then, we stop a lot to look at stuff. Oh, and we saw lots of pretty frogs, apropos, since Rana Azul means blue frog.

Sun-backed bamboo

I don't think we're on the path anymore...

Oropendola nests

Spider with legs spread is about as large as my outspread fingers - don't walk into that web!

Poison-arrow frog

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