We took a fabulous cruise through Central America that touched on South America nearly two years ago. It was a gratifying experience at a host of levels, and it pointed out vividly to me how insular we North Americans are.
There is a whole ‘other’ America down there, filled with enchantments and I on regret that I didn’t venture to those parts earlier in my life. With whatever I have left I simply won’t have time to ‘do it all’ as much as I’d like to.
As it happened on the cruise we spent time in southern Mexico, Costa Rica, went through the Panama Canal and made an intriguing stop at Cartagena, Colombia. Through all of that, though, the place that truly sticks in my mind was Costa Rica, and that was due to the crocs.
One lovely morning we caught a shuttle bus from the ship and headed out through pleasant tropical countryside that was actually a bit reminiscent of Vancouver Island on a nice sunny day – except for the odd palm tree and the lovely bougainvillea blossoms that punctuated our passage. Our destination was the Tarcoles River. And we crossed that river on a highway bridge that again looked like maybe a Vancouver Island bridge, or perhaps one on the Island of Kauai.
However, the driver exhorted us to look down from the bridge and there we saw them, sunning themselves on the riverside bank – five or six reptilian behemoths – the crocodiles of the Tarcoles.
Crocodiles are amazing creatures. They go back to the age of dinosaurs – and look it. They have been hanging around the planet for some 200 million years.
As the day went on we took a cruise on the Tarcoles and then we saw the beasts at close-quarters. They look like primeval killing machines because that is exactly what they are. Fall in the water there and they’s a-gonna eat you. We got to see them very close up and I admit to being intrigued by both their appearance and their potential for lethal mayhem. If you should encounter a grizzly or even a cougar in the wild there is a possibility due to the fact they are reasoning mammals that you might – just might, mind you – be able to frighten them away. No such luck with crocs. Their instincts tell them to kill and they will – relentlessly despite any entreaties you might make to reason with them.
They are frightening (very frightening; jagged toothed killing machines) in appearance, and they are huge – 18 to 20 feet long – and some are very old. Along the riverside there are pastures populated with beautiful brahma cattle. Woe betide the hapless cow or steer that ventures too close to the river. If the creature is not wary it will be game-over very quickly. Happens regularly, said our river cruise guide.
What the croc does is lie sluggish and immobile on a sandbar, camouflaged to blend in with the terrain, waiting for the unwary prey to step in too close. And then the seemingly torpid behemoth strikes like greased lightning and it’s game over for whatever creature looked like lunch. That lunch could easily include an unwary human being.
Crocs are the biker gangs of reptilians and in that I cannot help but find them fascinating and it was an absolute highlight of that trip to spend time in close quarters with them. I’d love to do it again.