Saving the sea turtles in Costa Rica Blog 4- Dancing in the rain


The amount of rain that they have here in rainy season is ridiculous. Bridges are being washed away, tracks are being flooded, soil is being dislodged and causing landslides across many roads. Suddenly out of nowhere it starts thundering down with rain, so hard and so fast that you almost want to stop running to the nearest shelter just to watch its immense power.

It’s a different rain to that which we have in the UK. It’s pelting, it’s crazy, and it’s warm. No matter how much it rains, it never reaches that sad, soggy, cold feeling that you get in the rains at home. And generally speaking it doesn’t stop you from carrying out your day as planned- you can more or less rely on the rain letting up for a bit so that you can get outside again- and when the worst of it is over, you can still walk in the drizzle not feeling cold, and knowing that you will be warm enough.  Although at the moment it just seems endless. Luckily rainy season only lasts for a couple of months of the year, and there is usually some sun every day even through the rains. It’s just a bit of a shame that the turtles seem to love coming out in the rain.

So despite the storms, everything is business as normal. The sea turtles are still pouring out of the sea to dig their nests at a rate of knots, at a greater rate if anything. On last night’s beach patrol we recorded 20 turtles in just a four hour window. When we see the turtle tracks leading from the sea up the beach, we follow them until we either find a nest or a turtle. If we find the nest only, we camouflage it as best we can so that poachers and predators are less likely to find it. If there is the turtle, we always measure the shell and record her position, and when there is time we count the eggs and tag her. However, when there are so many turtles our priorities change- we need to know how many turtles are coming up, so sometimes we have to sacrifice the tagging and the egg count just so that this is recorded. I tagged my first turtle last night- using an instrument that looks similar to pliers, you clamp a spiked metal tag through the skin on the turtle’s forelegs. Squeezing hard enough to get it through the skin took a lot of willpower- I was terrified of hurting her- but I was assured it was not a great pain. No difference to having your ears pierced for example.

Whilst patrolling last night we stopped in amazement at the northern end of the beach, where we found that the tiny trickling stream had become a roaring river, and had carved a whole new path into the sand, leaving banks of over 150cm high. A huge tree trunk, with a diameter approximating 80 cm had been carried downstream, and now was lying in the new riverbed. The force of the rain is incredible. It has entirely washed away the road to the beach house, and the current is insanely strong. It’s quite a challenge to get through it, and crossing in swimwear is quite possibly the only way to do it sensibly. It’s quite awe inspiring how much a bit of rain can dramatically change the landscape. Although what’s more crazy, is how quickly after the rains stop this water seems to disappear. I can’t see the ground being able to absorb much more water though…

So in all this rain, I have taken to becoming a grandmother-like figure, sitting on the porch with a view over the village, and watching the world go by. It’s quite soothing. I watch the chickens pecking away at the football pitch, the school children leaping off the bus and running home, and the lady across the way desperately gathering her just dried washing in. I also chat to the cleaning girl- she is 18 yet looks about 14. She left school when she was 16 and has been cleaning houses in the village ever since. I feel very sombre when I compare her to my 18 year old self, just about to head of to university with the world at my feet and a wealth of opportunities before me. I am told that she will most likely marry one of the village boys, who would probably be a cousin or second cousin, live in a house in the village, and have her own children. For once in my life, I really do not know what to say.

I stupidly managed to rub away the thin layer of skin that had formed over my burn today. It hurt. A lot. And so now to prevent from infection I can no longer cross rivers, which really is restricting right now. I am an idiot.

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