Running in the Clouds

Location: Abangares, Costa Rica

I arrived at the Cloud Forest with a sore back and cramped legs after a long ride in an uncomfortably small bus. We had two options for the day: ride a zipline through the monkey infested treetops, or go on a sightseeing hike on the hanging bridges. It was a difficult decision for me. A zipline sounded thrilling and exceptionally fun, whereas walking through the forest could lead to the discovery of many interesting animals I would never again have the chance to see.

“Those of you who hike with me, I promise you we will see a sloth”, were the words that convinced me to take the hanging bridges.

Not many of us followed him; most preferred effortless entertainment over a strenuous hike on a terribly humid day.

We walked up steep hills; we ducked under low branches; we balanced on swaying bridges. Sweat tore itching paths down my cheeks, and the occasional droplet found its way into my eye. My head throbbed, and my toes tingled on the ends of my aching legs. It felt like I had just made it to the halfway point of a ten kilometer race under a scorching sun.

We walked for hours and didn’t see much of anything. We heard birds chirp, and leaves rustle. The exhilarated screams of the zipliners echoed in the distance, and I started to regret my decision and doubt the word of my guide. I’d seen a thousand trees and zero sloths.

“Everyone, gather around me.” The guide’s words were dulled in my pounding ears. “There was a sloth spotted in the parking lot just outside the trail. If we want to see it, we have to run. If you don’t think you can, just let me know and we will stop.”

Everyone had come here for only one reason. And that reason was to see a sloth. So we ran.

Only now, when we were in such a hurry, did I start to see the wildlife I had come on this hike to see.

I saw a cool yellow and black millipede:

Nyssodesmus python

I saw a fuzzy tree with branches that looked like a monkey’s tail:

Sphaeropteris brunei (Monkey Tail Fern)

I even saw a tree with the face of a monkey:

We burst into the parking lot, drenched in sweat and heaving great big breaths of sultry air into our lungs. But we couldn’t stop yet. We still had a sloth to find.

The person who had informed our guide of the sloth’s sighting was nowhere to be found, leaving us with no choice but to split up and search for it ourselves. I followed the wall of trees lining the side of the parking lot, eyes scanning their crowns. I had never seen a sloth, not even in a zoo, so I had no idea what I was even really looking for. But I had to find it.

After ten minutes of looking, I felt defeated. But then I heard a call that nearly made me leap with joy.

“I found it! I found it!”

I used the last of my fuel as I sprinted over to the voice, and sure enough, there it was. I did not know what I was expecting to see, but as I set my eyes upon the sloth, it just looked so unreal. It looked like a picture straight out of a fantasy.

Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth

There were two of them! A mother cradling its baby. This picture made me forget all those terrible and dull hours of running through the sweltering forest. I had made the right decision.

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