Unlike most of our journeys, this one came at comparatively short notice and found us totally unprepared. Packing and moving out of our house, we gave little thought to the country we were about to visit. We picked our spot, made our reservations and went back to moving.

Now we are here, happy in our choices but feeling stupid and unprepared. No reading, little research, no time to practice Spanish—well, I lie, we did have time the last few weeks. We just didn't do it.

We're content though. Manuel Antonio is touristy and expensive, but like most touristed places there's a good reason for it and in this case it's right outside our two back windows. A troup of six or seven Capuchin monkeys has now visited twice, today with a baby on board. I got a fractured view of a large iguana this morning. Our neighbor saw a sloth across the road. There are many beautiful unnamed birds, and we hear their exotic calls through the thick foliage.

To make up for our lack of preparation I spent time this morning reading online while Ray worked through the guidebook. Here's what I now know:

• Costa Rica has 9000 species of plants
• 900 species of trees (and more are found each year)
• 1500 kinds of orchids
• 800 species of birds, including 50 humingbirds (we've seen two), 15 parrots, and six toucans.
• 200 types of mammals, including two kinds of sloths, three anteaters, and four monkeys; also jaguars and tapirs, both endangered
• 35,000 species of insects
• 150 kinds of amphibians
• 200 species of reptiles (over half are snakes) including crocodiles and turtles.

This overwhelming variety is fed by daily downpours and if left alone would soon engulf everything. On the bus trip from Alajuela we passed many small and large homes and landholdings and I thought how much work it must take to keep the forest (and its inhabitants) at bay. And I wondered how long it would take that forest to reseed itself if those landowners suddenly decided to leave. Not long, I'll bet. Not long.