Let's see, where did we leave off....Ah yes, we left Mastatal last Friday and got on a bus that took us to El Cruce de Santa Rosa, just a simple cross roads. From there, we walked a kilometer uphill and waited for the bus to Quepos. From Quepos we decided to go to Domenical and ended up stopping there for the day. The buses are a slow way to get from place to place in this small country. Most of them ramble and wind up and down dirt roads and speed along pavement when they can, stopping to pick up and drop people off everywhere along the way. Its pretty crazy the roads that these full sized buses lumber along.
In Domenical we checked out the beach, watched a huge rainstorm, had dinner and set the alarm to get up at 3.50 am. We got to the bus stop around 4.15 to wait for the 4.30 bus to Palmar Norte. The bus didn't arrive as scheduled, and the night watchman at a nearby restaurant/hotel asked if we wanted to wait inside. It was then that we discovered that our alarm clock was an hour early (I guess some of the buttons must have gotten pushed in my bag!) So we waited there until it was actually 4.30 and got on the bus as planned. From Palmar Norte we got a bus to Puerto Jimenez and arrived by mid-day at which point we finalized our reservations to stay in Parque Nacional Corcovado, found a hostel for the night, and other important details for the next few days. Puerto Jimenez is a small to medium sized town not too touristy, but lots of people travel through there to get to Corcovado.
In the morning we caught a collectivo (this one was a truck with seats in the back) to Carate – a two hour drive over bumpy unpaved roads and through small streams. When we got to Carate we saw our first scarlet macaws (the beautiful red, yellow and blue parrots that were flying all over that area) and started our walk into the park. Corcovado is a large area of preserved land that can only be reached on foot, by boat or by plane. You can take day trips from some of the lodges on the Osa peninsula, or you can hike the 18-20 kilometers in and stay at the Sirena ranger station. The first part of the hike was along the beach which is beautiful, empty and expansive. Then we arrived at La Leona, the station at the entrance to the park. From there we walked along a flat path through the edge of the rainforest and along the beach. The beach was inhabited by hermit crabs of all sizes, cute and funny little buggers. Also crabs that were barely visible until you stepped near one and it would crab walk quickly away. In the forest, at first, there were tons of purple, red and yellow crabs that would pop back into their holes as we came near.
We spotted our first mammals soon after starting on the trail – a pack of coatis, which look vaguely like raccoons with long, bushy, ringed tails that stood straight up and long thin snouts for sniffing and finding food. Without a guide leading us, or a book for reference we had no idea what they were, so I called them nifflers. They squeaked a bit and barely seemed to notice that we were there as they walked and climbed around a grove of banana trees. We also saw monkeys – the first ones we saw were swinging through the trees right above our heads using their tails like another hand to hold onto the branches. I think we saw three different kinds of monkeys while in the park and heard lots of howler monkeys as they moved around the forest.
The hike to La Sirena was about 7 hours. It was very flat, so it was not difficult, just long, and we had to keep the tide in mind for crossing some parts of the trail. Towards the end of the hike we had to cross a river where we had been told that bull sharks hung out when the tide was high. We did not know where to cross, so we forded at the mouth of the river where it was waist deep and the current was strong. We couldn't see the bottom, it was tricky. I slipped once and dunked our small camera in the water, but we made it across. Turns out that the bull sharks are in a different river so we needn't have worried about them. The next day we found out where we were supposed to cross – an easy walk through ankle or knee deep water. Happily, our camera dried out and is working again.
We spent two nights at Sirena so we had a day to explore some of the trails that went deeper into the rainforest. Since we didn't have a guide we probably missed some details, but we did a good amount of exploring on our own. We were eating our lunch (mainly snickers bars and crackers since we had to carry in our food, except breakfast, to the park and didn't want to bring heavy packs) under a tree when I spotted some monkeys also eating their lunch above us. Its not to hard to spot the little climbers, either by seeing half eaten fruit or seed pods falling from a tree or by limbs shaking as the monkeys move around. They also make little squeaking noises, kind of like a squirrel. As we sat there they really started squeaking sounds of alarm. I wondered what they were freaking out about. When I looked into the forest I saw something tan and tawny and realized it was a puma. It was probably about 15 or 20 feet from us and it moved along quickly, but it was amazing to witness animals so close by in their natural environment.
Corcovado is, apparently one of the most biodiverse places on earth and one of the most unspoiled places in Costa Rica. We didn't get to see any tapir, though they are pretty common in the park, but we did see a heard of peccaries (wild pigs) and another puma as we were leaving the park. It was a pretty amazing hike and though we didn't get to tour the canopy or take a zip line as you can in other places, it was a unique way to experience the rain forest.
The ride back to Carate was gruelingly bumpy but we made it, had showers and some delicious pizza in Puerto Jimenez where we stayed for the night. Yesterday we took two more buses first to La Palma, where we waited for a couple of hours to get the bus to Bahia Drake. This bus ride was really up and down and we went through some small rivers, too. I guess once you get farther into the rainy season you can't take that road to get over here. Drake is a tiny town on the edge of a number of lodges and hotels ranging from cabinas to high end lodges. We are staying at a beautiful, simple hotel right on a rocky beach, overlooking the water. Its really nice and relaxing, our meals are included, it seems quite luxurious to me (they just fixed the hot water for the showers, too!). Its fun to stay someplace a little bit nicer and this area is truly so beautiful. The sound of the ocean is always nearby and the deck outside our room has the perfect view of the bay.
Our main purpose for coming here is to scuba dive. Today we went out to Isla Del Cano, about 45 minutes away by very fast motor boat. On the way there we watch dolphins jump and dive in the water. I took a resort diving class, learning the basics in the morning and joining Ray and another diver in the afternoon. On their morning dive they saw sharks and turtles. This afternoon we saw an eel and a ray. There are fish and coral as well. The water is not crystal clear like it is in the Carribean or other places but there is still a lot to see. I am still getting used to breathing underwater and the other skills and details of scuba diving, but its a fun thing to try. We will go out again tomorrow and Ray will do a third day of diving as well.
We've reached the point in our trip when we will be home in less than a week. We have a couple more days of bus riding and maybe some surfing ahead of us. Its been great to have so much time in Costa Rica – time to learn, work and meet people and time to travel and see more of the country. We're savoring the rest of our time and looking forward to catching up with everyone when we get back. I finally got some post cards, but haven't made it to the post office yet, I will try to send them before we leave, but we might reach you before they do. Love,
Anna and ray