The following morning I rose early and went off looking for my usual cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee. I went back to the soda I had been to the previous day and after enjoying my coffee headed out back to a portion of the town I had sort of explored the day before but not entirely to my satisfaction. It was down a dirt road from one of the restaurant/bars along the coast line about 200 meters south of the boat dock. The dirt path led to a bunch of vacation bungalows. It wasn’t the bungalows that had intrigued me the day before, but rather a little sign I noticed off to the side of the parking area for the bungalows. The sign read “Nature conservation area. Please limit your visit to 15 minutes”. I was very interested in this area the day before, but since it was starting to get dark by the time I had fist discovered it, I thought it best to save going in the area for a day activity. Now that it was daytime however, I wandered in…
The little trail led through a dense jungle area that lined a river running toward the Gulf. Birds and several lizards, army ants and spiders could be spotted everywhere. As I wandered in obviously taking in the beauty of my surroundings, a sudden spotting out of the corner of my eye froze me in my place. There, along the bank of the river just about 10 feet from me was a crocodile!!! No fence separated us, it was just him and I. Now, I have lived in Florida and have been to Gatorland and have seen many a Gator in my time but all from the safe distance or a separation by either a fence or my being locked in a car while they swam in the surrounding swamps. Never before had I been so close and without any barrier between a croc and myself. As all of the little tid bits I’d heard about crocs started coming to mind (such as do not run away from them in a straight line but rather confuse them by changing paths often, crocs have tiny brains, try to gouge their eyes out if attacked, etc) in case it decided to start toward me I continued to simply stay frozen and watch the beast. It hadn’t moved at all and my only choice of path was either to go forward past his area, or retract. Of course I chose to retract!! I had only wandered about 5 minutes into the area so getting out wasn’t difficult at all!!
Quite startled by what I had just seen, I decided to head back to the safety of the hostel to regroup and obviously tell the others about it! When I got back, the others were awake and starting to plan their day. And “F” had also made an appearance. He was completely back to his normal congenial self as he was the day before prior to the drinking and again kept trying to get me to go with him on a special tour through Corcovado Park with him. I again turned him down and instead joined the two Belgium men to tell them of the crocodiles and to simply get away from “F”. Upon hearing of the crocs, of course the guys asked me to immediately take them to the area and I agreed.
Not entirely believing the advice from “F” about the park being closed either, the boys wanted to go to the official park office and inquire about its status for themselves. So we also incorporated this portion to our outing as well. By this point, since I had acquainted myself with the little town the day prior, I was able to lead the way via the shortcut to the airport that led to the park office. There the boys discovered the news that indeed the park would be closing in just another day and that they were only allowed to go there, stay one night and return the next. They asked if I wanted to join them on the trip, but I declined as first the price ticket for such a short trip was rather large ($10 per day plus all sorts of extras that I don’t now recall…) and second, it was too much of a rushed trip for my taste, especially since camping was involved! I much prefer to spend time camping rather than hiking 8 hours only to sleep one night and return the next day.
In any event, the boys happily signed up (they were seriously the MacGyver types!!) and after all the bills were paid and formalities signed we headed back out to the crocs. Along the way we enjoyed the numerous scarlet macaws that we passed in the surrounding trees. They are quite easy to spot as their noise is unmistakable as is the sudden thuds of rock hard almond seeds dropping to the ground below from snacking macaws. Finally we made it back to the croc entrance and this time, being much wiser, I made the men go first!! We walked in following the winding path once again until we reached the same bank that I had been to before. This time however, I wasn’t just looking ahead of myself to watch where I was walking. No, this time I was also looking at all of my surrounding areas in case any crocs were lurking in the dense jungle around us!!
Go figure that when we got to the bank, the croc was gone!! Great, I thought, now I look like I’m making stuff up!! Luckily I was validated quite quickly however, as just as I was standing there stammering that “it was just HERE like 30 minutes ago!!!” like a petulant child, from two separate directions, 2 crocs swam nonchalantly to the edge of the river on the bank!! The boys of course were fascinated and wanted to try to coax the crocs out of the water!! Crazy boys, I know!! And honestly I’m not at all a fan of harassing wildlife in any fashion, especially if they could easily kill you!! But I stood by as one the boys (the more adventurous MacGyver one) picked up a stick and slap the water in front of the crocs to try to “tick them off” enough to get them to come forward a bit. As he was doing this, I was several feet behind and started to take better notice of the slow-flowing river. To my utter shock, it wasn’t just 2 crocs in there, it was dozens!!! Not just crocs either, but caymens as well!! Now really there isn’t much to fear from caymens as they are MUCH smaller than crocs and will never grow to the full size of a crocodile, so they didn’t concern me much. I just found it so fascinating how many live creatures were and had been just below the surface of the river.
After several minutes of unsuccessfully coaxing the crocs out, the boys became bored and decided to continue on the path. Of course as I started to cross the bank area, the crocs who had turned away from the stick slapping suddenly decided to turn back toward the bank and come toward me!! This of course freaked me out as one of the boys stated “I think they like you!”. Yes, for dinner no doubt!! I once again froze in my steps but was eventually convinced to keep going, keeping a very keen eye out for my new “friends”. The trail surprisingly was not that long at all after that spot. We shortly thereafter encountered a barbwire fence that forced us along another part of the trail that was definitely less traveled. Eventually we made our way back out to the main road after carefully navigating our way over and under the various jungle that was in our way.
The rest of the day was spent playing on the beach, enjoying the macaws, saying goodbye to the Belgium boys who were packing up for their Corcovado Park adventure, and meeting the French man who had come in the night before but had finally decided (yes, it was almost dark again) to wake up!! Another couple had also joined the crew at The Corner in hopes of also going to Corcovado Park.
Funny side note here, my wonderful landlady Berta had been told by “F” as he had told me that he wanted to take me on a private tour of Corcovado Park. Berta knew his nature however and had thankfully already become protective of me, especially after hearing of the previous night’s strangeness, and instead offered “F’s” private tour offer to the newest guest couple that had arrived. “F” was quite furious about this as he told me, because he had told Berta specifically that he only wanted to offer the private tour to me. I however, was delighted that Berta did what did, and I once again had to tell “F” “thanks, but I was never interested in the private tour with you” all the while thanking Berta profusely for stepping in as she did!! For all the potentially dangerous situations that I have found myself encountered with while being in Costa Rica, there has always been a more benevolent and protective force in the form of the elder ticos and ticas!! For this, Berta and others along the way will always have a very special place in my heart.
The night was thankfully uneventful as I simply lingered around The Corner keeping Berta company and chatting with her as best I could. I only hopped out momentarily after my dinner at a soda for some homemade ice cream Berta had told me about and after chit-chatting a bit with Jul, the man from France, I headed off for some lovely sleep!!
Once again, I neglected to bring my camera for the croc event as I have grown quite accostomed to traveling the town with as little in my possession as possible, but fear not for the adventure continues…