Tag Archives: corcovado park

Gators and Rest!

The following day was a lazy one to say the least after having completely spent all energy resources the day before!  But of course though it wasn’t completely without some activity or another…

Having missed the previous trips to see the gators, Jul wanted to go check them out so I opted to join yet again, this time armed with my camera!  Honestly I don’t know what time of day it was that we set off to see the gators again, but when we did get there true to the times before there were several in the little slow river.  At the “end” of the trail there were two men on the other side of the fence maintaining the landscape of the property that lay beyond and they were all too quick to show us their “crocodile hunting” skills by luring the gators toward the bank of the river so we could get some good pictures.

Below are the images I took that day!  The two tico men said that there are two large gators (the one on the bank was one of them) who ruled all the others.  In fact, as we were watching them all there was at one point when a smaller gator came over to check out the commotion that the two men were making to lure the large gator on the bank, but the minute it got too close, the larger gator simply turned in its direction and the smaller one quickly swam away!  Quite impressive what a single look can do!

Not much else happened that day, except that the two Belgium Macgyver boys returned from their grand adventure in Corcovado Park.  While the one was quite happy with their adventure, the other (less of a Macgyver type) was VERY happy to be back!!  Poor thing he was bitten up to pieces by bugs and had huge blisters on his feet that almost completely disabled him from being able to walk!  He swore that the next day he would simply sit and read and do absolutely nothing else, which true to his word was all he did the next day!

The evening was spent dining and drinking with Jul and “Macgyver” at a karaoke bar listening to the off-key melodies of the locals:)  The adventures of Day 5 were just around the corner…

Beach Adventure

The next morning started bright and early.  The couple that had arrived the day before had set out for their private tour of Corcovado Park with “F” and the Belgian boys had already set out the day before for the park, so it was only Jul and I at the hostel with Berta.  Jul had actually gotten up in the morning on this day and since we were the only two there, we ended up joining forces to explore new areas of the town.

After a breakfast of coffee and fresh, delicious pineapple, we decided to go on a hike to a beach about 7 kilometers from the town.  Jul had heard of the beach from others as a particularly nice one so we opted to give it a shot.  Berta suggested that we ride bikes there, which in retrospect ended up being advice that we should have followed but of course didn’t, thus beginning the grand adventure for the day….

We took off on foot heading South toward the road that led to the beach.  However, instead of taking the “long way” (i.e. correct road), we thought to take what we thought would be a shortcut.  Instead we ended up at a deadend and had no choice but to trespass on private properties, cross fields with knee-high grasses (perfect for snakes to hide in) and shimmy under barbwire fences to get back on the road we should have just taken in the first place.   In any event, after perhaps a half hour of “misguided” time we got back on track and set off for the rest of the hike.

We crossed property after property, some brand new, others quite old and shabby, through back roads of the Osa Peninsula.  Not too much wildlife was spotted on our walk but certainly some interesting sights.  The first was of a young girl, probably 3 years old standing in the front yard swinging a machete around as if it were a stick she was playing with.  Amazing our cultural differences!!  While that sight nearly gave me a heart-attack, I very much doubt locals would flutter an eyelash at it.  The other sight was quite humorous.  As we walked past one of the older and poorer homes there were two young boys on the front porch, probably 4 or so.  One was squatting on the porch playing with something on the ground and the other was proudly standing at the front of the porch buck naked and peeing off the edge into the grass below.  The best part of that was that all the while he was peeing, he was watching us walk by and had the biggest smile across his face as he waved excitedly to us.  We chuckled to ourselves and simply waved back, returning the greeting in waves that we were given!

I’m not entirely sure how much time it took to get to the beach, just that we finally made it at some point and it couldn’t have come at a better time!  We were both getting rather tired from walking the entire way (we tried hitchhiking several times with no success) and welcomed the rest that the water and beach provided.  We took some time to swim in the water relax and rejuvenate our spirits.  Looking back now, I can’t really say that this particular beach was really that spectacular, but I do recall that the waves were quite impressive as many avid surfers were also out enjoying the gift of the waves.  Either way though the coolness of the water was definitely welcome after the long walk there!!

After some time swimming both Jul and I were quite hungry and decided to find somewhere to eat.  We walked along the beach, thinking that surely there would be somewhere that we could grab something… Unfortunately we were quite wrong in thinking this as well!!  We walked and walked and walked along the beach reaching one place after another that was either closed, didn’t serve food, served food but at a phenomenal expense, or simply wasn’t a restraunt!!  By the time we thought to give up the hunt we figured that we were probably almost back to the town of Puerto Jimenez and that we should just continue on along the beach because surely we would end up there soon!

Wrong again!!  Or rather, we forgot one teeny tiny detail… Yes, the beach did eventually connect from where we were on the beach (7 Km South) to the beach along the town of Puerto Jimenez, but it was separated by a river about 2-300 meters wide!!  So there we were, we had finally made it back to a point on the beach where we could see the town but all we had to do was cross the river… Now, had we hit it at the right time, the tide would have been low enough to simply walk or wade across, but of course since it was late in the evening (yes even the sun was starting to fade so it was about 4:30-5 pm at this point with us both only having eaten breakfast and thankfully a glass of water offered by a nice home owner along our way back) the tide was quite high making it impossible to walk or wade through…

So we had a choice: either walk all the way back down the beach, back to the road on which we had walked earlier to the town which would have certainly taken us several hours and we would have had to walk in the dark, OR swim across the mouth of the river to the mangroves and private house across the way.

We chose plan B… Swim across the mouth of the river.  I had luckily brought a plastic bag with me that contained sunscreen and stuffed my clothes (keeping the bathing suit on of course) and shoes in it.  After everything was secure, I walked into the water with my bag overhead and started to swim.  The plan was to swim to the mangroves that were closer to us than the shore and after who knows how long of kicking and paddling and back-stroking and praying we both made it to the mangroves!  We stopped there for several minutes just trying to catch our breath and rest for a little while.  While I obviously do know how to swim, I hadn’t done that much swimming in a long time and this particular swim was quite challenging as I had to keep one arm overhead holding all my clothes and the current from the river kept pushing us (or trying to) out toward the ocean.

But the worst was definitely over and I was quite thankful for it!!  Truthfully there were several moments while I was kicking my way across where I thought “WTF was I thinking?!?!?!”  and several times I wondered if I should just turn back!!  And there were several times that I wondered what kind of critters were swimming in the waters with or below me, but luckily I kept with it and little by little keeping patient and calm I made it across!

We weren’t out of trouble just yet though as the mangroves were submerged in the river water quite a bit as well, and I still couldn’t reach the bottom of the river/ocean so had to hold myself above water my clinging onto the mangroves and standing on large exposed roots.  And Jul had so wonderfully mentioned that snakes and potentially crocs could be found in the mangroves so there was definitely much more motivation to get the heck out of there!!  So while I was exhausted, I wasn’t going to hang around any longer than I had to!!  After a few minutes of gathering our strength back up, we made our way around the mangroves, half swimming-half clinging to the submerged trees and finally made it to shore!!

Three children were playing in the shallow water of shore that we ended up on and at one point stopped to point us out and giggle at the silly gringos who seemingly came from nowhere but now appeared with blood-shot red faces almost crawling out onto the land.  I had never been so happy to be on land before!  We made it to a little bench and sat for a few minutes, laughing at how crazy what we had just done was!!

To be honest I don’t recall the rest of the night, only that I’m sure I slept well and that I was quite thankful all turned out well!!  What an adventure that day turned out to be!!  I do recall chuckling with Jul at one point on how each day seemed to hold an interesting new adventure, and lo and behold, the next day too had a little adventure in store for us yet again…

On to Sea Kayaking

Back to Costa Rica

Crocs

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…

On to Beach Adventure

Back to Costa Rica

An Interesting Start…

The first afternoon in Puerto Jimenez, I simply spent wandering the streets of the little town simply getting to know the area and my bearings.  I spent several hours just wandering back and forth checking out all the little nooks and crannies in between private homes that served as short-cuts between “main roads” and all the spaces in between from the landing strip (which actually functions as an airport!!) to the far corners of the town.  I of course stopped for some dinner at a local soda recommended to me by Berta and then settled in for the night at the hostel.

There was a storm settling over us as the sun started to set, and since I wasn’t quite tired yet, I opted to hang out with Berta in the front area.  We spent some time getting to know each other and chit-chatting when another man came by, calling Berta “Mama”.  In fact, this man wasn’t Berta’s son but rather the son of the woman who owned the soda I had eaten dinner at.  “F” as he will be known as from now on was a tour guide for the famed Corcovado Park on the Osa Peninsula, a National Park that attracts real adventurous hiker backpackers.  As I came to later learn about him, he had a lot of tragedy in his life which either from those events or just because it was his nature, he was also an alcoholic.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, “F” took an immediate liking to me and after the initial introductions were exchanged he left only to return a little later with some beers.  I’m never one to turn down free booze, and since I had yet no idea of his trouble and problem with consuming alcohol, I had no qualms about drinking with him.  As we drank we discussed the usual topics of conversation such as “where are you from”, “what are you doing in Costa Rica” etc.  I gave my general background and stated that I was hoping to find somewhere I could call home and who knows, perhaps start-up my own business of sorts.  When Berta heard this, it became her greatest topic of conversation with me throughout the rest of my stay in Puerto Jimenez, especially since I also stated that I quite liked this particular area.

With Berta sitting at her desk, playing solitaire and listening in to the chatter and interjecting where she had opinion (F spoke English, so at this point the majority was spoken in English with F filling Berta in to what was being said) F and I were steadily becoming intoxicated with beer after beer.  We had at one point even gone to the grocery store for more, which was quite conveniently located just across the street from the hostel as well.

Time skipped by and the next thing I recall was Berta announcing that the 9pm bus would soon be arriving and that we should go scout people from the bus to stay at the hostel.  When I had arrived earlier in the day, I was the first and only person staying in the hostel.  At Berta’s request “F” and I hopped to attention and went off toward the bus station (just down the street a few blocks) to collect any backpackers that may have been on the bus.  I chuckled at myself as we walked down the road on how in less than 12 hours I had gone from being the one escorted and lead to a hostel for the night to being the “hustler” in getting new arrivals to come to my hostel!   But as I was intoxicated, I really just relished the little trip of something new to do.

We made it to the bus stop just as it had dropped off 3 passengers, one very tired man from France, and two travelling friends from Belgium.  “F” and I rounded the trio up and walked them over to The Corner to help get them settled in.  The man from France simply signed in and passed out within 20 minutes of arrival and that was the last anyone saw of him for almost a full day as he apparently spent just about all of the next day sleeping!!  The other two friends from Belgium hung out with myself, Berta and “F” and joined in the booze festivities.  They were interested in hiking and camping in the Corcovado National Park and upon hearing that “F” was a tour guide, became very interested in picking his brain.  It was at this point that we had all learned that the Corcovado Park would be closing in 2 days for the entire month of October for Park maintenance.  So, if one were to want to go into the Park, it could only be for a single night and 2 days.  This greatly saddened the two Belgium friends, as they were quite looking forward to some major hiking and camping in the Park.

In any event, as it was starting to get late, Berta excused herself and retired for the night, while myself, “F” and the two Belgium men decided to continue the fiesta by going to a local bar.  There we had several more drinks and sadly the once festive tune began to turn rather somber and strange as the alcohol in “F’s” system started to bring out an entirely different personality.  While at the bar he continuously tried to hit on me and though I tried to politely turn him down, perhaps it was the rejection and his drunken stupor, but the demons began to draw out of him.  Noticing signs I didn’t want to associate myself with, I began to withdraw myself from his company and instead talked more with the Belgium friends and others at the bar.  For those of me who know me, when intoxicated I tend to become a very social butterfly.  I love talking with everyone and enjoy festive tones throughout drunken occasions and drift away from energies that are negative.

The final straw for us all was when “F” began telling us about the tragedies in his life (which I won’t share as it’s not my business to) and then turned on the two Belgiums claiming they were giving him a look he didn’t approve of and that he would kill them if they didn’t stop.  The Belgiums tried to pacify the now very touchy situation by buying “F” another beer as the three of us scurried back to the hostel, leaving “F” to his tico friends at the bar.  I mentioned earlier about the great security at The Corner, and it was particularly in this occasion that I was most happy for it.  The upstairs area where we were all sleeping (my private room and the dorm room area for the boys) was padlocked and only those with room keys could open it.  We locked the gate behind us and all went to sleep.

On to Crocs!

Back to Costa Rica