Tag Archives: whale

Golfito Detour

My initial plan in getting to Puerto Jimenez was to take a bus down and around the upper part of the Peninsula through Rincon to Golfito.  However on the way down, as usually has been the case during my bus rides, I struck up a conversation with a local.  He was a very friendly older gentleman who is a local Costa Rican but who now lives in Panama.  He was in Costa Rica just checking on some properties of his that he rents out to tourists and such.

Again most of our conversation was a mix of Spanglish and charades.  It was great to chat with him and to pick his brain concerning the best route for me to get to Puerto Jimenez.  My original route was to go to Chacarita, then to Rincon and down to Puerto Jimenez.  I was strongly discouraged to take to this route however as it would have taken over 8 hours since the terrain in this path was mountainous and rough.  Instead, I was instructed to go to Golfito and take the ferry across.  This route would save my 4-5 hours of travel, and upon hearing this I was definitely most grateful to my chatting partner for the information.  Once we got to Chacarita, he instructed me to get off the bus and told me where to find the bus for Golfito.

Once in Chacarita we said our good-byes and thanks and parted ways.  Now as a traveler, even though I was engaged in conversation with another person, my observations of my surroundings never stop.  It was on the bus down to Chacarita that I noticed two younger men consistently looking back to see me on the bus.  When I departed the bus for the bus to Golfito, I noticed the two men also depart and  after I got on the Golfito bus, so did they.  They sat next to me and tried to talk me up.  I wasn’t going to be rude, but also I don’t have a lot of patience for people who make me uncomfortable.  So mainly I ignored them and feigned ignorance for the Spanish language.  Luckily they didn’t know a whole lot of English so ignoring them was easier to show them my disinterest.  My instincts told me to stay on the bus until they got off at their stops and I did so.  While this action did make me feel better, it also took about an hour to backtrack to get to where I needed to be.

I had completely missed my stop for the ferry to Golfito but was thankfully guided by a very nice older tica on which bus to take and where to get off.  Of course the stop I should have gotten off on in the first place was one of the stops that the men I was getting away from got off at.  Luckily however enough time had passed that they were nowhere in sight and I continued on my way to the ferry.  This little detour however did cost me to miss they ferry by about 10 minutes and thus I was left to wait a few hours for the next one.

It was while I was hanging out near the dock enjoying a soda that I met two guys traveling Costa Rica together.  Though they didn’t know each other prior to a few weeks ago, they evidently had enough of a bong that made them decide to travel together for the rest of their time in Costa Rica.  One guy was from Austria and had an unbelievable amount of energy, and the other was from England but looked as if from India.  These two travelers (whose names have totally escaped me) were trying to get a group of people organized to take a whale watching boat tour.  Despite my better judgement on this occasion, as I really am not the biggest fan of boating around for the sole purpose of trying to catch a glimpse of a whale or dolphin, I agreed to be part of the crew.

The boat was to take off from Golfito the next morning which meant that I would have to stay the night there.  The two guys knew of a good place where they were staying right along the main road called El Toucan (honestly it seems every town has a place called El Toucan) so I went along with them so I could also get a room and settle in.

At this point it was about 5pm, so we opted to take a small boat ride to another part of the gulf area and do a hike that the boys had heard about.  Golfito has almost a gulf within a gulf as there is a large vast area of ocean at the town, but to actually get into the Golfo de Dulce, you have to cross the mouth of the smaller gulf into the larger.  On this boat ride we stayed within the smaller gulf area and crossed to a more secluded and foresty area.  Only a few tico homes were lined along this beach area and in fact, the man who boated us out there lived in one of the homes.  Once we arrived the very energetic Austrian and his friend found the hiking path they heard about and started on their way.  I opted to just hang about the coast area and simply take pictures of my surroundings close by.  I opted to do this for two reasons: first, because I honestly needed a break from the overly energetic duo, and second I knew that it would be getting dark pretty soon and didn’t want to get stuck walking along hiking paths as it got darker when the threat of potential snakes on the trail was possible.

As I was hanging about, I was fortunate to hear and see a troop of Capuchin monkeys come by.  I indulged in taking several photos of them as well as photos of the many crabs hanging along the beach.  And just as I had predicted, about a half hour after the two guys headed out on the trail, they returned because they heard some noises that they couldn’t identify from some large-sounding animal and got frightened back down the trail.  A little while later we made our way back to Golfito and went shopping for dinner.  The Austrian whipped up some pasta for us along with some carrots, onions and mushrooms.  He was quite upset however when he left the watch of the food to his friend who then ended up burning all the veggies.  It was by far the most interesting meal I had had as the pasta sauce he chose to use was ketchup!  I almost opted to just skip the meal altogether, but in not wanting to be rude, I ate it and it surprisingly wasn’t as terrible as I had thought it would be.

The next day we headed out early for our boat ride and not to my surprise but to the great disappointment of the guys, we didn’t see any whales or dolphins out in the vast and large Golfo de Dulce.  The Golfo de Dulce (sweet gulf) is one of the deepest gulfs and due to the calm and protected waters in this area, it is a very popular location for many whale species to come to during birthing season.  We drove around the gulf for several hours and while nothing was spotted, I still enjoyed just being on the water.  My two companions were not at all content on not having seen anything and were becoming increasingly annoying as they kept trying to get our tour to go here and there for potential whale spotting.  Needless to say I was probably more happy when the ride was over with and I was able to part ways with the energetic duo.  Once back on land I boarded the 1pm 40 minute ferry across the Golfo de Dulce (which if I had been smarter, I should have just asked to be dropped of there during our whale tour) to Puerto Jimenez.

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Uvita

The road to Uvita was quite uneventful.  Just before leaving I was told by various Manuel Antonio “locals” (i.e. the bus stop gang previous mentioned in the Manuel Antonio post) that due to the storms that had been in the area, the road to Uvita had been washed out and was impassable.  Though I thanked them for their concerns (really I think they just wanted me to hand out and around with them, but as drugs aren’t my thing I really wanted nothing to do with  these particular folks) I figured that if indeed this information was correct, then the best people who would know for sure would be the bus drivers themselves.

So it was that I set back on a bus from Manuel Antonio to Quepos and had zero trouble boarding a bus for Uvita.  As it turned out the information given to me about the hazardous road wasn’t completely untruthful as at one point we did pass a portion of the road where literally half of it was missing and it was reduced to a single lane road.  The drainage pipe below the road simply wasn’t able to withstand the amount of rain and debris that had passed though to keep it standing.  Nonetheless however we were able to get past the area and still in good time.

On recommendation from a person whom I had met at the Costa Linda Backpackers hostel in Manuel Antonio (he worked for Lonely Planet and was making his way around to various hostels to review for their publications) I was set on staying at a hostel in Uvita called “The Butterfly Garden”.  Ok, once again I can’t be exact of the name now since it has been a while, but it was definitely something to do with butterflies.  And anyone who was paying any sort of attention to the various road signs along the way would have spotted signs for it for quite some time.  The signs for Uvita however were not so clear.  One thing to definitely get used to is that there are never any welcome signs or alerts of any measure to indicate which little town you may be in or may have passed.  All there is to rely on is the information and constant inquiries to local passengers or the bus driver (despite the numerous “do not talk to the bus driver” signs) as to where exactly you are and when it is that you need to leave the bus to make it to the right place!

I was the last person on the local bus and wasn’t panicking yet as I still saw road signs along the way advertising the Butterfly hostel.  Seeing as I was the last one on board however, I struck up conversation with the driver directly this time (usually I try to pick the local people’s brains sitting around me) and he instructed me on when to get off and which way to go.

I was dropped off along a dirt road and pointed in the direction of a long dirt road that curved at the end.  About 10 minutes later I arrived at the Butterfly Garden hostel.  The place had been described to me as “Neverland” complete with treetop bungalows that you had to get into via wooden ladders.  Really the story of the owner, as is the story of most, was quite interesting.  She had moved down years before having decided that Uvita was her place to live.  She gave up everything in the States to create her own personal Neverland and thus there it was in front of me.

The place was quite impressive and had a lot of charms.  They were in the middle of constructing new treetop bungalows however so there was a lot of work and noise going on mainly from volunteer random travelers and from friends of hers from the States who came down to help with construction.  The place honestly was quite deserted had it not been for 2 Italian girls (volunteers to do art work and other creative projects on-site) and another couple of volunteers who were just hanging out trading work for a free stay.

For some reason, while the place was quite nice and the people too were perfectly nice, something about the place just didn’t sit well with me and as soon as I had arrived, I had already made my mind that I would be leaving the next morning.

I nonetheless settled in for the night and as it was still early in the day, I opted to go for a walk along the beach that was only a few hundred meters away and via the entrance from the hostel you could avoid the fee to enter what was considered their National Park.

The Baleen National Park of Uvita is so named for a sand bar and for the numerous whale spottings off of this particular coast.  At just the right tide however, and with an aerial view, a sand bar would present itself in the exact and perfect shape of a whale’s tail!  It sounded so fascinating, but as mentioned you really wouldn’t be able to see much unless you had an aerial view and if you had timed the tides correctly.

I wandered along the beach for quite some time taking pictures of the area but opting not to swim as there were several signs to guard your belongings from beach thieves.  Since I didn’t have a buddy with me to watch my stuff while in the water, I chose this time to simply be a photo-op session.  I do adore the ocean in so many ways but again, perhaps it was just my mood, but the beach wasn’t at all impressive to me.  Or perhaps because I had just come from some beautiful beaches, these just didn’t seem up to par.  The beach was washed up with a ton of random debris, the water looked murky, dirty and portions had what looked to be oil slick along the surface, and sadly there were no whales to spot in the distance.

I spent about 1-2 hours walking along the shore however until I reached a river jutting into the ocean and opted to turn back instead of trying to swim across (Lord knows if I would have been able to get back again with the tides turning!!).  I made it back to the hostel just in time to be invited to go surfing by the owner and her construction friend from the states.  Now, I have never been surfing but at this point thought, why the heck not!  But that’s as far as that story gets as when we got back out to the beach the conditions were not suitable for surfing.  So while I still haven’t been or tried surfing yet, I did learn a little about it by one of the surfers who explained “closed-out” waves and other surfing conditions.  We did spend some time simply splashing about in the ocean however and just enjoying the wonder that Nature had provided in the form of the vast sea.

By this point it was starting to get dark so back to the hostel we all went again.  The rest of the evening was quite uneventful and passed rather dully.  To this day I still can’t put my finger on what my “Beef” with Uvita or the Butterfly place was.  Because while the people were perfectly nice and the place was very beautiful, there just was nothing to really do there.  The town was very small and uneventful (I did forget to mention that I had a walk-about the town itself before the beach walk in search of much needed food!!) and really I felt like I came away from the place having spent way too much money for what it was worth!  But not every place is for everybody, so I took it in stride and stuck with my plan to leave the next morning.  I caught the 9am bus headed South again to get to my next “planned” destination of Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula

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Pictures from Uvita and the Butterfly Garden hostel: