Friday, January 27, 2012

Corcovado National Park [day 3]

All good things must come to an end and so it was that we left Corcovado National Park. After two great days of exploring the jungle [see day 1 and day 2] we weren't quite ready to leave, but we had heard that the trail we were taking out of the park was one of the most beautiful others have ever seen. While beach hikes may not be my preferred, this was such a unique trail that its beauty cannot really be compared to any other trail. It left me in awe.

We broke camp and were on the trail sometime between 6 and 7. We weren't in a real rush; we knew that we had just under 20 kilometers of trail and beach walking to cover before arriving at the town where we would catch a ride into Puerto Jimenez, located on the other side of Osa Peninsula. But after our previous days' experiences we knew that we would be able tackle the distance without many problems. Indeed the day went rather smoothly, we only had a moment's pause at a couple of the rivers that we crossed throughout the journey.

Within the first kilometer of our trek we crossed Rio Claro, a shallow (at least when we crossed) mossy river that gently collides with the Pacific Ocean. We made it across without any problems, though there was the potential to fall at the one rapid we couldn't avoid at the end of our crossing. A narrow channel had formed and the water surged from ankle deep calmness to knee high "I don't want you to leave yet" force. We weren't quite ready for that, but managed to make it out unscathed.

Sea birds looking for breakfast in Rio Claro

The trail led us through the ocean-side jungle and then up to the boundary between the jungle and beach. We followed the narrow trail as it wove in and out of coconut trees. We spotted cat tracks in the sand and scarlet macaws in the trees overhead. The brilliant shades of primary colors that adorn the scarlet macaw left us staring in awe for a while - regardless of how many times we had already spotted them during the trip we couldn't peel our eyes away. They are truly gorgeous creatures.

Upon leaving the jungle
The cat never appeared, but we did follow it's tracks for quite some way. The trail wove in and out of the jungle some more before depositing us in a beautiful cove that had us playing on rocks jutting out of the sand and watching pelicans as they dove for their breakfast. After a quick attempt at baseball by the guys (using rocks and beached wood) we followed the shoreline for a couple of kilometers. We started to get hot and so tried moving further from the water and closer to the trees and to our pleasant surprise we stumbled upon some tapir tracks! Apparently they like to hang out on the beach too! We followed the tracks for a while and then took a mid morning break devoted to munching on sweet treats and taking photos.

Tapir track
Once we were good and rested and bellies content we moseyed on along the waters edge once more. The ocean is hypnotic and easy to follow and had it not been for the sighting on a coati hunting along the treeline we would have missed our turn back into the jungle. We paused and watched as the coati climbed a downed tree and pulled bark off of it in search of protein filled goodness. It didn't seem to care that we were watching it so we relaxed and enjoyed the moment. When the coati disappeared into the jungle so did we. 

Coati in search of food

As we continued along the trail we crossed a couple of more streams and enjoyed more beautiful views of the Pacific coastline. One stream left Kevin with wet feet after a day of successful dry crossings and at our final river crossing we all plunged into the narrow but deep crossing. After our final crossing we we delighted to find white faced monkeys hanging out right alongside of the trail. They were sprawled out on branches within arms reach. They were simply looking for an escape from the heat of the day. Stretched out along a branch with its legs and tail hanging below one caught a brief cat nap. Noon was quickly approaching and so we pushed a little harder knowing that the Leona ranger station wasn't far off. The number of people walking toward us was steadily increasing (including a group of nude hikers cleverly holding their shorts in front of their private parts - we really saw all sorts of wildlife during the trip!) and we were ready to be away from them.

White face monkey hanging out
We arrived at La Leona shortly after noon and claimed the station picnic table for our last meal of tortillas, peanut butter and jelly, dulce de leche, gumdrops (backpacking requires a lot of fuel!) and a lot of water. With our energy levels restored we took to the beach, sans shoes, and started the three-ish kilometer walk to Carate, the town (i.e. landing strip and visitor station/bar) where we would pick up the bus to Puerto Jimenez.

Walking to Carate

The remaining distance kept us in awe. We watched as white face monkeys jumped from tree to tree and others as they dug their hands into a hollowed out coconut to pull its fleshy innards out for lunch. A pair of scarlet macaws took flight and swooped out over the ocean much to our delight. Flocks of pelicans flew overhead. Crabs scurried out from under our footfalls. The warm ocean water washed over our tired feet. As we started to wonder where Carate might be we spotted a horse drawn wagon crossing a small stream. We asked the driver if we were in Carate and he said yes. We crossed that stream and walked to the visitor station where we played some dice and talked to other park visitors. 

White face monkey grabbing coconut meat

The "bus", a cattle truck with some benches, showed up a couple of hours later and we climbed aboard for the hour trip to Puerto Jimenez. The time estimate was severely wrong (as is usual in Costa Rica) and after about two and a half hours we arrived at our destination. We then went in search of a place to stay. Pablo (the guide we had met) directed us to the hotel where his group would be staying. We stopped in and started talking to the owner. She informed us that she didn't have space but we continued talking anyway as she had called around to find us space elsewhere. When we told her we were volunteers she said, "but you aren't from Peace Corps, are you?" we were able to make her evening by answering yes. She had hosted a volunteer back in the 60s when Peace Corps first came to Costa Rica! The place that she had called for us never got back to her and with rumbling bellies we took our leave and found space at Oro Verde. It was clean and that was all we were asking for. We dropped our packs and went in search of food, not worrying about the fact that we smelled.

We ate delicious veggie pizza in an open air pizzeria located at the end of the downtown stretch. We got our fill of veggies after a sugar filled couple of days, paid our bill and went to clean up before crawling into bed for the night.

The night was short and the following day long. We arrived at the Puerto Jimenez bus terminal shortly after 4:30 to find that all of the seats for the 5am bus were sold out. Needing to get back to our sites we took the only option, we agreed to stand for the eight hour ride back to San Jose. It was tiring, but we all made it back to our sites that evening. 

Operation Parque Nacional Corcovado = success! We highly recommend that you take a stab at the park if you find yourself in Costa Rica and have the time to travel to its southern-most reaches!

For more photos of our adventure, visit here or here (photos from our friend Kevin - he's a much better photographer!).

No comments: