Costa Rica

Costa Rican massage and Corcovado

It’s not an actual massage, unfortunately. No creams or oils, just bumpy roads that you bounce on in a motor vehicle. There are some paved roads especially in the center of towns and between larger cities. But elsewhere there are dirt roads and drivers who know how to get around.

imageWe (my parents and I) arrived in Quepos this afternoon which is right near Manuel Antonio national park. Earlier this week we hopped all over the country, first we took a Jeep from Monteverde, then a boat across Lake Arenal, and a second Jeep to La Fortuna for a day to visit the hot springs and see the Arenal volcano.

imageThe volcano was engulfed in clouds as it often is but it was still quite impressive. The hot springs were wonderful as advertised, we went to free ones outside of the official Tabacon spa and floated along for an hour. That night we were caught in torrential rainstorms so strong that it blew raindrops sideways, so we had a beer while we waited them out.

Tuesday we had arranged to be picked up by a taxi for our early morning flight but he didn’t show up, so we walked to town and got a taxi there. It was a nicer, heftier taxi than before and en route to the airport we came upon a car crash. Everyone appeared to be okay but both lanes were blocked and it would take valuable time to go on different roads around the accident. So the driver, after a bit of discussion, drove us off the road into a ditch and around the wrecked cars. We made our flight no problem thanks to our original taxi not arriving and we flew in the smallest plane I’ve ever been in to the south.

imageLucky that wasn’t our plane, but we did sit behind the pilots.

imageWe arrived in hot, humid Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula and we were greeted by a scarlet macaw, the first of many in the next few days. We took the colectivo truck around the peninsula and bounced around some more but it was actually very lovely scenery.

At the end of the road in Carate, we walked on the beach to La Leona for the night and packed our bags for the next few days. Wednesday morning we struck out for the ranger station, or so we thought. 5 minutes along the beach and we thought we’d arrived at the La Leona ranger station marking the entrance to Corcovado National Park but didn’t see anyone, so we found the Sendero Trail signs and started hiking. The trail went up and inland, when it should have been going along the beach. Another 30 minutes later at the dead end, we thought Hmm this may not be right after all. We hiked back to the beach, now an hour into the day, and about 100 meters down the beach we found the actual ranger station. Lesson learned: when your gut says this isn’t right, walk along the beach a little further. And we learned that Sendero Trail means Trail Trail, the signs were just marking a trail but not our trail.

We started the actual hike to the Sirena ranger station finally: Kate, Greg and Debby. We returned from Sirena as Sarge, Lawrence and Tipsy. I took my role as trip leader (Sarge), navigator, hydrator and morale booster very seriously. My dad (Lawrence) stuck his banana under his hat and with his driftwood walking stick looked like he came from the desert. And Mom (Tipsy) sometimes needed an extra hand to keep balanced over the steams, rocks and tree roots.

We hiked through beautiful forests for hours, sometimes next to the beach and other times more inland, seeing macaws, coati (the Costa Rican raccoon), spiders, birds, sand crabs and butterflies. We trudged on the sand for many kilometers, sometimes it was firm but often it was soft and very difficult to walk in with a full backpack. I don’t know if I mentioned, but it was hot hot hot and we sweat sweat sweat. Twice we ran low on water, hiking in and out, not terrible but not comfortable either. I don’t know if I’ll ever think of long walks on the beach as romantic again.

We arrived at the ranger station, relieved and exhausted, after 16+ km (not including our accidental pre-hike) and 8+ hours on the trail. We settled in and made friends with other hikers from around the world: Canada, Amsterdam, Argentina, Spain, and chatted with the tour guides. We didn’t have one even though there’s a new regulation that says all groups must have a guide but since we booked our permits before that rule we could do an unguided hike as planned. Might have been a good idea in retrospect, no wrong turns and pre-hikes with a guide, but we enjoyed going at our pace, taking pictures and looking at everything through binoculars. We even saw a tapir in the river, similar to a mini-elephant.

imageThursday we explored trails around the station and went crocodile hunting, and we saw a bunch of monkeys. It wasn’t until we (unexpectedly) went on a guided tour in the afternoon that we saw a few crocks, sharks, more monkeys, birds and a small snake. Pictures will follow, they’re all trapped on my camera for a few more days.

Friday we got an early start at 6am but we were the last to leave the sleeping area. We started and kept a good pace all day, keeping an eye on the time so we wouldn’t hit high tide when we had to cross any rivers. A pack of monkeys followed us briefly, showing off how they like to eat bananas and jump from tree to tree. We again hit the heat of the day and trudged on the beach but we made it, only a little sunburnt and dehydrated. We took the colectivo again to Puerto Jimenez and for a few scary moments I thought we wouldn’t make it, the truck sounded like it was on its last wheels. It rallied and we pulled into town for dinner and stayed the night at an Italian restaurant on the water. During dinner we ran into other hikers, it felt like a club with badges that read “I survived Corcovado”.

In the morning we bussed to Palmar Norte then Uvita for the night, enjoying the scenery trees on mountains overlooking water and coastline.

imageWe walked to the Costa Ballena beach and watched the sun set as surfers got in one more wave. But the town wasn’t quite right for us so we hopped up to Quepos today for a more active ending to the trip. During lunch this afternoon we ran into the same hikers from Corcovado and that we saw in Puerto Jimenez, then we met another couple of hikers at our hotel who remembered us from Sirena! What a great club, Corcovado Awesome Hikers. Tomorrow we’re going to kayak the mangroves and Tuesday will be snorkeling for Dad and me while Mom tours Manuel Antonio park before we head to San Jose. All too soon we’ll be on our way to Boston to be greeted by 15ft of snow.

Through it all, we survived Corcovado and Sarge, Lawrence and Tipsy will live to see future adventures yet.

Pura vida!

Categories: Costa Rica

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