Tuesday, 9th September
Today we started our journey to Corcovado National Park, in the south west of Costa Rica, which meant an overnight stay in Puerto Jimenez on the way. Unless you want to pay US$80 for a cab ride over the last stretch of road the cheaper alternative is to take the US$10 collectivo bus which leaves twice a day from Puerto Jimenez and we would miss the last one by the time our bus from San Jose would arrive.
We got up at 6am and got ready for our taxi at ten to seven but alas it didn’t come. After waiting 20 minutes I flagged one down in the street and after loading our bags began the task of explaining where we needed to go. As I’ve already mentioned, addresses in Costa Rica are notorious for their inadequacy. The bus terminal address actually wasn’t too bad in comparison to some we’ve come across but it still had the taxi driver stumped. The girl from the hostel tried and got a little of the way there but it took the taxi driver phoning through to the bus compny to find exactly where we had to go. We arrived with ten minutes to spare, bought our tickets to Puerto Jimenez and boarded for what would be an eight hour ride.
The journey was okay, not the best bus but we’ve certainly had worse. Both of us slept pretty much the whole way in fits and starts. We got to Puerto Jimenez at 4pm and ‘Kenny’ from the hostel I had booked was there to meet us. As there’s only two buses into town a day he guessed which one we would be on. He took is to the hostel which turned out to be a different one from what we had booked but it was nicer and set amongst a forest. We had a private cabin which was pretty much open to the elements except for a roof and waist high wall. We got settled in then after a dinner of casado we went to bed to the sound of the forest in the ‘Jungle Hostel’. This hostel is set all on its own about ten minutes outside of Puerto Jimenez so we opted to have all our meals catered for rather than go into town to get fed. I slept through to morning but Kirsty was woken by a large thunder and lightning storm. Not sure how I managed to sleep through that one. As we went to sleep under our mosquito net there was some kind of mouse/possum creature scurrying around roof lining. All part of sleeping in the forest I guess.
Wednesday, 10th September
The morning came and after lying in our bed protected from bugs by being covered by a large mosquito net, we got up to start the day. We woke up not as early as I would’ve thought, not having any walls or curtains, so that was a pleasant surprise. After a brisk cold shower we had breakfast of eggs and rice and beans. So much rice and beans here. I then went for a walk along the road and saw some views of the ocean and a toucan in a tree. In my absence Kirsty found herself in the middle of a squirrel monkey exhibition around the cabin. Kenny, our host, had some errands to run in town so seeing as our bus to our next hotel, ‘Finca Exotica’ in Carate, wasn’t leaving until one thirty we hitched a lift to grab some supplies from town. There aren’t any stores where we are going and thought some snacks might be required. We have booked ourselves for four nights into a ‘eco-lodge’, a bit of a treat.
Downtown Puerto Jimenez isn’t much to write home about. It’s a town of about a thousand people and has the feel to it of a place where pretty much anything goes, like a lot of all towns in Central America. We loaded up on snacks and mosquito coils then Kenny dropped us by a beach of the Golfo Dulce for an hour whilst he ran some more errands. Kenny is a man about town that seems to have a lot going on. We were actually worried that we would be pushing it to make our collective bus to Carate as we didn’t get picked up again until an hour before it was due to leave and we still had to have lunch back at the hostel and get our stuff together before heading to the stop. We needn’t have worried. Lunch was pasta and rice and then we waited by the side of the road for the collectivo to come past which we would flag down.
Collectivo is a term used throughout Central America to describe any kind of communal transport, usually as hoc, and beinng of any variety of vehicle. This collectivo was a converted truck with seats down the sides in the back. The ride was nice, if a little bumpy, as we made our way along the unmade road to Carate. The road took us through farms and forest with much to look at. There was no protection from bits of tree coming through the front so we had to keep a look out for tree branches flying through to the back.
We arrived in Carate and the ‘Finca Exotica’ eco-lodge around 4pm and loved what we found. This is a treat for us and we booked the cheaper tiki tent style accomodation only to find that we had been upgraded a couple of times to a cabin with ensuite bathroom and outdoor shower. We are one of two couples staying here at the moment and we had a few hours to unwind before dinner at 7pm. Showering outside is an experience not least because there is no door to the shower. I can only assume that they have been clever enough with the paths around the cabins and viewing angles so as to ensure privacy when showering. It’s nice to have a shower with large macaw parrots flying overhead too. Something a bit out of the ordinary.
We have all our meals catered here, breakfast lunch and dinner and also a whole day tour of the national park thrown into our four night package. Dinner was nice, the meals here are all ‘health conscious’ so we feel looked after. They even cater for Kirsty’s list of intolerances. After dinner with the Dutch couple staying here we went to bed in a rainstorm with the sound of falling rain and the crashing waves from the Pacific Ocean all around us. It wasn’t the most serene nights sleep. We have our tour of Corcovado National Park booked for the next day so were hoping for a good decent nights sleep.
Thursday, 11th September
It rained for most of the night and we managed some sleep on and off. With the tour having us leave here at 7am we had breakfast arranged for 6:30am so after a quick cold shower we made our way up to the ‘Casa Grande’. This is the large eating and lounge area with a great view of the ocean and surrounding forest complete with hammocks to laze around in.
We met our guide for the day, ‘Jerry’, then set off on a 4km walk along Carate beach and through forest to the entrance of Corcovado National Park. The scenery here is stunning, there is the Pacific Ocean on one side crashing waves onto the beach which is lined with the dense rainforest on the other side. This is one of the most densely rich areas of wildlife in Costa Rica and the world. Our hike would take us about 10km into the national park, walking about 25km in all and would have us back at the hotel by around 4pm. Along the way we saw loads of scarlet macaw parrots, an amazing sight. These are large birds (can be up to 1m long) and have a very distinctive squawk. It feels very tropical when you see red, blue and yellow parrots all around. We hiked through the rainforest, along a trail and at times along the beach, wading through several rivers in the process. The trail followed the ocean quite closely but you still felt like you were in deep forest at times. This is the end of high season and we were blessed with not too many other groups on the trail, only two others that we could see. Some people do an even longer hike here to a ranger station and stay overnight but we were content with our one-day hike, being pretty tough-going and leaving us well and truly knackered by the end of the day. During the hike we saw:
- Scarlet macaws
- Black-throated trogon (bird)
- Crested caraca (bird of prey)
- Black hawk
- Squirrel monkeys
- Howler monkeys
- Spider monkeys
- Golden orb weaver spiders
- Red squirrels
- White-faced coati
- Northern tamandua anteater
- Collared forest falcon
- Lovely poison-dart frog
- Orange and black poison-dart frog
- Crested owl
- Blue shrimp
- Black vulture
The highlight was seeing the anteater sleeping in the tree (had no idea they did that) and Kirsty coming face to face with a coati, both looking as surprised as each other.
We got back to the hotel around 4pm and after a rest had our dinner of snook (a fish) which a neighbour caught that afternoon. We are being fed three course dinners here and are really enjoying the food, healthy but tasty. We then took our weary bodies to bed knowing that we had nothing to do tomorrow beyond relax and eat what was put in front of us.
Friday, 12th September
There was rain as usual in the night but we were quite content in our cabin giving us more than adequate shelter. It’s nice to hear all the sounds of the forest as you go to sleep and wake up. Breakfast was huge; rice and beans, eggs and fried plantain with juice and coffee. They certainly feed you well here. After eating I settled into a hammock and did some reading of the wildlife books they have here to get some tips on how to spot stuff. During this time I managed to spot a large iguana in a faraway tree, about 30m off the ground, sunning itself on a branch. Quite pleased with myself for that as it was about 50m away. Kirsty retired to the cabin for some reading and relaxation and I went wandering around the lodge and checked out the beach. It’s too dangerous to swim here with the currents so it’s a quiet beach with no one around and just the sound of the crashing waves.
Lunch was delicious, marinated ginger beef with onions and rice. Afterwards I decided on doing some of the trails they have here around the lodge. The first one was fairly short and took me along a stream to a waterfall (Puma Falls). The second was much tougher going and took about two hours, walking up a steep hill until you are on a ridge with the rainforest falling away to either side and views of the ocean to the west and more forest everywhere else. On the walk I spotted a cacomistle, some toucans and a troop of spider monkeys. The cacomistle is a racoon-like creature which I saw looking at me up in a tree. When I stopped it ran down the tree then up another one, down again head-first, then up another tree. It did this a few times until I lost sight. The toucans were easy to spot, making a racket in a tree covered in fruit and the monkeys were even louder, crashing through the trees along the ridge. The monkeys clearly weren’t happy with my presence. They saw me before I saw then and started shaking the branches and were jumping close to me, trying I think to unnerve me and it worked. The trail along the ridge isn’t that wide here, about one metre across, so the only way through was directly under the monkeys. After some hesitation I put my head down and walked through without any dramas although it didn’t please the monkeys who proceeded to make even more noise and one followed me for a while, probably making sure I was join away and didn’t come back. I did see that one of them had a baby which could’ve been the cause for their alarm. The way down back to the lodge was much steeper than the way up and after some slipping and sliding down the hill I got back to the cabin with a couple of hours to spare before dinner.
We decided to head up to dinner a bit early tonight to have a couple of drinks at the bar overlooking the ocean. Beforehand we watched the start of the sunset on the beach, so nice with no one around and the sun shining off the ocean and the wet sand. There was another couple there for dinner, a Spanish couple who had just done the two-day trek through the national park. Maybe we’ll do that next time. We definitely want to come back to Central America and there are plenty of places we didn’t get to in Costa Rica. The other couple leave tomorrow then it will be just is I think in the whole lodge. It’s looking like we are the last guests of the season.
Saturday, 13th September
Another day and another large breakfast. Today it was vegetable frittata with tortillas and beans. After breakfast we thought we’d go for a walk after my success of a hike yesterday. We set off on a different loop which took us alongside the ocean before veering off inland and sharply uphill towards a ridge. This walk would meet up with the path I walked along yesterday but not before a steep climb and walk along another forested ridge. Early on into the hike we saw a group of coatis criss-crossing the path in front of us as they foraged for food and went up and down trees. They most resemble raccoons but are larger and more elongated. Maybe a cross between a racoon and a possum describes them well. Further along the trail we spotted some howler monkeys sitting in a tree high up, quite content although keeping a close eye on us. Later on we came across a group of spider monkeys which, like yesterday, were not impressed by our presence and shook the branches and screeched as we walked through. It makes you feel quite uneasy; monkeys jumping around above you, shaking branches and watching you. You kind of feel hunted although you know that they would never come out of the trees.
We continued our walk and it started to rain, not much at first but then it all came down and we got saturated. I had a cover for my camera bag but, even so had to resort to using a banana leaf for extra cover as the rain was coming down so hard. Luckily we were by a junction in the trail which I knew from my walk yesterday and only a twenty minute walk from the lodge so instead of going on further along the ridge and further into a rainforest living up to it’s name, we walked down towards the shelter of our cabin. No need for a shower after this walk, the clouds did the job for us.
Lunch was delicious and healthy as usual and afterwards we settled into the hammocks on the decking looking out to the Pacific Ocean with scarlet macaws squawking overhead. Our last dinner at the hostel was just us, being the only guests at the hotel. I had thought about doing a night walk after dinner but the weather being what it was I was pleased to not have booked one as it would’ve been rather wet and looking up into the trees for animals in the rain with glasses obscures your vision somewhat. After dinner we retired to our cabin for our last night of sleeping through jungle noises and open-air sleeping. It has been really nice staying here but I think we are both ready for a bedroom which isn’t quite so damp.