Placencia and Coxscombe Wildlife Sanctuary

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
National Park Campground

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A (by now familiar) bus journey until our desired beach destination of Placencia (situated on a peninsula of land bordered by ocean and a large lagoon), described in our GUIDEbook as a small, sleepy relaxed beach town. Hmmm, don´t know how long ago that was written, but this place is now tourist-central and with prices to match (locals now swinging in their hammocks at properties worth millions due to huge property investment by foreigners - mainly Americans & Europeans - good on them for selling at a profit, but where to next?). 

Pretty place ´though, with colourful houses built on stilts above the sand, tropical flowers, hummingbirds and a narrow concrete footpath which is apparently in the Guiness Book of Records as the narrowest/longest street in the world??

Our initial disappointment with the town was eased somewhat by an excellent Kingfish dinner at Omar´s friendly restaurant.

It wasn´t hard to resist the temptations of the Caribbean Ocean for a swim as the sand had a fair amount of unsightly rubbish.

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Had a bit of a false start this morning, the 6am direct bus we raced for left at 5:30 which meant instead breakfast, a ride in a launch and two different buses in that order.

From the main road, we polish off a 2 hour walk in 1.5 in fairly extreme heat, perhaps we are getting fit after all? The walk along the alternatively dry and muddy red road was filled with butterflies and dragonflies. An plane crash site was marked on the road as a scenic point! Anna in particular found the site eerie, while Ed (ever the professional) simply got out his camera and started snapping.

With accomodation at the National Park all booked-up, we were lucky enough to find a Park Ranger who rented us a tent and some mattresses for the night.

Two hours before sunset we started our first hike, accompanied by various and (by us) unidentifable birds and a curious coatimundi (racoon-like thing). Our most David Attenborough-like moment came in the near darkness close to a swamp when we heard sounds and smelt a large group of animals very close to us in the ´Jurassic Park´ vegetation. The snorting, squeaking and grunting confirmed that we were having a close encounter with a group of peccaries (wild pigs) even before we saw them.

Ever the nature-lovers we went for a night hike after dinner and were rewarded with fireflies circling around our campsite, wolf spider eyes gleaming everywhere in the grass and an owl perched in a branch above our head - not forgetting a spectacularly starry night sky.

(Another ´Small World´ experience - the only other person at our campsite was a friendly Alaskan guy who spent a few months hiking and fly-fishing around New Zealand, most notably at the river next to Anna´s small home town.)

Next day, our whirlwind tour of Coxscombe continues with a 6:30 start for the Tiger Trail. No tigers, not even a jaguar or two, but we spotted a tiny golden hummingbird which wasn´t much bigger than a bee. A bush turkey and a couple of energetic monkeys completed the wildlife spotting.

The trail continued to a viewpoint of Mt Victoria where we met some hardy Scottish students working on conservation projects in the area. The trail descended steeply to an idyllic waterfall emptying into a turquoise pool which we had all to ourselves. Our swim there reminded us why we hike silly distances in all conditions - simply magic.

With time getting on and not wanting to miss the only bus to Placencia, we half-ran out to the main road in the heat and the sun. Lucky for us, two mechanics stopped and gave us a lift to the main road and we were more than happy to give them some beer money for their kindness.

The bus back to Placencia passed some absolute mansions lined up against the sea and some ultra-posh, all-inclusive resorts. The road however, was a disaster - full of enormous pot-holes.

Once again, Omar came up trumps at his restaurant with some fresh and tasty barracuda.
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