Costa Rica and the Wild Corcovado

Trip Start Nov 24, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Friday, April 18, 2008

Just as the scorching sun was beginning to simmer the always boiling hot city of David, we boarded an old school bus bound for the CR border and said our goodbyes to the awfully overlooked country of Panama. In cheerful moods to be on the road yet again and anxious to see what lies ahead for us in a new country, the last thing we thought would happen on a Tuesday morning border crossing was an entire mornings worth of hassle and conflict. After all, isn't 'Pura Vida' Costa Rica and Panama (expatriate-ville) the two most tourist friendly (in the development sense that is) countries in all of Central and South America? Well, it happened. Nearly three hours at the 'la frontera' and twenty scandalous dollars later we said our disenchanted goodbyes to a country that at the very last minute swindled away a days worth of travel money and moments later set off for Puerto Jimenez situated along the SWestern Pacific Ocean on the Osa Peninsula. The central jumping off point for the wild, remote, diverse and famed Corcovado National Park.

Although the majority of Costa Rican tourist destinations are developed for the luxurious tourist in mind, because of its sheer isolation from everything else, unless you pay a considerable amount of money for a guide to take you into the park by foot, plane or by boat, Corcovado is one of the few places in CR that is wild and rugged enough to keep out the majority of tourists. An uncommon ode to transportation difficulties. Because of this it has stayed affordable to the eager budget traveler who chooses to get to the park the hard way -- alone and on foot. Undoubtedly, this meant it would be our first major destination in CR. 

Dubbed one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet by National Geographic Magazine a few years back and summed up in more quantitative terms, the park protects more than 400 species of birds, 116 reptiles and amphibians, 139 mammals and overall represents approximately 10 percent of all mammals living on both the Americas in only .00010177 % of their combined landmass. If that's not hard to fathom, I don't know what is. There is basically enough flora and fauna to make up an entire volume set of encyclopedias let alone the species still yet to be discovered. A wild zoo without cages, Corcovado NP is a place where animals roam freely and the untamed jungle oozes with adventure. We were headed to its heart.

Being the cheapskates that we are and not wanting to pay an outrageous $18 dollars a meal during our four night stay for rice, beans and bananas at one of the five ranger stations positioned at different areas in the park, we loaded our packs with tuna, black beans, peanut butter, honey, cheese, fruit and bread to last five days; leaving just enough space for trusty 'rock blue solid' and a few bottles of Deet insect spray. The following morning, leaving Puerto Lopez by truck we traveled 45 km across the Osa Peninsula to Carate. Along the way we were greeted by curious spider monkeys and wallowed at the scarlett macaws that flew in pairs above. What they were setting the stage for, we never could have imagined. Once at Carate, an outpost really, it was all on foot from there. We set out along the remote beaches for the entrance to the park. Walking on sand with a heavy pack might I add is not the more pleasurable experiences. I'll take uphill any day. Because the entire 'trail' boarders the coastline, there are a few sections that become impassable at high tide. To avoid getting caught at the wrong place at the wrong time it's important that you time it perfectly otherwise you have to wait until the ocean recedes before continuing on. Unfortunately ten km into the hike we came down from the forested area of the hike and watched as huge waves crashed onto the rocky shoreline, covering up our trail and making the crossing look quite bleak. Erring on the side of caution we waited until the tide was moving out. Although we made it safely, it definitely was one wet affair! At the other end a random encounter with two girls and a guy with a semi-automatic machine gun made us wonder if coming here alone was a bight idea.

The next 10 kilometers greeted us with remarkable beaches, huge crashing waves and very curious capuchin monkeys which descended from the forest onto the beaches to eat sweet flowers from overhanging trees. On one particular stretch we saw more Scarlett Macaws, spider monkeys, and coati than I ever could have thought possible. Instead of detailing every certain encounter I'll just say that we saw we saw Scarlett Macaws affectionately licking and preening each other high above us in the tree canopy, howler, capuchin, squirrel and spider monkeys acting like...well...crazy monkeys...some of which we saw extremely close up and on one occasion we were even shit on by howler monkeys...yep right on the head, Jesus Christ lizards that literally can run on top of water, the very odd looking tapir (cross between a horse, elephant and pig), fearless peccaries (wild pigs) that had the most grotesque unmistakable smell that has ever seared by sinuses, crocodiles, anteaters, coati and so much more. It was a pretty spectacular sight and besides the park entrance cost of ten dollars a day we did it SUPER cheap compared to the small groups of  tourists coming in on boats and staying for only one night.  The only negative were the bugs. The damn bugs! Maya had and still has over 100 mosquito bites. She was even religious with the bug spray. For some reason I have only 19 although my blodd is probably not nearly as sweet. The ticks were fun to pick off too. Yeah. Along with sand flies my most hated insect. I found one on the MOST sensitive part of my body. Right on the OTHER head. Don't ask me how, they seemed to come out of nowhere but it dropped me to my knees in pain a cry of pain. Almost paralyzing pain if you can imagine. Fortunately I am still alive and my guy is recovering slowly. That tick in particular, well, the last moments of its life were tortuous to say the least.

For those who may want to know specifics and who may plan to do the journey yourself, we were dropped off at Carate, catching a covered pickup from PLopez around 530 or so in the morning. You hiked 3.5 km to La Leona ranger station (at the park boundary) and then proceeded to hike about 16 km to La Sirena, probably arriving before sundown givent the time you'll stop to look at animals. From Sirena we spent the next two days and nights hiking nearby trails. We woke up early in the mornings to howler monkeys, we about (the best time for sighting animals in action) and returned midday for lunch before returning to the forest in the evening. Our most favorite trails were those located near streams or rivers. The fourth day found us hiking another 20km northeast to Los Patos ranger station at a different, interior boundry of the park. We were the only people there. We spent the rest of that day swimming at a waterfall and resting our feet as it was a very long hike. We only passed three people along the entire trail. The last day we hiked about 5km out of the park toward La Palma. We were luckily picked up by a passing small cattle truck and rode in back the rest of the way in or it would have been a long walk. Los Patos has a covered shelter and running water. You sleep in a grassy area. It is very basic. La Sirena is far more luxurious being that it doubles as a research center and therefore has an elevated covered sleeping quarter and foam pad and a place to rinse down to go along with. A mosquito net and sleeping bag would be ideal if you don't have a tent. When we were the there the weather was perfect. If you can, stay at least three nights, four being the maximum and in my opinion the most worthwhile.
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oleal_cr on

It's important the futures travelers that from Sirena to La Leona or Back it's necessary to know the Tides, because you can cross 2 hours before or after the total high tide.
These places are: Rio Claro and Punta La Chancha. it's better in total low tide.
I have found a web where you can see the tide chart.
This is frist half from 2010 year.

I hope the other visitors... will be useful.
All the best!

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