Refugio Nacional Vida Silvestre Curú

Trip Start Sep 17, 2010
Trip End Oct 03, 2010

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Coco's Sunset

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Guanacaste,
Friday, September 24, 2010

A tropical depression has moved into the area so the normal rainy season I was experiencing has only intensified. Travel and outdoor photography are complicated by the wet but the quality of most photographs is compromised by the very flat lighting the solid cloud cover creates.  Sky is more interesting in a picture if there's at least some blue in it.  Today it’s solid gray.

I tried getting out of it by traveling a good distance south to the Refugio Nacional Vida Silvestre Curú (the Wildlife Refuge in Curú).  The first issue is how to get there.  The most direct route is straight down the Peninsula Nicoya from where I am.  The problem with this route is that there’s a section of dirt road that the guide book warns requires four wheel drive "most of the year."  With that warning, taking my little car by that route not only during the rainy season, but also during the constant rain of a tropical depression, requires more chutzpah than I’ve got.  So the alternative is a three  hour drive (plus or minus… usually plus…) to Puntarenas where there’s a ferry that for about $14 will take me and my car on a one hour trip across the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera from where the road is paved.  I choose the ferry.

The drive down is wet but uneventful.  I arrive at the ferry with minimal difficulty where an attendant with a two-way radio tells somebody to wait, there’s one more and instructs me to leave my car in the middle of the entry to the ferry and run across the street to buy a ticket but to hurry because they’re leaving.  I end up being the next-to-the-last car on.

The trip across the gulf is uneventful (thankfully) and in Paquera I stop at an agency that arranges activities in the Refuge.  I wanted to try sea kayaking because my travel guide says this is one of the most beautiful places to participate in that activity.  All activities, however, are cancelled because of the weather.  The seas are rougher than they want to risk taking tourists of unknown abilities and physical conditioning out in.

The rain here is lighter and more intermittent than farther north but the skies are still uniformly gray.  I’ll take that (not that I have any choice).  I drive out to the refuge which is mostly on private land.  The owner decided to reverse the trend of clearing out native rain forest to create pasture for cattle and farmland in 1983 and declared about 75% of his land as the first wildlife refuge in Costa Rica.  He’s still in the process of reintroducing native plant and animal species.

I pay the $10 entry fee and motor in to the first trail I see, stop and load up my camera gear for a hike through the rain forest.  The trails are well marked and well maintained.  There are even signs with inspirational messages along the path (“Only nature creates great works of art without expecting anything in return”  “In nature there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences” “My only request is the sky above me and the path beneath my feet”)

The refuge is deserted and I have the whole place almost to myself.  Partly because the heavy tourist season is the dry season (of course) and partly because, even for the rainy season it’s pretty damp out today.

I make it out of the refuge after closing time but before they close up the gate and go home and head for the ferry dock.  There’s a ferry waiting, though this one is much bigger and can accommodate multiple cars, buses and 18-wheelers all of which are packed on board as tightly as possible and with care to try to balance the load.  Another uneventful trip across the gulf and I’m glad I brought a book to read as there’s nothing to see since it’s not only dark but the clouds are very low-lying.

After I make it through Puntarenas and onto the Pan-American Highway, I stop at a local “soda” for dinner.  Small, informal restaurants locally are called sodas, though some of them aren’t really that small but they are less formal (and cheaper) than a “restaurante”.

The rest of the drive back “home” is uneventful except for one time I’m startled half to death when I blow right by what I guess was a police checkpoint of some sort.  A uniformed officer was standing, with no lighting or reflective material, in the dark right on the double yellow centerline opposite a small police station.  Seems to me you have to have a death wish to do that on a dark rainy night here.
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