'Roughing It'

Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
Trip End Jan 11, 2005

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Monday, January 10, 2005

Visit Klenske, Ink.

An early morning pick up from our San Jose Hotel, and we were off to our remote destination of the Corcovado Tent Lodge, located just outside Parque Nacional de Corcovado, located in the far and remote jungle region of the osa peninsula, less then ten degrees from the equator. As soon as we boarded the bus, we encountered to others, from Californian, also going to the tent camp. One was a very large and loud woman and the other was her daughter, who the entire time getting there and being there, never once looked, smiled or said a word to us. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the mother. She wouldn't shut up. She kept drilling the guide with obnoxious, classic gringo-like questions such as: 'why don't you have an army?', 'I don't get how you can defend yourself without an army', 'how much do you make?', and the classic, 'i'm surprised that all the children look well-nurished'. What does she think, that everyone outside the US is starving and that every nation has enemies? Some people shouldn't be allowed to leave their own countries, it gives the rest of us a bad name.

But soon we reached the local airport, where we weighed our luggage to make sure it was under 25 pounds. We succeeded and so were able to board are propeller run six seat airplane that would take us into the jungle in a trip lasting less than an hour. The plane ride was amazingly smooth and the scenery was stunning. I was giddy as a little boy as I was able to sit in the co-pilot seat and pretend I was flying the plane. We flew over the mountains and towards the pacific, even flying over manual Antonio and the hotel we stayed at the previous few nights. Then came the jungle. All you saw was muddy rivers and thick, green jungle. Nothing else. Except, of course, the 'airport'. Except the airport was more of a gravel, sandy road cut along the ocean and jungle. But we landed safe and got off into the thick and muggy heat that we would call home for the next three nights. From the 'airport' we had a half hour hike along the beach into the lodge. As soon as we started, we were greeted by the local scarlet macaws, flying in their monogamous pair, screeching a hello and flashing their brilliant reds, blues, greens and yellows.

The camp has to be the best place I have ever been. It is literally right along the beach and the jungle. It's like a scene out of survivor. No cars, houses, noises, tvs, phones, anything. Just the loud crash of the waves, the roars of the howler monkey and the screeches of the macaws. We had the beach and the jungles to ourselves. Our tent, which was more like a canvas hotel room, was facing the ocean. We could open our flap and there it was. We spent the day eating at the restaurant, which served delicious family style meals by the most friendly wait staff in the world. We then took a nap, laid in the hammocks, walked along the beach, saw some spider monkeys playing, watched the sunset and called it a night. The funny thing is, here you go to bed at 8:30, since the lights go out. But the tropical stars are amazing. You cannot even pick out the constellations since they are overshadowed by a blanket of white dust. We both slept good that night, despite the heat. Then it was up again at 5am to start another day.

Our first day we took a half day hike up to the lodge's canopy platform. It was about a two hour hike, and along the way we saw a toucan, a poison dart frog, numerous birds and learned a lot about the rainforest. The lodge's guides are all biology or something of the such majors and its like hiking with your own private scientist. Once you get to the platform, they outfit you in a harness, ropes and a helmet, and then use a pulley system to shoot you up 100 meters or so, where you find a chair waiting for you up on the platform hugging a tree. On the platform we spent about an hour and a half just sitting, watching, smelling and listening to the rainforest. It is quite relaxing to be above the tree tops in the world's tallest and most remote tree house. The lodge actually does overnight trips up on the platform, but after seeing the size and aggressive nature of the tiger ants up there, we decided to spend the night on earth. On the platform we saw a troop of spider monkeys, meaning that we now saw all four species of primates located in costa rica. We also heard two troops of howler monkeys fighting over their territory, but never did see them. Several tropical birds were also spotted. To get down, you once again get strapped into the pulley, but the ride down is more of a controlled free fall and bit exciting.

A hike like that deserves a meal, a beer and a rest now doesn't it? We thought so, and so that is what we did. Outside our tent there were two comfortable reclining lounge chairs and two comfortable swinging hammocks, both looking over the ocean. The day was spent essentially switching back and forth between the two, enjoying a couple of semi-warm (i'm telling you, its HOT down there) imperials, and enjoying the ocean and a book. The highlight was when a macaw couple came and fed in the almond tree right in front of us. We were literally less then five feet away from these beautiful birds. And they stayed and fed for at least a half hour. As soon as they flew away, it was time to turn our chairs to face the west and watch another pacific sunset. And, as happened last night, we were joined by the same two spider monkeys in the same passion fruit tree.

That night we had dinner with a mother/daughter combination from Californian and Boston. We also had a couple of beers from the candle lit bar and then went to bed nice and early. Unfortunately, as kara was about to blow our tent candle out, she spied a large beetle crawling around by her head. Needless to say, our bedtime was delayed and we clumsily crawled around swatting at the beetle, all to no avail. Instead we slept with our heads the other way, under the sheets and with a mosquito head net on. None of those precautions lasted long as our fear of being bit was trumped by the humidity and sweat that we were dripping. But why be so scared of a little beetle? Perhaps I haven't told you how many things can kill you down here in costa rica, besides malaria, the roads (highest auto fatality rate per capita in the world), earthquakes, volcanoes, snakes, spiders and the water, they have this nifty beetle called the assassin beetle, which after it bites you, it is kind enough to take a dump in your wound. That's right, the fucker poops in you. And like most poop, it's not clean. The assassin bug's poop carries a nasty parasite, which is actually harmless from the bite/poop combo. The problem arises is that you wake up, you have an itchy bug bite and so naturally you itch it. This causes the parasite to spread into your blood stream and some day, years in the future, attacks your heart, makes is swell and knocks you off. Just like it did to old Darwin! (by the way, the bug in our tent wasn't an assassin bug, since the guide said it doesn't occur in costa rica and often only lives in poverty stricken areas, but we didn't find this out until the next day).

5am wake up again, and a quick cold shower (no hot water, not that you need or want it) to wash the previous nights heat away (only to have it immediately reapplied). Today we were set to take an all day hike through the national park, from sun up to sun down. It was us, a older Swedish couple who found it necessary to both smoke and make out while walking through a rainforest, and our guide Fredrico. The hike was the perfect way to spend our last full day in the costa rican wild. We came here to see the rainforest and see monkeys, and that is what we spent the entire day doing. On our way in to the park, we didn't see much for wildlife, besides several birds and lizards and a few blue morpho butterflies. But we did learn a wealth of knowledge about the rainforest itself, it was like taking a college lecture in the field.

We stopped for lunch at a point called, 'point of no return'. It got this name because if you go past it, you can't get back until low tide, the following day. We wanted to get back and so we just ate our brown bag lunches here and fed the hundreds of hermit crabs scurrying along the beach (we even played marbles with them). The only exciting thing about the hike to lunch was that I got a tick on my elbow, but being the prepared boy scout I am, had my trusty tick remover out, the tick gone and the bite disinfected in a record breaking 60 seconds, tops. Also, they don't have lyme disease here so ticks are one of the few things that can't kill you!

The hike back to camp became a wildlife highlights tour of costa rican rainforest animals. We found a troop of white faced monkeys lounging in the trees and making faces at us. We new it was time to go when they started breaking branches and throwing them at us. Did you know that the white faced monkey is very evolutionary evolved? It has been seen using tools to kill snakes and crack open fruits. It is also able to be trained to recognize colors and shapes. They say this is because they eat fruits and meats, and so don't need to spend their entire days looking for food. Instead they have free time, and free time allows for evolutionary growth, the same reason why we humans are supposedly so evolved. See, I did learn something. We later saw another troop of monkeys, this time spider monkeys, the species that swings through the trees using their tails. Along the trail we saw a seven foot snake, not poisonous, and watched it shoot straight up a tree. We even saw some agoutis (described by the locals as 'big rats that taste good', but they look more pig like to me), and a coati up in a tree. That night at dinner Fredrico gave us a list of all the animals we saw that day for us to keep.

Ten hours after we left and roughly two gallons of water later, we arrived back at camp just in time to see the sun set and to say goodbye to our neighbor spider monkeys. We of course enjoyed a nice cold shower and then joined our friends, Kevin and Susan from san diego, for a bottle of wine on their 'front porch'. Kevin and I could chat about baseball while kara and susan talked teaching. I then bought the four of us a round of beers give cheers to a good trip done, a safe trip home, and many more trips to come.

I woke up monday morning a laughed at the fact that my law school friends were all starting school today while I was on the far side of the world, looking out at the ocean, watching macaws fly over my head, and drinking fresh costa rican coffee. Do I really want to go back? I thought. But we had no choice, we had a plane to catch down on the beach airport. As we walked their with Kevin and Susan, we were accompanied by a half dozen toucans and numerous macaws, all calling out to us, as if they were saying 'adios, hasta luego'. And as we flew away, leaving the jungle behind us, Kara and I both agreed that Corcovado Tent Camp was the perfect way to end an wonderful journey. But this sentimentalism was soon interrupted by the turbulence of flying in a small plane and we instead had to concentrate on holding down our breakfast...

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