Quest for the elusive Tapir

Trip Start Nov 08, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2009

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Cabinas thomson

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Paul has persuaded me to trek 20km in the jungle, stay overnight in the jungle and then trek 20km back. I{m not quite sure how he did it. Maybe I was drugged.
This national park, Corcovado, is supposed to be one of the last great wildernesses, another plus for me eh?, full of jaguars and pumas and tapirs and therefore snakes, spiders and mutant ants that bite. The terrain is supposed to be rough and the mosquitos and heat unbearable. Ooh, it sounds like a holiday. We had to spend a whole day just preparing for our walk as we needed to take food, water and sleeping stuff for 3 days.

The walk is 8 hours across beach and jungle to a ranger station right in the middle of the park. Here they give you a bunkbed and you can buy dinner, but apart from that, it{s pretty sparse. Normally an 8 hour walk would have you starting pretty early but this one involves a 2 hour ride in the back of truck before you can even start it. The truck doesn{t leave until 6am. And even then you only get to the town of Carate before you have to walk another hour along the beach to get to the real starting point. So, 3 hours have gone before you{ve even started trekking in the jungle. And there{s more. Because the walk is next to the sea you have to carefully plan it for tide crossings. Some parts are impassable at high tide. Needless to say, the walk isn{t that popular.

But guess what? It was all totally worth it. The place is incredible. It is possibly one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to. Our wildlife spotting increased three-fold. In the first hour alone we spotted monkeys, parrots, the scarlet macaw, coatis (like racoons) and then Paul nearly stepped on a snake and we stood stock still watching it slowly slither away from us. That spooked us for a little while, and even more so when we spotted ants bigger than your thumbnail with pincers like scorpians as well as mutant spiders with giant webs. Makes me shudder writing this.

As well as the animals the track runs alongside a magnificent stretch of coastline. Windswept, untouched and unspoilt. You can see big cat tracks most of the time and the sand is covered in various sizes of hermit crab, comically falling off fallen trees and driftwood. The path takes you along the beach in some places which gives you a welcome break from the heat and the mozzies (we had to bathe regularly in DEET), but the tide comes in fast and we spent one part of the walk running along the beach like madmen to avoid the crashing waves. When we got to a safe haven and stopped for something to eat we realised that we could have just taken our shoes off. Oops. 

Five hours in and I was pretty grumpy. The novelty animal spotting had worn off and we hadn{t seen the coast for a while. The DEET appeared to be unsuccessful and we couldn{t stop or sit down anywhere for fear of being eaten alive. It{s weird because I knew I would feel like this and there isn{t a thing you can do about it. After six hours we finally came back to the coast and gave ourselves a well earned break on a paradise looking beach lined with palm trees.

It wasn{t long now. We just had to cross the river with crocodiles and bull sharks in it. This is the place that{s impassable at high tide. Apparently the sharks swim up the river mouth...
Thankfully a group with a french girl, a dutch guy and an austrian turned up, we nicknamed them the tri-nations, and they prepared to do the river crossing first. After we{d waited an hour or so for the tide to go down, we all stripped off to our underwear and waded in. It was about 40mts across and up to my stomach. It was actually pretty scary as the water was a dirty brown colour, so we had no idea what was lurking in it. But apart from the humiliating picture of me in my underwear, and wondering why the french girl was wearing a pink lacy thong, it was gratefully uneventful.

We all reached the ranger station by 5pm. French girl had a tick in her leg and got lots of attention. We were all exhausted. Dinner was at 5.30pm and pretty good. Lights went out at 7.30pm. There is nothing to do here but sleep listening to the howler monkeys. Paul killed two tarantulas that were in our room and I found the biggest spider I have ever seen on the toilet roll.  This is about as close to sleeping in the jungle as I{m going to get.
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