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Published: August 13th 2015
Day 1. As I noted, our hotel was very close to the airport: I fact we had aeroplanes roaring over it to land. We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast before setting off to the airport and into the hire car system. Unfortunately we Harpers had gone a little too far in stripping our wallets so the Australian driver licences were back in Melbourne. The Hausdorff's had to carry the load. We got on the road with our mini SUV and onto the complex web of highways that run west from Alajuela and San Jose. Somehow we managed to make three wrong turns and had to circle back again. One was fortuitous and took us down the valley and into San Mateo. A tiny place but big enough to have a little lunch cantina. Much more friendly than the tourist joints along the highway.
Eventually we got onto the correct freeway and down the coast past a number of surf resorts of various scales. We pushed on to Manuel Antonio, because that is well known as a coastal national park. The commercialisation ran from Quespo right around the headland to the gates of the national park per se. Cars, bikes and trucks
roaring up the mountain. Cheaper tourist hotels and bars lining the road and struggling among the forest trees to secure a view of the ocean. We got right to the end of the road just as the last tickets into the national park were sold. The car parking suddenly got cheaper. We changed into swimming gear behind some corrugated iron leant against the wall of a surf side bar. The beach was crammed with umbrella hire, surfboard hire areas and with wandering food sales carts. Even a guy selling ceviche from small eskies who we subsequently discovered had national food safety accreditation he was willing to produce on request.
The beach itself was rocky and pebbly in places with a dumping surf. Nonetheless the locale was spectacular with volcanic rock outcrops and tropical forest islands just off shore. We enjoyed playing in the big surf for an hour or so as we chased our clothes up the beach ahead of a big tide, and the heavens opened to a tropical thunder storm. This continued to bucket down as we returned to Quespo and rejoined the highway south.
The villages became more sparse as we headed south, and the
guide book told us of successive idyllic surfer haunts with "sick" breaks. We had heard about Uvita in particular with an unusual whale-tail shaped beach. When we got close to it we saw advertisements for a boutique hotel called Vista Ballena, and decided to chance our hand with a night. The track to the hotel rose at what seemed like more than 45 degrees up the mountains facing the Pacific. It probably went up 600 metres past villas and farm lets before ending at the entrance to a small resort. We reckoned this was paradise. Turned out there was a match between our price expectations and availability so we were in. The full picture includes a 200 degree vista of the Pacific, a great horizon pool, Toucans crowing in nearby trees and Mojitos from the bar. Oh, and there was other wildlife like ants and bats etc, but we had other relaxation priorities.
We enjoyed dinner out on the high patios around the pool and some nice South American wine. Power black-outs during the evening made it difficult for the kitchen staff, and for us getting back to our rooms, but it added to the sense of the exotic.
Toucans gentle squawked thru the night.
Day 2. The pool was just too inviting so we enjoyed a morning swim and that doubled as a hide for bird and butterfly watching. Leaf-cutter ants had cleared a path in the soil beside the path from our room to the check out. Some disappointment among the gang that we really did need to continue down the coast. We rejoined the highway north of Uvita after a first gear descent. The journey was pretty straight forward though the highway was a little narrow. Across to the eastern side of the Osa Peninsular and down to Puerto Jimenez. Some difficulties finding the key turn-offs so like the day before, we did some back tracking. The road wound deeper into rainforest. Our first Coati crossing the road ahead of us and waited curiously to get a look at us.
Our first views down the Gulf of Dolcia were spectacular. We ended our journey at a simple guesthouse right on the beachfront in Puerto Jimenez. We had the second floor of a villa. Bill and Wendell the room below but unfortunately the aircon was cactus. They moved up with us. We enjoyed lunch
at an open restaurant along the beach front. Beers and ceviche. We saw other diners with a huge seafood plata. Decided that was for us later on. Walked around the small village to get groceries for our hike. Simple village with a light aeroplane airport. Fishing boats and cruising yachts in the harbour.
Met with our hiking guide Nito before enjoying that huge seafood dinner we spied earlier. Lobster, small king crab, fish, mussels (fresh and salt water). Very special. A beer then off we went to setup our backpacks for what we foresaw to be a challenging 22 km hike. Three litres of water each. Cath packed light: me with her backpack plus the blue chest pack. Heavier than I would have liked but couldn't see a way of trimming it.
Day 3. Our guide Nito met us at 0500 with a taxi. The sun was just on the rise. We stopped at the bakery for coffee, breakfast pastries and sandwiches for lunch on the walk. Breakfast was a puff pastry thing which enclosed a hint of spiced tuna. My back pack was tied to the roof. We set off toward Carate on a rough dirt road
that past through pasture and forests and plantations of oil palm and teak. We passed onto a dirt track and eventually to a tiny beach shack with sleeping shack-assistant. We set off across first stream with backpacks and "water-shoes". The area was strangely cleared compared to the surrounding jungle. Apparently a tidal way recently claimed it all. We followed a forest path with Nito, one other Dutch couple and their guide. The heat and humidity rising despite it being only 7 am. More stream crossings. Along the trail coati mundies and macaus. Sweat pouring from us even though the path was easy. Two hours to the first stop which was La Leona. A break but we knew we had to make it to a major tidal crossing by half-tide or 1500, otherwise the water would be too high.
0900 through to 1200 was brutal. Hot, humid, soft sand and heavy packs. Gallons of sweat. Nito kept pushing us forward because of the rising tide. Rest for 30 mins then on again. Each section harder than the previous. "The Beach" was cited as the toughest because of all the factors plans a steeply sloped beach to walk across. Course sand
Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica
and pebbles into our water shoes and grinding into our feet. As we walked Nito did show us amazing things. Many caught on the Leica with his help.
Finally to the river crossing at about 1430 and waded across. The water was hip deep. One crocodile cruised around 100 metres or so away. Onto the now flat path to Sirena station, but the species count continued to soar. Peccaries, monkeys birds, bats etc. Nito continued to spot animals and birds, but we were all exhausted, and moved quickly to the station. Finally out to an open landing strip and to the station itself. The humidity was intense. Tents were made up on a raised platform, which was roofed. We all collapsed trying to regain normal temperature and hydration. Catherine and I had consumed 2.5 litres of water each.
We sat in beach verandah chairs on the decks, recuperated and watched the birds and monkeys in the trees. Some other walkers hobbled in during the afternoon. Some also came in by boat from Drake Bay which would have been an option for the return journey or alternatively a return flight. We opted to stay with
Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica
the planned walk out. Dinner had been pre-arranged which we were really grateful for. Simple meal with gallons of prefab sports drink made with local bore water. Took the risk at this point.
We were thinking about sleep by 1830 which was crazy. The air was completely still, hot and humid. Sleep was fleeting at best. Like the worst Brisbane summer nights of our childhood- before the wonder of air conditioning. Lights-out by probably 2100 but who was to know.
Howler monkeys and cicaders went on into the night.
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