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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: 8.68664, -83.6662
Costa Rica has provided plenty of interest to date. We stayed at Anita's in Manuel Antonio for 8 nights as planned and that gave us time to visit the National Park twice, the first time with a guide. We saw deer, two coatis, a couple of species of bats and strangest, of all, a three-toed Sloth. It does look like an abominable snowman, covered in long fur, slightly greenish in colour. He was definitely not photogenic but we did take some photographs. It is difficult to
photograph their faces as they are so high in the trees and very shy, turning away and hiding. Like the Koala in Australia, they eat leaves which provide little energy, so they move very slowly. In Spanish they are called 'Perezosas', meaning 'Lazies'. Why they have so much fur in the tropics is a mystery to me. They stay at the tops of trees eating for a week and then descend to the jungle floor only long enough to do a poo, which returns much of the nutrition they consumed back to the soil to be re-used.
We returned another day to the Park and spent 5 hours on the trails, spotting a few two-
toed Sloths, smaller and lighter in colour than the three-toed, as well as Raccoons and numerous birds. To Jim's delight he managed to get a shot of the Sloth's face. He was so happy! Their faces are more interesting than cute, but the same could be said of many of us.
Manuel Antonio is the smallest of the National Parks but the setting around beautiful beaches and headlands is so spectacular, size is unimportant. After 5 hours walking (albeit very slowly) and without breakfast, (to ensure an early start), we were completely exhausted only managing to eat brunch before collapsing on the bed for a siesta.
Another night we were sitting having a peaceful drink on Anita's long wooden verandah, part of the original building on the site, the Teak House. Suddenly it started to vibrate, and a rumbling noise started which reached a crescendo in a couple of seconds. It sounded and felt as if a train were roaring through the house as the whole verandah shook, groaned and creaked. It was an earthquake, which, although dramatic, ended by the time we had realised what was happening and considered running to stand under a doorway. There was a less dramatic after-shock
an hour later. Costa Rica averages a quake each week somewhere in the country.
We had pre-booked the 8 nights at Casa Buena Vista and we hoped to move on south along the Pacific coast to Hacienda Baru, a private Reserve. Unfortunately they did not have a room available until three days later, and as Anita was fully booked too, we decided to move elsewhere in MA for those 3 nights. It was not easy to find anything but finally we spotted Kachu Hotel and Restaurant online, right on the beach near the Park, and at a reasonable cost. On arrival the lady in charge became very flustered, partly because she had not received the booking (no-one looks online) and partly because her other guests were Costa Ricans. She kept explaining in Spanish that it was a very simple, rustic place! It was, basically a shack on the beach, but clean and comfortable with a large bathroom and only a few yards from the sea.
The only negative factor was the presence of a kind of crunchy millipede that seemed to have footpath rights across our floor. The first night we removed about 30 before going to sleep. They started their march
as soon as darkness fell and continued through the night. Jim insisted on putting the light on when he went to the bathroom as he didn't want to stand on them. It is amazing how quickly one adjusts to the unexpected.
So after three days of relaxing by the beach we moved to Hacienda Baru. This is probably our favourite place so far. A man named Jack Ewing went to work on the farm/ranch there in the early 70s when the forest had been cleared for agriculture. He underwent something like an eco conversion and decided to let the land return to jungle. Looking at photographs of then and now it is fascinating to see how quickly the jungle has re-grown and is now a recognized private Reserve.
We loved it – the 2 bedroom bungalow (only accommodation free for our dates) was spacious with a kitchen, enclosed verandah, and even a washing line, but the best part is that it has 7 kilometres of easy to walk trails which provide shade most of the day. We spent between 6 and 8 hours each day pottering along them, only occasionally passing another walker. There is so much life, insects, iguanas, birds,
We went to the bar for a drink,
but didn't have the heart to wake the bartender/chef!
Peccaries and Sloths. We were lucky enough to spot a Pygmy Kingfisher, no larger than a Sparrow, a snake which I thought was a green Iguana until I zoomed in with the camera, and a Night Jar, the Common Pauraque. We were sad to leave and would happily return.
The next journey south to Drake on the Osa Peninsular was complicated. We took a taxi to what we thought was a bus station in Dominical. In fact Dominical is not much more than a very dusty street. We waited and eventually the bus arrived and an hour and a half later we reached Palma Norte, a small town. From there we were going to take another bus to reach Sierpe but we discovered it was easier and not too expensive to take another taxi for the 20 or so kilometres. It saved Jim having to haul the bags around.
Once in Sierpe (a remote hamlet by the river landing) we had lunch at the restaurant/hotel which sells boat tickets to Drake. The boat is timetabled to leave at 2.30pm. There are 2 scheduled boats each day. You can hire a boat at any time but it is more expensive. At 2.15
a lady sold the tickets to the 6 waiting passengers. By 3pm there was no sign of a boat but more passengers arrived and as the boat had not left they bought tickets. By 3.30 even more had drifted in by taxi and local people arrived with their weekly shopping from Palma Norte. At 4pm a boat arrived but there were too many passengers! So we had to wait until they called up another boat and captain. I could not understand why the first boat could not leave immediately. Perhaps they thought there would be a riot! By 4.30 we filled the boats, some 50 plus people in 2 boats designed to take perhaps 14 passengers each. Then it was a hair raising high speed race of an hour along the river and out into the Pacific to reach Drake in time for the captain to return before dark.
At least we did reach Drake. I had started to believe it would be too late in the day for the boats to leave and that it was some sophisticatedstrategy by the hotel to fill it's rooms for the night.
Drake (pronounced the Spanish way but named after the explorer) is an amazing
place, very beautiful but with dark beaches, a long long way from anywhere in an unspoilt landscape of ocean and forest. As expected our accommodation is simple but adequate and it is probably the most relaxing place I have ever been. The hammocks are very comfortable. In fact some people don't even need hammocks – see last photograph! We want to take some trips but will say more about them in the next blog.
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