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Continuing to the Osa Peninsula, CR


January 12th, 2017

We headed out from Manuel Antonio early Thursday morning as Doug had a 10AM call and we thought he could do it on the beach in Dominical. We stopped for groceries in Quepos as we headed back to the main road, filled up the gas at the first station and made it to Domincal by 9:35. We did look to see if we could spend a day or two here but it was all wild camping, so no power or other services and it’s pretty dang hot here.

Fran walked the beach doing Spanish while Doug was on his call and she met a young American couple, Amy & Anthony, from Texas who had just moved here about a month ago. They were renting a place on the beach front main drag.

When Fran returned and just before Doug’s call ended, a young Tico woman walked over and asked if we could help her; her vehicle had a flat and she had no tools to raise the truck with; she obviously figured our rig looked pretty decked out and would have what she needed. So after Doug’s call, he followed Melena and Slater to their pick up about a half km away with our jack and after a few trips back to Tigger for tools, they managed to get the flat tire off and we drove it and them to a repair place and returned them to their vehicle afterwards.

Get this:  they had no money but wanted to go there anyway and somehow talked the guy into fixing it and they’d pay him later.  There was also a man outside the shop barbequing meat and they got lunch for him “on credit” as well.

The beach here in Dominical is okay; not as clean as we’d like but it’s not a touristy town really despite the number of vendors on the beach street. There are surfers and such but no resorts.

We decided to move on to our next destination, Uvita, where we knew there were actual campgrounds. We got to Camping El Tecal, the one with the best ratings, around 3:30 and settled in; a couple of motorcycling overlanders were also here. Lars & Bennie are from Lopez Island, WA (in the San Juan Islands) and are heading to Panama before flying/shipping home at the end of the month.

This campground is less than a year old, has power hookups, nice bathrooms, a pool and internet (although not the fastest – kinda like the rest of CR). It is located about 500m from the Playa Colonia where one of the three entrances to the national Marine Park Ballena (whale) is located.

Friday morning after our morning routine, we decided to walk the beach. The park entrance is right at the end of the road but you have to pay $6 to get in. Lars told us that if we waited until 4pm we could get in free but Doug saw there was a road running parallel to the beach to the right and if you walk that way a bit, you can access the beach through the trees and there are lots and lots of people using this road and camping under the trees. We set out around 10:00 and it was low tide; the further north we went, the further the beach seemed to go until we saw a sandy spit that reached out to some rocky outcroppings.

Fun fact:  this spit is shaped like a whale’s tail – sandy spit out to rocky outcropping and more rocks that spread out.  See the park map.

By the time we got there, the tide was just beginning to turn and we made it out and back before it was up to our knees going back across the spit. It was a wonderful surprise. After we got back across the spit, we met a young Canadian couple from Hamilton here on vacation. Ryan and Stephanie had hit the spit much earlier and actually went snorkeling around the rocks.

We returned to Tigger in time for lunch and spent the afternoon reading by the campground pool in the shade. The temps these days are around 90F/32C and you can fry quite easily out there; it was surprising how much of our tans we lost being away for less than two weeks! Not that we’re that dark as we do not sun worship but we definitely have colour and tan lines.

Saturday morning Doug had some work to attend to and after lunch we walked down to the beach with our chairs, umbrella and kindles. We had some fun moving away from the high tide mark later in the afternoon.  At one point a logged rolled up to Fran’s feet and actually bent back her big toe nail – ouch!

Where we started out then when water hit us and then when we were even further back!

There are many, many locals camped amoungst the trees and many more enjoying the beach but the beach is so long that it did not seem crowded.   We figure most of these people entered the park like we did, just beyond the park’s entry. There are virtually no services on the beach although the park does have bathrooms and showers near the gate. There are a few tent campgrounds behind the trees on the beach road that offer showers as well but no restaurants or bars on the beach. There were a few vendors set up offering shaved ice type treats, sodas, water and snacks outside the entrance and along the dirt road.

Sunday, we talked ourselves into staying one more day (it wasn’t hard!) and enjoyed most of the day on the beach again. It was nice to be on a beach where there are few tourists and no development on the waterfront leaving only trees and sand. It was a much less busy day today. There are scarlet macaws and other birds flying around overhead, pelicans cruising the waves, butterflies fluttering around and you hear howlers in the distance at times; heavenly.

Monday we did pack up and had for us, a longish driving day (150km/93m) but it surprisingly didn’t take as long we thought it would as we expected to encounter dirt roads.

We first drove about 10km/6m to Playa Ventanas (windows). The young american woman Fran had spoken with at Dominical recommended a stop here and we hit it just at the right tide time. There are two “windows” (tunnels really) here that the water comes through as the tide rises. The tide had just begun to turn and we were able to walk right up to the beach side of them and look through. Quite cool.

Next we stopped in Palmar Norte for groceries and gas as well as a short stop in Las Parques de Las Esferas (park of the spheres). Here they found a good number of various sized granite spheres dating back over 1600 years ago created by a tribe called Delta Diquis; their meaning is not clear but it is believed to be a sort of “status symbol” and assumedly, bigger was better.

You can see Fran behind the big one here and three others in the background:

We turned off the PanAm to the Osa Peninsula where Corcovado National Park is found. National Geographic calls this the most biologically intense place on the planet. It contains the last tract of original tropical rainforest on the Pacific side of Central America. Now there are no roads in this park but lots of coastline and it contains mostly secondary forest. You can do numerous long hikes (in the heat, with the bugs and humidity) but you must have a guide. You can tent camp at the ranger stations as well.

Since hiking in the humidity and tenting is not really our thing, we wanted to see if there was a different way to experience the park and more importantly, see the wildlife.  Also the entrance to the park is at the end of the road, a further 3.5 km away and then it’s another six hour hike on a black sand beach and in the forest to the ranger station!

We arrived in the largest town on the peninsula, Puerto Jimenez and set up camp at Camping Adonis near the beach. Adonis speaks several languages and has many birds and animals, including crocs, that access his property. Camping offered bathrooms with showers, power and pretty fast Wi-Fi (it’s all relative!) for less than $8 a night.

We went for a walk into town to check out laundry options, find a dentist to get our teeth cleaned and get park info as well as find a bank. (We opted out of dental insurance this year when Doug enrolled as dentists in Latin America are cheap and this year we shouldn’t {knock wood} need anything major.) We asked about the road down to the park and options of driving ourselves.

At the bank, we had to pass through a special security door; only one side opens at a time; you walk up, it opens after you activate it by a button and walk inside (fits only two people) the door closes behind you and then the inner door opens.

Then once inside you take a number for service (they were on number 4 and we got number 29!). There was only ONE teller open (there are three windows but the third does not even have a computer so obviously it never gets used). There are at least a dozen cubicles around the bank and they all have people at the desks inside them but hardly any have actual customers in front of them. The desk nearest the teller wickets begins helping people and then the second wicket opens. We had to use a teller today as we had to make a deposit into a campsite’s account in order to make a reservation for Fran later this month while Doug is in LA.   We thought we’d be here the entire afternoon as nothing moves quickly but at least ten of the people with numbers must have given up as within twenty minutes, it was our turn; ridiculous system. Seeing a humongous  line up outside a bank and around the corner is a common site in Latin America.

At Corcovado Dreams, Eric helped us decide to take a tour with his guides. A day trip into the park includes a 6am start with the two hour drive to the end of the road at Carate, then a 3.5 km hike o the park entrance along the beach. You then hike 2.5 hours towards the first ranger station along the beach and in the forest including stream crossings before heading back the same way. You can expect to see much wildlife and return in the late afternoon. The heat thing still bothered us so then he told us of a tour that does not actually enter the park per se, but takes us to a coastal area nearby called Matapalo that has lots of wildlife and a waterfall then you drive closer to the park to primary forest in the region known as Piro where we’d see lots of wildlife with a good chance of seeing those lovely red eyed green frogs. This tour returns in the early afternoon, the guide drives and speaks English and he agreed at this time of year, it was a better alternative climate wise with equal chance of wildlife spotting. Sold! We booked for Wednesday as we had made dental appointments for Tuesday afternoon. Eric also told us that he know someone who could do our laundry for a better price than the laundry place we’d found and gave us info on the local beaches.

Upon returning to Tigger, Adonis showed us a few Toucans that were hanging around his property. So cool to see them in the wild. We had seen a couple of pairs of scarlet macaws as we walked back here flying overhead and you can hear them squawking away in lots of places.

A german couple drove up before dinner (they’d actually spent one night at the campground we were at in Uvita but we’d never gotten the chance to chat). They joined us for happy hour. Petra and Deeta are here on three weeks’ vacation with their own camping gear and a rented SUV. They are a little younger than we are and obviously still working.

While we were chatting, Adonis knocked on the rv door and invited us all down to the river bank to see crocs. It was quite dark but we see a couple of pairs of eyes skimming the water surface and then up in a tree we watched an anteater breaking the tree branches searching for dinner.

Now this is not my our pic of an anteater is it was too dark out to take photos even with a spotlight (it was rather a weak one anyway) but this is the creature that we saw.

Fun “fact”: Adonis has named all the crocs that live in his creek; he calls them his pets. As we were walking (and the other night) he would call to them to come to him; they never did…….

Tuesday morning, about a dozen toucans were in the nearby trees (two varieties) and a few pairs of macaws came by later.

That afternoon we went for our teeth cleaning, walking etc and Petra and Dita joined us for happy hour again.

Wednesday we were up before the sun and Gustavo picked us up at six for our tour. We stopped in town first to get coffee (for him) and to pick up a friend of his. Gustavo owns a finca with various farm animals and one of his buffalos had escaped. A local farmer had come across it and Edwardo was going to walk it back to the finca for him. We stopped at the farmer’s, Edwardo and Gustavo got the buffalo and we took off again.

Along the way to Matapalo, we saw macaws, toucans, howlers, capuchins, an owl, herons and a green kingfisher.

Gustavo looked for a sloth in a certain spot where they often hang out but not today. Upon arriving near the point of the peninsula, we parked at Playa Pan Dulce (sweet bread) and then walked along the dirt road spotting howlers, birds, capuchin, spider and squirrel monkeys and “water walking” lizards before turning onto a path along a creek to a lovely waterfall. This was about a two hour hike but most of it was in the shade. We cooled our feet off at the pool at the base of the waterfall before heading back down.

After returning to the car, we drove inland into the Piro region which is primary forest and Gustavo parked near the trail to his finca. He owns 320 hectares in this conservation area and is trying to run it the “old way” without power and his water comes from the hills above the property and is potable.  We walked about twenty minutes to his “forest home” and along the way he pointed out three different frogs along the trail.

He had a “resting” area set up and we swayed in hammocks, overlooking the forest and watching four toucans enjoying a fruit tree. Didn’t spot much else other than butterflies. Although lunch was not supposed to be included in this tour, Gustavo made us lunch which consisted of fruits and veggies from his farm, fresh juice and of course, rice & beans.

The tour was supposed to end at 1:30 but we were only leaving his finca well past that time. Driving back to town, we saw a vehicle pulled with a guide and tourists peering into the woods and lo and behold there was a huge three toed sloth hanging from a tree! Unfortunately, he was facing the wrong way but it was quite something to see. They can apparently “hang” for hours.

About 3kms from town, we approached a police road block. It turns out that Gustavo’s vehicle has no plates or papers, so he was reluctant to drive through it. He pulled off the road and called a taxi which came in less than five minutes. Now it turns out that of the seven or so taxis in town, only three are allowed down this road so the cab driver had to pay off the cop to let him pass; get this: the payment was a small wrench! We are not totally clear on this story but it was certainly different.

Upon returning to the campsite, we showered and spoke to Adonis about our day. We mentioned that Fran really wanted to see those little colourful tree frogs that represent CR but had no luck that day. He told us he could take us back to Matapalo to find poisonous frogs but that’s not what she wanted to see so that evening he took us back to the creek where the crocs live again, searching for them as they are nocturnal. No luck on that front but we did see a sleeping bird and a few sets of crocodile eyes.

Thursday we had a chill day, walked, helped Adonis set up his Ipod Nano, spent a few hours on the beach across the road and chatted with a Costa Rican couple who noticed our rig and advised they had a 37’ one that they would like to bring from San Jose down here.