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Drake Bay, CR


February 26th, 2017

Mark and Christine’s truck camper on the left, Tigger hidden behind the trees off centre on the right – Camping El Tecal.

We said “hasta luego” to Christine and Mark after breakfast and headed into the town of Uvita for gas and groceries before heading to the small fairly remote village of Drake Bay back on the Osa Peninsula. Most people fly in or take an hour’s boat ride from Sierpe (near Palmar Norte). We opted to drive and since there does not appear to be camping with power we have booked a hotel with AC and breakfast.

Took us just over an hour to get to the turn off to Drake Bay on one side of the Osa Peninsula to then do the 30km (20m) dirt road across the peninsula to get there. Upon leaving the pavement at that turn, we pulled over and aired down the tires to make for a smoother ride. The road was in pretty good shape, had five stream/river crossings which were easy to cross in this, the dry season but we had some quite steep sections for which we were grateful for our 4×4 capabilities. The 30km took about another hour but we made it safe and sound. Despite looking around constantly, we came across no wildlife – bummer.

We found our hotel, got parked (just making it under one of those archways they like to put over driveways) and met some of the other guests. Cabiñas Pura Vida has five rooms which were all full. We met Rob and Laura from New Mexico, Craig, an ex-Texan living in Costa Rica and visiting with Rob and Laura, Nancy & Keith from Iowa and a little later a French Canadian family from Gatineau with two boys arrived. We were sure glad we went the hotel route with AC for this little side trip as it is super-hot here. Drake Bay only received electricity in the early 2000’s and some places still use generators.

There is a really nice covered common area with chairs, tables and hammocks that catches a lovely breeze. They also have a fully equipped guest kitchen with a stove and three sinks. They serve breakfast and we had planned to make our own lunches and dinners in Tigger so it was nice to cook in their kitchen and not cook in hot Tigger.

We went for a walk to see the beach (which was not as nice as Uvita, of course) and then wandered through the little town looking for night walk tours. Fran has been hoping to see those little red eyed tree frogs with blue legs that you see on so many Costa Rica posters.

We decided on one for tonight, Monday, at six o’clock so after an early dinner we were picked up and brought to Tin Tours and Martin our guide gave us flashlights and some glamorous rubber boots to wear. We set off down the road and into the woods. Within five minutes, lo and behold we saw two of the tree frogs; one from the back side and one facing us. Amazing; Martin jokingly asked if we were done now!

We carried on for another two hours walking through the forest more or less following a creek bed which we crossed a few times. We saw more species of frogs including the glass frog, the tiger frogs, five poison dart frogs a bull frog and more. We saw a few spiders, crickets, a fire fly walking on a log, stick bugs, a few scorpion spiders and one snake. We were more than pleased with this adventure despite the heat humidity and lack of breeze.

Tuesday morning we got in Tigger and drove about 10kms west to the coast to the trailhead to walk to Playa San Josecito which is supposed to have some good snorkeling. The hike is half on the beach for about fifteen minutes and then through the edge of the forest on a sandy trail.

When you cross a small river you are there and it’s a small bay almost surrounded by rocky outcroppings and the beach is full of small rocks not sand. We found a somewhat private spot near the rocks and changed into our swim suits and donned our snorkel gear.

We went into the water which is quite shallow and has large chunks of coral and some rocks with a good number of fish swimming in and out of them. The water was fairly clear near the shore but as you approached the outer rocks, it got murkier. Doug saw a ray swim away but other than that, we only saw fish including some large schools of tiny silver fish.

Doug had forgotten to trim his mustache so he didn’t quite last an hour before the leaking mask got to him and Fran was about 1.5 hours and then we dressed and walked back to Tigger, returning to the hotel by lunchtime. It sure was nice to be in the water snorkeling again.

Upon returning to the hotel and showering, Doug discovered he’d pick up at tick on his upper right leg. Fran got out some tweezers and she pulled it out.

That afternoon we hung around the hotel. Wednesday after breakfast we took a 2km walk out to Playa Cocolitos looking for wildlife – only saw an iguana and a lizard until we reached the beach where we saw a resident scarlet macaw.

We saw several of these “walking palms”:

We had the place to ourselves at first, changed and went in for a swim. Later we were joined by Vanessa from Utah, Kurt from Denver and Tony from Finland. We enjoyed the slow waves and chatted for a while before a large group arrived and we headed out of the water.

We then dressed and walked back into town where we purchased a souvenir, which we rarely do: a large beach towel with a red eyed frog on it. Our two beach towels have been getting pretty worn so the timing is good.

It was pretty hot today, so again we hung around the hotel common area and our cool room. Around 3 a lady walked up and turns out she’s the famous “bug lady” of Drake Bay. She does a night tour that you have to book way in advance due to its popularity. We are not bug people so we did not look into this tour but we chatted with her and fifteen minutes after she left, she called the hotel and the owner, Gabriel, brought the phone to us. Tracy invited us to join her and her partner, John for ice cream. She is from Alabama and has been here since college (25 years). She met John, who is Costa Rican but lived in the Ohio for ten years. He helps her out with the night tours. We chatted away about their life here and discussed how Drake Bay and the area have changed. John says he has been tracking the wildlife they see and they have noticed a substantial change in the bug life over the years.

After our ice cream outing we were going to skype with Joshua but the grandkids are sick and were not in the mood. Then Fran discovered she too had a tick in almost the same spot on her upper right leg so Doug grabbed the tweezers and pulled it out. What a weird coincidence, huh? so glad we got them out before they burrowed right on in.

When we were in Canada for the holidays, we had our mail delivered to upper New York State and Doug went down to fetch it from Kingston. In the mail, we expected new tags for our license plates but South Dakota has changed their plates so we got new plates along with the tags. We mailed the plates for the Civic to Serena and brought Tigger’s here with us. This is a bit of problem because SD also changed the plate number; we came into CR with one set of plates and now we have to leave with another. SO we decided not to complicate things too much so we have left the plates on (they expire on Feb 28th) until we exit CR and before entering Panama (in the free zone) we’ll switch them out and put on our new plates so our registration documents are up to date and match the plates. Doug removed our laminated copies (we don’t drive with the real plates) and put both sets on; old ones on top of new ones and we’ll take the old ones off in the free zone.

Wednesday morning after breakfast we couldn’t start Tigger. Seems the little steel doo hickey that holds all the connectors to the battery had broken but Doug was able to wiggle it and the truck started. It continued to be fine for the rest of that day. We took the dirt road back to the highway, aired the tires back up just before the pavement and made our way to the city of Golfito on the other side of the Golfo Dulce – pretty much across from Puerto Jiménez. We had a campground in mind that came highly recommended but drove into the town first to take a walk and check it out. It’s not much but does have a long malecon along the gulf which is almost complete. It was stinking hot here (mid 90’sF) and we got wiped out pretty quick.

We arrived at Purruja Lodge and discovered a fellow Canadian, Steve, from Alberta who’d been here a week; he’d busted a leaf spring on this fifth wheel (yes, he’s driving a truck with a good size fifth wheel) on his entry into this lodge. Bummer. He had sourced the part in Miami and a friend is shipping it to San Jose for him. He was heading into the town of Rio Claro (we’d gone through it on our way here) to get a few things (including auto parts) and offered to pick us up anything so Doug asked if he could get a new doo hickey for that battery.

The lodge was not busy so the owner’s friend (Walter was out for the afternoon), told us to park in the small lot in front and get power from the house. Steve is plugged in there too and the power did not last long. There is a palapa on the other side of the lot with an eating area and hammocks and Doug found a socket there that worked.

Walter arrived later and he welcomed us. He did say people were arriving to stay in the cabin near us so we’d have to move our electrical cord so cars could access the cabin. NO problem. Then a Toyota Tacoma drove up with a young woman from Massachusetts. Sheila is also doing the PanAm and is travelling solo with her dog, Rory with a cool pop up folding over tent.

Steve returned from town and had found the part. As the truck is starting, we will wait to replace it until it becomes an issue again.

We invited Steve & Rory over for happy hour and while we were chatting a VW van drove up with Chilean plates. Danny and Shannon are Americans from Baltimore & Cali, and they began their PanAm journey in Chile where they bought the kombi and had just arrived from Colombia, heading north. It was cool to meet so many overlanders again.

After dinner we sat and chatted with Steve, Shannon & Danny before hitting the hay; not often any more that we met three other groups of overlanders.

When we went to leave, naturally, the truck didn’t start. Doug wiggled it once again and off we headed to the border.

There are three border crossings to Panama; we have chosen to take the middle one as the eastern one is too far away (you’d have to go back to San Jose to reach it – it’s over by Punta Uva), the western one is supposed to be quite busy with truckers and is known to have long lines. The middle one, San Marcos CR to Rio Serreno in Panama, is fairly new and not open 24 hours but others have taken it and done so without “helpers” and long lines.

Costa Rica is quite a different country from its five northern neighbours as we mentioned at various times. It’s definitely cleaner and greener with more protected land, but it’s missing the culture identity the other nations have. There are few “ruins” or ancient historical sites but there is plenty of wildlife thanks to their conservation efforts. You don’t really have to speak Spanish so much here and as mentioned often, everything costs more – many things cost the same as back in Canada or the US. We are not saying we haven’t enjoyed Costa Rica; we’ve loved the beaches, met some amazing people, local and international, but it’s hard to put a face on Costa Rica’s real culture.

So after 1860 miles in three months, using our winch once to get ourselves out of the mud, countless stream/river crossings, spotting sloths, monkeys, birds and frogs and more, crisscrossing through San Jose a few times, and basking at many lovely beaches, we leave CR to enter our seventh and final Central American country.