The Rainforest? That Sounds Wet!"
This is NOT a story about three hardcore adventurers. We aren't exactly at the top of our game physically, and none of us has ever climbed Mt. Everest. I'm sorry to tell you that this isn't about some great feat accomplished. Rather,"Trek Through the Wilderness" is just a story about 3 average friends, all globe drifters with a love for life, who stepped out of their comfort zones and into the wilderness for a 3 and a half day hike through the rainforest of Corcovado, Costa Rica, a trek that took them from the edge of civilization and back. This is the first post of a 5-part series chronicling our adventures.
I once heard a man say: ¨The rainforest? That sounds wet!¨ And yes... it was. Well, at least such is the case with Nacional Parque de Corcovado, Costa Rica´s grandmama of all rainforests. We spent 3 days hiking through its vast wilderness, chasing monkeys and running from mother chonchos.
Even though Carate, the first town we hit after leaving the park, seemed to be nothing more than a tiny dust plot of tin-houses, emerging from the jungle after stumbling around for days was like stepping out of the badlands back into comfortable civilization. Our packs were damp and our feet sore, but nevertheless, we knocked off our soggy boots, gingerly brushed off our blistery soles, and stepped up to the little snack shop-slash-bus stop and bought a round of sodas, 2 whopping bucks a pop.
But in all honesty, it was before all that cozy soda-pop fizz, while deep within the primeval hinterlands of Corcovado, that we had our real adventure. The story is squeezed between two points of comfort: the simple joy of our Carate soda-pop fizz, and the soundness of snuggled-up sleep in a comfy eco-lodge on the edge of the wilderness.
Day 1 - From La Finca Kobo EcoLodge to Los Patos Ranger Station
Backtrack three days prior, where we find ourselves bunked up at a cozy 'bed & breakfast' type place called Finca Kobo. It was here that we stopped for the night after a 9 hour bus ride from San Jose, but that's entirely another story.
The fresh morning of Day One dawned, so we packed our bags and started off early. Or at least we wanted to, but ended up sleeping in. So in reality we got on our way later than we expected, but early enough to make it to the first ranger station on time.
We took a bus from Finca Kobo Eco-Lodge to the nearest entry town, called La Palma, which is simply a cool little hole on the northern shore of the Osa Peninsula, 30-minutes outside of Puerto Jimenez proper. There we discovered that the taxis, (or rather 4WD pickups with benches in the back), charged 40 bucks to transport us from La Palma to the entry of the park. We decided to shop around and discuss our options before departing. Not shop around for taxi deals, but for fruits and snacks, as this was the last stop before entering the jungle.
While running our goods by the cash register, we asked the clerk what our options were for getting into the park. He told us three. (1) We could go for the 40 dollar taxi ride, which happened to be a deal because it was normally ten bucks more. (2) We could walk the two hours, which didn't sound so hot since it was so SO hot! Or, (3) we could pay just six bucks to get dropped off down the dirt road at the last remnants of civilization, a bunch of shacks called Guadalupe, and hike an hour upriver from there. This, of course, would be a halfway compromise.
We found out that the reason why it was only 6 bucks halfway there, compared to 40 all the way, was because of the 20 or so river crossings that the taxi truck would have to make from Guadalupe onward. So, being the thrifty but comfort loving bunnies that we are, we decided to go with Numero Tres.
Entering the Jungle
After a series of random bumps and dusty potholes, the taxi driver kicked us off a little past Guadalupe at the first river crossing. He assured us that we could make it to the entry of the rainforest in about an hour and 20 or so river crossings later. So we slid off our boots, donned our slip-slops and went on our way.
Hiking upriver allowed us to gradually get a sense of our surroundings. The steamy jungle grew thick and tangled right up to the edge of the riverbank and it felt like we were skirting our way along the fringes of a soon to be discovered wilderness. At one point we took a wrong turn off the worn path into an Indian village, where someone came out and gave us directions. We regained our bearings and headed back upriver, consciously trying to follow in the tracks of 4WD pickups long passed.
As we moved along, the sounds of click-clicking and rustling leaves told us that we were not alone. Tiny frogs chirped and jumped out of our way, and a jittery jesus lizard skipped frantically across the surface of the water as we approached, reaching the other side of the river and clinging on to a branch that had fallen in. With his head cocked sideways, he eyed us suspiciously as if he wasn't sure what our next move would be. The trek upstream was a stirring introduction to the jungle lands we were about to enter.
23 river crossings and 9 kilometers later, we came upon the edge of the Corcovado Rainforest, welcomed by a park ranger about to make his way into the interior. He said that after heading straight into the rainforest from where we were, it was still a muddy 2 kilometers uphill before we would get to Los Patos Ranger Station, our stop for the night. He told us that if we followed him in, he could show us a trail to a hidden waterfall where we could wash off. At this point we were clocking in at an hour or so from our first river crossing in Guadalupe. Not too bad, we thought, we were right on schedule.
Stumbling Around and Setting up Camp
We stumbled into camp 45 minutes later-- battered, bruised, and bloodied up. (Don't worry, I just had one of my customary nose bleeds where it looks like someone slaughtered a wild boar up in my nostrils). Anyway, we rinsed off our muck in the camp shower, popped up our tents as quickly as possible, refilled our water-bottles with 'agua potable', and set off on a mini-adventure in search of the fabled Los Patos waterfall.
The side trail took us down the steep edge of a muddy ravine, clinging onto exposed roots and relying on our boot traction for sure footing. At the bottom, we found a piddle of a waterfall, small and frothy, but still cool and soothing after the days activities. The jungle natives were slowly waking up from their afternoon siesta, and all around us the sounds of crickets and cicadas resonated. Initially there was a slight wariness of the trickling waters and mossy rocks as we realized that we were no longer in Hawaii, the land of non-existent land animal threats. But eventually we overcame our fear of the dark log in the middle of the pool and stuck our wrinkled toes in for a quick dip.
As the day came to a gradual close, we meandered our way back into camp, crossing paths with slithering creatures in search of supper. After a warm bottle of red wine and hearty conversation, we tucked ourselves in under an almost full moon.
Coming Up: Chapter 2 of "Trek Through the Wilderness" will chronicle the first part of the second day of our trek through Corcovado Rainforest, where we meet up with the native wildlife and face up to our fears. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE and stay tuned...
And now we'd like to ask you: Are you a hardcore adventurer or more of a laid back traveler? What is the greatest adventure you've ever experienced?
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...