The Jungle Book
Here is the third chapter of a 5-part series chronicling our "Trek Through the Wilderness." This is 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.
For an hour we sloshed along through the gummy mud and pouring rain, leaving the capuchin monkeys behind us.
The shower continued unabated, and along the pathway pools of brown water filled up and gradually trickled over into one another,forming muddy streams that rushed down the jungle trails.
We covered our packs with rain guards, sealed tightly and protected, and we moved along with our backs bowed and our heads up, tasting the freshness of the raindrops on our lips. When we got to the first river crossing, the morning rains passed over us and moved on, leaving us soggy and satisfied.
The rivers were always a welcome stop. Emerging from the thickness of the rainforest out into a clearing and being greeted by the familiar sound of flowing freshwater gave us a reason to stop and gain our bearings.
At the first river, as the rainstorm sauntered off, I stepped out onto the bank and quickly plopped down, un-strapping my pack. Yanking my shoes off, I stuck my crinkled toes into the crisp water and pulled out a granola bar to munch on.
The others dropped their packs and bounded off, back into the jungle with their cameras in hand.
I was left alone with the sounds of hummingbirds whirring around me and the click-click-click of river rocks rolling over one another. Behind me the leaves rustled as scaly lizards twitched and shifted, scurrying their way into shady hiding spots concealed from my prying eyes. The thicket around me shook, and I had the sudden feeling that I was alone in a scene from Jungle Book.
You know, the part where the man-eating tiger comes roaring out of the bush to devour the little brown native innocently gathering nuts and beans.
But it was just the others coming back from their romp in the wilderness in search of exotic wildlife.
So we stretched out our legs, strapped on our packs, and headed out, pushing further into the heart of Corcovado.
"That Monkey Was CRAZY!"
Spider monkeys are oddly threatening in a fuzzy kind of a way. Their dark brown fur is tinged with a rusty orange hue. They hang from tree limbs with dark, naked palms and, when emboldened, their brown leathery faces contort into menacing grimaces.
The first one we passed seemed to be going through a mid-life crisis.
He was a loner, and whether or not that is normal I can't say. But in any case, he made it known that we were not welcome.
Spider monkey hospitality is pretty much non-existent in the real world, and this one shook his white whiskers at us, boldly scratching and slapping his armpits, screaming insults, barking in our direction and flinging twigs at us.
It was clear that he had a lot of issues, perhaps with a broken heart or a misunderstanding between best-buds, and he was simply taking it out on us.
But whatever the cause of his lonesome distress, we decided to leave him in peace and move on.
Spare the Soggy Shoes
A few hours later past the crazy spider monkey, we came upon our second river crossing. Making our way through the shallow stream, we settled our packs on the other side and sat down to catch our breath and have a snack.
Have you heard the story of the silly American who tried to feed the maned young lion in Africa, getting closer and closer to it's lazy jaws, until it let out a ravenous roar and he almost had a wet?
Some travel tales remind us that we as humans have an innate fear of most things large, loud and wild.
For instance, imagine that you are sitting in the center of a vast rainforest on the edge of a trickling stream. Your shoes are off and your feet are in, soaking up the cooling sensation of the crisp water. You've hiked miles in, and your only escape is to hike miles out. The sounds of howling monkeys, chattering birds and clicking lizards surround you, and you're filled with the realization that you are alone and remote.
You're suddenly aware of how vulnerable you really are, sitting tired and defenseless in a world where large predators with course bristly fur prey upon unsuspecting four limbed fuzzy little monkey-men who sit around whiling away the day over peeled bananas and exotic nuts.
In no time, they could be caught unawares, just another unsuspecting victim of a ravenous beast. In a split second, you realize, that could be you. But the key solace and source of comfort are your two companions sitting next to you.
And then you hear it, a low rumbling in the bush directly across from you. A high pitched chorus of wicked squeals echo in your ears.
There's a viscous band of wild, ravenous creatures hidden in front of your very eyes... starving and craving for your fleshy parts and your chubby tummies! And the alpha-male raises his voice... a deep, dark, rumbling growl-grunt!
You try to run, but your legs are as watery as the water your feet are in. Before you know it the wild beast is upon you!
You turn around and look for your friend, but he's already running upstream, soggy shoes in hand, looking for the nearest tree to climb, screaming, "Ahhh! Piccadilly's!"
Okay, so maybe the peccary never showed itself.
But the bush did shake. It was terrifying. And someone did run, (with time to spare to save their shoes), going on about the fearsome pack of fifty piccadilly's waiting to finish us off, in the meantime leaving the rest of us behind to fend for ourselves.
In all honesty though, I probably would have done the same thing if I could've made my legs move fast enough.
"I'm SO Over This!"
A little over six hours into our hike, the sound of rolling waves reached our ears.
In 2 days we'd virtually crossed the Osa Peninsula from north coast to south coast mostly by foot, a journey of over 31 kilometers.
At the distant sound of pounding surf, we knew that our trek through the heart of the jungle was coming to an end.
Soon we would arrive at the shoreline, and ahead of us would stretch the final leg of our journey, 20 sun scorching kilometers along the peninsular coastline to Carate Town, the first rag tag settlement of civilization outside of Corcovado.
But, we'd have to get to Sirena Ranger Station first, and we still had another hour or so to go.
Nevertheless, the familiar rhythmic sounds of the Pacific Ocean gave us a little more incentive to pick up the pace.
As I mentioned, we had been hiking for hours at that point, and it was beginning to get to us. Beautiful wild nature surrounded us, but amongst that nostalgia of fairytale feelings, there is a reality.
And the reality was that we were all beat.
My pack had shifted to every awkward position imaginable, and the soles of my feet were beginning to rub raw from constantly being soggy.
Not only was it physically taxing, but mentally as well. To be in the middle of nowhere with nothing to go by but a half-beaten mud path is a hard thing to get used to.
At times we cried out for trail markers, kilometer signs,anything that would reassure us that we were making steady progress.
At one point I turned around and sighed, "I'm so over this..."
Even Scott cried out for a sign, "Please, give us an animal or something!"
Yes, it's true, we were beginning to give in to our comfort loving western ways.
But the trail does not end there.
After a little while more of huffing and puffing and trudging through sludge, a furry little creature appeared on the path in front of us. It was an agouti, a small, brown rodent-like creature with a tiny head and chubby behind.
She flashed us a look, as if to say: "Don't give up! Follow me, there's something right up ahead of you!"
Than she trounced her way down the trail a few more paces before taking off into the bush.
And sure enough, just a little ways up and we came across our third primate species.
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...