Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica
Thursday 31 March 2017
Leaving San Jose. We were up early.
Which wasn’t a problem for my jet lag.
And ordered an uber back to the airport (so much cheaper than a usual taxi – which charge US25-35).
It took an hour, again hitting the 7am traffic. We were back there at 8am, ready for our 8.30am flight. I didn’t realise that domestic flights with one particular airline don’t go from the main airport terminal. Instead they go from a tiny one room building nearby.
We are flying to Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula. Somewhere new for me!
And we had a private plane. Just the two of us on it!
The sky over San Jose was so clear. We had amazing views all across the Central Valley and across the surrounding mountains. We flew down the coast and again had great views, including the ‘whale tail’ part of the coastline where two beaches collide and form the shape of a giant whale tail. That’s where it suddenly became less pleasant. Flying into thunder clouds. In a 10 seater plane. Not fun. We were lurching around, dropping and being knocked to the sides. It was terrifying. But the pilots were both calm throughout. So it must be fine.
We soon exited the clouds and again had some lovely views across drake bay. Trying to spot the hammerheads and whales. Which we didn’t see.
We landed after an hour of flying and I was so pleased to be back on ground!
And rather randomly the tiny little airstrip is in the middle of a graveyard. A typical Central American graveyard, with so many brightly coloured tiles, stones and plants.
Cindy’s friend picked us up from the airport, which was kind of her. We drove a short distance from the airstrip to a cafe for breakfast. Their menu was typical food. I ordered Gallo pinto (rice mixed with black beans and some vegetables) with fruit and plantain. And it was so delicious!
Then a few jobs. Pharmacy (which was surprisingly well stocked considering we were so remote). Supermarket (which of course was fun, and had some random English foods including almond milks!). Fruit shop (obviously my favourite). We ended up with what we hoped would be enough food for the next 3 days – oats, rice, beans, almond milk, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Including some new ones I’ve not tried before!
Then we began the drive out of the town, into the wilderness.
No phone signal. No roads. Just a bumpy track.
A few fields of cows and horses. Past the odd house here and there. But aside from that, lots of nothing. And lots of jungle.
It’s the end of the dry season, so rather than being the usual green I am used to seeing Costa Rica, lots of parts are quite brown.
But trees are flowering – they flower for about 3 days. Some with bright yellow leaves, so pretty.
It was a 15km drive and took about half an hour of bumping around to reach the girl’s house in Sombrero. I hadn’t realised that we would have our own house here!
Downstairs, a mini outside kitchen and an outdoor shower. Then upstairs a large open room (no walls higher than waist high) with a toilet, a bed and a hammock. Amazing. I was so excited to try the new fruit. A caimeito. It was purple on the outside and grey white on the inside, with large-ish black pips. It was really good.
I googled it afterwards and turns out its name in English is star apple. And we cut them the wrong way.
After a little while of lazing around, we headed out to the ‘village’ area of Malapelo which was nearby.
This was a small collection of colourful houses dotted in the jungle. We were coming to drop off groceries at a rental house. And as there was no one here right now, we could have a nose around. It was amazing. So big.
With a large, 4m deep infinity pool. It was designed so deep so that you could jump from the second floor balcony. No thanks. But it was nice to have a swim.
So many pretty flowers. And animals dotted in the trees. Spider monkeys swinging around, iguanas running across the grass. And toucans flying across the blue sky.
Cabo Matapalo has been named as one of the premiere bird watching venues in the world. And the Osa Peninsula had been declared one of the most biologically intense places on Earth by National Geographic.
We walked down to the ocean, for a swim.
The tide was so high that there was no beach at all. There were lots of rocks underneath us – and it was pretty wavy, which made swimming rather challenging. But it was so pretty – jungle and rocks behind us and the sun beginning to set.
By the time we were back at the house, the sky was bright pink.
We ran down to the beach to watch. The whole ocean was reflecting the bright pink sky. So cool. All the jungle noises amplify as the sun sets.
The cicadas become so much louder. The howler monkeys screech. And it becomes dark so quickly.
For dinner we had some rice, black beans and a red cabbage/avocado salad. So good. And an early night. 8pm. Yep.
Friday 1 April 2017
How is it April already?!
I was awake at 5am, unable to fall back asleep. The jungle woke me up. The birds. The cicadas. The howler monkeys. The chickens. All so loud. And I was laying right in the middle of it all.
The sun was beginning to rise – I could see pink streaks across the sky from where I was laying, behind a tree full of large red macaws. But didn’t have time to lay for long.
We were catching a local bus (a colectivo) which goes by at about 6.30am.
After a breakfast of some overnight oats (oats soaked in almond milk overnight, with chia seeds and some mango), we started walking along the dusty road whilst we waited for the bus to come by. Across the road was a large teak plantation. Teak is not a native tree. And forest has been cut down for it, which is a shame. On our short walk we saw so many birds. Green parrots littering the sky. And also so many runners – people are so fit here.
The bus soon came along.
I was perhaps naively expecting a small battened mini bus. But nope. This was a cattle truck. And people (try to) sit (whilst being bumped around) on wooden benches lining the sides. It was so loud. Rattling and bumping along the uneven, unpaved road. I have never been on anything quite like it. Luckily it didn’t last to long, about 20 minutes.
We got off at the driveway entrance to one of the jungle lodges – Bosque del Cabo. The driveway is 1.5km long. Again an unpaved road, running through jungle. Before we had even made our way onto a trail we came across a family of spider monkeys swinging through the trees. And a whole group of coatis. These are small raccoon-like, fluffy animals with long tails which point upwards. So cute. And they let us get so close to them.
Off the main driveway is several trails into the surrounding forest. The first trail we went down was called Titi. This is the name of the small squirrel monkeys which this area is famous for. And one of only two areas these monkeys can be seen (Manuel Antonio being the other).
The rain forest is made up of 700 tree species — the greatest diversity of tree species in all of Central America. Some had such huge roots, extending across the ground. We saw so many animals. The key to spotting them is to listen out. You can hear the movement across the ground. Then you stand still and wait until you can see something.
Almost the first thing we saw was an anteater! He was so cute, black and white and fluffy. I’ve never seen one before. He was walking along the ground, then up a tree and started eating from a nest. Either ants or termites. How cute.
We heard the howler monkeys before we saw them. So loud. More spider monkeys. The path was hilly, up and down, weaving through the trees. And despite being about 7am, it was hot. We then heard a lot of noise.
Lots of animals. we sat down on the ground for a while to wait for them to come closer. Right in front of us was a coati (a large rabbit like animal), and right behind it was a whole group of white collared pecory. These are pigs. Lots of baby ones. Probably around 30 individuals – and they came so close to us. Apparently these are pretty rare to see.
A bit further along, right above us, a family of white faced monkeys. Staring right at us. And scurrying towards us. I was a bit scared (scared of monkeys!). But they stopped before coming closer.
A short while later we made it to the main lodge.
Cindy used to work here, so knows everyone. They were so nice to us, and gave us plates of fruit and juice (for free). After a short rest, we headed off again.
This time along a different trail. A large loop. It started off with a great ocean view. We are so high up. Then so hilly. Even more than before. We didn’t see so much this time round. Lots of different birds, plus more of what we had seen before – agouti, lots of coati. Nice flowers. Lots of fungi. And crossed over some small rivers. So many birds; Cherry tanager (black with bright red stomach area), Short billed pigeon, Pale billed woodpecker, Hummingbird, Parrots and Great tinamo. These live on the floor and wander around – like large pigeons. The walk took nearly 2 hours and we ended up by a large pond where there are usually lots of frogs. But the pond had been drained for cleaning, which was a shame.
The lodge were so nice and had made us lunch. I had quesadilla (without the cheese), filled with vegetables, plus random other vegetables. It was good.
Then more walking. We were walking to the next lodge – El Remanso.
And it took a surprisingly long time. 2 hours. Of walking up and down gorges in the forest. Along suspension bridges. And not that many animals. I was pretty shattered by the time we arrived.
Cindy has also worked here. And I’ve met the owners before – I went to their house in San Jose for dinner the first time I was in Costa Rica. We hung out at their house for a while.
But needed to hear back home before dark.
Our only option was to walk. It was going to take about 2 hours. Wasn’t quite sure if I had the energy for it. But it was mostly downhill. After going for about half an hour the first vehicle went past.
We had no idea who the guy was, but he gave us a lift all the way back, which was nice of him! It was now gone 5pm and the sun was beginning to set. Not as dramatic as yesterday though.
There are four species of monkey in Costa Rica. Howler, spider, white faced and squirrel. We had seen three of them on our walks earlier in the day and sad that we hadn’t see the titi monkeys – given this is one of the only places to see them. But as we were sitting in the garden, lots of animals started to run along the branches. Titi monkeys!! Right next to us!
We followed them for a bit towards the beach, until it was dark.
For dinner we made rice and beans. Again. But it was good. And a nice early 8pm bed time.
Saturday 2 April 2017
Up at 5am again. To the sounds of the jungle.
Absolutely no reason for me to be up so early. Other than total inability to sleep.
This morning we were heading back to El Remanso for breakfast with the owners. The lodge is so beautiful. The dining hall was all open, looking out towards the jungle and the ocean. Toucans flying around. And the obligatory howler monkeys.
I had Gallo pinto with fruit for breakfast. It was so good. Then we went off for another hike. Downhill for so long. Through the jungle, but didn’t see much. Even though we were looking out for the puma which has been spotted frequently recently. Suddenly the trees thinned out, and the most beautiful beach was in front of us. Wow. Absolutely deserted.
The misty jungle giving way to the bright blue water. Not a single person for as far as we could see. We walked along the beach, much further than expected, for about 15 minutes until we reached the lagoon.
This is fresh water, from a river which collects here. Overhanging palms. And apparently crocodiles. Never mind. We went for a swim. In the shallows! All too scared to go deeper. For good reason! But the shallows were plenty pleasant enough, as the water was chilly. Two scarlet macaws were in the tree right above us.
Heading back to the lodge was hard. It was so hot. And all uphill. Only about 20 minutes (after the 15 minutes back along the beach). But it felt so much longer. I was a sweaty mess by the time we were back at the top.
For lunch we headed back to the house. And then were so tired to do much else for the rest of the day. Just a short walk down to the beach to watch the sunset.
Sunday 2 April 2017
Obviously I was up at 5am. I watched the sunrise from bed, pink streaks across the sky. And the green parrots flying around. Just to the side of us was a tall tree absolutely full of scarlet macaws. I walked out onto the road for a better view. There were 13 of them! Wow.
We had a lazy morning. Doing nothing. At 10.45am, we had to head back to town, to catch our flight back to San Jose. It was another 30 minute bumpy ride back!
But a pretty drive. This place is amazing. This time the plane was a bit busier. As everyone was here, we left earlier than the 12pm slot. The views weren’t quite as nice this time – a lot cloudier. And by the time we were coming into land in San Jose, it was pouring rain and thunder.
They don’t normally fly these small planes in these conditions. We were flying back out today, to Tambor. But not until 4pm. So had 3 hours to waste.
This time we are flying nature air, which goes from the main international terminal. So we had to go through all the usual security etc. But it did mean we had shops (and the free chocolate samples) to entertain us for a few hours.
We were worried about the weather, but around 3pm it began to clear up. The clouds lifted and the mountains were again visible. 4pm rolled around and no news of our flight. We were the only people sat waiting in the little domestic waiting area. Finally around 5pm we were let on the bus to the plane.
And left about 5.30pm. This flight is only 25 minutes. We had such an amazing sunset.
And great views of all the places I visited last time I was here – Curu national park, and tortuga island. We landed about 6pm and Juan was waiting to pick us up. They had been waiting for quite a while, given our delay. So it was dark driving from Tambor back to Santa Teresa.