My wakeup call is at 05:40 this morning, exactly when the sun is rising. I book the same room for another night. Palo Verde National Park opens at 08:00 and the plan is to be there as early as possible.
Close to the park is the most beautiful waterfall of Costa Rica, so that will be the first thing for the day. From Liberia that is only half an hour of driving.
The turnoff from the highway is marked very well but the last kilometer of this little road is so bad that I start having doubts whether I am going the right way. It is covered with very deep gullies and at some parts I stop to have a really look at where I am going to place my wheels. A bad decision is made very easily and then I will have a big problem on my back. Driving this kind of terrain goes easier by the day, though.
The parking spot is one that makes you think you will find your car back with the wheels removed. The waterfall is close by and I get there via a very steep path. I am never completely at ease it these places surrounded by all my gear, but I really want to have that photo. I have to cross a small stream to get on the beach where a Jezus Christ Lizzard is startled and runs to the other side of the waterfall. These lizzards are called this way because they can run over water.
There is a lot of spray coming off the waterfall. A bit more to the right of the falls this is less and this is actually the best location for the photo as well. Not much variation possible here, so that is fine. The faster I am done here the better.
After a minute of 10 I have my shots and I head back up to the car. Somewhere halfway up I here a loud hiss right behind me. A fraction of a second I thought something moved inside my bag, which can also make a noise like this rubbing against the canvas. But immediately I know that I should have felt something at the same time. As I am walking quite fast to cover the large stair steps, I continue without looking back. When I am back at the car I realise that I most probably passed a quite large snake. Maybe I woke it up when going down and was it agitated when I passed another time. I did not give it a thought beforehand either. Stuped now I think of it, but this is excellent snake habitat: warm climate and very close to a small river. I have seen so many waterfalls already and it is just weird that there are snakes here. I know they are, but in some way it is feeling unreal as well. Going back to have a better look pops up in my mind, but I let go of that idea almost immediately. I would love to see it and even better photograph it, but the path is narrow and steep. In other words there is now way out if I have to avoid it and I can be bitten over all my body. Brrrr.
I continue to Palo Verde National Park, a large wetland area with lots of birds and reptiles. In find a nice photograph with sunlight straying a crop field.
It takes a while to find the entrance and in the end I arrive half an hour later than planned. The ranger is an very nice man who does his best to explain everything. I gives me a map. In my notes I see that there are ‘Africanized Bees’ here, the result of a failed experiment to crossbreed ‘normal ‘ bees with African bees to have better honey production. The bees have escaped and the queen of the aggressive African species hatches earlier than the local queen. The local species is slowly eradicated. I should have asked where these nests are, but I forgot about it. These bees attack massively at the least disturbance.
I can match the little map I got with the reality. They could have supplied me with a map of the moon, that would have been the same.
The first place I visit is a wooden plafform that stretches into the wetland. Close to the shoreline are pink Hyacinths. At least they look like them. I want to make a photograph of them but pink in sunlight is hopeless. That is going to turn into white. It’s quite warm now. Four others are already there and claim to have seen a small crocodile just a few minutes ago. They tell me they have seen very big ones at the Tarcoles river more to the south (I have to remember that one). There are also some birds but the platform is too small for five.
The next stop is the Tempisque River. Here the crocodiles should be, but I don’t see them. For a while I sit on the riverbank, until it comes to me that this might not be the most sensible thing to do. I do hear some splashes once in a while though. Once I see something floating that could be a crocodile, but it could be wood at the same time. The sky is reflected nicely in the still water.
I do notice two birds that I chase for a while.
These are Double Striped Thicknees.
On the other side of the park there are lots of Herons and Egrets. They stay completely calm when I pass by, but are in total panic when I get out. Everything flies and runs away up to a turtle and and Iguana. The turtle is a special one. If I come to close I hear ‘clac’ and the door closes. The shield is closed off completely. Because another car almost hit him when passing by, I pick him up and put him back down in the grass. He has the same size of small melon but ways like a brick.
Tiger Heron and Great Egret.
After this experience I return to the wooden platform. It is really hot here now and I scare everything away only by walking very slowly. I do not have the patience at this time to sit and wait for everything to come back here.
I retun to back to the river and somewhere halfway I meet up with the 4 Americans I have seen earlier at the platform. One of them tells me, that you can see crocodiles at the river if you have a really good look. Low tide is better however. They walk always (apparently the are often here) along the road from the platform to the river and back and see lots of animals this way. This morning they already encountered two species of monkeys. They not track along the small trails through the woods anymore because you are stinged constantly. Even here you are stinged but less so. Nice idea, from the car I did not see monkeys. But the idea does not appeal to me. It is burning hot and with only one lens and tripod it is doable, but not with that load I am carrying currently.
I continue to the river and now I do see the crocodiles. They have a length of about 1.5 meters.
After this I return to the area with the Herons. This time I stay in the car and make some nice closeups. First a Cattle Egret.
I really like the out of focus texture of the grasses in front of the bird.
I continue along the road further into the forest and are greated by multiple gangs of Howler Monkeys. Birds and Iguanas sometimes fly and run in front of the car. I am not sure how far this road goes. It is close to 15:00 already and I am done for the day. On the way back, one last pass through the area with the Herons, but coming from this side startles everything. Suddenly I see a snake coming from the grass on the road, just in front of the car. I bypass, it, stop the car and run back. But the snake is already gone. Unbelievable, where has it gone?
I go to the exit of the park and enter an area with crop fields and try to spot some birds overthere but that is not succesful. Two tractors seem to follow me along a very rough road, but after a while they turn away. I see a weird looking big black bird that dives into the small stream every time I approach it. Very difficult to take a picture and I return via the same road, pass the entrance of the park and head back to Liberia.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file here.