This morning I get up early at 06:00. Want to be in Rincon de la Vieja National Park around 07:00. Finding the right road uphill from Liberia is not easy. After a couple of dead ends I finally find it and it is quite bizar. It seems to consist of gypsum, completely white and there is a lot of dust in the air. The road is a bit sunken in the landscape and forms a kind of tunnel. The further I get, the more dust and plastic bags are being blown towards me. More and more plastic bags are coming down, like an absurd attraction.
After a while the road splits and you can either go straight ahead of turn left. An astonishing number of plastic bags are flying around here. There is a sign indicating to proceed straight ahead into the park, but there are two arrows pointing left on the gate as well. I drive through the gate and arrive at the… local garbage dump.
Unbelievable. Down in the city, vehicles drive around to collect all the garbage, which they dump here and with the same speed all that crap flies back into the city.
The sign posting is also typical. How can you place a sign for going straight while you have to go left? Meanwhile I found out that many signs are on the wooden electricity poles. Like they have been written with chalk. The same here on the gate, ‘to the left you have to go, not straight ahead’ it wants to tell you.
I go on but the clouds above the park get darker by the minute until it begins to rain. This is the moment I turn back. There is no sense in walking around in the rain overthere. This park is well known for its extreme weather changes. Sometimes you even have to find your way back through the fog with a compass.
Have developed another (temporary) addiction. No lollypops this time but noga, hmmm, they have these nice large pieces overhere. 4 of them I have already had. Nice alternative if the breakfast (like here in Liberia) is not that good. Small package to be consumed comfortably in the car.
Plan B is Santa Rosa National Park along the coast. It takes me about an hour to get there. I pass the main entrance as there is another one more to the north, close to the ocean. Lots of birds should be overthere. I got that advice yesterday.
Close to the park there is a small food truck standing still in the middle of the road before a turnoff. The driver looks a bit nervous in his mirror. He signals me to pass and so I do. A couple of kilometers further down the road I run into a dead end. So, I should have turned left back there. I get back to the turnoff and take that one.
The road continues into the forest…and there is that truck again. Standing still on the middle of the road. The driver is looking in his mirror again and looks nervous and sweaty. Something is wrong here. Costa Rica has become one of the main gateways of cocaine smuggle to the north and it could very well be that this truck is involved in some way. It just does not feel right.
When I pass the truck, a police car with blue lights comes out of the forest and stops at the food truck. I continue into the forest but do not trust the situation at all. After a while I encounter a small stream and have to make a decision: to cross or not to cross? It does not seem deep and I enter the water. It feels a bit weird because the wheels are loosing grip on the pebbles. I want to get as fast to the other side as possible, but just because of that I am going a little bit to fast and loose grip.
I get to the other side and continue. The road is getting narrower and narrower and more and more overgrown. Then I encounter a much larger river and the first instinct is to turn around. But after careful consideration I continue. The GPS shows that the coast is very near now and I do not want to back off at the last possible moment. This stream is 3 car lengths wide but only 20 centimeters deep. Best thing to do is to use low gears and go in very slowly but steady. On the other side the road continues but soon bends to the left, deeper into the forest and away from the coast. It is completely overgrown here indicating that not many cars drive here. This is the point I call the mission off. I turn around and drive back.
That scene with the food truck makes me nervous, not knowing what situation I will encounter. After crossing the second stream I suddenly hear some gunshots, about 5 very rapidly one after another. Then another 2. I am really sweating now and tense as hell. I pass the spot where the truck was the last time and soon after that I am back at the main road again. Pfeeeww. Not sure what happened overthere but glad that I was not part of it.
Back to the south, the weather seems to have cleared above the mountains in Rincon de la Vieja National Park and I decide to give it another try. This time via a more northern road that appears to be much easier. But here I also manage to loose track, passing a restaurant to enter a small road where I should have gone left to follow the main road. It is so easy here to get off the main road. Some small signs would do wonders here.
In the meantime it is already 10:30 instead of the 07:00 I had in mind and it is quite hot. The only route through the forest passing a waterfall is about 3 kilometers. The route to the Von Seebach crater has been shut down because of volcanic activity.
There are a lot of Strangler Figs here. These trees start as a seed dropped by a bird on an existing tree to become real killers. The Fig embraces the existing tree and surrounds, encloses and strangles it from the top down to the bottom, causing the tree to die, leaving a hollow Strangler Fig behind.
Somewhat deeper in the forest I encounter another nice example. Lighting is here, almost completely in shade, much flatter.
The waterfall is a nice one and here I shoot a couple of photographs. Especially the first is a tough one. There are 8 different exposures necessary to capture everything from the deep shadows at the bottom to the bright sunlight at the top. Perfect photograph if you ask me.
Using a telelens I isolate several parts of the waterfall.
Until finally the top, that I shoot with a very short shuttertime to do something different, making the individual droplets visible.
Furthermore, there are some volcanic mudpots, but these are nothing compared to the ones in Yellowstone and New Zealand. There are beautiful clouds above them though.
On the trail I meet Dutch, Swiss and French people. The last ones discover a large black-yellow snake in a tree. It takes a while for me to setup things but then I am able to shoot some nice closeups of him (or her). It appears to be a Tiger Rat Snake.
It is very difficult to spot a snake like this. Here I know where it is, once you look away for a second and back, it takes a few seconds to find it back again. A wonder that these French people have found it.
Somewhat later it moves on, providing me with the opportunity to shoot the body as well.
The snake is almost 2 meter long and as thick as a wrist.
Somewhat further down the trail are a couple of monkeys in a tree. A Spider Monkey is the only one I can shoot. He is quite far away and it is impossible to utilise the flash here.
These are not very good photographs, but as long as I can not find any better, I consider them keepers.
The monkey strikes one pose after the other, and looks a bit bored.
Maybe it is just the heat.
This is number 2 of the 4 monkey species here. I also see a couple of White Face Capucin Monkeys running through the tree tops, but these are too fast and too far away. We also hear a Toucan (according to a guide here) but that one flies away. There are some Agutis; a kind of big Cavia on long legs. I spot some big spiders close to the water, but these fly away as soon as I approach them.
I really wonder what animals I pass without knowing. All these animals are so well camouflaged. That is the power of a guide because he knows where to look. This I will try in the last week a few times when I am longer in the same location. First going with a group to find out where to look and then back alone for the photographs. In the end I have been walking here for 4.5 hours and have some great photos unexpectedly.
I am quite exhausted because of the heat and return to my hotel around 15:00.
I score a 2nd Subway for dinner and hope to have some more traditional Costa Rican food tomorrow. Is much better.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file here.