Day 19/23

Morning

This morning I wake up around 05:40. Around 06:30 I join an early-bird tour: watching birdies. We are with 4 people: the guide and yesterdays Canadian couple. As the sky is completely overcast here, we drive back in the direction of Puerto Jimenez for 10 kilometers towards an open field. The first bird we see is a large bird of pray, and the Canadian guy is desperate to get a closer look. As a result the big bird takes off before I have a proper chance to photograph it.

We walk around here for one and a half hours and see a lot of beautiful birds. Problem only is that they are often too far away for a good photograph.

Bird

After watching us for a while, the big bird returns and this time I am able to capture it.

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

With the spotting scope one can have a good look on these birds. After a while it appears to me that there are many butterflies that are easy to photograph with 600mm and flashlight. One after the other I get nice photographs of them from a distance of about three meters. Nothing frame filling but the advantage is that they are not startled by me and I can shoot them very easily.

Butterfly

A nice bird in between…

Bird

…and a vividly coloured flower on the shoulder.

Flower

Bird

Bird

Bird

Bird

A couple of cows start there early morning walk together.

Koeien

Finally, a small bird on a fallen tree, before we drive back.

Bird

Carlos (the guide) gives me advice to drive to Carate, half an hour driving from here because there are many Scarlet Macaws overthere. The parrot that I did see yesterday but did not shoot. They also live in Puerto Jimenez around the football field. Have to keep that in mind.

I have breakfast together with Dori and her niece. It is just as pleasant as yesterday evening. We talk for a while about photography and traveling. She is a heart echo specialist of profession. Once a year she goes out for an expensive holiday and once for a much cheaper one. As soon as she is home she starts planning the next. How familiar (-;

Around ten I say goodbye, because I have a lot to do today. We do exchange email addresses. Nice for later. Maybe we can combine one of hour future trips partly and photograph together.

I drive to Carate, the last bit of civilization before Corcovado National Park. The road is quite good. I had the feeling it would go right through the jungle, but people do live here and there and sometimes there are even meadows with cows grazing on them (Indian style with large hanging ears).

Crossing another couple of rivers, which are also quite easy. Close to Carate I hear Macaws screaming above me, while driving along the ocean. I fail to see them and continue. First abeam the airport, a couple of lodges and finally I end up at a river that looks much deeper and wider than the ones I have seen sofar. The water goes much faster as well. No idea whether the rest of Carate is beyond this pont. It all looks deserted to me. I just was curious to see where the road would end: the gate to Corcovado National Park via the beach. But the risk of things going wrong is a bit to big for me. Very difficult to estimate whether or not I will succeed in crossing. Better to turn around and stay safe.

Back at the beach I stop for a photograph of Corcovado National Park.

Coast towards Corcovado National Park

It already occurred to me that there is hanging a kind of haze above the beach. At first I thought this was foam or water vapour, but it appears to be rain. At the moment I intend to shoot the photograph, the floodgates are opened. I can not withhold a couple of curses. It just seems like it starts raining, everytime I want to shoot. Of course, this is bullshit, but it drives me crazy anyway.

I shoot a couple of them quickly, pack my bag and run towards the car. Here, I wait for a while until the raining becomes bareable. Meanwhile, I have seen a couple of beautiful birds in a tree. I attach camera and lens, but even before I am ready, they are gone. It continues to rain also.

Back to the lodge I go, to be just in time for lunch. Joyriding through large patches of water and mud, while laughing and enjoying it. The water in the last river to cross is much higher than before, less than an hour ago. At first I did not see it, but the water is flowing over the top of the bonnet and that was not the case the first time.

Afternoon

Back at the lodge, a nice lunch is awaiting me. They have another menu today. So it seems there is a different lunch menu every day, with 10 unique dishes on it. Today I take a Casado, a kind of nasi ramis (a little bit of everything). Not a Quesado like I thought a couple of weeks ago.

I talk a bit with the local biologist and tell him about Carate. He pulls a weird face and tells me that there are Macaws here as well. Just outside the gate, first turnoff to the beach, 10 minutes by car. I am also a bit curious about the story of the Fer-the-lances here. He tells me that indeed a couple of people have almost stepped on them. He also tells me dat this in face are not the real Fer-the-lances. The real one lives in South America south of the Andes. They are virtually indistinguishable, but they do differ. 1% of the bites is deadly, but you almost always will loose the limb that has been bitten. The poison, primarily destroys muscle tissue. If you are lucky enough to escape an amputation, lots of of tissue will have to be removed, whereafter the skin can be closed again. Doesn’t sound like funny at all. If there is no rain tonight, we will have a look, but currently I have little hope that we will succeed.

He also tell me, that he guides a 4 hour walk through jungle, during which he explains how the forest works. Everyone should actually do this during the first day here, because you don’t know where you are looking at and how to find the things (animals for instance) you are looking for. I was playing with the thought to return to Carate, first thing tomorrow morning, but the beach overhere, Golfe Dulce, might be a nice alternative and I would definitely want to know more about the rain forest.

When I ask him about the underground size of the leaf-cutting-ant-burrows, he tells me that depending on the depth of the soil, they can be as deep as 10 meters! Tomorrow I will join him for the walk. Have heared nice things about the tour.

I leave for the road to the beach of Golfe Dulce immediately. The first time I pass it on accident, because the road looks quite bad. Later I have to conclude that this really must have been it. I return and have a good look, before going down. At first, it seems ok, but soon I take a corner via quite rough terrain and immediately after it the road goes down very steeply and the car starts to slip. Scary shit…

But I have no alternative, than to continue. Turning around is not an option and going reverse neither. After the first part of roughly 40-50 meters the road flattens out, but soon another part follows that is even steeper. Am I nuts? Why am I doing this? (Because the biologist told me that it was only a 10 minute drive to the beach). Because of recent rain, everything has turned slippery and I start worrying whether I will be able to get back.

After a while, the road splits: left goes further down, right towards a couple of houses. I go right, because this is flat terrain. I can see the ocean through the trees already, but it seems I have to descent much further even. After about 100 meters the road dead ends and a guy is looking at me annoyed. Like ‘What are you doing here?’ I turn around and go back to the fork. I notice the road going down further but decide it is time to go back up. I should not take more risk now.

At the first steep part I am already in trouble. I am able to drive up the first 10 meters, but after that the front wheels start to spin and loose grip. Shit, now what? I let it go back down and try again. Exactly the same problem. Now I really start to worry. If I will be unable to conquer this part, I am in serious trouble. I try a third time and again I fail.

Ok, so I have to try something else. Maybe I have to use a longer run and a bit more speed? I reach a little bit higher but again I slip back. Now I go back as far as possible and use an even longer run. Again, it seems I am not going to make it, but by steering left-right-left I maintain enough grip to reach the top. My God. This is nog funny at all.

The second steep part is easier because I start faster. The risk of going faster is loosing control. But I fail to find a proper alternative. It seems like I have had the worst part now. The remaining part should be much easier.

On some parts the road runs to one side, and whatever you do, the will slide that way. Because of this I hit a big bolder against the undercarriage. Something that also happened on the way down. I see the dashboard vibrating. Getting stuck on a slope is not something I have in mind. After some more struggling I am finally back where it all begun. Unbelievable. These exploration drifts are very hard to control, but sometimes they drive my crazy.

Back to lodge then. This is also a narrow road with a couple of difficult patches that are steep. Because of the rain today the clay on the road has become very slippery. Suddenly, another car is coming towards me. Now what? There isn’t really space enough for 2 cars. I move to my side as much as possible. Close along the road is a ditch in which I do intend to end up. I turn the wheels back towards the road, but exactly at that moment, the car starts to slide back towards the ditch. I can barely prevent it going right into it.

The other car passes, but for a short while I am afraid that the will continue to slide once I try to get away. It almost happens. I notice in my mirror that the other driver has seen it as well and he waits whether I will need help or not. By steering straight I am able to stay away from it. Whoof. For today I am completely cured. It is all al lot of fun as long as things are ok, but this is a bit too close to trouble.

Back at the lodge I start walking. First over the swinging bridge into the tropical garden and on the other side towards the beach. Halfway it starts raining and I decide to return. I shoot a couple of photographs of a tree with spikes on its trunk.

Tree

Tree

After having sheltered for a while in the bar, the Canadian couple enters as well. He notices a large spider (around 5 centimeters diameter) hanging, but is not able to take a proper photograph of it. Nice animal but indeed very dark where it is hanging. A challenge, especially because there is nothing better to do. It is almost invisible through the lens, because it is that dark, but after a while I manage to get a sharp photograph.

Spin

Evening

At dinner I am placed at a table with people I do not know yet. After a while we start talking once I discover that the couple on the other side are pilots. The female loves aerobatics. Together they fly around 300 hours per year. Compare that with my 20… Flying is so cheap that it is more expensive to take the train. There is almost a factor 4 with flying in Europe. They also fly a lot at night with VFR conditions, something that is unthinkable and forbidden in Europe.

In America the rules are much lighter we discover. Every American has the right to build something that can fly and take off with it. You are also allowed to take off and land outside airports, something that is not allowed in Europe. They look at me with big eyes. They fly somewhere for dinner regularly to return at night. Soon they will buy there own aircraft.

She started the company Orbital Outfitters and they develop space suits for the commercial space industry. WOW!!! They have contacts with a lot of companies, have visited the first flights of SpaceShipOne geweest, talked to the test pilot and also know Joseph Kittinger, the man that jumped off a balloon at an altitude of 31 kilometer. Unbelievable how nice to speak with these people. I did not expect this. They are very enthousiastic. What an interesting life these two have! We talk for the rest of the evening and are the last to leave the restaurant. We agree to have dinner again toegether, tomorrow night.

Exciting day, but a good one!

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, Costa Rica Dry Season 2011, Day 19

Download the original gpx file here.

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