Saturday, 15 June 2013

Our Jungle House & Jungle Adventure

We have been staying in a little jungle house in the middle of the Osa Penisula, on the edge of Corcovado National Park, at the end of the lane of a small village called Dos Brazos - we are in the middle of nowhere! We are surrounded by tropical rainforest and beautiful gardens making it all so pleasant.  The village is populated by gold miners and their families - old school, panning for gold in the river, type miners.  They go up the Rio Tigre that runs through town and work their little areas (and have been told they are pretty good at building their own tunnels too).  We watched one guy out in the river by our house working away with his shovel… seemed like really hard work… I hope they get enough to make it worth their while.  Apparently the little Pulperia  (a very basic corner store) has a weight scale for use by the miners. In many ways this feels like a frontier town.  Our little jungle house is close to the river so we can hear the river sounds along with the twitter of the birds, the buzz of the insects, the squawks of green parrots and the occasional baritone bellows of the Howler Monkeys.  Our first morning here we were greeted by a flock of Keel-Billed Toucans!  We've also heard the squawks of Scarlet Macaws but only saw the silhouette of pair off in the distance. The property has Star Fruit trees, Lime trees, Banana trees, a huge Mango tree with the last remnants of the mango season still hanging on, a Cashew tree, Lemon grass and a whole bunch of other notable plants that were pointed out to us.  There is a Yang-Yang (I think that is what it is called) vine close by the house and Jasmine bushes so we get these incredible wafts of fragrance that fill the air and complement the tropical feel.  The young guy that helps the manager of this place and whose father and grandmother are considered the Shamans of this area pointed out leaves for this and that to us. He dug up some ginger root for us to use, and when he found out Sean had an upset stomach he pulled out a leaf for that too, and then continued on to provide a leaf high in iron that we could put in salads.  It was incredible that in just the small radius of where we were standing and chatting he was able to bring all that out.  It felt a little like magic.   We were also given an avocado and a handful of bananas (a different variety - good when sautéed and eaten like a chip), all freshly picked while we stood by. The Osa Penisula and Corcovado National Park are known for exceptional bio-diversity and in just 24hrs of our arrival at our jungle house… we were witnessing it all so easily.  There are rumours of a Corcovado National Park entrance being established in this village so this area might not be so frontier town-like in a few more years.

Yesterday we went on a road trip and took the perimeter road that follows the southern coast of the peninsula.  It was a beautiful drive with views of the Golfito Dulce, open, lush ranch lands (with Caracara and Hawks on the hunt) and thickly forested areas with trees and vines overhanging the road and a few fun river crossings thrown in.  We followed the road right to the end at the village of Carate with it's tiny airstrip, a half dozen little lodges and one of the starting points for hiking into Corcovado National Park (along the beach). We stopped at the very end of the road ( a track really) and let the boys explore along the Carate River looking for rocks and pretending to be gold miners while Eric and I  sat on a log willing a Tapir or a Jaguar to emerge from the jungles edge (with my camera a ready), but no luck.  We did see some Tapir tracks though and that was pretty cool. But the highlight of the day's venture was seeing flocks of Scarlet Macaws! They were brilliant flying in pairs and circling around so we could get a good look at them before they settled into the tree tops.

Today we ventured out for a full day hike at a private reserve  with the trail head just 5 minutes up river from our jungle house and right on the edge of the National Park.  We had a full day of no rain the day before and the morning was looking promising so we ventured out with every intention of doing a full day hike with visits to two waterfalls, a picnic lunch and finishing up the hike with a 2 hour walk down through the river back to the trail head.  But… the rains come quickly here… so… in the middle of the hike… where one minute we were looking down a valley with views of the Golfito Dulce (the inlet between the peninsula and mainland) then in the next moment the skies got real dark.  The rains started with a little sprinkle and were quickly followed by a heavy hard hitting downpour.  We knew these rains come in waves so we trudged on hoping the heavy rain would pass and clear skies would follow.  We were all drenched anyways, so we thought we'd muster on.  The trail got a bit more slippery (we were following a very narrow trail on the edge of the upper valley) and there were parts that were starting to slip away.  The trail was not in great shape so there was a lot of overgrowth and we were busy ducking and swiping away the large leaves and branches that were in our way (a machete would have been handy).  The rain was pouring off the large leaves and dribbling down our faces.  Sean's glasses were getting fogged up and Eric was leading the way to make sure the path was clear of snakes.  I started thinking… what are we doing?  Are we being complete idiots being out in this?  I was expecting the boys to complain but they kept going and I thought "well Eric isn't saying anything either" so maybe it's okay.  But the rain kept on and then I started to think about the quality of the trails and what if there was a land slide (we crossed a few small ones before the rain started) and then I was wondering about the river that we were suppose to be hiking down for the final leg of the hike.  So, when we got to the end of that trail section (called Valle Frijoles), we  looked at the trail map and pondered if we should venture on.  We almost decided to go ahead but the boys were both shaking with wet by now and though they were being stoic (for us) they really wanted to go back.  So, we turned around and ventured back and I am so glad we did!  The trail was a real mess just 1/2 hour later… larger sections of the trail slipping away and rivulets running down the side of the valley onto the trails.  And then real fear started to set in.  Sean told me (after the fact) that at that point he was muttering swear words under his breath (not sure which ones).  We were carrying huge leaves over our heads, using them as "poor man's umbrellas" , which kept the spatter off our heads (and really my intention was just to try to keep this a bit of an "adventure") but the rain was funnelling from the big leaf and pouring down onto our backs (I think we had them up side down!).  We were all pretty silent, just trudging on with hunched backs.  So, here we are, in the middle of of the Osa Penisula, in the rainforest, in the slow season for tourists (there was no one around!), in the rainy season, trudging along the semi-maintained trails of a private reserve (that we self-checked into… so only our cheery hand written note in the visitor book marked our entrance), in rain so dense we really couldn't see ahead anad the three of us (Eric was the only sensible one that didn't want one) with big silly looking green (dinosaur sized) leaves over our heads.   Now, we can look back and see how funny it was, but at the time… it felt very different.  We reached the little shack where we had self-checked into the reserve (still no one around) and got a bit of a break from the rain.  We munched down our M&M's as a treat and then continued on the last (40 minute) leg to the trail head. The trail was better for this part and the rain started to slacken so with the improved trail and light rain and knowing we were at the last section, our outlook started to lighten as well and we started to joke about what we had just been through.  We started to talk about the hot shower we were all looking forward to (we'd been soaked through for the last 2 hours!) and the nice relaxing afternoon that we all deserved.  We even saw a green and black poison dart frog!!!! (the camera was buried in a plastic bag in our drenched backpack… so no picture… but it was just like you'd see in National Geographic).  And so we were just minutes from the trail head, almost there!  And then… we saw the river at the trail head that we crossed only a few hours previously with no difficulty.   Now it was swollen and moving fast!!!  My light mood vanished and fear returned… Were we stuck on this side?  How are we going to get across?  Images of those scenes in the movies where the water sweeps people down stream came to mind… and then we saw a huge branch bob by to complete the picture.  Eric, our hero of the day, stayed calm and he ventured out into the stream little by little,  and methodically he found a path to get across - which ended being going up river a bit and then across.  It seemed really strong in some spots and it looked like if he lost his footing he could get swiped down river ( I was so anxious watching him)!  But he got over to the other side and then retraced his steps back to the three of us stranded at the trail end.  Liam was piggy-backed over first with both Sean and I feeling very, very apprehensive watching the crossing.  And then Eric came back for Sean while I followed behind.  Eric was calm, cool, collected the whole time and really the boys were amazing too… it was a pretty scary situation to be in.   Once across we merrily walked the five minutes to the house with sun shining and birds twittering like nothing had happened!  Crazy day!

                 We are spending one more night at our jungle house and then we venture on. It's been a happy house for us with time to just hang out together, listen to the rain and the sounds of the jungle, (have adventures), and cook for ourselves again! We've been out of internet contact while here too, so that has added to our sense of being in the wilds! We had to drive into the town of Puerto Jimenez and find a little travellers cafe that had wi-fi to get this blog out. We don't know what our next stop is… but we do know in 10 days we'll be back home in Canada :)
And to all those Dad-heros out there… Happy Father's Day!


  1. That was great story telling - You should not have posted the pictures though --- it looks like the water was at his knees - The story has him battling for his life - I had the girls out on a walk yesterday - I will make them read this story - and next time they will not complain so much - It all looks so great!


    1. yah.. Eric made it look easy, but that was because he paced out the areas that were manageable.. hard to do when you can't see the bottom.. it was pretty swift moving. But now that it's over.. it seems like maybe it wasn't so bad...

  2. I am sure it was difficult - It is just that your story telling is so good...the pictures detracted a bit from his glory! You should start writing ! I am very proud of your whole trip. You have done a great job!