Tuesday, January 29, 2008

6 days, 2 4x4's and many kilometers

I am at the close of my annual birthday trip, 6 days in Costa Rica.

Prior to leaving I lacked the usual gusto to travel because I have been traveling so much recently -- 3 consecutive weekends at December-end and new year -- so much so that I missed being in New York!

What was I thinking? I quickly came to my senses upon landing in Costa Rica.

This trip was Costa Rica for the third time. I overcame my travel snobbery-desire to travel to new and (as yet by myself) unexplored places and decided Costa Rica tambien to meet a fellow travel mate with whom I shared about one month in Tanzania.

We are good travel mates. His Parisian fits my New Yorker in moments when needed. Mostly, we share a drive to try to the fullest extent in the travel endeavors at hand, whether that be the attempt to visit Corcovado National Park, yes I said attempt (more below) or the wait for a rare, richly plumed bird to return to its nest, even though it means waiting an hour with uncertainty that the bird will return while we are present and with the daylight falling. More importantly, given equal positive and negative information (or as the case may be when traveling, non-information), we align in the hope for the best.

Well, we hoped for the best but were for the moment foiled in the attempt to visit Corcovado NP, a virgin, Pacific rainforest on the Osa Peninsula, southern Costa Rica. We were impeded by changing regulations and a non-sensical system (perhaps concocted to keep travelers at bay, perhaps to stem corruption, as park agents and the national park office are not allowed to accept payment, one must show up in person to obtain the reservation and at this time must shuttle back and forth between bank and park office, if the bank is open, grrrr....)

Our very best effort included a treacherous drive up the Rincon River Valley (criss-crossing the river many times -- very rocky and at times somewhat deep and on a sketchy battery that was recharging after not starting properly that morning) and the hike to the ranger station at which point they would not honor our reservation request (which at that point, truth be told, we did not realize we had, or perhaps we would have argued further...)

This attempt entailed a 11 km walk back to La Palma *with all those river crossings in reverse except this time by foot.* Further mishap resulted in us crossing each other and missing each other, myself in the car to retrieve my mate with the non-river-worthy shoes, especially since while walking ahead *due to my tevas which allowed me to cross rivers without taking off shoes and going barefoot* I lucked out and found a ride back to the guesthouse, only to find the gas tank drained and after a while in the middle of the road the car moving no further, probably due to hitting some rocks the wrong way despite the high carriage 4x4. (Thus the title reference, the rental car company had to send a replacement.)

After a failed attempt to procure permission in person at the Puerto Jimenez park office, we finally gave up in disgust, well really we had no choice. (But we did not lose the ardent desire to see this Corcovado National Park and all the animals that populate it!).

Anyway, we made the most of the time with a 22km hike around Mt. Chirripo. We met some special friends: (in addition to the scarlet macaws seen upon leaving La Palma)8 peccaries, a toucan and a pair of quetzals, very beautiful, especially the male! Today my calves are sore due mostly to the mountainous ascent...

It has been one of those trips that make people say, 'I need a vacation from my vacation' with our early morning risings and departures to make the most of the time and some long drives on these unnamed, ill-signed, Costa Rican roads.

All these days here I have had many vivid dreams of sweet, beautiful times and friends, except for my last night/morning waking to dark, heavy dreams. Philippe is on his way to Corcovado armed with all the necessary information including but not limited to: hand-written detailed map of the hike to and from La Sirena; hand-written, detailed map of Puerto Jimenez, tide time table for the next few days for the ability to cross 2 rivers that are impassable at high tide. As for me, it's back to Gotham.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Osa Peninsula view from afar:



Waterfall seen during the hike at the Cloudbridge Preserve:



At Mt. Chirripo NP, the clearing between kilometers 10 and 11:



Feet on the ground, head in the clouds:



Our friends the Peccaries:

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