Day 81: Parque Nacional Corcovado (day 1)

corcovado Travel Blog

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map of Corcovado
 

After two lazy days at the beach it was time to heave our rucksacks onto our backs again and set out for some walking. The Parque Nacional Corcovado is one of Costa Rica's greatest trump cards. This park covers most of the Península La Osa, and protects as many as eight distinct habitats. According to National Geographic it is the “most biologically intense place on Earth” and pretty much an ecologist's ultimate wet dream. Well, I am no ecologist, but I do admit getting a little excited though.


We opted for a two-day walk which would first lead us from Los Patos ranger station through the rainforest to the Sirina ranger station at the Pacific coast, and then on the second day we would follow the coastline to the town of Carate from where we could take a bus back to Puerto Jiménez.

the early morning sun breaking through the foliage


We shared a taxi to the entrance of the park with the Israelis we'd met yesterday, but from there onwards we went our separate ways.

Arnaud still wasn't feeling very well, and in fact I was getting rather worried about his condition. I will save you the gross details, but he had all the symptoms of a bacterial infection in his intestines. Though there isn't a big risk of cholera in Costa Rica, the disease does exist here, and I was getting really worried.

Arnaud was sure he would manage the trek though, and we agreed to visit a doctor if the problems persisted for the next two days.


The first day of the trek can be summed up in one word: fantastic! The whole day we walked through pristine tropical rainforest, encountering lots and lots of wildlife on the way.

setting out on the Corcovado jungle trek
From large to small, we encounterd them all. Brightly coloured butterflies, several species of monkey, literally tons of endemic Scarlet Macaws (a species of parrot extinct in most parts of Central America) and even an ant eater!


We also bumped into several snakes, which were either hanging from a tree or crossing the path in front of us. One of them, a bright green one, refused to make way and stayed in the middle of track not allowing us to pass. I remember somebody once telling me how the brighter a snake, the more dangerous it is, so this bright green one must have been very dangerous. From a safe distance we threw a branch at it, which scared it off so that we could pass.


Slightly frightened by the encounter we made sure to stick to the middle of the track stamping our feet in order to frighten off any snake possibly hiding under the leaves on the ground.

beautiful but lethal


The only thing that wasn't so great about the trek was the heat. The climb of the Cerro Cirripó had been nice and cool, but down here it was at least 20 degrees warmer, with humidity levels reaching 90%. I don't particularly like hot and humid weather, so I was glad when we reached the Pacific coast where a little sea breeze gave us some comfort.


The Sirina ranger station is the largest of ranger stations in the park and allows camping along the grass air strip (disaster permitting), or you can stay in a basic bunk bed in one of the two dorms. We camped. After all, I'd been carrying my tent along, which I hadn't used since Tikal (in all fairness, I hadn't really used my tent much this entire trip).


Dinner was yet another unexciting portion of pot noodles (still the easiest type of food to carry along on a two-day trek), after which Arnaud and I retreated to the beach to watch the sunset.

say hello to my little friend
You'd think this would become boring by now, watching a bright orange ball sink in the sea night after night, but it isn't. We were enjoying the last bit of whisky we had left, and smoked the last cigars from the box we had bought in San José. Yup, survival in the jungle is tough business.


Although there had been a few other trekkers at the ranger station we had the virtually to ourselves. It was just us and a few hundred thousand hermit crabs. I've always liked hermit crabs, always thought they were cute, but one of Israelis we'd met yesterday told us they are in fact the most dangerous animals you can encounter at the beach.


...


Exactly, that was my initial response as well, but he was serious! And he had a point as well.

monkey in Parque Nacional Corcovado
Like most other crabs Hermit crabs are scavengers, they'll eat whatever they can find. Apparently it has happened that someone went trekking alone along the coast and had a nasty accident along the way. He broke his leg and wasn't able to walk any more, and the hermit crabs were attracted by the smell of an open wound. Apparently the guy got eaten alive by the hermits.


I laughed this away as some sort of urban legend when I heard it, but when I saw just how many of the crustaceans are roaming the beach in the evening I realised it would be impossible to fend them all off if they'd started nibbling on your open wound. And I soon found out just how ferocious these animals are. I caught one and was playing around with it a little bit, and I noticed this particular one didn't really hang on to his shell very well.

ant eater
So I wondered what a hermit crab would look like without a shell and tried to pull the shell off. Well, I am ashamed to say that I killed the poor critter in the process, or well, I didn't kill it, but I was did cause its death indirectly. The critter hung on to its shell so fervently that I actually tore one of its limbs of. It dropped to the ground when it happened and before I could pick it up again several other crabs came running towards their injured relative and within seconds it had been killed, pulled out of its shell, and its attacker swiftly moved out of its own shell and into this new one. The shell it left behind was swiftly taken over by another, smaller crab, and that shell was then taken over by another one and so on. Within minutes a few dozen crabs had changed their shells, while a couple of other crabs quickly devoured the dead crab that lay naked in the sand.
hermit crabs... the most dangerous animals on the beach


The sight of it left a bad taste in my mouth. I still like hermit crabs, but gheez, I never want to be stranded on a beach full of crabs, I can tell you that. And I felt sorry for the little fella I had accidentally caused to get killed.


Once the sun had set there wasn't much left to do for us, so we retreated to our tent, trying to get some sleep. Neither of us could really sleep, it was just too hot. Arnaud was giving me grief for having insisted on bringing my own tent, rather than renting a larger dome tent, which could be set up without the outer canvas and allow some air to circulate so that it is not as hot.

Half an hour later I got the last laugh though. It started to rain. Well, rain, piss pouring down would be more accurate.

sunset at the coast of Corcovado
It was the type of deluge that would prompt a more religious man to start building a boat and capture animals. Everywhere around us we heard cries like “Oh F@ck, our tent is leaking!!”

Apparently the rental tents weren't such a good idea after all. I turned around in my little, fully water proof tunnel tent, and slept like a little baby.

cprjenny says:
Thanks for the reply!
Posted on: Nov 23, 2011
Biedjee says:
Hi Jenny, no we just walked on our own. You don't really need a guide for Corcovado, the trails are easy enough to follow.
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011
cprjenny says:
Did you have a guide with you on your Corcovado hike? If so, did you think they were knowledgeable and would you have their contact info? Thanks!
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011
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map of Corcovado
map of Corcovado
the early morning sun breaking thr…
the early morning sun breaking th…
setting out on the Corcovado jungl…
setting out on the Corcovado jung…
beautiful but lethal
beautiful but lethal
say hello to my little friend
say hello to my little friend
monkey in Parque Nacional Corcovado
monkey in Parque Nacional Corcovado
ant eater
ant eater
hermit crabs... the most dangerous…
hermit crabs... the most dangerou…
sunset at the coast of Corcovado
sunset at the coast of Corcovado
watching sunset, sipping some 12 y…
watching sunset, sipping some 12 …
another fucking perfect sunset
another fucking perfect sunset
airstrip doubling as campground
airstrip doubling as campground
ant eater
ant eater
Parque Nacional Corcovado
Parque Nacional Corcovado
the beautiful coast
the beautiful coast
corcovado
photo by: Biedjee