Tuesday 14 March 2023 – I don’t think that I ever, in all my 42 years in Corporate life, had to get up at 0330 and wait, in fear and trepidation that the taxi wouldn’t show up to whisk me off to wherever. But that’s what this particular Monday morning held for us. It never happens in business, therefore we must be
on holiday travelling. The plan was to catch a boat to La Sirena, where we could spend a couple of days in the wildlife reserve that is the Corcovado National Park, an ecosystem that is reputed to house some 5% of the world’s total biodiversity. Our mission, which we appear to have accepted, was, unsurprisingly, to see what we could see and what photos we could get of this huge biodiversity. But it required this early start.
The combined efforts of the agency looking after this particular segment of our trip and the concierge team at El Remanso, however, seemed to be on the same page, and Luis (the El Remanso chap who had picked us up in Puerto Jiménez) arrived at 0415 bearing breakfast wraps. He would have picked up our bags from our room, too, but in an excess of caution I’d brought them along in case we needed sudden and swift access to them. The agency had sent a pickup truck and so we rode the bumpy trail back to Puerto Jiménez. The idea was that we should take just an overnight supply of essentials to La Sirena and our suitcases would go on to meet us once we’d left the National Park. Since my backpack was full of all my camera gear, this meant that Jane had take on a minimal change of clothing and toiletries for us both.
It was at this point that my visualisation of the journey to the National Park proved really wide of the mark.
I had fondly imagined that the reason for the early start was so we could go to this port (Puerto Jiménez, after all, would appear to have ambitions of portliness), where we would be catching a day-trippers’ boat of some size to get us to a disembarkation point near to “La Sirena”, where there is a ranger’s station at which we would spend the night,
What actually happened was nearer how I imagine the retreat from Dunkirk must have been, but without the military uniforms and the threat of enemy fire.
We were deposited near something that could only just about be graced with the the title “beach”, where it was clear that many other people were expecting to go on a similar journey to ours.
The soundtrack was amazing, courtesy of some parrots in the trees.
Fortunately there was someone there (apparently the daughter of the local owner of some (all?) of the boats) who knew what was supposed to happen and therefore managed to develop some kind of order from the apparent chaos. At least we had a decent sunrise to watch whilst we waited to see what happened next.
The organiser lady put us in contact with a chap who calls himself Hossway, though for some reason he spells it Joshua, who had been given the mission to look after us until we met the guide who would lead us in La Sirena, even though he wouldn’t be travelling on the same boat as us.
After a while there was a concerted rush to the water’s edge as a small flotilla of small boats started to head into shore. We’d noticed that a lot of people had taken their footwear off, so we did the same, just in case, and wondered whether the Tevas we were wearing were going to be the most sensible option. We, along with a goodly number of Francophones, scrambled aboard what we hoped was the right boat and after a while it set off in what seemed to be roughly the right direction. Other boats were doing the same thing, which gave a little confidence.
The Pura Aventura materials had talked about a fast and bumpy boat ride on a small boat
and that’s what we got – 90 minutes of very bumpily rounding the southern tip of the Osa Pensinsula (at one stage we could have waved to Luis at El Remanso, had he been watching out for us). We passed a couple of interesting sights en route: a magnificent storm cloud
which fortunately wasn’t targeting us; and a rock which is home to the Costa Rican supply of Brown Boobies
whose nests were being looked at, I imagine with greedy eyes, by Frigate Birds (with the white beaks).
We also Had A Moment when someone spotted some dolphins and so the boat did a couple of slow circles whilst everybody gurgled with pleasure and took photos of the patch of sea where there’d been a fin just milliseconds before.
Eventually we arrived at what we knew was going to be a “wet landing”. Ours wasn’t too wet as it happened, but it could well have been. The boat and shore crew can have their hands full keeping control of the boats.
So, there were were, on a stony beach, a bunch of people at least two of whom were wondering what the hell was going to happen next, again with an extraordinary background soundtrack.
We linked up with Joshua and he led us half a mile along the beach to a “welcome” station, where one’s bags are checked for contraband such as food or single-use plastic bottles. (We came to an agreement with the chap there that he would ignore the small plastic bottle I mentioned that I had with me, provided I promised to take it away with me – slightly embarrassing moment.) There’s a check-in book which we also wrote our details in.
And then we three set off on the mile-long walk to La Sirena’s Ranger Station. At one stage, Joshua cautioned us not to brush against this acacia bush
as it provides a home to fire ants (they live in the hollow thorny-looking structures), who earn the right to live inside the plant by fiercely defending it against any attacks. Apparently, their bite is pretty uncomfortable; but we weren’t afflicted.
We saw some kind of hawk on the walk (sorry, don’t know what sort, may be a Grey Hawk)
and also passed a tree which Joshua called the Tourist Tree
because it peels in the sunlight. Ho, ho.
So the first exciting installment of the morning came to an end as we arrived, around 0800, at the La Sirena Ranger Station.
As well as being where the National Park Rangers base themselves, it does a healthy sideline in supporting tourism in Corcovado. All tours in the National Park are guided, and the guides also use the station as a base. There are sleeping facilities
(more of that later), a dining room and a kiosk.
The kiosk is where you can rent a towel, a pair of rubber boots and a locker, all of which Jane and I did – my camera backpack weighs 30lb and I was buggered if I was going to (a) lug it around on a wildlife tour or (b) leave it lying about. You are obliged to take your shoes off before going on to the station,
so we left our Tevas on the rack, donned boots and were introduced to the chap who would be our private guide for the next day and a half – Angel.
We were due to undertake four guided walks with Angel – two today and two tomorrow. He proved to be an excellent guide and we saw Lots Of Stuff. Now that I’ve set the scene, I’ll describe the walks (the “Flights of Angel’s”) in separate posts; I hope you’ll come back to read how they all went and how successful were my attempts to capture the local wildlife.