Parque Nacional Palo Verde
Trip Start Sep 17, 2010
12Trip End Oct 03, 2010
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Once, however, I turned off the main road, I had about an hour's drive on a dirt and gravel track that was full of potholes all of which were filled with rainwater, making it impossible to tell just how deep the pothole was. To save money I rented the smallest car available, which is just fine on main roads. On dirt tracks where I'm driving through streams that are crossing the road, deep mud that has turned the "road" into a quagmire (particularly difficult on an uphill section of the road) and potholes that swallow a tire, the drive is slow and tortuous and I definitely didn't have the ground clearance I needed
I made it, though, and drove through the entrance which was unattended because it was lunchtime. There's one main road through the park (dirt and gravel, of course) which is built on high ground through the forest just to one side of the wetlands. Wildlife is abundant, especially birds. A cloud of bright green parrots erupted from the trees and flew off as I approached. Of course they didn't return so I could take pictures. A turtle crossing the road was doing his best to escape but him I could catch on film. Most animals were too quick and too wary for me to take pictures of unless I wanted to spend time I didn't have to sit still for extended periods of time. So... for the most part... you'll have to take my word for it... it was beautiful.
I stopped at a research station where there was an attendant who told me about the park and gave me directions and a map. A little further up the road I could stop in the mud beside the road and slog to a wooden bridge that was built out into the wetlands. I could stand there in the rain and watch all kinds of birds feeding. I very much wish I'd been able to capture the brown bird whose picture I've attached in flight. I don't know if his wing feathers were translucent or the underside was just so bright it looked as if they were but his wings just lit up when he took flight. Again my issue was time as much as it was the rain. I very much wanted to avoid driving the dirt road in the dark.
I drove to the end of the road which was also the park boundary at the Rio Tempisque
I headed back out, stopping to take a short hike through the forest, up a hill to a rock that juts up above the forest canopy to give a panoramic view of the wetlands. This was still in the National Park, and I do know that you aren't supposed to disturb (much less kill) wildlife in a National Park. However... I don't believe that any of the hoards of mosquitoes I killed on that short hike were from an endangered species... at least I hope not. They were bad while I was hiking. If I stopped to take a picture it was as if the UN food supply truck had stopped in the middle of the refugee camp, and my blood was the special-of-the-day.
When I got to the entrance the chain was up to prevent the exit of people who'd entered (as I had) while the entry hut was unattended. I paid the $10 entry fee and when the attendant discovered I speak Spanish had a conversation. He was there by himself so I imagine it gets lonely. The entry fee brings up an interesting point. ATM's here give you the option of withdrawing funds in US dollars or Costa Rican colones. The dollar is widely accepted and the receipt for entry to this National Park was denominated in dollars. The attendant only knew the entry fee in dollars. He had to use a calculator to compute the fee in colones when I told him I didn't have dollars with me. I was fortunate to make it out of the park when I did. He put up the chain to close the park right behind me as I left at 5pm.
I almost made it to the Pan American Highway before dark, but not quite. The last bit of the dirt road was in the dark. Although some of the potholes I hit made me worry about a broken wheel strut or some other suspension part, I made it out and, except for lots of extra mud and dirt on the car it seemed to have survived what I'd put it through. From there it was a fairly uneventful drive back to Playas de Coco.