Welcome to the jungle. It's this way! No that way!

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Amazing! I have just met a local who says "I don't know." It probably got about the same odds as being struck by lightning while deep inside an opal mine in Coober Pedy, Australia. From my tiny experience, almost all locals will give you some sort of answer or direction, even if they don't have a clue. But here I am with "Oscar, I don't know wildlife expert and tourist guide." I found him. It's like I won the lottery (ehh, well.) When we negotiate the price and try to get recommendations about where we should go in the national park, Oscar is amazingly good at answering "I don't know". I see the trip ahead of us:

"Hey "Oscar, I don't know wildlife expert and tourist guide", what kind of sound is that. Parrot or monkey?"

"Ehhhhhh, I don't know."

"Hey "Oscar, I don't know wildlife expert and tourist guide", is this the right way back to the ranger station?"

"Hmm, I don't know. Could be I guess."

Catherine, Jennifer (two nice girls, from Canada and Switzerland respectively, who I have been traveling with since Manuel Antonio) and I have signed up for a three day trip to the jungle in Corcovado National Park. "Oscar, I don't know wildlife expert and tourist guide" will of course be our guide and 21 year old Diego our chef. I suspect Diego has never cooked a meal before. Partly because Oscar asked him to join us on the trip, while we had a few beers at a local bar in Puerto Jimenez (a gateway town to the national park) the night before our "big expedition."

Most tourists seem to hike around the park on their own, but since we have no tents, sleeping bags or cooking equipment, as well as no reservations in the park to stay there overnight, we decide on the luxury alternative of bringing two locals. We will be staying at the Los Patos ranger station for a couple of nights, one of the least touristy areas in the accessible part of the park. But that doesn't say much, as this part of Costa Rica is much less touristy than the rest. Not many people make it down here. Mainly due to it's distance from the capital I would think. The whole Osa peninsula and the Corcovado National Park is however absolutely amazing. It's supposed to be the second most bio-diverse place on earth, after the Amazon. And probably the most bio-intense due to it's relatively small size. I guess you must also account for it bordering the Pacific ocean. That's what most people come to see and hike, the jungle meeting the surf. Los Patos however, where we will mainly stay, is inland and in the middle of the jungle. It's an hours drive or so from Puerto Jimenez and then a three hours hike along Rio Rincon, with about twenty river crossings in knee deep water, before you head into the real jungle.

We end up having a great time in the jungle, seeing only five other tourists during our three days stay. The rangers at Los Patos are super friendly. Diego manage to cook up some hearty meals, Michelin Guide style or not. We spot nesting scarlet macaws, toucans, monkeys and the very deadly fer-de-lance snake. Oscar end up being a great guide, spotting the wildlife for us and recognizing all the smells and sounds of the jungle and it's inhabitants. So his "I don't know" answers turned out to be more about negotiating price, than lack of jungle experience. He takes us through the rainforest, showing us hidden waterfalls and inviting swimming pools. Making our way through the thick vegetation with big machetes, where not many tourists have set their foot. We wade down rivers as it's the only way accessible, big tapir foot prints covering the riverbanks. We smell the urine from a jaguar under the shade of a giant La Ceiba tree. The jaguar, my favorite animal! I wish it wasn't in such a hurry to leave it's shady spot, the smells no more than a couple of hours old. Back at the ranger station the stars are bigger and brighter than ever. There's unfamiliar sounds everywhere. Sleeping outside, inches away from two sweet girls. I hoped to feel like Indiana Jones or Jack Colton, the wanderer from Romancing the Stone, but realize I am only a distant relative of Houdini. A long lost cousin with no magic touch, trapped as I am in my mosquito net. I wake up to a new day, from Diego's squeaky voice; "The pancakes are ready, most definitively."

After three days in the jungle, Jennifer is flying back to Quepos the next day for Christmas. Catherine and I stay yet another day, in order to hike parts of the jungle trails down by the Pacific ocean, before we must head separate ways. All in all, the Osa peninsula and Corcovado National Park is probably my favorite place so far on this trip. At least for unfamiliar excitement and adventure. Hey, add great scenery to that. If ever in Costa Rica, you must go and check it out!
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