19.05.2009 29 °C
Bahia Drake was a beautiful place to stop, being woken by the symphony of birds including the scarlet macaws perched high up on a hill in our tent-cabina. These birds hang around in pairs, always grooming and squawking and squabbling together in a cute display. Every afternoon large flocks of big green parrots flew over us creating a cacophony of high pitched parrot-squawks, like giant rainbow lorikeets. Smaller flocks of brown pelicans would surf the air-currents that the waves create below us, they can go for miles this way without flapping.
From here we could also see the misty highlands in the distance, which rise over 10,000 feet. It is truly a beautiful place. We spent our days swimming at the rainforest-cloaked beaches, where the mantled-howler, white-faced capuchin and spider monkeys can be watched chewing on the buds of the new branches. When Will got too close to the group, he was chased by the capuchin monkey leader (commando-capuchin) and had to detour via the beach to get back to the path.We explored the other side of Corcovado National Park, through the lowland tropical rainforest. Still no jaguars to report!
Next-stop the Caribbean Coast on the eastern side of Costa Rica. This area is very different from the rest of Costa Rica. The black metal-filled sands create perfect temperatures for turtle-nesting and they have three species that nest here, including the largest of them all – the leatherback turtle. Unfortunately its not the right time of year to see this event, although we may be lucky enough to if we go to the northern parts.
Costa Rica was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th Century and the majority of the country is very Spanish. The 20 indigenous groups of people that lived here have mostly disappeared after some great battles, but the final blow came from the diseases that the invaders brought, like the common cold and flu, which destroyed whole villages. There are a few of the native people who live in the mountains behind this area. Most people who live here now are decedents of Jamaicans who came to work on train lines and banana farms. They have dreadlocks in their hair and a strong afro-caribbean accent, they speak creole, and reggae music fills the air.
There is also a rich pirate history here. The pirates would wait for steam ships from England in the bays and sail out to intercept them and steal their treasure. There are stories of buried treasure around, however some who have tried to find it have been said to have died and it has the reputation of being haunted. Just off the coast there is the shipwreck of two pirate ships, one Spanish and one English. Will is very interested in one of the deserted tropical islands 100 metres off-shore, which looks perfect for treasure-hunting. When he asked about it he was told that it doesn’t have a name and nobody goes there!
The hermit crabs here live in shells as big as the palm of your hand, but the animal we have really been searching for is the eyelash viper which lives in trees and only in Costa Rica can you find the bright-yellow morph, but it comes in a range of colours greys to pinkish according to the locals here. Approximately two people per year die from bites from this snake, but they are very docile and will sit in one position all day. The only danger is accidentally grabbing one instead of a vine while hiking, or picking some fruit they are resting on. After days of searching we hired a local rasta-guide to seek one out for us – within an hour he had found us three! Along with a mother and baby sloth feeding in a tree, and some more tent-making bats.
The beaches here are quite stunning, and there are many places you can snorkel a reef right at the shore, or surf some rains. While eating a freshly opened coconut we were visited by basilisk lizards, a red and green singing trogon (bird), green iguana and a multitude of colourful crabs.
We are now sitting in the shade of the coconuts and beach almonds on the beach, waiting for a bus to Puerto Viejo, where hopefully we can organise a tour with the local Bri-Bri people.
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