Wandering through Corcovado NP

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Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
By Matt Baatz

Unidentified wreck along beach
Unidentified wreck along beach
The long arcing beaches are hemmed in by overhanging palm trees. A horse drawn cart with wide tires rolls down the sand, the only route and means to deliver supplies into the National Park, a mile away from the small village, Carate. The village itself is situated at the end of a long dirt road subject to washouts that undoubtedly cuts it off from the rest of civilization with some frequency. A small airstrip provides another way out for those wealthy enough to use it.

I walk down the beach along with two European couples, a tourist family with a Tico guide, and a Tico gentleman carrying a tripod. We take turns crossing the streams channeling through the sand to the Pacific Ocean. Some flow all the way to meet the surf and some are so insignificant that they sift through the sand before making it that far. Waterfalls plunge down an embankment straight onto the beach. We shed shoes and socks, roll up pants, and cross through the water that is several degrees cooler than the ocean itself, that is, still pretty warm. A rain shower begins, endsm and another rolls in. It doesn’t appear, in this season at least, that the rain stops for very long.

Orchid at Carate airstrip
Orchid at Carate airstrip
Tiring of the beach, I slip into the rainforest, past a cabin and some gardens. I trudge up the hill through the soupy air. Scarlet macaws cackle at one another high up in the canopy. The roots and greenery are tangled in a gigantic mass along the forest floor. How difficult, I think, it would be to distinguish a root from a deadly Fer de Lance snake in the morass.

A tail disappears down a slope through the brush. I follow it to no avail. It is a lemur, I speculate, that evaded me. As I backtrack towards the beach, a clan of spider monkeys raise a clamor high in the canopy. The largest one throws itself bodily into some branches right above me in a display of bravado that succeeds in intimidating me. I flee the area in a fit of nervous laughter.

I arrive at the park office, a simple outpost with not even a trail map on the wall. A few bones and small animals are displayed on a shelf outside the office. I pay my fee and set off on the lone trail weaving through the edge of the rainforest several dozen yards from the beach.

I pass several tour groups donning rain ponchos and trail sandals and give a brief “hola” before coming to the first and only serious river crossing I would see that day. The water is swift, though only thigh deep, and habited by bull sharks and the occasional crocodile. The way is impassable at high tide, not that I knew when that was. I trudge on through and hold my breath for a few extra moments.

Lemurs browsing the area
Lemurs browsing the area
The wildlife thickens in this section of the park. Several more clans of monkeys pass high above me, and a pack of lemurs sniff along the forest edge along the beach. They do not scatter on my approach. I get to within a few feet of them and they reluctantly flee, but not until several stay behind to check me out with their large black eyes.

I am stopped in my tracks. After my sight has been deadened by the constant maze of roots I stop to reconsider one in particular. This one is about six feet long and moving, spanning the whole trail and then some. It is longest snake I’ve seen in my life and I back away in a hurry.

Spooked and imagining the many hours it would take to get emergency treatment, I stick to the beach for a while, where I can see threats well ahead of time. I pass the horse drawn cart once again weaving down the beach towards Carate in no great hurry.





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