Well I made it out alive! It's an amazing thing really all things considered (ok, so that's a slight exaggeration, but it was a crazy adventure!)
Packed up my bag Wednesday p.m. with a change of pants, 2 shirts, extra socks, sleeping bag, bug net, water filter, first aid kit, towel, soap, toothbrush, and a variety of not-so-exciting food ranging from crackers and peanut butter to raisins and carrots. Up 5 hours after going to bed, just enough time to eat a banana and run to the collectivo truck heading for the jungle! Left the rest of my stuff and my surfboard at the hotel in Puerto Jimenez.....no way I'd be able to carry that much crap around!
The ride from Puerto Jimenez to Carate was an adventure in itself (as the drives here always are), with driving through rivers, bottoming out, and having 10 people crammed into the back of a 1/4 ton pickup...sat beside a funny old man who smiled a lot and seemed to have some type of addiction to Halls coughdrops. A big sticker of Krusty the clown from the Simpsons also smiled at me during the drive...didn't know which direction to look in....seemes as though I was being smiled at funny from every angle! An hour and a half later we get hauled off the truck and left on the side of the road, with vague directions to the first ranger station and the entrance of the park.
Sarah (the girl from Washington) and I set off for the first 3.5 km down the beach to the ranger station. We soon picked up a straggler with a pack bigger than she was - can't remember her name, but she was from Israel and was already feeling the heat! At the station the people didn't speak any English - the other two girls didn't know a word of Spanish either and they each got charged over 9000 colonies (about $36 Canadian)...I must have faked it pretty good bc I was staying in the park for the same amount of time and paid only about 3000 ($12)! The Israeli girl decided to leave a bunch of canned food at the station...probably a good decision since we had another 16km of beach and jungle walking to go before the end of the day! Along the way we saw all 4 species of monkeys found here (White faced, Spider, Howler, Squirrel), a couple of agoutis, and a zillion different bird species.....we also got swarmed a few times by forest crabs of some kind!! You'd think there would have been more crabs on the beach section of the hike! Walking numerous kilometers on the sand with 25lbs. on your back is difficult...not sure how people with big packs make it through! Found some fruit on the ground that we were told to look for that was edible - looks like a grapefruit but smaller and MUCH more sour! It hurt your lips and throat for at least 20 minutes after swallowing it! Probably full of electrolytes though. Sarah decided to stop for the night about half way through - she set up on the beach with her tent and stove and seemd happy, so the girl from Israel and I kept on truging......the next time we went back into the jungle we became the brunt of some spider monkeys' joke - they were throwing twigs and branches at us and laughing hysterically! We stood there for 15 minutes laughing back at them!
Had to hurry on from here bc low tide was at 11 a.m. - had to reach the river before it was halfway in to avoid dealing with currents, sharks, and crocodiles while crossing it, and still had about 5 kms to go. Made it to the esturary and laughed! Couldn't believe that this stream could be home to anything larger than a tadpole! Waded through with no trouble wondering what we were worried about...decided this was a good spot to stop for a breather before heading for the home stretch - within 5 minutes the river had quadrupled in size, and large gish were swimming in towards to lake from the sea....if we had been about 10 or 15 minutes later we would have had to swim through or stop for the night - talk about good timing!
Made it into Sirena about 4:30 p.m. - a long day of walking. Had an enjoyable dinner of carrots, peanut butter and raisins and set up my bug net in the shelter. Never seen so many tents sqeezed into one little area! Had a rough nights sleep - someone was snoring, the monkeys were howling, the wood floor was really hard on my hips and shoulder blades that had bruises on them fromm carrying my pack all day, and someone farted all night! Ended up getting to sleep about 11 or so, and then up at first light again.
Met 2 young couples from California - Paul, Kim, Alec and Amanda - that were headed in the same direction I wanted to go - towards Los Patos. Ate another exciting breakfast, and drank a litre of juice and hit the trail again for another 17.4 kms. Within 20 minutes of leaving the ranger station we heard some noises in the bushes - someone immidiatley said jokingly "I hope it's not those f*****g pigs" (referring to the peccaries that will charge you and put you up a tree for a few hours)...Paul was in the lead and turned around quickly "It is those f*****g pigs!" We all saw them - about 12 wild pigs, complete with razor back wiry hair, and tusks snorting at us.....we started walking slowly backwards looking for a tree to climb...you's think that with all the trees there are in the jungle you'd be able to find one that was climbable! Nope! Luckily these pigs weren't too hungry as they passed us by after a few sniffs and snorts, ...a! ll sat down and let our breath out and we were all on the lookout everytime we heard something from then on in. Day 2 was defintily much more intense - hard core jungle hiking! Lots of steep hills, mud, hundreds of wasps milling in the trail that you had to run thorugh one at a time as fast as possible to avoid being stung, rivers that needed crossing, climbing up and over termite mounds that were 10 feet high and blocking the trail completely, rivers of fire ants that would climb your legs and bite you as fast as you could run across them, palm trees and branches all over the trail that are covered in black spikes that drive into your skin a couple of inches deep, ticks everywhere etc... No wonder they call it the most biologically intense place on Earth! At one point we all stopped after crossing a river to do opur regular tick checks and pull them out and burn them off of each other when someone spotted a sloth in one of the trees above us. We're a! ll admiring the sloth when one of the guys goes pee around the corner - comes back 2 second later "There's a bunch of ticks in my scrotum!" We all lauged at him as he turned his back to us and started fishing for ticks, until we started checking our groins too...we all had some ticks in some very strange places! Hopefully we got them all out!
Made it into the Los Patos ranger station 7 hours after starting - it takes a lot longer to hike those 17.4 kms when it's 35 degrees, 100% humidity, major ups and downs on the trail, and you have to stop to check yourself for ticks every hour or so!
Up again early this a.m for the final leg of the hike - 4 kms out of the park, and then another 8 to La Palma for the collectivo or a bus back to Puerto Jimenez. 2 hours into today's hike (which was much less eventful thankfully) and we had crossed one river about 15 times! Every 200 meters the river would cross the road - this was actually a road that runs through the river bed and is only passable to 4WD in the dry season...we had no choice but to wallow through knee deep water sneakers on bc the bottom was so rough and rocky, and some places required walking in the river for 100 meters. Made it to about 3kms from La Palma when the collective started heading back....sounded too good to be true to hop on the back of a truck for the next 3 kms and then all the way to Puerto Jimenez (a 1 hr. drive) for 1000 colones (4 bucks).
Back in Puerto Jimenez now, got a hotel room, had some real food and a coke and got the rest of my luggage back. Have a tick in my back still that I can see in the mirror but can't get out on my own (I'll ask one of the girls to pull it when we go for dinner tonight), and a major case of diaper rash from the humidity in the forest, and some type of foot fungus starting....but all in all no worse for wear. We all have fungus somewhere on our bodies, and we all have diaper rash so I guess it's normal.
So I survived National Geographic's number 3 of the world's best parks, and have a new appreciation for nature....it's the first time I've really felt like part of it .... predators (the pigs), parasites (the ticks), the wasps and ants at us etc.... Gives you a new perspective of how protected we really are most of the time, and makes you appreciate how wild animals live thier whole lives - they've gained a lot more respect in my book.
Well, off to the farmacia for anti-fungal foot stuff, and baby ash rash cream...wish me luck! Love to all,