08-32.60N; Longitude: 083-17.90W
We cleared out of Panama at Puerto Armuelles and into Costa Rica at Golfito. Both these ports were built to service the once extensive banana industry in this part of the world for the huge United Fruit Company (aka Chiquita). Puerto Armuelles was a pleasant if relatively simple town with a huge pier reaching out to deep water. Golfito, on the other hand appears to have once been more sophisticated. United Fruit built everything there without any money from the government, reminiscent of the way the US built the Canal Zone. Ironically, Puerto Armuelles is still functioning while Golfito has been shut down as a banana port. Banana diseases and the falling banana market started the trouble, but it was capped off by labor unrest. United Fruit just shut down and went elsewhere, leaving the town not just with economic troubles but that chip on their shoulder that goes along with it! Although Golfito is where we will be storing Tackless for the two months we are in the States, we are doing so not without some trepidation. Golfito has a bad reputation for theft! They say thieves will sneak out to anchored boats during rainstorms while the owners tipple away in the bar!
For this reason we will pay the big bucks to stash the boat in a slip at Banana Bay Marina. Banana Bay is small but top drawer (service-wise) little marina that mostly draws the sportfishing and power boat fleet, and there is an armed guard on duty at night. There are about four sailboats tucked in among the big boys.
We didn't hang in at Golfito more than the day as it was hot and muggy and we didn't care to tempt the thieves with the boat at anchor. Besides we'll be seeing plenty of Golfito later. Instead we hightailed it across the Gulfo Dulce to Puerto Jimenez, the main community on the Osa peninsula. The Osa Peninsula is one of the primary centers of Costa Rica's famous ecotourism. Here remains relatively untrammeled tropical rainforest, most of which is at least officially protected by the Corcorvado National Park, although illegal logging and gold mining do take place behind the backs of the limited park ranger force.
This part of the peninsula, however, is not exactly pure wilderness. There is plenty of cattle ranching here like we saw in Western Panama, and a busy little town full of American and European tourists. In addition to ecotourist activities like hiking, camping, and kayaking, there's a surfer community and a high-end sportfishing biz. We anchored to the SE of the town here off a fancy new dock belonging to Crocodile Bay Resort (www.costaricaecotour.com). Our friends Dave and Kay of Wave Dancer -- first met at Pedro Miguel in Panama -- were the only other cruising boat here and looking forward to our arrival. The anchorage is pretty and tranquil, except when late afternoon squalls roll down the long fetch from the NW. The resort, which can accommodate up to 150 people, has a dozen or so 22' and 33' boats to take anglers out on half-day and full day jaunts. Being the off season, there are only about 15 guests now, and things are pretty quiet. For this reason, perhaps, resort personnel have been quite hospitable to us, letting us leave our dinghies on their dock, walk around the handsome grounds (lots of birds and butterflies among the flowers), and yes, buy cold draft beer in their air-conditioned bar!
n the whole we've been pretty laid back during our week here. We made a dinghy excursion up a river with Dave and Kay in hopes of birds and other wildlife; mostly it was a chatfest, which seems the inevitable product when cruising crews come together. We four also had an excursion to Rincon, a dot on the map at the innermost end of the gulf where the Wave Dancers thought there was a working gold mine to see. Evidently it's elsewhere, but we had a most delightful lunch with our taxi driver at a charming restaurant overlooking the water. We also had a fine meal of Continental cooking at Crocodile Bay, making a welcome change from the local cuisine which centers around rice and beans at all times of the day.
However the big event of our stay was our all day hike to Cabo Matapalo. We 2Cs (the Wave Dancers opted out) taxied south of Puerto Jimenez to the tip of the peninsula with our guide Pedro and a super nice Dutch family of four. The Cabo Matapalo area is an interesting mix of wilderness/eco-resorts, private land perserves, and surfer camps in amongst strips of virgin rainforest! One whole chunk of land belongs to a group of Americans from the San Diego area, who keep vacation homes here. We were a little surprised to start our "rainforest hike" walking down roads (albeit rugged 4WD type roads) amongst little home plots, and wondered at the local reaction to rich gringos taking over the land. Pedro, however, made it clear that this enclave was the best thing to have happened, rescuing land that was, or would have been, cleared for farming and allowing it to return to its natural state! The Americans, he said, made the locals wake up to the value of what they had! In addition these secondary growth woods consist of trees whose fruits especially appeal to various wildlife.
Rather than wear you out with a foot by foot account of the many miles we covered between 6am and 3pm in both the secondary and primary forests, let me sum up and say we saw everything we'd hoped to see and more: BIRDS -- dozens of the brilliant scarlet macaws, more awesome than we'd imagined, feeding in an almond grove just inland from a wild surfer beach. These endangered birds topped a list that also included several chestnut mandibled toucans, a hawk, and a trogon. MONKEYS-- multiple sightings of all four monkey species - howler, squirrel, spider and white-faced. Imagine walking through rain forest with groups of wild spider monkeys swinging blithely through the branches overhead or standing centered below a family of slow-moving howler monkeys making very satisfactory monkey noises in response to your guide! OTHER: two sloths (each in a super slow motion sprawl on a limb); a coati (a large elongated relative of the racoon), an agouti (like a giant guinea pig), several pygmy squirrels, two poison arrow frogs, dozens of anoles, a brown snake, a blue-clawed fresh water crayfish, dozens of butterflies, and a couple of helicopter-flys (I kid you not...wild!) We were shown more plant and tree species (along with their medicinal virtues) than I have any hope of ever recollecting! Most memorable was surely the Matapalo tree, a member of the ficus family that strangles other trees by encircling it with a kind of multi-lobed trunk! We also took a snapshot at a Cieba tree reputed to be one of the largest in Central America! When I compare it to all the hikes we did in Trinidad where there was hardly any reward in the animal life department, this is so amazing. All in one day. Way, way way cool!
(Although we contracted our hike through the well know Escondido Treks Tour agency, our guide Pedro can be contacted direct at an even more reasonable rate through his girlfriend's hair salon "Alexandra" on the corner to the right of Restaurant Carolina.)
now it's off to Golfito, to strip and store TII for two months rest
while we fly off and gallivant coast to coast in the US, one highlight
of which will be the wedding of Judy Knape (chef on Whisper for
two years and Captain of TII for one) to Bryan ????, of the currently
active VI charteryacht Ursa Minor. We'll be back aboard in mid October.
Until then, fair winds.