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Trip Report Osa, Costa Rica trip - May/June

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For this trip I decided to stay entirely on the Osa peninsula. It's my favourite part of Costa Rica and felt I could fit in a variety of places without losing too much travel time. My dates were May 20th to June 4th, although I didn't get out of CR til the 5th. Hotels stayed at were - Palma Real, La Leona Eco Lodge, Cabinas Jimenez, Surfside Bungalows, Bosque del Cabo, Xandari and (not by choice) Holiday Inn Express.

Arrival at SJO and was pleased to see the new immigrations area all finished. It was quick and painless, though luggage still seems to take a while to come out. Stayed near Sabana Park at the Palma Real, as I had last November. I'm not a huge fan of the boxy hotels but I do like this one. Booked about 2 weeks out and got a nice rate of $67, including breakfast. It has a restaurant, which is so-so and a casino; there is a great Italian restaurant next door though. It's also 5 minutes walking distance from a grocery store, albeit you have to make a mad dash across the busy highway. The stadium going up in the park is huge and looks to be completed soon, it's the fastest I've ever seen
anything in CR being built. An earthquake dashed my quick catnap, and I humoured myself watching the live news report of it in Spanish.

Off to Pavas in the morning to catch my Nature Air flight. I had a few hours to spend in Puerto Jimenez until catching the collectivo at 1:30 to Carate and then onto La Leona
Eco Lodge. The internet cafe is handy and cheap and catty corner from Carolina's where, more often than not, you will usually see someone you know there or walking by. Bosque del Cabo office was king enough to hold the rest of my bag as I was going in pretty light to La Leona. Went by and met Ute, the very nice lady who manages the PJ office of La Leona. She was nice enough to even check the tide tables for me as I was a little nervous about crossing the Rio Carate (which turned out to be a problem on the return). She was a great resource and was always very quick to reply yo my (many) emails.

So, wow, the collectivo sure has changed since I last took it. A few years ago it was merely a small pick-up truck with padded seats along the side. Now it's the same idea but in a huge truck. Someone had told me to get there early to get a good seat by the back and I very much agree. By the time we loaded up (at Cabinas Thompson, one street off the main street, $8) every seat was taken and several people had to stand. I had a seat at the very end so I had plenty of air and used my rain jacket as a cushion against the hard sides. The road from PJ to the Carbonera area is still the bumpy, pot-hole filled road it has always been, but the road from there all the way out to Carate was in great shape, relatively speaking. The drive took about 2 hours, maybe a little more as we had a flat tire - and thankfully a spare. Arriving at the Carate pulperia there is a horse-cart to take your bag and you have to cross Rio Carate then walk about 25 minutes on the beach to get to La Leona Eco Lodge. Right before you get to LL you pass the Corcovado Tent Camp which as others have mentioned, is pretty much abandoned. All the tents are still there but other than a couple groundkeepers it looked like it has been deserted for a while.

La Leona Eco Lodge - loved this place! A great deal at $115 a night including all meals, for an ocean front tent. There are 2 or 3 rows of tents, the ones behind are a little less. Very laid-back and casual, nicely laid out. The tents are built on wooden platforms with a nice deck and an open air bathroom in the back. No electricity, so the headlamp really helped at night. From past experience, I tried to get anything I needed to "get done" before sunset. Be ready for cold showers, which yes are invigorating but still....cold. I was in tent #8 which I loved as it was on the very end, very private and lots of great views of the ocean and many birds. The only thing that drove me crazy, and this is so minor I only mention it as it became rather funny, was the velcro that sealed the tent flaps. No matter which way I tried to get in, or pulled my hair back, I always ended up losing a few hairs each time I went in and out. The tents are kept so clean and I never had a single bug in my tent and only a small, uninterested crab in my bathroom.

All the meals were great and filling, though desserts were a little uninspired. There is coffee, water and juice available all day, as well as drinks at the bar and some snacks. The grounds are nicely kept and the entire staff was always on hand to help or answer any questions. My first morning there, one of the staff was going to walk the trail behind the lodge to look for a dog and myself and another guest went with him. It was one of those walks where you weren't really looking for anything, we were just walking and talking, not really on the lookout for animals when we ran right into a huge male tapir sleeping on the trail. We all startled each other. He then got up and ate some leaves for 5 minutes before finally wandering off. So exciting to see and all the better as we weren't even looking. The trail behind the lodge by the way is a nice one, lots of frogs and spider monkeys, takes maybe 30 minutes at a slow pace.

I'm glad I waited til my 2nd full day there to take the hike into Corcovado Park, as it was cheaper since we had a second person, a nice woman from Sweden. The price was $40 plus the $10 park entry fee. We were delayed by about an hour due to rain, but despite reports of such heavy rains on the Osa that week we were pretty lucky (except my last night there). It did rain of course, but never for very long, maybe an hour or two and then you carry on. Corcovado park was nice though a lot busier than I expected. We went in with the guide from LL, Bolivar. We didn't see a huge amount of wildlife, though I have to admit I've been spoiled by too many visits to Bosque del Cabo. A few capuchins, spider monkeys, a coati and some macaws. I have to look at it through someone else's eyes - the lady with us was very excited over all the animals. I don't mean I wasn't happy to see them but sometimes I would start wandering ahead, hoping to see a boa or another tapir. We came to a river where we had snacks and where we had to cross for the tour to continue. I forget which one this was, Madrigal perhaps? Anyway, after watching a few kids cross the waist high river we decided we preferred our dry clothes and headed back.

The night before I was to leave it started raining really hard and didn't let up til the early morning. I had to leave La Leona around 7:30 to catch the collectivo back to PJ at 8:30. The horse cart had already taken my bag so I was on my own when I reached the Rio Carate and my heart sank. Not only was it running a lot higher than the shin height it had when I came in but it was really running hard and strong with big waves and, I assumed, a strong current. So I did what I do when flummoxed - I stood there and stared at it for 10 minutes. This turned out to be a good idea. The horse cart suddenly showed up on the other side of the river, probably wondering where the person with the bag had wandered off to. After a few minutes of watching the river as well he made a mad dash across and came and got me, thankfully. Then arriving to the pulperia, another downer - the collectivo hadn't shown up and by now it was 9am. More waiting and a motorcycle showed up, said the Rio Oro (I think) was too high and the drop-off too steep for the truck to make it. As I was discussing my options (walk!) with the lady who runs the pulperia, I was elated to see the truck pull up and we were off.

Let me just add that the new airstrip in Carate is so ugly, IMO. It's fenced in and topped with barbed wire and is jarring to look at. I can only hope Sansa or Nature Air don't start regular flights there, I heard rumours that they would be and also that they couldn't, so not sure.

Arrived into PJ and was happy that I could check into Cabinas Jimenez early, stayed in room #10 which has a great view over the water. Price was $65 a night and has a/c, a mini fridge and coffee-maker. I would stay here again in a heartbeat. The girl from Sweden from La Leona and also some kids that had been camping nearby but ate at La Leona were all in town as well, so we all ate that night at the pizza place across from the soccer field, Pizza Mail.it. Very good and reasonably priced. Thanks to the info from Cabinas Jimenez found the laundry place, which is a great deal - big bag for about $2. Was to take about 3 hours but PJ lost power for several hours so I picked up next morning. When I was picking up the laundry, I ran into a driver and he said he could take me out to Matapalo for $30, which is about the going rate. First we went off to the BM so I could stock up on food for the next 3 days. $33 later, with coffee, eggs, chips, bread, butter and cheese bought we went off for the 50 minute drive. In retrospect, I should've bought just a little more food as there are only so many combos of above you can make.

I swear I meant to make this a couple paragraph report but I am apparently unable to condense or edit very well. To be continued.......

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