Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Costa Rica - Day 5

While the pool and views at Hotel Vista de Olas had been great, a few other aspects of our stay there had not, so on Tuesday morning we decided to pull up stakes and change to another hotel for our second night in Malpais. Our chosen hotel was the Moana Lodge, an African-themed establishment about a km south down the coast. We were soon checked into our room which was amazing and completely solved all of the problems that we had experienced at our previous residence. If anyone finds themselves around Malpais in Costa Rica you should definitely stay here, it was amazing. Here is a shot of the view out our front window:

One of our bed in the super bright bedroom:

And one of Roanne relaxing in the adjoining room as we ready ourselves to set off on the day's adventures:

The place was amazing and we had a notably great experience with one of the owners named Aidan, who was incredibly kind and helpful. After getting settled we loaded up the BeGo and headed for the beach. Nevermind that we had miles of pristine coastline directly in front of our hotel, I had set our sights on a much more remote beach in the Cabo de Blanco national park (the first national park in Costa Rica) which required a 4km hike to access it, and to make things even better I had selected a short cut that we could take on the drive there. All the makings of a good adventure! We set off in the BeGo, but found that despite appearing as a legitimate road on our GPS, after 2 river crossings, lots of steep and rutted sections, and after our 10th time bottoming out the BeGo we decided to give up and reverse our tracks to drive to the National Park the "long" way. We had (barely) been able to make it about halfway across the shortcut, but we were worried that if we kept going we might get stuck (I think the 4WD commnity would use the term "highsided") in ruts, or come to an impasse and then not be able to turn around. Here is Roanne out of the car trying to guide me down a particularly rutted section:

And here I am trying to negotiate a crossing on some rocks that someone had helpfully stacked into the ruts:

Here is one of the river crossings, sans bridge:

And finally, just because it looks like something out of a car commercial, here is the BeGo emerging triumphantly on the other side:

So, while we wasted an hour driving slowly on really bad roads in the jungle, this was my first legitimate 4WD experience, and we took solace in the thought that some people do this kind of thing for fun, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. It was also a remarkable performance by the BeGo, which had been brand new when we picked it up back in San Jose but was now considerably more "experienced" with the undercarriage having the scars to prove it. Good thing they don't check that when you return rental cars!

Back on track, we drove to the Cabo de Blanco National Park and enjoyed our picnic before setting out on the trail instead of on the beach as planned, since our 4WD adventure had put us a little behind schedule. As we were having lunch a weird looking animal came to check things out, I think this is a Costa Rican variant on the raccoon (though they do have standard raccoons also, and are apparently quite fond of them as we even saw them on postcards):

After the picnic wrapped up we set out along the trail, taking in some interesting trees along the way. Here is a large one with the big fin-like buttresses extending out to the sides:

Here is one that was a few feet in diameter and had a trunk that was entirely covered with giant thorns, like the stems on a rosebush:

And here is one with a giant root that formed a natural bridge across a creek, with Roanne posing mid-crossing:

We also heard a lot of noisy howler monkeys as we made our way through the forest, but despite continued attempts to catch sight of one we could never make them out in the dense canopy above us. Finally, just after 3:00pm we reached the beach:

As expected it was completely deserted in both directions:

We didn't have as much time to spend there as we had hoped since it got dark around 5:30pm and we still had the 4km hike back out, but there was certainly enough time for a short game of "Driftwood". This is a terrific game invented by my brother Trev, in which you lie as straight as you can near the shore in the pounding surf and get rolled around like a log. The only downside that I can think of is that your shorts get completely filled with sand, other than that it is just pure fun. Here I am enjoying myself:

After wrapping up my game of driftwood we headed back to the car, reaching it just as darkness was falling. The drive back to the Moana Lodge took about an hour, and on the way back we had the novel experience of seeing a large (about 6 feet long) boa constrictor making has way leisurely across the road. Here he is caught in our headlights:

And then illuminated by the camera flash as he exited the roadway and headed for the forest:

After a delicious dinner at a place called "Mary's" (also highly recommended if you find yourself in Malpais) we called it a night and drifted off to sleep with the sound of the waves hitting the beach.

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