This tough little town is the gateway to the amazing array of Monkeys, Iguanas, Sloths, Marine life, Terrain and Fauna in dense but accessible Cahuita NP.
09.12.2009 - 18.12.2009 30 °C
Costa Rica Itinerary - November 15, 2009
Afraid to Go - December 1, 2009
Chicago - December 4 - 7, 2009
Alajuela - Volcan Poas - December 9, 2009
Cahuita - Cahuita NP - December 17, 2009
Guapiles - Arial Tram - December 29, 2009
Punta Uva - Blooms and Beaches - January 2, 2010
Punta Uva - Roots, Bugs and Buddies - January 6, 2010
It is easy to lose your identity in this rugged and quirky place. There is feel of the old west that anticipates a couple of cowboys on horseback kicking up clouds of dust, rounding the corner and kicking their ponies into a full gallop past the general store, and into the jungle at the end of the road. They would of course be stopped and asked to make a donation to the maintenance of the Cahuita National Park but if they had made their entrance at the southern gate they would have to shell out $10 no matter what their intentions were.
It is hard to imagine how 2 relatively sane people can become such a pair of wingnuts when on vacation.
The entrance to the park from town is immediate and the beaches you see are great for swimming, providing the green flag is flying, and the wide and busy trails are full of Monos, sloths, iguanas and the like. Tourists from Germany, Japan, Holland, Spain hike the trails from 8am to 6 pm when the park is closed. You must sign in and out and if you are late leaving you will be found in violation of Escribo Nu4519045 and taken to the darkest and scariest part of the park and be thrown to the Caymans, as was told to me by a guide who was soliciting his services. It is a great place to have a good laugh.
The park itself is rugged and dense, apart from the easily negotiated paths which accomodate lots of foot traffic in both directions and lots of space to set up tripods for your photos or binoculars for the birds and monkeys.
The path that follows the protected seashore is well used up to the Punta Cahuita at which point the trail turns south and is much less travelled and more rugged. In spite of the visitor traffic the first 5 kms of the trail from the town of Cahuita has much greater variety of animal, bird and fauna features than does the last 5 kms which would bring you out to the highway where you can catch a bus back to town and is a low brush stony shore. The last several kms of the trail does have some enormous waves and powerful water with a number of unserviced campsites which would be OK in a vehicle but a sketchy prospect in a tent. The monkeys would clean you out in no time.
In the images above you are looking north along the beach to the edge of the town of Cahuita, the center shot is looking south east towards Punta Cahuita where there is excellent snorkling in September and October. This stretch of beach has the most to offer with lots of sloths, birds and monkeys.
We lugged our snorkling gear from Nova Scotia, Canada jammed into carry-on bags, bus shelves and sling packs to save ourselves the meagre costs we found for rentals along the coast. Most frustrasting was that in January, when we were there, the water is cloudy because of the heavy wave action and visibility is very poor.
The logs scattered along the shore, bottom, are an indication of the sea rising and was clearly confirmed by the locals who suggest the barrier between the shore and the path is narrowing.
The shore images below are visual proof that the high water levels are unusual as they are beginning to take more mature trees away.
A few helpful links.
Accomodation at Alby Lodge was everything we could have hoped for, except the 3 days rain, as our cabin was neat and comfy and with 3 other units on the grounds was close to the ranchero which had all the basics for cooking your meals. The parade of Howlers and Capuchins that moved through the trees above our cabin kept us both amused and our finger on the record button for the whole week we were there.
The first 2 videos are our memories of the monkeys as they attempted to cross over the drive in front of our cabin. We learned in our videos why it is important for the farmer and landowner to keep the branch links in place as the monkeys rarely come to the ground and the domestic animals would be of great concern to them. You can see how tentative they are to cross at this spot, although on further examination, there were plenty of other places for them to cross more comfortably.
If you have any illusions about spiders you may come away from Costa Rica cured as an arachnaphobic or may dream for the rest of your life about the donut sized spider that was found inside your mosquito netting and scurried away from your mind numbing screeches never to be seen again. It would have been really helpful to a good nights' sleep to have seen this guy one more time, but he never showed up again.
The whole country is alive with insects, snakes, frogs and monkeys, so you are either prepared for them show up from time to time as you enter their space or you should reconsider a pristine all inclusive somewhere on the coast, where a regular program of anihalation will guarantee the return of the fearful customer.
The grounds at Alby lodge were just getting hacked into shape as the groundsmen swung there machettes with abandon clearing the months of growth during the rainy season, which here occurs mainly in November and December and in June and July. The grass stood proudly up as the sun once more signalled the beginning of the growing season and the blooming of hundreds of different varieties of flowers and trees.
Crabs that live in the mud of the gardens during wet season. What marvellous creatures to sit and watch as they are rarely more than 10 feet away from you sitting at the mouth of their subterraneum home, sometimes full of water, and picking small morcels of roots and grass to digest in their mandibles. If you are still, set your camera up on a tripod or solid surface (bring a lightweight bungie cord to wrap your camera to railings or trees) and you can focus and shoot flash or natural light as long as you are still. The slightest flinch will send these guys back into their hole. As you can see they come in many colors and sizes and to watch them rotate those pedulous eyes is to witness another marvel of nature, so easy to find anywhere in this country.
The characters of town, always willing and ready to help. Upon our arrival we were met with a warm welcome from Rosie, who met us the moment we stepped of the bus. A time worn face did not hide the sincerity behind the wide open bright eyes as she introduced herself and after learning our place of accomodation, and without any expectation of any compenstaion from us, took us to Alby Lodge. Promptly and with great chatter and enthusiasm she waved goodbye and rode her bicycle out the gates. I saw her a number of times later that week and enjoyed her animated conversation and effusive nature. The town council, as I will call them, rose from their benches as we sat down in the center square with our groceries and relayed to us all the benfits of using their services, fruit aquisition, frog pond tour guide, surf lessons or fishing guides. If they couldn't do they would certainly find someone who could. We all shared some beer I had purchased and I promised to see them later in the week.
Main Street in Cahuita.
Rough as the town may have appeared, never, not once, did I have any reason to fear for my safety. All of those, including Town Council, that I met were friendly and courteous and never hindered my activities or entertainment.
After a few days I was in discussion with a local hotel owner I was surprised with his reponse when I asked if there was much poverty here in this area. He thought for a moment then said
"I am not sure that we have any poverty in Cahuita. There are many people who do not have money but always have a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head. No one goes hungry." he assured me and went on
"This is a very easy country to live in , the weather is gentle, the crops are plentiful and there are many people who have family, maybe not much better off than them. There are cases of family abuse and alcohol related crimes and damage, but these are not always in the domain of those who do not have money."
There is no denying the possibilty of convenience theft for alcohol and drugs, where blatant representaion of wealth combined with reckless attention to your property could result in loss and inconvenience. If you travelling in a country with an annual wage that wouldn't buy a pair of nike sneakers, be careful where you leave your shoes and don't walk the beach alone or at night.
The presence of the police is everywhere and regular but most complaints of personal property theft are not investigated with the usual efficiency with which we in the northern part of the continent have come to expect. There are no remedial social programs that will help those in need so the same problems reappear after a brief encarceration.
There are a number of really good restaurants within 200 meters of the center square as well as several supermarkets which carry most everything you will need to make your own meals.
This fellow would ride his bike to all the lodges and stores with bread, pizza and calzones for sale a few times per week. He actually is Italian and he makes this stuff himself and it is soooooo... good! On our next trip I will be checking him out right away.
Food costs here are about 30% less in restaurants and 10 to 40% cheaper on store goods. Beer is $1 per bottle, chicken $2.50lb and Bread $2 a loaf.
Howlers, guarding their space. Moving quickly between the rains.
These Capuchins in the video and described in the still images below were swift and possesive of the sandwich they stole from an unsuspecting photographer.
These tendons of roots woven into a maze of support are an intriguing find at the 5km mark of the trail. The trees become very dense and do not invite you to explore much more than you can see. Even the most adventurous traveller would have second thoughts on a forage into these groves.
The local frog population can be easily identified within the confines of the local frog farm where I found (top) The gaudy Leaf Frog, The common dink frog (right) and the Masked Smilisca (bottom).