CARIBBEAN COSTA RICA
The 205km drive to the port city of Puerto Limon takes us around 5 hours on jammed roads, having to continually overtake slow moving trucks and cyclists. The route takes us via a toll road through Braulio national park and the busy highway 32 all the way to Limon. A parade in the centre of Limon has us stuck in a traffic jam in the centre, with the streets packed with people. The name Limon derives from the plan to build a port at the site of a grand old lemon tree. From Limon, it’s another 40kms further along a long stretch of quiet coastal road onto the southern Caribbean coastal town of Cahuita, when it starts to rain. After checking in at our cabin, we head out for dinner at the chilled Coco’s restaurant and some Afro-Caribbean cuisine of mackerel, rice and beans.
The Caribbean vibe in Cahuita, sitting just behind a black sand beach on a small rocky peninsula, is a laid-back one with small bars and sodas playing reggae music and dishing out cocktails with the occasional Rastafarian walking by and also quite a few tourists. There are cabins everywhere so we do a bit of searching a find a nice one a little bit out of town along one of the bumpy back roads.
The building of the railroad in 1871 drew in thousands of Jamaicans looking for employment with its construction through dense jungle and mountainside areas. The idea was to build a port on the coast and connect it via railroad to the central valley so the county‘s soaring coffee production could be more easily exported to Europe. The port also served as the key export point for the country‘s newest agricultural business, bananas. Today, the railroad no longer exists, replaced by an asphalt highway 32 we had just driven from the Central Valley.
1st November CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK
We drive a few minutes into town to the entrance of the Cahuita National Park and take an amazing wildlife filled walk through the forest along the coastal trail past the curving white sand beaches of Playa Blanca.
The park entry fee is by donation only, a surprise, considering we had been paying $10 each up until now. It is the only national park in Costa Rica which does not charge admission.
The small park, consisting of just 10 square km was made a national park in 1978. One of the last living coral reefs in Costa Rica is here; you can snorkel but a guide is required.
The trail which begins at Kelly Creek is wide and quiet and we are surrounded by beautiful dense tropical foliage and coconut palms of the forest, which in itself is captivating.
Right at the entrance to the park near a stream, we see a green basilisk lizard also known as the ‘Jesus Christ lizard‘ for its ability to dart across water. Their specially designed feet are slapped hard across the water creating a tiny air pocket which prevents them from sinking, providing they can keep up their speed. It‘s a male from its distinctive crest on the head and back and he is pretty nifty, bouncing his head up and down and blending in perfectly with his surroundings.
A scary looking grasshopper.
An army of leaf-cutting ants.
There are red land and blue fiddler crabs everywhere.
Arriving at sandy and serene Cahuita Point which is covered with cativo and mango trees, we see sandpipers, pelicans and kingfishers.
We spot a striped black and brown viper well camouflaged in the leaves on the ground!
Bounding up the path is a crab-eating racoon! He literally walks straight in front of us and does not seem to be worried about us at all. He is on the hunt for crabs searching in all the holes then suddenly leaps up a tree skilfully jumping from branch to branch.
We reach the tannin stained Rio Perezoso (Sloth River) which flows across the sands cutting off the two beaches, we decide to head back from here as it looks like its about to rain,
On the way back, we spot mischievous white-faced capuchin monkeys swinging through the trees above us.
Further down, we see another snake, a tiny yellow eyelash pit viper which has made it’s home on a leaf of a tree.
We also spot three sleeping sloths high up in the trees, big balls of matted fur.
A strangely coloured blue tree frog is perched on a leaf.
Next up, a huge orange iguana is hanging out on a tree trunk.
Our timing is right as we leave the park just before a huge downpour which we can see out to sea reaches the land.