After class today, I hopped on the bus to Manuel Antonio National Park. This entire coastal area used to be all forest and sadly this park is all that’s left. The entire country of Costa Rica used to be covered with mostly forest, but agriculture has taken over and the forests have shrunk considerably. I arrived at the park at about 2:45pm and unfortunately learned it closes at 4:00pm. Why am I rushing on a one year vacation? But today actually was the only day I could see the park because the rest of the week I have surfing or other activities after class. Inside this national park is the perfect picture of a beautiful beach—white sand, huge palms, and not another sole around.
On and near the beach many iguanas sat basking in the hot son. There were also hundreds of bright red crabs crawling around under the trees in the shade. I could hear the rustle of monkeys in the trees above. I hiked on some trails that left the idyllic beach and went into the rainforest. Wow—I’m in a rainforest. All by myself. And they gave me no map. Great, I’m lost. Well, not exactly.
Even though the park ranger told me it takes 4-6 hours to see the park. I figured he just doesn’t know how fast I walk, right? Wrong. I hiked up the Cathedral trail into the forest. It was dense and humid. The humidity here is really something I’ve never felt before—in fact I still have clothes hanging that are not dry after several days. On my barely marked trail, the sand gave way to mud and slippery rocks and trees that had fallen across the path. Not being one who likes to return the same way I came (I bore very easily—maybe that trait will mellow on this trip), I keep going and going and going. Many times I stopped and thought, ‘maybe this trail doesn’t loop and I should turn around.’ But then I’d see some light ahead or a curve and think to myself—‘let me just see what’s up there.’ So, of course, then I kept going and going some more. I hiked for another hour and the park was closing in 15 minutes. There was no way I could go back the way I came in 15 minutes. I was so torn on whether or not I should assume it looped. Damn it! I turned around and went back.
On the way, I saw and heard some Capuchin Monkeys way up high in the trees. I also spotted a few Cabybaras (the world’s largest rat!) enjoying a small stream. I returned to the beach where I started and walked back though the entrance that was now gated shut. I squeezed through an opening in the fence and out of the park. Ah, but not so fast!An interesting thing at this park—it was now late in the afternoon and high tide. The entrance was actually on a high part of the peninsula this park was on. A road actually deadends into the park and you must cross part of the beach to reach the entrance. Well, now this beach was covered with water. Little men waited in little boats to shuttle you across the 200 yards or so. You dropped some change in their bucket and away you went. My driver was probably 15.
Before he left me off he asked, “Que tipos animals tu ves?”
“Yo veo monos y iguanas y raton.”
He shuttled me over to a tree and pointed, “Mira en el arbole!”
There laying in the branches was a huge snake. I’m glad I was on my way out!