31 October 2009

More Hiking, More Rain

Having spent a few days on the coast of the Osa Peninsula, we took a bus to the interior mountainous region. We hiked through the undulating tapestry for two more days, enjoying many various shades of green. We also experienced the worst (you pick: closest, loudest, scariest, most exposed) thunder storm. Along the way we found three huge waterfalls, numerous smaller falls and cascades, excellent view points, and no people. The rain makes the hiking harder, but having the parks to ourselves makes it more enjoyable.

Having spent a week around Corcovado National Park, surviving the humidity and getting rid of bed bugs and trying to keep things dry, we decided it was time to head inland to the mountains. Chirripo National Park is named after Chirripo Peak, which is the highest point in Costa Rica and part of the Continental Divide, measuring in at 3820 meters (12530 ft). We found more humidity and more rain, but at least the nights were quite cold. We also found an excellent hostel, that was run by an inspirational couple who left the States 3 years ago. Within a few hours of hanging out with them, they asked us to run the hostel for a few days. They needed to cross into Panama, only to return to Costa Rica with a renewed visa valid for another 6 months. We couldn't help them out as we have to meet up with my family soon. Ah well, we may return . . .

Unfortunately, Chirripo Park, like Corcovado, was closed for the month of October. We had looked every where for info on this park - guide books, internet, the Chirripo Hotel, other park agencies, bus drivers - and nobody knew that it was closed until we physically arrived at the park offices to find a small sign alerting us to the closure. From this, we've learned that while Costa Rica has done a good job setting land aside for parks, they've done a less-than-stellar job in managing said parks. Since then, we've also learned the the country has done a horrible job managing around the parks to the point where some concerned people are arguing that "eco-tourism" is actually significantly damaging the environment.

In the case of Chirripo, there was a private nature reserve surrounding the National Park, serving as a buffer against development. Cloudbridge Reserve also offers educational nature hikes, research space and opportunities for budding scientists, and reforestation projects.

Both parks were absolutely fabulous, with Corcovado presenting us with an abundance of wildlife opportunities, and Chirripo with great views, hard hikes, and friendly people.

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