In Costa Rica the locals call themselves “Ticos” (or “Ticas” if you’re female) and there are all kind of things that are typically Tico. There’s tico-time, which means they’ll get there when they get there. There’s tico-tipico, which describes Costa Rican food available in the “sodas” (restaurants). And then there’s the tico version of a float trip…
It all started when we (Grant and Michelle from Wildest Dreams and ourselves) decided to find a tour that would take us into the primary growth of the Corcovado Reserve. Over a yummy lunch at Roberto’s of fresh Mahi Mahi and Red Snapper, we did a little (very little) research into tours available from Drake Bay where we and m/v Wildest Dreams were currently anchored. There were night tours to see snakes and frogs, bird watching tours, canoe tours, or one where you could sleep overnight in a tree house (now that sounds cool!).
We’d already spent a day in the Curu Reserve (photos above) and had great fun seeing lots of critters, so we opted for a different kind of adventure this time. It might have been over the second beer when I happened to read about a Floating Tour. The description read; moderate hike into primary growth forest, a swim under a waterfall, and a float down the Rio Claro. Okay says I, I’ll call them! Presto, we’re reserved for the following morning. Meet Carlos at 8am on the beach. Got it.
Now you have to understand that we float. Every day all day. Our boats float. We are dry when we float. So, for some insane reason I had it in my mind that we’d be floating down the river in some sort of boat. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask does it? Boats are good! They keep you dry, away from crocodiles and snakes, off the rocks, and out of the mud! However, as I learned the morning of our tour, the other three in our group had already figured that “floating” meant “floating”! Hmmm…nobody bothered to inform the slow one in the group, namely me!
It’s now morning so we jump in the dinghy to head for the beach rendezvous. Swimsuits on, backpack full of necessary items like bug spray, water, a towel, binoculars…we’re ready! We arrive at the beach, wheel the dinghy up to a tree to tie it out of the reach of high tide, meet up with Carlos, hop in the truck, and off we go for a dusty 30-minute ride up the hillside behind town and into the Corcovado Forest. At the last minute as we’re getting ready to leave the truck and start hiking Carlos hands me a life jacket, looks at my tennis shoes and my non-waterproof backpack and says, you know you’re going to get all wet, right?
You’re probably all way ahead of me by now, but I was finally starting to see the light, finally starting to realize that I did NOT prepare correctly for this adventure! I should have worn different clothes, different shoes, and put our gear into a dry bag. Somehow the rest of the crew had done just that…where was I? On well, what’s a girl to do? Have a good laugh at my own stupidity, stuff the backpack back in the truck, and sally forth!
With Carlos having a good chuckle at my expense, and after ditching everything but the camera (which thankfully IS waterproof), we headed into the forest. With each step into the trees we found ourselves in a different world. The canopy formed by the trees overhead blocked most of the sun, the air grew close, the sounds were muffled, and the colors more intense.
Carlos told us about various trees and plants that are good for different remedies. The bark of one tree will help stop bleeding, another is used to treat gastritis, another will alleviate arthritis pains, and there’s even one makes a wine that will get you very drunk, but only if you sit in the sun after drinking it! Crazy and fascinating! We also learned that we could tell this was primary forest because of the types of plants that thrived on the forest floor. There are some plants that will only survive where the canopy is thick enough to keep the sun and rain off their leaves, as it is in the old growth forest.
The forest is full of huge trees that form a dense maze of leaves, vines, twisty trunks and hanging bromeliads. During the rainy season it’s not uncommon for giant trees to come crashing down as their roots lose their grip in the mud created from the 6 FEET of rain each month. We saw plenty of downed trees, vines growing both up and down from branches in the canopy, lots of crazy spiky trees, and green, every hue of green. It’s an amazingly beautiful place and we were glad to learn that Costa Rica is serious about protecting these important environments.
Back to the adventure! We hiked about 45 minutes on a deep carpet of leaves, over many leaf cutter ant highways, and fallen trees. Because of the humidity and the complete lack of moving air, we were all soon drenched in sweat, except for Carlos of course; he was fresh as a daisy, walking barefoot through the forest, stepping easily over the ant trails, the root tangles, and downed logs. Oh to be 70..ha!
Eventually we came to a spot that Carlos said was a little “tricky” and we needed to be careful. I think that must have been a Tico way of saying, “We’re now going to climb down a cliff by hanging on to tree roots to keep us from plunging to our death!” The reason we had to climb down the “tricky” section was because the old trail had been wiped out recently by a land slide that took out the side of the hill. Hmmmm…
Marty had to go in front of me, because my creaky knees were not up to the downward descent. But leaning on my stable man and hanging on to various roots we finally made it to the bottom where we were rewarded with a dip in the cool waters at the base of the waterfall. Ahhhhh, it felt great to be swimming in fresh water!
After our swim, a snack and a little rest, we were off again, down to the Rio Claro. We soon arrived at a spot where we prepared to float. Carlos demonstrated how we would wear our life jackets upside down, like float-able diapers. It was hysterical trying to get zipped and clipped into life jackets that are upside down and backwards, and thankfully the Coast Guard was nowhere in sight to see our abuse of safety equipment! We giggled our way into our diapers and waddled down to the river to get the next part of this party started.
The river was fairly low, it is dry season after all, so we bumped along on rocks occasionally, and we also had to “portage” around a few rapids and waterfalls. However, we mostly floated peacefully down the river, watching the sunlight play in the canopy overhead. I’m sure we scared off any wild life with all our laughter, and Carlos was very amused at our antics…I think. At least he kept shaking his head and laughing, so I’m going with he was amused! Click HERE to see a short video of our craziness…
Pretty soon we arrived at deeper water where the current was stopped by the ocean waves entering the river. In other words, time to swim! It’s very difficult to swim with tennies on, and in a life jacket that is under you. When you stretch out to swim, your rear-end is higher than your head so you basically end up trying not to drown yourself. After paddling for about a mile in deep water, we crawled up on the sand of a gorgeous beach on the Pacific Ocean, about 2 miles from where our boats were anchored.
Needless to say we were all pretty tired by this time, but wait, there’s more! We got out of our crazy life jacket floaties, Michelle emptied the water out of her “dry” bag (oops!) and off we went for another hike, this time along the beach. Whether it was the humidity and not enough water to drink along the way, or just a case of a bunch of lazy cruisers out hiking and floating, we were all pooped! Walking on the sand in the hot sun for another 45 minutes was a killer.
Thankfully we were rewarded by a memorable moment as we walked; this time it was a loud pandemonium of scarlet macaws in a leafless tree along the beach. Evidently, it’s mating season for the macaws right now, and since macaws’ mate for life it’s a big deal! There was plenty of squawking and screeching as the pairs of macaws in the tree either argued over a mate or just had a marital squabble. Whatever it was they were doing was fascinating. These are some incredible birds, about 2 feet long from head to tail, with multi-colored feathers and strong beaks. Beautiful.
Eventually we stumbled back to the truck, drove the rest of the way over the hill to town, found some tico-typico casada (chicken, rice and beans), and gathered enough strength to flop ungracefully back into the dinghy and back to our boats. A few Advil for creaky knees, a swim in the pool, and soon we were feeling human again. Floating down the Rio Claro…a tico adventure to remember!