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Travel Story - Costa Rica

Roughing it, Latin style, at Drake Bay, Costa Rica



As soon as I was out of the boat I spotted a tiny squirrel monkey on a branch beside the trail. Moving cautiously to avoid frightening it I slowly raised my camera – too late! The little guy made a flying leap, landed nimbly on my camera, took a close look into the lens, walked onto my shoulder and poked around my Tilly Hat and shirt pocket before bouncing back into the jungle.

We had arrived at the Drake Bay Wilderness Camp, a place where the term "wilderness" has a very different connotation than it does in B.C. The monkey, I learned later, was just checking me out for treats.

Our trip began that morning at the Cacts Hotel where we left most of our luggage before heading to the small airport that serves domestic flights in and out of San Jose, Costa Rica. Before boarding the six-place light-twin aircraft, we were each carefully weighed along with our 25 pound baggage limit. The six of us, Betty and me, Helena and Tim (also from B.C.), Lene and Lennert (from Denmark) had all booked Drake Bay's ocean kayaking option, run by Gulf Island Kayaking, of Galiano Island.

The flight takes about an hour, crossing over the rugged Cordillera de Talamanca, then following the sweeping coastline of the Pacific south to the Peninsula de Osa. At first the steep hillsides are a patchwork of fields, small farms and coffee plantations linked by a maze trails. Higher into the mountains the patchwork gives way to isolated farmsteads perched on scraps of tillable land with no visible connection to the rest of Costa Rica. Across the divide and down to the coast the hills are covered with unbroken tropical forest. As we descended toward Osa Peninsula I watched the surf from the open Pacific pounding the unbroken expanse of beach and wondered at the wisdom of kayaking down there.

The dirt airstrip where we landed appeared to have been hacked out of the jungle in the middle of nowhere. The only building was an open-sided structure, about the size of a small fruit stand, where we got out of the sun and waited for something to happen. About 10 minutes later an ancient Land Rover lurched out of the bush and we met Herb, long-time owner of the Drake Bay Camp. He drove us along a rough and twisting jungle track, forded a couple of small rivers, and finally arrived at the coast where low breakers rolled in across a gently shelving sand beach. Herb explained that a boat would pick us up here and that we should be ready to wade out through the waves when it arrived.

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