WELCOME TO THE CLUB
We arrived at the BA check-in desk having already completed the online check-in and been issued with boarding passes for our Premium Economy seats in row 13. So when the nice, young BA attendant handed us our boarding cards bearing the seat numbers 04E and 04D we were more than surprised. These magic numbers mean that when you board the aircraft you turn left instead of right and enter the fabled Club World; land of champagne, cocktails and seats that recline flat. We couldn’t believe our luck and swept into the Club World lounge to while away the time until our flight was called. I fired off a few e-mails to friends telling them of our good fortune.
Well, you know it never pays to gloat. All the passengers were gathered at the boarding gate when the captain strolled out and announced that there was a little technical issue with the ‘plane and the engineers had been called. He didn’t know how long the delay would be but promised to keep us updated from time to time, which he did, wandering amongst us answering questions. It transpired that a piece of plastic in the undercarriage had developed a crack and required replacing.
In the end the delay was 2.5 hrs so we were even more pleased to have the club world (business class) seats and gratefully accepted a glass of champagne from the steward and settled ourselves in. We were both suffering from the aftermath of colds so having the luxury of being able to stretch out and be pampered by the staff was wonderful. BA can upgrade us for free anytime!
We are spending the next seven weeks in Costa Rica and quite a bit of that time will be with our friends Andy and Ana Castle. Andy works in San Jose in the week and was able to pick us up at the airport and transport us to their lovely house in Labrador. It’s always wonderful to be greeted at an airport by a friendly face and within little more than an hour we were being hugged by Ana and handed a drink and some food. It was like a home coming for us as we had visited two years ago so we immediately felt relaxed and happy.
Still nursing the aftermath of coughs and colds we took it easy the first weekend. Ana insisted on serving her home made cough remedy which consists of bamboo tea, grated ginger, honey and oregano. It’s an unusual taste to say the least but it seemed to work over the next few days
Andy works for the British Embassy but had taken a week off work so that we could all go away together on a little adventure. Neither he nor Ana had ever visited the Osa Peninsula, a remote area in the far south west of Costa Rica, comprised mostly of untamed jungle with few roads or facilities. The Corcovado National Park covers most of the area and it is still a place that not many Costa Ricans (Ticos) have visited, let alone foreigners.
You can fly in to the Osa in a light aircraft but it’s an expensive option, especially if you also go and stay at one of the lodges in the area, which can easily set you back $300 a night, each. Our budget is somewhat more modest than that so we elected to drive for 4.5 hrs down the west coast to arrive at Sierpe, park the car and take a motor boat from there.
Back in 1995 Jane and I did the same trip in a tiny little fibreglass boat with a captain and one other passenger who worked at one of the lodges and hitched a ride with us. The trip down the Rio Sierpe was fast and furious and where the river met the sea there was a wall of foaming white water, a huge wave formed by the force of the river flowing one way against the sea flowing the other. Our captain drove the boat back and forth waiting for the least terrifying wave before flinging the boat at it. The boat reared up into the air and over into the calmer waters of the sea. It was an exhilarating ride and a voice came from the passenger sitting next to Jane. “You can take your hand off my leg now.” She’d been so terrified that she’d gripped the poor man’s thigh to hold herself steady. When we met him a few days later his bruise was turning an interesting shade!
Having regaled Andy and Ana with our tales of derring do we find that 21 years later the boat is somewhat more substantial and carries 20+ passengers. We quickly cruise down the river to its confluence with the sea. The towering, roiling wave of our memory was not much more than a ripple so we all escaped Jane’s clutching grip this time and before too long we were making landfall at Agujitas, the only village of any note in Corcovado. Here, there is a choice of reasonably priced accommodation, restaurants, bars and a couple of shops. Our home for the next few days was La Terrazza Verde, run by the delightful Jenny. It’s perched up above the beach with lovely views. In the evening flocks of parrots fly in to spend the night in the trees surrounding the property so we were in seventh heaven.
We arranged a tour with a bird guide for the following morning and meanwhile went to explore the village. At this time of the year it’s a bit of a dusty pueblo but a great place to base yourself for exploring the national park if you want to avoid the lodges. We ended up at the beach and went for a refreshing swim in Drake Bay.
The bay is named after Sir Francis Drake who reputedly used the area as a port, perhaps because of its remoteness given that, according to Ticos, he was a pirate rather than the national hero we British regard him as being. I think the locals accuse him of stealing all their Spanish gold, quietly forgetting that the Conquistadors themselves stole their gold from the Aztecs and Mayans in the first place.
5.30 am the following morning found Jane and I kitted out in boots and binoculars and shaking hands with Carlos our guide. He usually works for one of the lodges but Jenny recommended him to us as one of the best local guides. And so he turned out to be. Bird watching in Costa Rica is best carried out in the few hours after dawn and the few hours before sunset so early starts are a given. But that suits us and it is great to wander off just as the birds start getting active. The Red-lored Parrots were screeching overhead and pairs of the gaudy Scarlett Macaws streamed by, looking like military jets flying in formation on a mission. With the sun rising up over the horizon it was a magical start to the day.
Carlos’ English is very good and his knowledge of birds exceptional. We spent a great three hours in his company and spotted many birds, including some of the scarcer ones. So our birding tour of Costa Rica was off to a great start. Meanwhile, Andy and Ana had gone off on their own trip, using quad bikes to explore the local area and having their own fun.
For the afternoon we hiked over to Cocalito Beach. This was the place that Jane and I first set foot on in Corcovado in 1995. Back then it was a very remote spot with just a rudimentary ‘lodge’ to stay at. I say lodge but it was in reality just a series of rough huts on the beach and just getting there was a challenge. Nowadays there’s an easy 40 minute trail running from Agujitas and the lodge has long since given in to the ravages of time. But the beach is still just as beautiful and the Pacific rollers still pound onto it with the same exilerating force. It was lovely to be back.
We had arranged to do another birding walk with Carlos the following morning but he had to do a job for his lodge so we were left to our own devices but still managed to spot some good birds. When we got back to La Terrazza for breakfast Ana had the great idea of taking a boat to Playa San Josecito further along the coast. This beach has lovely golden sand but also some decent snorkelling and we enjoyed several hours swimming, snorkelling and relaxing.