Carate

After three days of intensive birding at Bosque del Rio Tigre, we were now ready for three days of chilling out. For that we had chosen the Lookout Inn in Carate, the remotest village in the Osa Peninsula. And the Osa Peninsula is one of the remotest places in Costa Rica, so we were really heading for the end of the road.

March 19, 2013

We left Bosque del Rio Tigre at about 10 am in Andy’s taxi, heading for Carate. After reaching Puerto Jiménez we turned onto the road which went around the Osa Peninsula, and we were on our way. It was a gravel road and not all of the rivers had bridges, but it was nothing we would be worried about driving ourselves back at home. But this was still the dry season and as Andy told us, several of the rivers flooded and the road became almost impassable.

Andy pointed out various birds along the way and also stopped so that we could look at a sloth. After only a couple of hours we arrived at the Lookout Inn in Carate, where we drove up a very steep driveway using four-wheel drive. The view was absolutely stupendous. It was exactly as seen on the website, complete with blue sky and a few fluffy clouds. We were met by the owner, Terry, and some of his staff. We were just in time for lunch, which was a good thing because we were rather hungry.

Originally we had booked a “Tiki Hut” room, but since the hotel was not very full, Terry offered us the “Blue Butterfly” room for the same nightly rate. We looked at both and decided on the Blue Butterfly, which was at the top of a flight of 45 steps with a view through the trees to the ocean. For most of the afternoon we sat in our deck chairs enjoying the view and breeze, and then about 3 pm we gathered up cameras and binoculars and headed down the many steps to the pool and the beach. We missed the pool and ended up at the beach, so we decided to walk along the beach to the large lagoon.

Walking on the sand was fairly easy going, but it was too hot for bare feet. Fortunately the tide was going down so the wet sand was still hard and not as hot, and it took us about half an hour to get to the lagoon. When we got there the first thing we noticed was a large dark hawk sitting on a palm tree, and on closer inspection we decided it was a juvenile Common Black-Hawk. The lagoon was not a very busy place, with only a few egrets wading around. We had also heard that there was a tapir which liked to hang out in the lagoon, but we didn’t see that either.

Back at the hotel, it was too early for dinner so we decided it was time for showers. The bathroom in Blue Butterfly is open to the elements, as is the whole room, but as we were high on a steep hill with trees around us nobody could look in. The showers felt really good after the drive and the hot afternoon. Before dinner we headed over to the main deck to watch the sun set. What a beautiful view! Dinner was very good and, being buffet style, we could take as much or as little as we wanted.

After dinner we headed back up to the room. The waves from the Pacific were very loud, but every so often one wave would be so small that there was almost silence. However the constant sound of the waves didn’t keep us from falling asleep at all.

March 20, 2013

After a very restful night’s sleep listening to the roar of the waves, we woke up early. In fact we woke up at 5:15 am when the birds started singing. In particular there was a Riverside Wren just outside whose calls were very loud. We watched the birds from our deck for a while—what an easy way to bird!

Breakfast was at 7:30 am, again served as a buffet. After breakfast we headed out for a walk, this time walking west towards the airport to see what we could see. The morning was still relatively cool, so walking along the dirt road was quite pleasant. The airport was just a runway which accommodates only small planes and nothing else, and there was a small plane parked there. Beyond the airport we carried on along the road past some deserted-looking buildings and came to the Rio Carate.

By now the temperature was rising, but luckily there was still some shade. There was hardly any water in the river, so there was no problem following the road as it criss-crossed the river. After a while we came across some houses which were made out of black plastic, with a motley collection of people living in them. Danny at the hotel later told us that they were gold miners, and that many of them were alcoholics. So how much gold-mining is actually done remains to be seen. We walked a little ways farther, and then turned back because the sun was getting too hot.

Back at the hotel we rested in our room. Today the weather had changed and there was quite a wind blowing through it, so it was a good day to do laundry. And it was important to do laundry because with the heat and humidity it was easy to go through several changes of clothes in a day.

At lunch we met some guests who had recently arrived. There were two Belgian women, a niece and her aunt, and a couple from San Diego. It turned out that the niece actually lived in Costa Rica and her aunt was visiting here. And the American couple were spending their two-week holiday at the Lookout Inn.

Later in the afternoon we decided to go for a walk to see the waterfall. We headed east along the road but before we found the “red house” where we were supposed to turn off, we noticed a path which appeared to head towards the lagoon. So we followed that path to check it out. Well, it did go to the lagoon, with the help of a dry river bed. There was still nothing much to be seen at the lagoon, and still no tapir, so we headed back to the road. Rather than going back to the hotel we found the red house and followed the road beside it. It was getting late in the day so we only walked a short distance, past a little church to an open field with a large date palm plantation. Along the way we were sidetracked by the howler monkeys so watched and listened to them for a bit.

At 5:30 pm the cicadas started, so we knew we should start back. The sun sets at about 6 pm and once it goes down it gets dark very quickly. We made it back with time to spare, so we were able to have showers before dinner.

March 21, 2013

The birds woke up at 5:15 am again, but at 5:30 am a small group of White-throated Capuchin monkeys came quietly through the trees by our room to visit the hotel’s monkey feeder. Rosemary grabbed the camera and hurried down the 45 steps in her pyjamas, shooing the coati out of the way as she went. Luckily the coati hadn’t scared off all of the monkeys, so she got some good pictures of them.

Today at breakfast there were pancakes available along with the fruit, so we took advantage of that. We hadn’t had pancakes for quite a while. After breakfast we decided to go for a walk on the “Stairway to Heaven”. This started at the back of the hotel, and it was a flight of 344 steps leading up to the top of the hill on which the hotel was built. The stairs were very steep and in some places rickety but it didn’t take us that long to get to the viewing platforms at the top. Unfortunately the view was obstructed by trees so we only got a glimpse of the ocean below. However the trail continued along the ridge, so we followed it.

Since this was an actual trail, we had to be careful where we placed our feet. For a while we went along the ridge, but there were still no views. Soon we found that the trail was called the “Blue Butterfly” trail, which was appropriate because we were staying in the “Blue Butterfly” room. At this point it started to go down the other side of the hill, which was nearly as steep as the side we had come up. Only on this side there weren’t any steps, only a trail covered with dry leaves, so we had to watch our footing very carefully. Luckily neither of us fell and we reached the bottom in one piece. We weren’t exactly sure where we were, so when we reached a road we headed along it towards the coast. And sure enough it was the road which ran past the little church. On our way back to the main road we stopped to watch the howler monkeys again. Today they weren’t howling but were crashing in the forest canopy.

Before returning to the hotel we went and sat in the chairs at the beach, enjoying the view and the breeze. Far away with our binoculars we could see a sailboat almost over the horizon, and there were a few gulls and terns flying over the ocean.

After lunch we put on our bathing suits and went down to the pool. Like Caño Negro we had the pool to ourselves, but unlike Caño Negro the pool was deep and very small. It was cool and refreshing and we sat by the pool in the shade for quite a while. We didn’t do much for the rest of the afternoon. Before dinner we went over to the bar area and watched the sunset. The tame Scarlet Macaw came for its evening meal so we got to observe it from close range, and shortly after that a family of capuchins came for the bananas. It was great fun watching them leap from tree to tree. They could also see themselves reflected in a mirror in the room next to the feeder, so when they spied their reflections they would bare their teeth and crouch down. They stayed around for about ten minutes and then disappeared back into the forest.


March 22, 2013

Last night was quite hot and we didn’t sleep all that well, and there weren’t as many birds this morning. But a large group of capuchin monkeys, maybe fifteen or twenty, descended on the banana feeding station. We were entertained for almost half an hour by the monkeys leaping through the trees, wrestling with each other, and eating the bananas. By the time they left it was our breakfast time.

This morning we decided to make another try at finding the waterfall which we had heard about. This time we had proper directions, so we enlisted Robert and Marina, the couple from San Diego, and the four of us headed off together. We went past the little church and the date palm plantation and then to the second gate on the right, which we were supposed to go through. But it was marked “Private Property” and none of us wanted to go in there. So we decided to head up the road a bit more, to the house we had seen earlier. This time there was a man working in the garden so Marina (who was born in Chile) asked him in Spanish if we were on the right trail to the waterfall. He gave us directions back to the “Private Property” gate, and he came along with us. His English was actually quite good and he told us quite a bit about the trail.

At first we walked along a wide trail which was shaded, but it was still hot and humid. There was a pair of Chestnut-backed Antbirds singing here. Then the trail became narrower and came to a creek, which of course was the creek fed by the waterfall. So now we followed the creek. The going was quite rough—sometimes there was a path and sometimes we had to rock-hop or climb over outcrops—but it wasn’t that long before we reached the three-tiered waterfall. It was quite lovely and made for a nice destination. We all decided that it had been worthwhile making the trip.

On the way back a flock of birds passed by, but we couldn’t really see any of them. But shortly after that Paul heard a manakin-like clicking sound and sure enough there was a beautiful Orange-throated Manakin there.

Back at the hotel we had showers and then packed our bags. Terry had organized a ride back to Puerto Jiménez for us, in the truck with (apparently) his maintenance guy, who was going into town to get plumbing supplies. With our departure from Carate we were now on our way home after a month in Costa Rica.


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Next: Coffee, Volcano, Waterfalls

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