Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bahia Drake

You can get to Bahia Drake by small plane, really bad potholes filled road (not passable during rainy season), or small boat ride in the Pacific Ocean. We opted for the boat ride from Sierpe down the river of the same name into Pacific Ocean then along the coast to this place with a beach landing.

We left Quepos around 7:15AM with a private van transport to the boat dock at Sierpe. You can get there via public transport, but we didn’t want to risk it because there is only 1 boat that leaves for Bahia Drake a day at 11:30AM. We passed lots palm oil plantation on our way to Sierpe. It reminded me of what I saw in Malaysia a bit. We arrived before 9AM, so we got lots time on our hand. There was a French couple, Hervé and Ineke of La Rochelle France, who also stayed at Wide-Mouth Frog Hostel, arrived at the boat dock later than us, but they took the public bus with couple transfers. Hervé and Ineke were also going to stay at El Mirado Cabinas as us, so over the next 4 days we saw lots of each other :)

Come around 11:30AM, the activities on the docks heated up a bit with lots people get off incoming speed boats and people try to get on. We weren't sure which boat to get on, as no one tells us there are here for us. Eventually I asked the boat that is taking Hervé and Ineke to see if they are taking us as well, and they did, so we are on our way cruising down the Sierpe River. Not knowing the ride is like, we were surprised at the mouth of the river and seeing incoming waves we have to go over to reach open Pacific Ocean. Once we cross into the open ocean, we cruised parallel to the shore, until we reach Bahia drake area. The boat first drop off people stayed at the other end of the bay, we then realized there will be no dock to boats around here, only beach landing. We got off the boat after about 1 hour and 15 minutes ride from Sierpe.

El Mirado Cabinas is up a small hill from the beach - it is certainly a very short by good workout to get up and down every day. The owner had atv waiting for us to pick-up our luggage. The view from the common area of the Cabinas was very nice, it lookout into the bay. The owner asked if we want lunch first or see our room first, we all wanted lunch first, we were hungry. The lunch was very nice.

There is no electricity at most the cabinas, but candle is provided. You get to enjoy the sound of the wave pounding the beach as well the view of the bay among the trees. Main dining area has electricity so you can charge device there as well as using the internet. After lunch we all decided on what to do over the next few days. We decided on visit the Corcovado National Park at Sirena Ranger Station tomorrow. Also we signed up for night tour with bug Lady name Tracy. She is highly touted in many guide books. And we will decide what other things to do later.

A little about El Mirado Cabina, I booked via email a while back. I opted for its 4-nights package including all meals. You can pick from various fix-priced tours. And if you pay cash you get a discount. It has a small lookout place nearby, that you can see sunset or watch noise parrots flying by in the morning and evening. They also have an organic farm, everything here is made fresh, and so every meal was yummy. Most like gained weight here! Also you would think a place like this will have lots mosquitos, but we didn’t encounter many, I think it might because of the numerous geckos that live around the dwellings. Some are huge!

First evening we took it easy and just enjoy views from our room and around the lodge. Although our room is in the end, and can’t see the bay directly, but since the 2 other adjacent cabinas were empty, we were able to use the whole porch area and see the bay at the other end of the porch. We even spotted an iguana sunbathing on a tree near the beach one morning.

At dinner time (7PM) we joined Hervé and Ineke, a wonderful couple we enjoyed chatting with every day. Hervé has a keen eye for finding things among the tree/bush. There were other guests too, but there are leaving tomorrow. After dinner every hang around to get to know each other and chat about what they did so far. And then by 9PM everyone was ready for bed as everyone has early day tomorrow for park or leaving.

The day after our Corcovado Park visit (see Corcovado blog for detail of the visit), we decided to take it easy and just walk around the beach and town. I spend the morning looking for creatures in the tide pool while Wendy and mom walk around the beach. There were lots small crabs, but they move so fast, so it was impossible to take its photos. But after a while I finally find couple pools with tiny sea slugs. I also found some brittle sea stars under some of the rocks. The sun was get hot and tide is started to turn, so head closer to the sure to get some tree cover while look for anything interesting to photography. I then met up with Wendy and mom and they told me they heard and saw a coconut fell from the tree, so I asked where and went to pick it up. The coconut was intact and with a shake, juice inside it is confirmed. So we walked back to our lodge to have a rest before lunch time and also to see if they can cut open the coconut.

After lunch and tried the coconut, we went out to walk around the bay and checkout the town as well check where we would need to be for the night tour. It took us about 30min to get to the night tour meeting place on the other side of the bay. Along the way we saw a group of racers resting, they are running some of rainforest race, it sounded interesting.

After we got back to our lodge, my mom decided she doesn’t want to do the tour as it was far and dangerous for her to walk in the dark on the uneven ground. We informed the owner and he told us there are opening for tonight’s (Friday) tour and see if we want to switch from Saturday to today, we decided to go tonight. Hervé and Ineke also decided to sign up for the tour. Since the tour starts at 7:30, we have an early dinner. But we got part of the information wrong as to when to be at the meeting place, so we were late to leave the lodge, and have to rush in the dark to get to the other side of the bay. Close to the meeting place, the bug lady’s assistant came and guide us through the unmark trail along the beach to the restaurant. After everyone is ready, he took us to the boat dock and ferried us 3 at a time across to the starting point.

I had expect the bug lady, Tracy to be an old lady, but she turned out to be young, may be in her late 20s or early 30s. She is not bad looking either. We each had headlamp handed from the guide as it has a red filter that helps when she is talking to everyone so we don’t blind each other. Also it is pretty bright, much better than my weak head lamp. Tracy and her guide walked us through the pathway around a hotel, and stop along the way to show us the night time creature as well as offer some interesting and fun facts about the creatures. We saw spiders, frogs and toads, insects, a snake, even an ant eater. All in all it was a good night. We didn’t get back to our lodge until 11:30PM. Luckily we have nothing planned for Saturday.

Next morning, we decided to go for a horseback riding for couple hours. The guide didn’t speak any English and smelled, but he seems friendly enough. He asked if you like to go along the beach or head inland. Since we have seen the beach, we decided to try the inland route. My mom has never been on a horse before. We started along the beach then turned inland along the road until we came to a river, then the guide took us riding along the river. It was nice to ride the shaded shallow river border by jungle and small family farms. There were many Jesus Christ lizards darting across the water as we approach. We also try to avoid getting our shoes wet because some area the water can get up to the foot level, in the end we all had soaked shoes. About an hour into the ride we reach a turn-around point in the river, so we got off our horse and taking a water & photo break. There was a big fallen tree on the sandbar so I climbed up for a photo. Then our guide urge my mom also get up for a family photo, as he reach down grabbed hold of my mom’s left hand, my mom’s foot slipped on the smooth trunk, and her body swung toward the left, and that sharp motion, broke her right arm just under the shoulder/arm socket. At that time we didn’t know that it was broken, just she had a sharp pain and that her right arm hurts with certain movement (especially up). We thought she might have a strained or dislocated shoulder, but we were not sure of anything. We then hopped back on the horses with my mom’s arm in a sling made from a scarf. When we got back to the lodge, we had request some ice pack for my mom and asked if there is a doctor around, but there was none because the jungle race have move on and along with it the doctors. Since we are leaving for Panama tomorrow, we would have to wait until we get to Panama before we can take my mom’s arm.

During lunch time, we chatted with Hervé and Ineke and exchanged what we each did/saw in the morning. Hervé showed us some of the photos he has taken of a big orb spider that he spotted along the road, so with that information I was off with my tripod and macro lens after lunch to look for it. It wasn’t easy for me to find the spider, it took me a while looking around before I found it on top of a 3-foot drainage pipe. It is too tall to take it from the drainage entrance, and coming down via the road is difficult because of the slope and loose dirt/rocks. I ended perched above the drainage pipe with one of my tripod legs close the lip of the drainage pipe, even that wasn’t the best angle for the given lighting and direction, but it will have to do. I must spend at least half hour taking the photos of the spider with web and preys, while waiting for the strong sea breeze to pause for a second. My legs sure gotten a good workout and needed to stretch once in a while. My weird presence above a drainage pipe attracted few locals as well couple tourists, but when I pointed out the big spider, then they all started to wooing and wowing at the size of the spider and its web. With enough photos, I head down the road to look for macaws that Hervé had also mentioned, but I didn’t see/hear anything although saw a hawk, but it flew away every time I try to setup my tripod. With a threaten sky, I headed back to lodge.

During our last dinner, there were new tourists that has arrived, some bird watchers from Wisconsin. The couple has spent many days in the park bird watching with a big group, and now they are done, and ready for some relaxation. We sat down at the dinner table first and since they are new arrival, they didn’t know Hervé and Ineke always sat cross from us, so they sat across from US and then went away to get something, but when they get back to table, Hervé and Ineke had arrived and sat in their place, the guy wasn’t very happy, and make quick comment about it. Hervé and Ineke didn’t know about the hat the guy left on the table to mark it as taken, but they clearly sense the guy wasn’t happy with them. For a while there was this divide in the group conversation that separates them. But eventually they did talk to each other a little. After dinner as everyone was talking, bunch insects started buzz around the fluorescent lights: cicadas, moths, and one very interesting praying mantis. Few of us spent the rest of night chasing the insects around for its photos. Tomorrow we leave here for Panama.

Bahia Drake is certainly a difficult to get to place, but definitely worth the effort. We enjoyed our peaceful and quiet time here as well the jungle surrounding it.

No comments: