take a colectivo (mini-bus) about half an hour along the world's bumpiest road from Puerto Jimenez to Dos Brazos del Tigre, a town of about two hundred people. Once there, walk five minutes to the edge of town and then hike for half an hour up a steep jungle path, at one point wading through the Rio Tigre (don't worry, there aren't any tigers).
... for us this just added to the wonder of the place. Every morning we awoke to the sunrise and the sound of howling monkeys and screaming macaws (why does such a beautiful bird have to sound so horrible?), and spent the day hiking, nature-watching, relaxing in hammocks, and doing a bit of volunteer work. How could we ever go back to an office job after this??
Situated on sixty hectares of land that once contained a banana plantation, Bolita consists of a couple dorm buildings, a kitchen, a bathroom & shower building (with flush toilets), and a series of hiking trails through the old plantation and surrounding jungle. One morning we did an awesome hike that took us a couple hours through the jungle and up to a waterfall, after which we followed the Rio Tigre for a couple hours back down, hiking in water anywhere from ankle- to armpit-deep. We saw howler monkeys, white-faced (capuchin) monkeys, a couple small snakes, and a few jesus christ lizards running across the water and earning their names – amazing! We also ran into a couple local oreros (gold miners) panning for gold, which was a bit of a surprise for us. We were later told that there's a whole shanty town of gold miners who live in the jungle a four hour hike from town and pan various parts of the river.
Because we stayed as volunteers, in exchange for about 20 hours of work per week, we got free accommodation along with unlimited beans & rice – finally a volunteer gig where we aren’t working AND paying. And since we didn’t realize there would be next to no groceries available in town, we ate nothing but beans & rice for the first couple days and saved a bunch of money on food (at least we had brought some hot sauce). Luckily, the owner Val was nice and picked us up a few things during her weekly trip to Puerto Jimenez, letting us to cook up some of the best pasta ever. The volunteer work was enjoyable, and we spent a couple days putting together a rain shelter for the clotheslines. We felt like proper rainforest pioneers chopping down a couple tall bamboo trees, splitting and cutting the bamboo, and lashing together a beautifully-engineered structure.
Spending the week at the edge of Corcovado National Park has got us really excited for our next adventure – four days at La Sirena ranger station deep in the park. The plan is to catch a bus to Carate, the small town at the edge of the park, then early the next morning set out for the 20 km hike in along the beach.
If we’re lucky, during our stay we’ll get to see tapirs, giant anteaters, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, crocodiles, bull sharks, a load of monkeys, and a plethora of frogs, lizards and birds. Also, if we’re lucky we won’t be seeing any of the many kinds of large, venomous snakes. Apparently there’s a very poisonous snake called the bushmaster (insert inappropriate comment here) that grows to be over three metres long and has been known to be aggressive, even at times chasing people through the jungle (or perhaps here). We’ll definitely have our hiking sticks and machetes out and will be ready to defend ourselves. =)
We haven’t had much internet access lately and so haven’t had a chance to upload any photos, but once we’re out of the park and have settled somewhere in Panama we’ll be able to catch up and share some more stories.
Until then, Pura Vida! - Mandrew