En La Cerro

That little frog has made blogging and communicating much easier this visit.  In the indigenous language, kolbi means little frog.  In actuality, it is the face of the Costa Rican government-run electricity and telecommunications services provider, Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.  We have had 3G, texting and voice capability locally since we arrived on site, and were able to secure it (and we could have also rented a smartphone) well before our journey here.

No rest or early morning walk for the wicked today, for we were on the way to Cerro Pittier, the mountain that you can see outside of Darien’s front door each morning.  We were headed up to the Hospedaje Cerro Pittier, which is on the Costa Rican side of the Parque Internacional La Amistad (La Amistad International Park), which is in both Costa Rica and Panama.  The drive took the six of us past the Agua Calientes in which we indulged last year, and all the way up the mountain. Mount Pittier is 8,796 ft high, and it ranks as the 1st highest mountain in Puntarenas and the 27th highest mountain in Costa Rica.

The park is a transboundary protected area, and management is shared between  Costa Rica and Panama based upon a recommendation by UNESCO after the park was included in the World Heritage Site List.

The park area is almost equally split between Costa Rica and Panama, as part of the former La Amistad Reserves of the Talamanca mountain range. It covers 401,000 hectares (4,010,000,000 square meters) of tropical forest and is the largest nature reserve in Central America  It is strategically located in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, and its buffer zone includes coffee and beef producers and indigenous subsistence farmers.  If you choose to enter the park from our location on Mount Pittier, you can hike for 12 days and reach the Caribbean side.

We got the best directions of the trip on the way to Hospedaje Cerro Pittier, a rural tourism lodge.  We had just gone past some troublesome boulders, and were about to cross a rickety narrow bridge, when Darien called the lodge.  It turned out that we were on the right path, and we needed to follow the lights up the mountain.  Which we did.  And we arrived to one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

The lodge can host up to 14 guests, has a bedroom with a double, a room with four bunk beds, and a room with 8 bunk beds.  Another 4 people were coming in that night to stay, so we opted for the double and the 8, as suggested by our hosts, Olivio and Yami.  There was a large outdoor area for cooking and serving guests, a corral with two horses, a hammock, and a nice open kitchen area, behind which is a room where the owners sleep.

The area itself has only four families who live there, most moved away many years ago.  I think that’s because power was only brought up to the mountaintop about 3 years ago.  The lodge itself only opened 2 years ago.  Yami told us that next year the municipality would be paving the roads, or at least improving them.  Who knows how long a year really is in Costa Rica....and yet, despite all this, the lodge has a satellite dish, and the boys were able to watch soccer (British), basketball (Spanish) and “Gangnam Style” that they could handle.

After a snack, we headed out on a hike into the preserve.  We had the opportunity to go uphill to the waterfall, or to take the more moderate trail to the stream.  It’s a good thing we took the route to the stream.

We saw jaguar tracks, wild boar tracks, the rootings of a tapir (but none of those animals), and we actually saw white faced monkeys, which are kin to spider monkeys, jumping along the trail.  As we were about 40 minutes into the hike, Olivio said that there was about a 30 minute hike to take us down to the stream.  An hour later we stopped and assessed, and there was a vote (won’t say by whom) to tie a certain someone up at the stream bed if we didn’t get there soon...it was about a kilometer away, so we went.  Wayne and Darien crossed the stream to get to the warm springs, and the rest of us waited.

From there, we headed back up, albeit a little tired.  Wayne did a good deed as we were about halfway there, and ran the rest of the way back to the lodge to bring back water.  When he got back, many were happy, and he was very sweaty.  We were a short way from being back, and enjoying a fabulous meal cooked by Yami (who did all the cooking and most of the cleaning, from what I could see).  Total reward!  The trout was fresh, the bananas fried, and red beans and rice were seasoned with mustard leaves and local limes.  Oh, and when we returned, Yami asked Olivio where we had gone, and expressed great surprise that we had all ventured down to the stream....hmmm.....and poor Darien and I, who had bravely become tica hikers (aka barefoot in our boots), suffered blistered heels.  They should eventually heal.  I have to say that I missed the friendly Ranger, Harlan Kredit, as our guide here did not stop and have us ask questions in order to catch our breath.  Instead, he waited for the group to catch up, and then took off again.

After this, we took turns using the shower and cooling off.  The shower had the same heating unit as the one Darien installed in her home.  It was nice and warm, even after five people.  And as we finished getting ready for dinner, there was the most spectacular sunset.

Breathtaking.  And the moon was just as lovely.

We finished our “grilled meat” dinner, and trudged off to bed.  I was more apt to retire early, as I had managed to knock my head twice on the stairs following Darien.  Only I could do that.  Apple, tree and all that.

Wishing everyone pleasant dreams!