Wild Sun sits right on the border of Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, the oldest of Costa Rica’s protected nature areas. At its founding in October of 1963, it was farm land used to raise crops and graze cattle. Fifty plus years later, it’s come a long way towards being reclaimed by nature, now being classified as mature secondary forest.
We get a lot of wildlife visiting the rescue center grounds, troops of howler monkeys and capuchins, coati, deer, and all sorts of bird species… and our proximity to the reserve is the cause of this. It also gives us a good location to release rescued animals that can’t go back to the area they were found in.
It’s close enough to walk to, and in my second week at Wild Sun, I decide to walk to the tip of the cape with Alex and Alessandra, the other two volunteers who have off the same day as me.
From the center, getting there is as simple as walking down the road to the first intersection, turning right, and then keep going – the road leads right into the park. We leave after breakfast at 9 am… which is already too late.
Well, the park doesn’t open until 8 am so it’s not late at all really, I say it’s too late because we’re in the middle of the dry season, the hottest part of the year, and hiking with temps in the 90’s is pretty brutal. I have one water bottle to my name as do my coworkers, and while there’s a water spigot at the entrance to the park, the hike to the tip of the cape is 10 km round trip (around 6.2 miles). Even before starting I wonder if we’ll make it to the end or not.
But I don’t dwell on it too much, because the park is beautiful. Alessandra’s into ecology, and she knows a lot about the plants and trees of the region, which is great for me. She names the trees as we pass up the road to the pay station.
It’s not that different from a visitor center at a park in the US. A ranger sits in a kiosk and collects our money ($8 US) and shows a little map of the park with the trails laid out. Alessandra is relatively fluent in Spanish and has a conversation with him about the trail and our plans. Just past the kiosk is a little outdoor display with informational signs.
Finally, we start hiking. We start off slow, spaced apart a ways and trying to go as quietly as possible in the hopes of seeing wildlife. Since the canopy isn’t as full this time of year, it’s easier than it would be during the rainy season. We see a lot of the same species I’ve already noticed go through at Wild Sun. What really catches my attention is all the butterflies, which my phone camera is ill equipped to capture. My favorites are bright blue and edged with black.
And the trees, so different looking from back in the US. At one point on the trail this huge one comes into view, coated in vines thick enough to climb with a complex root system spanning a little wash. Alex and Alessandra take turns climbing the vines, then I ask one of them to get a photo of me standing on the roots.
Trail quality is…. variable. The steps are made from concrete blocks, and they’re not evenly spaced due to erosion and tree roots. And there’s a lot of up and down. The coast is blanketed in rolling hills with very little flat ground and we’re always gaining or losing elevation. Small markers along the trail count what we at first think are kilometers. But then we get up to 5 and still aren’t at our destination. Maybe they’re marking points of interest instead? But it sure feels like km markers.
The last hill before the beach is the worst. I’m below the halfway mark on my water bottle and the day keeps getting hotter. But finally the water comes into sight. The deep blue water showing through the trees is very inviting and lovely.
Perhaps we should have checked the tides before starting. It’s the full moon and low tide, which means it’s and extra low tide. The beach is still beautiful, but like around Cabuya it’s very rocky and rather shallow. My coworkers decide to go in but I stay on the shore and try to get a good picture instead.
The haze that you’re seeing on the hills in the distance is likely from fires. Farmers clear fields using fire during the dry season as it becomes impossible to do so once the rains start.
There are people around, but it’s not crowded. We enjoy our snacks under the cover of a broad leafed tree, sitting on a piece of driftwood. It’s cooler along the edge of the water, a breeze blows through. A welcome respite before the hike back.
With reluctance, we get up and head back. It’s as much a slog as I was expecting, but I stretch my water and make it. Back at the visitor center I fill my bottle again and drink the whole thing before heading back up to Wild Sun. We don’t quite make it in time for lunch at 1:30, but luckily Randy saved the ingredients from our meal and we use them to make a salad. Tastes like victory to me!
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