Costa Rica Adventure - Part 1

I went on a trip to Costa Rica that changed my life and inspired me to write down my I-shouldn't-be-alive type of story, about the time my friend and I unknowingly swam across a crocodile- and bull shark-infested river. But let's start from the beginning...

One of my best friends and I went backpacking around Costa Rica, and we spent our first week volunteering at a family's cocoa plantation, trimming the cocoa trees, grinding cocoa, lounging in hammocks and enjoying their home cooked meals and chocolate liquor and brownies every day. It was a wonderful week, after which we decided to follow the recommendation of friends we made along the way and visit Corcovado National Park.

Visiting Corcovado, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, would be a two-day backpacking trip to a ranger station in the middle of pristine rainforest. We hadn't planned on visiting one of the most remote and distant corners of the country, so we were traveling lightly by coincidence. We spent several days to get there, and our preparation consisted of buying some no-cook food, a mosquito net to sleep under, and a machete (I love cool knives and toys) on the day before our hike.

The hike to the ranger station was easy enough: 12 miles alternating between beautiful beaches and forest. We even saw a pair of endangered Baird's Tapir, a mother and a baby, running through the forest. We were so mesmerized we didn't take a picture, and only later found out that people would travel all the way here just for this sight, and may not even see the rare animal! For the night, we camped at La Sirena, the ranger station for $4, in our mosquito-net tent, with a single large sheet instead of a sleeping pad and sleeping bags. We had a great time, though, and a cute guy taught me how to open coconuts with my machete. In the morning, we decided to wake up early and hike a mile or two further on the trail that led us here, before heading back to town. We didn't take anything other than our passports, a camera and my new machete, and we followed the dashed line on our map to the mouth of a small river that flowed into the ocean, Rio Sirena. What a perfect place for bathing and washing our hair with freshwater! We knew that there would be crocodiles and bull sharks at this river at high tide, but it was 8am and the tide was at its lowest, the water was crystal clear and reached up to our thighs. The coast was clear. We splashed around a bit, and afterwards, on a bend around the other side of the river, we relaxed, sunbathed and took pictures for an hour or two.

At 10am we decided we should go back and cross the river while the tide was still low. As we were walking on the beach, approaching the mouth of the river, we found enormous footprints, about a foot wide. "Wow, I wonder what left these footprints!" I said. Completely oblivious, we continued, and when the river came into view, we saw that along the opposite side of the river, about 20 yards up the bank, were a row of tourists, sitting there like this was an observation point. One of them yelled across to us, "Right where you're standing right now, there stood a 10 foot long crocodile 5 minutes ago."

We were stuck on the wrong side of the river, with nothing but a hundred miles of uninhabited rainforest on our side, the ranger station and civilization on the other side.

To be continued in part 2...

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