Along the Natchez Trace

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day at Rincon de la Vieja Nat'l Park

When we were returning on the bus from Liberia on Monday, Ann struck up a conversation with her seatmate about doing some "touristy" things.  Kelly, the seatmate, gave Ann the phone number of a friend who has his own tour-guide business.  Turns out Jonathan spent a semester at Burlington, VT studying the eco-tourism business.  After a couple of phone calls, we set the day and time for a tour.

Steve and Ann and Bill and I met Jonathan Wednesday morning at 6:15 at one of the grocery stores in Coco.  Jonathan would take us to Rincon de la Vieja National Park, drop us off at the ranger station and pick us up later in the day.  He stopped at a wonderful German bakery on the way where we all had a sweet treat to get started.  Then...  he also stopped at a Subway (yeah... the same as in the USA) and we got subs to take along for lunch.  

We're on our way...
We know before arriving that the trail to the volcano crater is closed.  Apparently winds make it too dangerous too hike along the rim.  But there are many, many trails here....  many of them quite rugged.

We started walking at 8:00 am.  The weather was gorgeous...  and there was enough of a breeze to keep us cool most of the time.
After paying our entrance fee ($10 per person), we head off.  Here's Bill...  ready to go through the turn-stile which allows humans entry, but keeps the horses and other livestock in the pasture.

The pasture was beautiful...
Some of the wildflowers we saw on our hiking throughout the day.

Our intention was to hike up to one of the major waterfalls... have lunch.....  then hike back to the ranger station.
At one point we took a side trail to see the river.  That's Steve, taking a picture of Ann.  I think this was my favorite photo of the day....

The trees were huge!  Many so large that if all four of us held hands and tried to encompass the tree, we couldn't have done it.  
This is a Strangler Fig......  it starts from the top... monkeys or birds deposit the seeds high up in a host tree...  then when it sprouts,  it sends long roots down to the ground...  criss-crossing and wrapping the host tree.  As the Strangler fig matures it becomes the dominant plant and the host tree dies.  Kind of like biting the hand that feeds you, huh?

We had our binoculars and field guide, but saw very few birds on our walk...
Pale-billed Woodpecker
One of the few birds we saw, and the only one we saw close enough to get a positive ID.

We did see this...
An Agouti.....  (somewhat like its cousin, the Paca)
Looked like a fat wood-rat to us....

Of course the highlight of the walk was seeing large troops of the White-face Capuchin monkeys...
After walking about 2.5 hour we came to a sign directing us on to the waterfall.  The walking had been fairly rugged...  lots of change in elevation...  lots of rocky terrain, but the hardest part for me was all the tree roots.  I don't have the best balance even on a totally flat sidewalk, and from all indications it was only going to get harder.  After a brief conference, we four decided to find a place for lunch, and then head back.  

While we were all sitting down on a huge fallen tree, we spotted our second troop of monkeys of the day.  This group were either already on their way across the tree tops or they spotted us and decided to check us out.
For a while we thought they were going to join us....  
We were ready to stand up and "look big"....  but after watching us a bit, they moved on.  I'm guessing there were somewhere between 12-20 in that group.

After lunch we started back to the Ranger Station....
Once again we crossed over the swinging bridge....
Probably about 40' in length...  held in place by steel cables.  
We saw that photographer several times on our hike...  he was carrying a huge tripod and camera.  I had trouble carrying my Leica...  don't know how he managed his load.

Here's Ann and Steve in front of one of a Strangler Fig...  and it's host tree.  

We saw lots of butterflies and dragonflies...  but most were too fast to capture in a photo..
I would love to taken a photo of the blue Morpho butterfly, but had to settle for this dragonfly.

We got back to the Ranger Station...  you must check out as well as check in.  They want to make sure everyone makes it back okay.  We decided to walk down the road to a restaurant we's seen on our way up...  maybe have a beer and call Jonathan to come pick us up.

The road was about as treacherous as the park trails....
And the restaurant was a LOT farther than we'd remembered.  After we'd been walking an hour or so, we got a phone call from Jonathan...  he was only about a half mile down the road.

He picked us up...  and we headed back to Coco.
We never did make it up to the waterfall, but we had a great day seeing the sights.  We walked over 10 miles in all....  WhoooHooooo!

That's All For Today!


  1. Can't imagine a hike full of monkeys! What a nice way to spend the day.

  2. Love the dragonfly and the monkeys... 10 miles.. holy wow ~ another beautiful hike and scenery ... fascinating about the Strangler Fig.

  3. Do they still charge foreigners more to enter National Parks in Costa Rica? I remember we would have to pay $5 to enter POAS or ESCAZU Volcano and locals went in for 25 cents more or less. I guess we took up more space or something.

  4. Love that turnstile. Man, you guys are ambitious!

  5. Always enjoy your adventures. Keep them coming.

  6. You walked 10 miles and still had the energy to blog?
    I always find it strange to see "our" stores in a foreign country. I think KFC is everywhere.
    I love seeing the monkeys. It can be kind of scary though. We got into a big gang, pod (what ever you call them) of spider monkeys. They started throwing sticks and trying to pee on us.

  7. It sounds like a great, casual time. That woodpecker looks almost like a toy.

  8. Wow - ten miles is a long ways! Don't know that I could have done it. You saw many wonderful things - LOVED the Woodpecker.

  9. You should buy yourself a good set of poles. They give you stability, more stamina and really help prevent knees for getting any worse. Next time I hope you get to the waterfall.

  10. Looks like a fun time. We had some monkey encounters in Honduras, but it was all good:)