Monday, June 15, 2009

Costa Rica 2009: Lost in Paradise

Apparently I am becoming increasingly forgetful. While this is not a news flash to anyone who knows me, I sincerely hope that this little quirk is a characteristic that endears me to my friends and family. Unfortunately, my forgetfulness is becoming a bit of a liability.

We finally arrived at the beach following a monkey encounter on a steamy rainforest trail. Invigorated by the good photographic moment, we decided to shoot a few landscapes and hike the beach to the Baru River. The hike from the trail end to the Baru River is only 2.5 km, so we figured we could get some exercise while pursuing some new images. 

The playa (beach) in this region Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is remarkable for its lack of development. The rainforest kisses the water for miles to the north and south, and it is easy to fall in love with the loneliness of the landscape. It is a rare thing to find a tropical beach that is not packed with tourist shops, hotels, and exclusive housing developments, so the beach at Baru is as close to perfect as it gets.

It was approaching midday as we traversed the beach sand, and the driftwood on the shore looked like a great place to rest for a while. My feet were tired and  Tamy looked like she wanted to take a beach nap. It took us about an hour to get to this cozy little spot, and I could see the mouth of the Baru River in the distance. It was a moment filled with cliches. A cowboy galloped by us on his white stallion, three locals were fishing in the distance, and we were living time on a desolate beach with the pacific to the west and unspoiled forests to the right,... paradise.

An hour later we decided to forgo our walk to the Baru River, as it was past noon and we were both getting hungry. So we began the return trip to the trail that would lead us back to the Hacienda Baru. It was so hot and humid that you couldn’t help feeling the clothes on your body. There is nothing like wearing clothes and thinking, “man these clothes... I can’t stop feeling them.” So in a futile attempt to ignore the climate, our hunger, and fatigue, Tamy and I became quite intrigued by the little red crabs that would scurry along the beach. These were magic crabs. Running on eight of their ten legs, these little crabbies would run about and then dive into holes that looked to be two sizes too small for their wide bodies. Time really flies when your watching red magic crabs.

I’m not sure where we were, but I forced a stop in our momentum to shoot the sky reflecting off the wet beach sand (see opening image). It was here that Tamy found a makeshift bench of driftwood and stones in the shade of an almandros tree. She read while I worked on my composition. When I finished, I packed up so we could move on... we had to be close to the trailhead by now. I was looking for a forked stick that was shoved in the sand; this was our landmark. Tamy indicated that there was a road and a sign where she had been reading, but I hadn’t seen the forked stick, so at the time, this bit of data seemed trivial.

When we passed the beached tractor tire and approached a mountain ridge that once appeared to be in the distance, I knew that we missed the trail head. It was an hour since I shot the landscape, the sun was intense, and I could see the strain of the heat on my wife’s face. Neither of us panicked, but we knew we were lost. Dehydration and sunstroke was not a part of our plan on this day. We broke open our last water bottle and sipped it slowly and carefully and reversed trek towards the river we left over two hours ago.

On occasion a dirt road would run parallel to the beach in the forest, this made the hiking easier and shaded us from the sun. Alternating between the beach, the road, and tall grasses we made it back to point where we stopped to make the photo at the top of the page. This is where I decided to read the sign: “HACIENDA BARU”

We weren’t really lost in paradise.

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