Osa Peninsula Costa Rica – Two – Dos Brazos to Quebrada Piedras Blancas

Sendero de Oro – Route Map

The Sendero de Oro (Gold Trail) is a conglomeration of a few kilometers of abandoned 4WD road, many following the riverbeds of the Rios Tigre, Piedras Blancas and Carate, a couple of long steep climbs up and down between drainages on indigenous footpaths, and a few kilometers along the beach.  It winds generally northeast to southwest across the southern Osa Peninsula starting from Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre outside Puerto Jimenez on the Golfo Dulce climbs to nearly 1,600 feet (500 meters) twice before dropping down to the Pacific at Carate Beach where you turn west to La Leona.

Trekking route across the Osa Peninsula
Trekking route across the Osa Peninsula

The first afternoon we did a warm-up hike on the north fork of the Rio Tigre exploring the arm that we would not follow with our packs the next day.   We found a rope swing vine and a nice swimming hole and everyone had their eyes peeled for shining nuggets in the stream.

Swinging on a jungle vine into a pool in the Rio Tigre
Swinging on a jungle vine into a pool in the Rio Tigre

Walking upstream was a good test for our gear and helped with footwear choices for the trek.  Sue and I were in Solomon water shoes, Edwin was testing his new hightop rubber boots and dual sock combo and Meg and Ryan both decided on Keens for the water walking and switching to light weight gortex hikers for the climbs.

Osa Peninsula Costa Rica – One – Puerto Jiménez

Revisiting Puerto Jiménez, Trekking the Sendero de Oro, Tent Camping at Drake Bay, Across Corcovado National Park & Underwater at Caño Island Biological Reserve

We first visited the Osa over eighteen years ago when we spent a few nights in Jiménez then trekked from La Palma on the Golfo Dulce, up the Río Rincon to Los Patos, down to the Pacific at Sirena and then along the beach to La Leona and Carate.

When we were offered the opportunity to explore a new trans-peninsular hike with our friend Edwin we jumped at the chance.  We flew Nature Air from Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas (San José) to Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula.

Favor Espere por el Piloto - Please Wait for the Pilot
Favor Espere por el Piloto - Please Wait for the Pilot. Always good advice for frequent fliers!
Welcome to Puerto Jimenez
Welcome to Puerto Jimenez

Jiménez has undergone some major changes in the past couple of years, most notably the road from Chacharita on the Pan American highway is paved.  The last new bridge was opened while we were there last week and the drive time has been cut in half.

The new modern BM supermarket includes a small soda that supplements Carolina’s as the main meeting place in town and of course a number of restaurants, hotels and lodges have come and gone.

Fruit stand Puerto Jimenez
Fruit stand Puerto Jimenez

25 lb Weight Limit

Packing List for Travel to Costa Rica – Trek Version

If you plan to travel off the beaten path in Costa Rica you’ll need to plan a packing list for a 25 lb version of your stuff in a single rugged waterproof bag.

25 lb packing list for Costa Rica
The basic 25 lb pack for heading into the remoter areas of Costa Rica. The essentials shown here only add up to about 12-15 lbs so there's plenty of room for optional items or for a bivy and food if you're going really extreme.

We’ve got at least two twenty five pound segments on this trip.  First we’ll be flying to the Osa peninsula for eight days and even if we were willing to carry more on our backs while trekking Corocovado and the Golfo Dulce reserve the domestic airlines impose a baggage restriction of 25 – 35 lbs depending on your fare.  When we head out on the Pacuare with Green Frog we’ll whitewater raft in to their camp, do some hiking and then out to Siquirres the next day.

The Twenty Five Pound Packing List – 15 lbs of essentials

The essentials for adventure travel in the tropics can be amazingly compact and lightweight especially if you’re trekking from shelter to shelter or rafting from camp to camp rather than tenting it.  Our lightweight packing list for Costa Rica includes

  • The Bag – These are without a doubt the best bags ever made.  Surprisingly the label isn’t Arcteryx, North Face, Moutainsmith or Black Diamond – they are made by Bike Nashbar.
    It consists of two parts.  A rugged 36 liter dry bag (black) fits into a cordura compression and shoulder strap and waist belt “skeleton” with front, two side holster and a top flap pocket for quick access snacks, waterproof camera etc.  The whole thing is lighter weight than most mid-sized packs, the dry bag is completely waterproof and there is a detachable rigid panel that converts the bag into a pannier if you decide you’d rather mountain bike than trek.
  • The First Aid Kit – Our first aid kit has developed and evolved over forty years of back-country and international travel and goes everywhere with us.  It’s a diminutive 4 x 8 x 2.5 inches (10 x 20 x 7 cm) but contains a whole page worth of critical items.
  • Clothes – We prefer plastic (recycled for the most part) or silk for light weight, durability and quick drying.  One pair of convertible pants (zip-leg), one pair long pants, swim shorts, hat (nylon wide brim with stow-able neck shade flap), two short sleeve shirts, a long sleeve lightweight breathable poly shirt, a light pile (polar fleece) jacket and an ultralight Gortex rain/wind jacket with hood and pit zips, socks and underwear.
  • Hydration – We like the Platypus water bags which are about a quarter of the weight of most in pack water tube to your mouth hydration systems, have no valves to fail and force you to stop once in a while to take a drink and enjoy your surroundings.  Our new hollow fiber MSR Hyperflow Microfilter is the smallest and lightest on the market and delvers an incredible 3 liters per minute (half the size and ten times the capacity of the Sweetwater).
    We also carry a dozen packets of Gatorade G2 dry mix to replace electrolytes along the trail and a few pharma rehydrant packets in the first aid kit for emergencies.
  • Snacks – Bear Valley Meal Packs (best bars in the world), Power Bars, Fire Jolly Ranchers, Diamond Wasabi Almonds and orange Tic-Tacs come with us from the states and we pick up fruit and other snacks along the way.
  • Cameras – Between two of us we carry three cameras. A Canon SX30IS 28-880mm equiv. optical zoom for wildlife and HD video and two waterproof shockproof workhorses – the indestructible Olympus SW1030 (not shown – using it to take the photo ;-) and the Panasonic TS2 for underwater HD video.  Each has spare batteries, charger and extra memory.
    Our monopod trekking pole stabilization system is custom made from a Leki telemark backcountry adjustable ski pole with the head assembly from a Manfrotto 785B attached over the grip with a nylon compression ferrule.  A spare quick relase mount plate means we can switch cameras in about five seconds and this system allows us to carry a single head that we thread back onto the tripod legs when we’re traveling heavy in an SUV.
  • Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, biodegradable soap, contacts & contact solution, q-tips, kleenex, tampons, and an ultralight recycled plastic pack towel.
  • GPS – the Garmin 60csx is water and shock proof. We have it loaded with the best base maps available for Costa Rica but frankly they stink and we carry it mainly because it is essential for geocoding our routes so we can provide them to you!  The yellow waterproof journal and pencil are for taking geolocation notes when we’re not carrying a notebook computer to sync with the gps.  We also carry topo maps and an old fashioned svea magnetic compass.
  • Docs – Passport, WHO immunization card, U.S. cash, traveler’s checks (AmEx), credit card, debit card and driver’s license.
  • Sunscreen – Waterproof, sweatproof SPF 30 or higher
  • DEET
  • Swiss Army Knife – scissors, magnifying glass, awl, tweezers with sewing needle added, corkscrew with mini glasses screwdriver added, philips and flathead screwdrivers, can opener, bottle opener and flashlight.  The yo-yo is a Tom Kuhn aluminum pocket rocket.

Wear Your Heavy Stuff to Get More on the Plane

Especially if you’re taking a very restrictive domestic flight it’s worth wearing at least your boots to help sneak under the baggage weight restrictions.

  • Hiking shoes – These are either light boots or water shoes with good support and tread depending on the trip.  White water rafting, kayaking and canyoneering are best in water shoes while hiking, trekking and climbing are boot trips.
  • Binoculars – It’s fun to look out the window and a pair of binocs weighs as much a couple pair of pants.

We’ve never resorted to wearing three shirts and our jackets but we’ve heard of people who have.

Not Shown or On Other People’s Lists

  • Binoculars/Spotting Scope – We no longer carry ours when we’re going light because the Canon SX30IS has such an amazing lens that it’s actually better than a Nikon Monarch
  • Sports sandals – If we’re wearing hiking boots then we also carry sports sandals.  If we’re wearing water shoes we might skip the sandals.
  • Sunglasses – I’m usually wearing them

Carry On Versus Checked Bags

We always check bags.  There’s no chance we can ever travel with just a carry-on for a number of reasons.  I’m not leaving my Swiss army knife behind.  Our sample maps, camera and computer gear weigh a lot, and we’ve always got a couple of extra 50 lb duffel bags filled with climbing harnesses, nursing pillows, baby backpacks, camera lenses, brown sugar, prosciutto – whatever our friends need and can’t get their hands on in Costa Rica.

Since we have to check a couple of bags we usually have the limit and you’ll see us dragging four 49.5 lb bags off the carousel, but if you can get away with just traveling with a carry on you’ll fly right through the airport and don’t have to worry about the airline losing your bag.

Costa Rica Guide and Waterproof Travel Map Update – WEEK ONE

We’ve got about six weeks to update 2/3 of the Costa Rica Guide (the NW was covered on our November trip) and we’re excited to start with a 3 day hiking trek across Corcovado on a route we haven’t taken before.



View WEEK ONE Costa Rica Map Research in a larger map
For convenience we are showing our routes using the road alignments provided by google maps. These are not always accurate and of course we are recording the actual gps routing for use on the Toucan Map publications.

We’re more than a little excited about the first week. Our good friends and colleagues from Our Costa Rica Wedding and Costa Rica Vacation 4Me Meg and Ryan are joining us so another old friend Ed from Mambo Reizen can show us around his adopted home – the Osa Peninsula.

The first couple of days we’ll base out of Puerto Jiménez to explore to the south and Cabo Matapalo, home to some of the best ecolodges in Costa Rica then west to Dos Brazos del Río Tigre and the Sendero de Oro (the gold trail) southwest across the tip of the peninsula through the Golfo Dulce reserve and Corcovado National Park to Playa Madrigal.

Muelle at Puerto Jimenez
Muelle at Puerto Jimenez

After the trek we’re going to make our way to the north where we’ll spend a couple of nights in the Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp on Playa Caletas an eleven kilometer walk south & west of Bahía Drake.  We’ll use this as a base to hike or boat down to San Pedrillo and check out the northern extent of the National Park and all of the exceptional ecolodges in the Drake/Agujitas/Caletas region.

Nature air is flying all of us half-price which gives us two extra days (the drive/bus from San José takes a full day on the road each way) to enjoy the Osa before we fly out of Drake to pick up our SUV rental in San José and get started on WEEK TWO.

We know we’ll be trekking, doing some four wheeling and some exploring by boat, but we’re going a little by the seat of our pants so we’ll be posting updates here as we figure out exactly where we’re going when.  The back country of Corcovado and the Osa is one of the last places in the world where there’s no wi-fi, 4G (or any G for that matter) data service or any internet of any kind so be patient; we’ll get the updates and photos out when we get connectivity.

Costa Rica Road Map Research

It’s not all fun and games

We’re just days away from our next research trip to update the Waterproof Travel Map to its Fourth edition (ISBN 097637334-3) and Costa Rica Guide into its eighteenth year of dispensing advice.  All of our friends have begun the requisite teasing about how we’re “packing to spend another month and a half on the beach in paradise” while claiming to “work.”

Sunset on Playa Cuajiniquil from our last round of updates a couple of months ago
Sunset on Playa Cuajiniquil from our last round of updates a couple of months ago

While there are some serious fringe benefits (Osa/Corcovado) associated with traveling around Costa Rica for work we want to dispel the myth that it’s all an extended vacation with adventure tours, luxury resorts, and relaxing on the beach with cool drinks.

We work hard when we’re traveling.  Sure, we accept the occasional complimentary suite at a luxury resort but believe us when we tell you that’s not how we roll; we’d rather be out climbing volcanoes and sleeping in huts.  It’s also a lot of work checking out every room type and all the amenities, meeting with management to hear why their property is the best, and striking up casual conversations with guests to fish for candid opinions.

If you’ve ever driven a couple hundred kilometers across Costa Rica you know it’s not always fun.  A typical day for us may include ten hours in the car with the gps enabled notebook computer stopping at every hotel, lodge, resort, restaurant, tour and  roadside attraction to chat, renew our acquaintance or make our introductions and take a look around.  The whole time we’re lugging fifteen kilo gear bags because we follow our own advice to “never leave anything in a parked car.”

At the end of the day a Luxury Resort is the exception rather than the rule and we typically stay in modest cabinas or nondescript in-town hotels and grab a quick bite at the closest soda before falling into bed.

But, you might think, “what about the activities, those have to be fun right?” A lot of the time they are, but think for a minute about multiplying that once in a lifetime zipline through the cloud forest canopy by the 121 zipline locations in Costa Rica – can you say “too much of a good thing.”

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not complaining – we love our job, this is just a minor reality check for our friends.

Thank YOU!

In the past year we’ve spent approximately as much time on the road actually traveling in Costa Rica as we have at home and we’re about to set out again.

Golfo Dulce out from Puerto Jiménez

We aren’t a big multinational conglomerate like Fodor’s or Lonely Planet and we could never visit the number of place we do with the frequency we like if we didn’t get a lot of help from dozens of amazing companies around Costa Rica and the World.

Week One Thanks To:

Our Costa Rica Wedding – Lending us Meg and Ryan so they can increase their knowledge while enjoying an adventure with friends.
Costa Rica Vacation 4Me – Covering our butts giving our clients the most amazing customer service and personalized care available while we’re incommunicado.
Mambo Reizen – Ed is taking a week off from managing and leading extreme adventure groups to guide us and hopefully keep us alive!
Nature air Flying all of us half-price which gives us almost two whole extra days to explore Corcovado and the Osa!
Corcovao Tent Camp – Luxury rustic accommodations on the doorstep of Corcovado National Park.

We’ve spent almost two decades seeking out the absolute best companies to work with so I can personally assure you that if you click any of the links above you’ll be in very good hands indeed.

Environmental Cost of Transportation in Costa Rica

It will probably surprise you to know that environmentally it’s about the same or maybe better to fly than take a bus in Costa Rica.  Amazingly flying burns less fuel per person transported, creates less pollutants and carbon dioxide (see calculations*), and has lower impacts in many other ways as well.

A typical airport in Costa Rica
A typical airport in Costa Rica

For example, you have to count the environmental impact of the road itself against traveling by road. Bulldozing the trees, eroding the hillsides and laying down all that petroleum based asphalt aren’t necessary if you fly.

Another factor that is frequently ignored in environmental “friendliness” estimates is the manufacturing impact.  There’s very roughly the same amount of raw materials and energy used to make a small plane and a bus but planes typically last four times as long.  This is because planes get to their destination 5-10 times faster so they aren’t running as much and wearing out parts and they also have significantly better maintenance programs.

A rarely considered cost of road travel – when tires wear out, where is out?  Mostly it’s into the atmosphere as micro-fine, carcinogenic, toxic dust released as the tires rub against the road.  Another strike against the bus.

Noise pollution is probably about a toss up.  Turboprops aren’t nearly as loud as jets, but still, a bus is much quieter.  However, the bus trip takes more than eight times longer and the noise is much closer to both the human and rainforest residents along the way.

*The Calculations

Comparison of flying, taking the bus or driving between San José and Puerto Jiménez on the Osa peninsula of Costa Rica.

The twin engine de Havilland Otter turboprop airplane carries 20 passengers and burns 64 gallons of fuel per hour.  It takes 50 minutes to cover the 113 air miles so that’s 2.66 gallons per person.

A 38 passenger Volvo 9500 diesel coach gets 2.4 miles to the gallon takes eight hours to cover the 249 miles (via the Caldera and Costanera Sur) burning 2.73 gallons per person.

A 6 passenger Toyota Prado gets 10 miles to the gallon takes seven hours to drive the 249 miles burning 4.15 gallons per person.

The Explanation

You’ve probably heard how horribly inefficient air travel is from an environmental perspective and are wondering who’s right, CNN or this crackpot claiming flying is better.

The answer is both and there’s a simple explanation.  In general air travel is less efficient but in Costa Rica the roads are so inefficient they more than make up the difference.  You have to travel more than twice as far by road than by air to get most places in Costa Rica.

In the example calculation it’s 113 miles between San José and Puerto Jiménez on the Osa peninsula by air but 249 miles on the road.

The Disclaimer

I don’t work for any airline and don’t have any hidden motivation to try to make air travel sound “better”.  In fact I co-own a small company that produces roadmaps of Costa Rica and would, if anything, have a bias towards promoting ground transportation.  Mostly I’m just interested in people taking a more realistic view of the world around them – don’t even get me started on the evils of electric cars (did you know that the majority of them secretly burn coal and they pollute up to twice as much as a regular gasoline engine).

Creepy Crawlies and Airborne Annoyances

Most of the insects you’ll encounter in Costa Rica are more of an annoyance than a safety concern, but some can carry diseases.

Mosquitoes are the most significant threat, but not because of malaria which pops to mind when people think of the tropics but is uncommon in Costa Rica. Instead, mosquito borne dengue fever (bone break fever) is on the rise throughout the world and is becoming more common in the Guanacaste and Caribbean regions of Costa Rica.

The dengue virus is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which hunt most actively at dawn and dusk, in shady areas, or when the weather is cool and cloudy.

Aedes aegypti
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transmit the dengue fever virus

There is no treatment for dengue fever. Fluid replacement is important to prevent dehydration and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps control the fever (Do Not take aspirin).

Purrujas (no-see-ums) are mosquito’s super evil microscopic twins that can transmit encephalitis – very rarely transmitted to humans in Costa Rica.

Africanized bees are present. We saw a miniature stampede down the main street of Puerto Jiménez when a group of horses being prepared for a tour group disturbed a hive. Dodging back and forth while running is better than running in a straight line (but don’t trip), get inside a building car or tent as quickly as possible. The Warner Brothers® standby of diving in the pond and breathing through a reed until the bees move on is not recommended since the bees can be very patient.

Scorpions like to snuggle into your shoes or crumpled up clothing while you sleep, so shake them out before you put them on.

What is Social Media for Business?

What is Social Media for Business?

I’ve spent a few evenings and Saturday mornings at MeetUps and other seminars trying to figure out what Social media is and how to apply it to business. As with all things seemingly infinitely complex once you get it you wonder why it was so baffling before.

Digg Facebook and Twitter

Facebook (or social media in general) is like sitting in a stadium watching television on fifteen giant screens at once along with ten thousand other people with interests somehow vaguely related to your interests.  Each person (including you) has a remote that controls the channel on one of the big screens, the sound is off but all the screens are subtitled – not with the subtitle of the video feed – it’s the text of the conversations going on at the snack bar and in the restrooms.

Combine it all into a single computer or smart phone screen, spread the spectators and remotes out across the world and connect them using the internet and you’ve got a chaotic avalanche of bits and blurbs called social media that now engages the average citizen for one to five hours out of every day.

Savvy businesses are promoting to this audience with a combination of free content, product placements, and paid advertising bits and blurbs that pop up sometimes no matter what button anyone in the audience chooses.

Another Analogy

Facebook (or social media in general) is the direct marketing arena of the mobile generation. U.S. Postal advertising mail volumes plummeted as advertisers shifted from physical mailings to e-mail campaigns and robocalling phone marketing plummeted with the advent of do-not-call lists.

Facebook and Skype (the leader in computer to computer, device or phone conversation technology for consumers) recently joined forces and facebook has their own mobile phone system in the works. The text, status update and tweet are all beginning to blur into a single entity as users automatically feed each into the others. Transcribers and readers are popping up to convert your voice mail into text or vice-versa.

It’s not clear how the blurring and melding of communication will play out, but it is clear that having a big list of followers will provide advertisers with more diverse targets as it does.

This analogy also points out an important consideration for any marketing efforts you attempt using social media – think for a moment about the public’s opinion of junk mail and telemarketers – then design your efforts accordingly.

How To Create a Facebook Business Presence

Customize a Facebook Business Page

Step-by-step suggestions for customizing your facebook business page for a good first impression, encouraging interaction and easy low maintenance.

One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to build your facebook business page is that facebook is not intended to support business use and the editing interface is very confusing.

The steps listed below are what we used to create our page and should take about an hour to complete if you have a logo and some promotional text available from a brochure or website.

ON THE MAIN PAGE

Before you can edit the page you need to be able to find it.  It’s a good idea to bookmark the page when you create it.  The address to your page before you get a vanity name will look like http://facebook.com/pages/any-random-text/126758874648, where 126758874648 is replaced with the 12 digit code for your page.

If you don’t know the address look on the personal profile used to create the page and click the “Ads and Pages” link on the left hand side or search for the name assigned to the page.

Facebook - upload picture and modify thumbnail
Facebook - upload picture and modify thumbnail

Change Logo (page picture) – the logo should be 180 px by 540 px. Mouse over logo and click the pencil, choose upload photo then browse to the image on your computer and upload

Change Thumbnail – Mouse over logo and click the pencil, choose edit thumbnail then move the box around until the segment of your picture you want to display is outlined.

Facebook - Modify Tabs, Add an Update, Set Display
Facebook - Modify Tabs, Add an Update, Set Display

Delete a tab – click tab, click pencil, click “delete tab”. Delete any pages you don’t use, but Wall and Info cannot be deleted.

Move a tab – click, hold and drag. You cannot move wall or info but the others can be rearranged

Add a tab – the plus sign can add some tabs (like Notes), but others (like FBML) you have to “edit page,” add an application then the tab becomes available

Edit Info Tab – When someone likes your page it’s the first bit of the “Company Overview” from the “Info” tab that gets displayed on their feed so include promotional language there.

The Empty Box Under the Page Picture (logo) – This little box is for whatever you want up to 250 characters. It is indexed by Google near the top of your page and a good place for keywords. Click the pencil and type. If you put in a full URL (http://mapcr.com…)

30 Minutes
One final tip: In status updates use the @ sign as in “@costaricaguides” to give exposure to your site and theirs.

There is a word doc on the desktop computer that has an edited version that should be used in place of the above.  Need to make a few changes to it –

-make sure “Notes” is under the page edit section and mention the need for persistence to get the feed started

-mention how to add an additional FBML page

At the bottom of the FBML Edit page there is a link on the left hand side to “Add another FBML box”