March 2002 - big trip - diary - costa rica - march 2002


Potholes don't come much bigger than this

No road, no problem

Thursday 28 February - Monday 4 March

Once on the Peninsula, we turned inland to Los Patos to follow the road marked on the map which went across to the other southern coastline. The road soon got interesting as it followed a stony river bed and we drove half of the time actually in the river. Talking to the few locals we saw soon revealed the road didn't extend much further and the trip to the coast had to be made either via the larger road, which skirts the coastline beaches, or on foot through the jungle. In true tradition we ignored the advice and pressed on beyond any semblance of roads and found ourselves picking through big rocks along the river bed. We made camp when it was clear we could go no further.

Can't go further so we camp here...

...with the jungle wildlife

After a peaceful night disturbed only by the prescence of a poisonous snake lying beside Alisons (of TWR) washing up bowl, we woke to find a few men walking past with shovels. These guys are gold panners and were pretty friendly, they invited us to join them a short distance upstream and have a go at some gold prospecting.

Carlos the gold panner


B tries his luck

T goes for gold

Carlos has been panning for gold for 33 years. The fact that hes still at it hints at the lack of success. He told us that 20 years ago he often found big nuggets lying in the bottom of the river, his largest being around 600g. Now, he and his friend, Orwell, dig up a section of the river bed to get to the lower sandy base and pan for tiny grains of gold. The average daily yield is around a gram which nets them $7. Some days they get nothing, some days more. They told us a story of a mechanised operation nearby which, before the creation of the national park outlawed it, netted 20kgs a day. One of their tractor drivers had allegedly stolen a huge nugget of 17lbs and was now living a comfortable life, presumably in hiding. All of us had a go and managed to pan a few grains of gold, not enough to retire on though! Gold panning in this area of the national park is illegal, but so is driving landies so we agreed not to mention what each of us saw.

Creeping over the river bed

Landy gets washed

Stuck again

After a wet mornings gold panning we drove out of the river and managed to get stuck in a mud hole. Fortunately TWR winched us out and we drove round the peninsular on the dirt road to Carate. Here we stopped by a small shop where there were a couple of police trucks and an irate fat old american who owned all of the surrounding land and was pissed off because a dirt road had appeared, scything through his land to somebodies house, since last time he was there. He told us that other people had driven along the beach and now the police were cracking down. This rather scuppered our plans to drive around the whole peninsular so we declined his surprisingly kind offer to camp on his land and left to find a more wicked beachside camp spot. On the way, B lost concentration and let the landy slide into the ditch on the side of the track. We bounced along, the side of the car scraping on the bank until we came to a dusty halt, the front of the landy bashed in for the second time. We found a camp site (full of purple and orange tree crabs) and relaxed beside a roaring fire.

Mechanic falls asleep on the job

T gets the runaround

Panama border

The other side of Golfo Dulce is supposed to be home to one of the longest surf breaks in the world, Pavones and we headed off there as it also was as close to Panama as we could get. Its a relaxed village and, for the moment, free from much tourist development. Unfortunately, it was also free of waves so we had to console ourselves with some swimming and a game of football with the locals. Monday morning had us heading for the border which was smooth and easy, the customs official not wanting to search the landy due to the amount of dust covered crap in the back.


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