On The Road: Driving through glorious mud in the Osa Peninsula
Saturday 10 October 2009
Rainforest. It's wet. Very wet. The clue's in the name. Deciding when to go is a tough choice. It's more comfortable in the so-called dry season, but personally, I love a bone-shaking thunderstorm. Given the choice, it's wet for me.
Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth – and the rainforest here does wet exceptionally well. Exploring its nooks and crannies is tough, with a somewhat erratic and limited bus service. So jumping in a rented 4X4 provides a rare opportunity for go-anywhere, wind-the-window-down-music-blaring independent travel.
Scouring the maps, I'm looking for the dotted brown lines that connect me and where I want to be. While the morning brings a rare break in the rain, it doesn't take long before I realise the churned-up, sodden dirt road descending steeply into the valley is beyond the ability of me and my vehicle. I've always wanted to learn how to use the hook and winch device on the front of my rental vehicle, but now is not the time to find out.
As I get myself back on to roads more travelled – which are at about the same level of navigability as farm tracks in the UK – the afternoon rain arrives: pond-sized puddles splatter, hiding their depth as I bounce and crash along the road.
As usual I get over excited by the rainforest and stop all the time for brief forays into the woods and any thrown-together community tourism project that I pass. It's mid-evening by the time I find myself heading towards a hotel – and the skies have once again opened. The 4x4's wipers are frantically clearing the windscreen, offering the briefest glimpse of clarity until rain blur returns.
The lightning storm and thunder continue to build. And then I experience what I can only describe as a massive atmospheric hug. Time slows. I recall a telegraph pole, a cleared field and an eye-popping flash of light. Either I've been hit by lightning, or there was a ground strike very nearby. I'm drenched through, drowning in my own intensely personal and until now reasonably private experience of nature. And I'm remembering why I love the rainforest in the wet season.
Footprint's 'Central America & Mexico' guide is available now (£16.99).
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