Montezuma Waterfalls

After a few fun days in Tamarindo, we decided to head south to Bahia Ballena in the Gulf of Nicoya.  Bahia Ballena was about 90 miles south, so we left in the afternoon on an overnight passage.  The wind did not really cooperate with us, so unfortunately we motor-sailed most of the night.  We had to dodge a squall and a fleet of fishing boats, but otherwise the passage was uneventful.

We still hadn’t had much luck fishing in Costa Rica, so we were pleasantly surprised to catch a Sierra as we were coming into the anchorage at Bahia Ballena.  It was definitely the largest Sierra we have caught.  I would have snapped a picture, but between Mike trying to get the fish on the boat and clean it and me steering us into the anchorage, we had our hands full.  But, that fish made some great ceviche and fish tacos that we shared with our friends on Kini Popo who joined us on the trip.

Our first night in Bahia Ballena brought some pretty good rain overnight.  We didn’t think the storm was all that intense, but it must have really come down over the land.  When we woke up the next morning, the entire bay was brown and full of debris.  In fact, we woke up to a clunking sound on our hull and realized large logs floating in the bay were hitting up against the hull.  The rivers on land of course wash out into the ocean, and this storm dumped a ton of silt and plant debris into the water.

Mike and I had read about a small town called Montezuma not far from where we were that had a cool waterfall hike, so we set off to try and find it.  We pulled the dinghy on shore and walked into the little town of Tambor to try and catch the bus to Montezuma.  Apparently the storm had knocked out the electricity in the entire area, so no stores or restaurants were open.  But, we found some nice people around town to give us information on the buses and give us some change, because all we had were large bills.  The information we got from the locals was that the bus didn’t necessarily arrive at a particular time.  It all depended on when the ferry arrived in Paquera from Puntarenas.  The bus waits for the ferry passengers and then begins its route around the peninsula.  So, it was possible that we could have to wait a couple of hours for the bus.

After about an hour with no bus, we spoke with young woman who got dropped off at the bus stop.  I think she was German, but she lived in Montezuma.  She said that she hitch hikes to  get around and that we’d probably have better luck getting there by trying to hitch a ride with someone.  I certainly would never think to hitch hike in the States, as we’ve all been told since we were kids how dangerous that is, nor would I pick up a hitch hiker.  But, attitudes are definitely different here as we soon found out.  We got three separate rides, pretty quickly, that got us to our destination.  People were so friendly and just wanted to talk to us and perhaps practice their English, curious about where we were from and where we were going.  One gentleman was an exporter of pineapples and one woman owned a hotel.  Super friendly and wanted absolutely nothing in return.

The hotel owner told us how to find the entrance to the trail to the waterfalls once we reached Montezuma, and so we were off.  It was clear immediately the storm was going to have an impact on our waterfall hike.  Not too far into the hike we came upon others doing the same thing.  That’s when we discovered that the part of the trail that is likely a walk over a small creek would instead be crossing a raging river!  There was a guide there who was helping direct people across.  The difficult part was really not the strength of the flow of the water, which was manageable, but the fact that the river was so brown that you couldn’t see where you were stepping.  You had to feel around for a substantial rock to step on and get good footing.  Most of the crossing was not deeper than knee depth, but at one point I was in the water up to my waist.

After crossing the water, there was a muddy trail to follow around to the large waterfall. The amount of water coming over the falls was impressive.  We definitely got the impression that this was an unusual amount of water flowing due to the rainstorm.  Mike hiked up a steep trail to see if there was another part of the falls to reach.  There were falls farther up, but they were impossible to reach given the current depths of the water and the strength of the flow of water.  It definitely was too dangerous to go further, but I’m sure in the dry season there is an even longer hike.

We enjoyed the hike and the falls and eventually made our way back into Montezuma for some lunch. Montezuma is a really cute, small town which looks like it caters to the hippie, backpacker crowd with various hostels, bungalows and surf tour operators.  It looks like it would be a fun place to stay if you are looking for a really laid back town surrounded by jungle and trails to hike.

After heading back to Bahia Ballena, we made a plan with Kini Popo to depart the next morning for Isla Tortugas.  But, more on that next time…

~katie

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