El Dorado Trail expedition is an experience that rivals a hike through
Corcovado and in many way exceeds the classic Corcovado experience owing to the
wider range of natural and cultural environments highlighted on expedition
options that Osa Corcovado Tour and Travel alone provide visiting travelers.
The trailhead is a twenty minute drive by private ground transfer from Puerto
Jimenez outside the former mining hamlet of Dos Brazos, now one of the
ecotourism epicenters of the peninsula. On Day One of the expedition, parties
have the option of either hiking up the Piedras Blancas River or by taking the
ridge road by horseback, with a full casado pack lunch along the way. In either
case, our first night is spent at a rustic household high in the Piedras Blancas
watershed, where our guides prepare the first night’s meal over a wood-fed
hearth and rustic lodging ensures bedding and basic amenities.
The second day is the most rigorous. After the alarm clock of howler monkeys in
nearby trees and a hearty breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs, and fruit, trekkers
top off water bottles from the spring water onsite and hike up the headwaters of
the Piedras Blancas right along the Corcovado National Park boundary. This
watershed is forested in old-growth primary forest and is contiguous. Unlike
the Los Patos park trail which is almost entirely through secondary forest
without extensive wildlife until descending into the Corcovado Lagoon, the El
Dorado Trail passes through a rich and diverse ecosystem that was never logged.
Here, hardened hand miners eke out their livings using traditional gold panning
and sluice box methods, encamped in black plastic tents. As the mighty Piedras
Blancas flow grows slight moving upward toward the headwater spring feed zone of
the river, we reach the Carate trailhead mid-morning and leave the stream to
hike up the shallow remaining incline to the pass across the ridgeline
peninsular spine, to admire the vast Pacific from the top, a seeming stone’s
throw away. The descent down the Carate River ridgelines and tributaries is
rugged and very steep, and we move slowly down through the jungle to reach the
roaring Carate River. From there the going is easy along the Luna Lodge access
road. At Carate, mid-afternoon, it’s time to cool your heals at the notorious
Carate Pulperia. You can buy soft drinks and candy, beer even, if you want as
the final stretch is three kilometers of beach hike to reach La Leona Lodge.
The second night is spent in the lap of luxury with gourmet cuisine and the
tickling offshore winds that buffet the spectacular Pacific coast enclave of La
Leona Lodge, located just a few hundred meters from the La Leona gateway to
Corcovado National Park. Lodging is in luxurious tent camps on the beach plain.
This is the perfect opportunity for advanced hammock training beneath the shade
of coconut palms and umbrella drink samplers, sore dogs soothed by the
invigorating breeze. For those not ready to relax, there are plenty of self-guiding
trails inside the La Leona private reserve trail network, plus the option of
beach time. The surf here tends to be rough and currents make this a dangerous
place to swim, even for strong swimmers, so be sure to pay attention to your
guide, who will know if it is too dangerous to get in the water or not.
After a full hot breakfast buffet, we spend the third day with an extensive day
hike exploring the La Leona sector of Corcovado National Park. Our ambition for
this final day’s hiking excursion depends on you. We can hike in toward Sirena
as far as Salsipuedes Point, though often the wildlife viewing is so good that
our groups often make it only as far as the Madrigal River before doubling
back. A pack lunch from the lodge is included, plus the opportunity to leave
the packs behind, or lighten them for the Corcovado hike to collect our things
on our passage back through for the three km hike back to Carate, where private
conveyance is waiting to shuttle your party back in the late afternoon to Puerto
The tour features an extraordinary range of experiences that are unique to this
particular expedition. Firstly, the environs of Dos Brazos remain among the
most diverse birding lands of any part of the forest, and you can expect to see
songbirds, raptors, wading birds, and likely such local icons as toucans, macaws,
trogons, and others. Day two offers a passage through stunning mountain
highland ecosystem and the unique experience of learning hand mining techniques
from the gold miners, a chance to try your hand at the famously unique Osa gold
pan, and depending on local inventory the opportunity to buy small nuggets.
You wouldn’t know it looking out from the pass around noon, but the
near offshore was the site of one of only two marine gold-dredging
operations ongoing at the outbreak of World War II, the other in
Sierra Leone. And the Carate River itself was one of the
peninsula’s richest, commercially mined during the seventies and early eighties
by a Canadian gold operation.