Together, we walked the long trail above the waters, at the base of an almost tunnel of verdant canopies, furrowed by countless roots that irrigate the trees.
Arriving at the pier, on board, Rosa Arguedas Sequeira, the guide and the woman at the helm, asks us: “Now, do you want to go left or right?”. As Rosi (that's how the other Cannonegres treat her) well knew, the question raised at least one additional one.
As soon as we finished retorting, she tried to enlighten us, with the smiling tranquility we still retain from her. “Well, to the right, the river enters more open land and, therefore, it is easier for us to see birds.
To the left, it is winding, narrow and flows through jungle. There, we find more mammals and reptiles, also some birds.
The river in question was the Cold. A few days later, we would move to the domain of the Tenório volcano where it was born.
For the time being, we were exploring the lower part of its basin, still halfway to the unusual mouth, where it flows into the San Juan River, at the exact point where it launches from the southwest of the Lake Cocibolga, already in Nicaraguan lands, as the lake is also called.
Before heading to the countless meanders of the Frio, we stop for a strategic climb to the Caño Negro observation tower, just a few hundred meters from the jetty. We went up the three.
The Panoramic Revelation of Caño Negro
From the top, we unveil the flooded vastness of the wetland that the river generates, a set of large earth-tone lakes with more than 8km2, which stood out from the green immensity of northern Costa Rica. Rosi takes advantage of the 360º panorama to clarify us better.
Not so much about the geography of the Cold, but about the magnetism that its sprawling waters exert on hundreds of migratory bird species coming mainly from the North, some of them in danger of extinction.
“See that during the rainy season, from June to November, all you see is a big sea of fresh water.
Neither the river nor the different lakes can be identified. Then, the rain gradually decreases and the dry season sun evaporates much of the water"
A Flooded Area with Prolific Wildlife
The consequence we had all around represented a point of stopover or providential stay for ibises, storks and herons, the intriguing Arapappas, plentiful ducks, cormorants and many others.
Roasted creatures aside, the Frio River has always been blessed with a rare profusion and diversity of fish.
Unsurprisingly, in the absence of modernity and sophisticated pastimes, unable to bathe in what is the habitat of bull sharks that climb the river from Lake Nicaragua, of caimans, crocodiles and their predators, jaguars and pumas, the region's inhabitants they worship fishing.
We return to the ground. We reboard. We proceeded downstream.
From the “straight line” that we had set sail for, the Frio soon undergoes a path of successive subsumed in the shadow of the tropical forest.
Whole Pueblo from Caño Negro to Fishing
From then on, we came across small boats with people on board, almost all of them with fishing rods in the air, silent, embedded in the surface of the water, by that time, dark but still translucent.
Some of the boats, the “King Plateado”, “El Gaspar”, we saw them as living works of art, as dazzling river statues, monuments to the family, friendship and solidarity of Caño Negro.
We recognized the occasional face of natives who had served us meals, or seen them savoring theirs.
Rosi knew them all. Some were your family members. Even taking into account that Rosi and her husband lived in a house and property located on an island in the Rio Frio, others were neighbors.
"So but doesn't it flood during the rainy season?" we questioned it, worried about the precariousness of the address. "May I help. The place was chosen for that too.
He is one of the few that has always been above the rising waters.”
Rosi continues to pilot the covered boat in which we followed among the fishing groups.
A Flood of Wild Animals
And, for our photographic delight, to reveal the animal species of Caño Negro, abundant aninga and herons, jabirus, crocodiles, basilisk lizards, a howling gang of howler monkeys, orange iguanas, kingfishers and even a colony of bats. sleeping clinging to a log over the river.
And fish, of course. The ones that from time to time jumped out of the water. The ones that the cormorants and anhingas devoured whole.
The sea bass, guapotes (wolf cichlids) and others that fishermen hooked.
The Prehistoric Attraction of the Gaspar Fish
When we come across again with the “El Gaspar”, Rosi's nephew had already done justice to the boat's name. On board, followed a freshly caught gaspar (Atractosteus tropicus), one of the truly emblematic fish of Mexico and Central America, Caño Negro and some other parts of Costa Rica.
Catching a gaspar is a task that requires either enormous knowledge and practice or gigantic luck. Gaspar is a powerful and cunning predator, so vigorous and lethal to other fish that it is also treated by lizard peje.
Which goes against its improbable profile as a living fossil fish, with a physiognomy that has changed little or nothing since more than 65 million years ago, since the age of the dinosaurs.
The skill of fishing them seems to run in Rosi's family. Joel Sandoval, her husband, a fishing guide, holds the record for the largest fish caught.
Two days later, we would find him on the same jetty where we disembarked in the meantime.
Intrigued by not seeing a single boat around, we asked him where the fishermen of Caño Negro were. We received an expert response: “When you saw them, the Rio Frio was perfect for fishing.
Only, however, everything changed.
Here it rained a little. But in the mountains, where the river is born (Volcanoes Tenório and Miravalles), there has been a deluge.
The river water has become muddy and opaque, and for a few days it won't be enough to fish.”
Joel clarifies us with enthusiasm, at times, something nostalgic for the Caño Negro from before. “Now it's a portion of what it once was. On windy days, the volume of water and the waves were such that we could not take the boats to the river or the lagoons. It was too dangerous.”
We say goodbye. Next, we conjectured whether, in addition to the infamous global warming, the exponential increase in agricultural and pasture plantations would not be true water sinks, co-responsible for how much the Caño Negro had dwindled.
Once the river tour is completed, Rosi dedicates herself to a group of typical visitors. We passed to Jimmy Gutierrez's boat.
The most recent host takes us to Rancho Pitin, a property and business owned by his family, located on a meander where the Frio spreads over a vast lagoon.
When we disembarked, Jimmy's family in weight were sailing on a single boat, chartered to join the community fishing.
Jimmy, his brother and his wife had sacrificed themselves out of duty.
They show us the main building of the ranch, at the same time, restaurant, bar and meeting place for visitors who flocked there for fishing trips, ecological tours, horseback riding and other programs.
The trio explains the genesis of the business to us.
It also draws our attention to the incredible work of the father Pedro Gutierrez, who had built the building almost entirely out of wood, much of it recovered from trunks, stumps and branches that Nature and the floods of Caño Negro, in particular, granted him.
In addition to the building's architecture, Pedro Gutierrez was also concerned with decoration. Some of the establishment's tabletops and seats had been enhanced with gaudy paintings of macaws, herons and other broiled creatures from the wetland.
As a way of adjusting to the name of the property, we left Rancho Pitin on horseback, along the muddy banks of the river, so soaked that, with each new step, the horses had to apply themselves so that their feet could be freed from the mud. .
Even so, in Pantanal mode, we arrived at the center of the village.
After the small local police station, we enter the restaurant “Luna Mágica” by Jorge Zelledon, one of the unavoidable gastronomic landings of Caño Negro, as is the “Black Cano Fire” which, on other occasions, restored our energy and delighted us with the best dishes from the north typical.
When we moved to the foot of the Tenório and Miravalles, we knew that we had just unveiled a precious Costa Rica.
Where to stay in Caño Negro:
Pousada Rural Oasis – PosadaOasis.com