Puerto Jimenez is an interesting little place. We arrived around 4pm and were immediately pounced upon by locals trying to lure us to their accommodation, treks, tours, lodges. We managed to send one packing when we realised that his accommodation was way out of town but took up the offer of another who had hung back initially. If we hadn’t been so travel weary we might have had greater presence of mind to ignore his offers too and head into town to explore further. However, there were thirteen of us with large packs and we were hot and tired and the only place to sit and wait while a team went off to scope the place out was the side of the road. Javier, the in-country agent had suggested that there were some hostels just round the corner from the bus station and that seemed to be where the old guy was taking us so we succumbed. A hostel was found that would accommodate all 13 of us together for a price that fitted our budget. The Hospedaje Fanny Lu was basic. That’s it. Basic but clean. And there was wifi.
Our very first impressions were that PJ is a launching pad for adventurers in search of wildlife and a taste of the jungle; there seemed to be little there but guest houses and Jungle tour offices. But as we walked out to eat we saw that there was more and as we explored this morning the bustling little town grew on me. It reminds me a bit of small settlements along Golden Bay or up in the Coromandel where the young and hip made their home 30 years ago looking for an escape from city living and never left. Squeezed in amongst the everyday shops that provide the necessities for living and the offices advertising the best, the most adventurous, the chance to see the most wildlife jungle tours are shops selling arts and crafts, jewellery and hair braiding, all locally made and run by aforesaid ageing hippies.
There are also heaps of places to eat all sorts of food. Of course, the staple is Gallo Pinto and always the cheapest and most filling option. But the restaurants that line the waterfront offer fresh fish which I for one could not resist, as well as nachos, quesadillas, spaghetti and real Italian pizzas. The port of Puerto Jimenez used to be a busy one before the road took the place of the ship as a means of getting produce across the gulf. Boats still head over to Golfito where the nearest hospital is but it is more of a leisure marina now with yachts berthed in the harbour. Families bathe in the shallow, warm water, flying fish are flashes of silver as they skim the surface and small seabirds dive and swoop to catch the flying fish as they jump. On the day after our trek we cooled off in the water before eating in one of the seaside restaurants, treating ourselves as a reward for our efforts.
PJ is also the stomping ground of the goldminers who pan for gold in the rivers in the Osa Peninsula. Not in the Corcovado National Park as that is forbidden but very close to the edge of it! They come into town every month to sell their gleanings and swap it for a different sort of gold! The numerous bars are a testament to their presence.