Travels of the Past #1: Costa Rica 2008

For the next few weeks I will be visiting family before I head to the wild of Alaska, and I reckon that not a lot will be going on, so in the meantime I will post what I can of current events and also post past travels. You've seen my travels in Australia, and in Antarctica, but right before Antarctica I was in Costa Rica...

After graduation in May 2008 I headed straight to Costa Rica to have a good time and cook at La Colina Lodge. Here is Kevin, the lodge owner, with his homemade beef jerky, which Chester the dog ate one night.
It was a really simple kitchen, but it made some really darn good food. I'd hike 2 miles down a mountain to the local grocery everyday to stock up on freshies and meat, and then either catch a taxi or hike all the way back up the mountain with my backpack. Sometimes you'd get halfway down the mountain and it would start to monsoon. That was always fun. I did up the menu myself and it was very microseasonal, meaning every two weeks it was changing according to what types of fish, veggies, and fruit were available. Costa Rica is really rich in fertile soil and water, thus nearly anything grows... and there are so many microclimates and mini-seasons. From sea level to the place we stayed at in Monteverde (3-5 hour bumpy bus ride uphill), there were at least 4 different enviroments. At each environment different crops were grown. Just as a side not, our lodges power come from a hydroelectric dam.

Here was my best buddy... Canela... which means 'Cinnamon'. She was a local pet for someone, somewhere... but she spent half the time at our lodge. Kevin told me that she is half wolf and half dog.

A mama cat and her baby showed up one random day and a made a home in the mortar and pestle.

A whole zoo of things lived inside my abode.

Down towards Santa Elena the sacred Tree Datura thrived.

On some weeks the Monteverde Institute would have guest lectures and science symposiums on local science projects by university scientists and environmental leaders. Here's Wolf Guindon talking about how the Quakers fled Alabama in the 1950's because war was against their beliefs. They went to Costa Rica in search of peace and farmland, thus came to Monteverde. For the first two decades they did a lot of development, then they decided to focus on preservation. So a lot of their land was put aside and made into a nature reserve.

But, near Santa Elena a Wal-mart owned franchise store and shopping mall was being built. This is riduculious... a mall right next in the cloud forests of Monteverde just to cater to tourists. Many ticos (native Costa Ricans) were against it because it was going to put the mom and pop tica and tico shops out of business. I'm against it because look at the sign, " No Park! A Mall? Yes Park! Very Bad?" Darn right, make the green space into a park for tourists to enjoy forever, not a mall.

Further up near the reserve was the heart of the cloud forests. Cloud forests = clouds always in forests. There was so much water in the eco-systems and the air temperature was just right, such that transpiration and condensation was always happening creating clouds in the forests. Towards the rainy season my clothes stayed wet, my bed stayed wet, my hair stayed wet... everything was wet. Contrarily in the dry seasons, there is little water to be found.

Then during my last month I packed up and headed down to the beach. I had a backpack, tent, tarp, knife, lighter, matches, compass, map, emergency kit, food ration, and sandals. I hiked about 30 km through many popular beach areas and nature reserves. I stayed on a couple islands, like Islas Negritos, and made camp on beaches like, Playa Montezuma, Playa Cocal, Playa Manzanillo, and Playa Coyote.

My home. Eventually my tent poles snapped and I found it better to use a tarp. The bugs were atrocious though.

Paradise. I learned so many things being alone on the beach. I could feel the voice of the seas, as well as the voice of the thunder. One night, during summer solistice full moon, I found myself pushing northwards on the beach right at night fall while the high tide was comming in. The tide at the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is wicked. It goes out nearly a mile at low tide and then rushes in at high tide at fast speeds, rising more than 40 meters. For safety, I decided to make a quick bush camp right before the tides get too close. I ran up a beach cliff side, and found some clear ground on some sharp rocks. There wasn't enough room to put a tent up and it was too steep. So I decided to stay awake all night with my knife in hand. I could hear either jaguars or pumas behind me and I could smell them. But, I could not be scared. I sat in meditation position watching the giant tides roar in while the full moon rose. Thunderstorms howled all around me, but thankfully it never rained. The greatest lesson of this experience was, 'Hold your knife, like you hold your life.'