My experience at Cano Palma (and Costa Rica) has been nothing short of inspiring. In the last five (almost rainless) days I have been fortunate to do some really fun and engaging things:
# 1- While out for an afternoon paddle with Juliette, Jesse and Zach, we watched and observed a troop of about twenty endangered Central American Spider Monkeys, Ateles geoffroyi, cross the canal from West to East. One of the adult monkeys climbed down to our level and took a big gulf of the black canal water less than five meters in front of our canoe!
# 2- Later that night, Juliette and I took a group of Louisiana university students out for a night patrol. Trekking though rain and thunderstorms still in good spirits, we ended the patrol early for safety and headed back to base. We met up with the other two patrols Shenique and Jesse first, then Kierstin and Jaqueline and waited out the storm at Vista al Mar’s boat dock, making it back to the station around 4 am. Josh woke up early to do some last minute database management and ended up teaching Jesse, Juliette and I how to make the most incredible pancakes: turtle shaped, syrup stuffed, jam stuffed and even loaded with ice cream pancakes! It was wonderful to laugh and spend the last few hours with Josh and Liam making and eating such a delicious breakfast.
# 3- The next morning I worked morning census with Ana Laura and Jasper (a University student from the Netherlands) in the sunshine while learning funny Dutch sentences; such as there’s a coconut in the tree (er is een kokosnoot in de boom). After lunch Jasper, Kayla, Jesse, Zach, Juliette and I re-lived childhood memories playing in the sand on Playa Norte; taking over an hour unearthing the biggest drift log I’ve ever seen anyone try to move. We then had fun balancing and battling the ocean waves as they crashed into the log. To top off the afternoon, we ended up burying Jesse and creating a ‘merman’ using the wet sand and anything we could find to suit him.
# 4- The journey to the rafting camp was quite the long adventure. To get to the camp, we took a boat, then a van, and then 4×4 vehicles to climb the steep, rocky roads up part of the ‘hill’. We then hiked for about two hours in the rolling landscape jumping over small streams, slipping in mud and traversing the steep, rocky terrain. We stopped a few times to taste different fruit, capture the scenery and rehydrate. When we finally made it to the camp, we were all speechless. The camp was simply beautiful. There was a breath-taking view of the river below with hammocks, muskoka chairs, picnic tables and benches to relax on. Delicious food, cold nights and great company made the hike worth it!
# 5- After a filling breakfast (eggs, sausage, toast, jam, fresh fruit and freshly squeezed juice) we climbed another steep hill through the jungle to get to an indigenous village which was home to the twenty-four member Cabecar tribe in their tiny village of Jameikari. We met three of the people outside of the school and then went to their newly constructed visitors hut to talk. We exchanged questions and tried to piece together each others’ lives. It was eye opening to see the influences that pop culture played on this secluded village; simply visible in the way they were dressed, with one sporting a MLB hat. They chuckled after learning that we live by schedules, follow rules and live to make money. We were jealous of their ‘pura vida’ lifestyle as they work when they want to, but not so jealous to find that their diet mainly consists of bananas. They were hesitant to admit that they hunt in the jungle for protein or that they sent a jaguar to heaven a few months ago after their chickens and pigs started disappearing. We were amazed to find out that they had a fridge in the school and metal sheets on their roofs (that had been carried by foot up the steep trail). They enjoy playing soccer and often have games against other tribes in the area (3+ hours away by foot).
#6- The following day we met the rafting guides and traveled down the Pacuare river. Working as a team we were able to battle the rapids with ease and demonstrated our paddle skills as we twisted in circles through the calmer rapids.
#7- Every beginning must have an end, and as we said farewell to Juliette, I couldn’t help but reminisce about all moments that are now fond memories.
In five days I will have to say my own goodbye to this place. Simply the wildlife, the people and the culture here are so inspiring and it will be hard to leave. From a crocodile encounter, hiking up the cerro and teaching girl guides are a few more things that have made this trip even more memorable. I have been granted an experience of a lifetime. To see this beautiful, ‘unspoiled’ wilderness and being able to teach and share this with others for the first time is such an incredible thing to witness. It is sad to continuously say welcome, then goodbye to the people that filter through the station, but it has been humbling and interesting to learn about this vast world and all the people that are connected through nature and conservation.