To help you better envision my surroundings and the adventures to come, let me provide a more precise understanding of my current geographical location. If you look at Central America on a World Atlas, you will find the nation of Costa Rica sitting atop Panama with Nicaragua riding her shoulders. On the west side of the country, jutting out and down into the cold open waters of the Pacific Ocean are two peninsulas—the large Nicoya Peninsula to the north (a popular vacation spot) and the seemingly runted Osa Peninsula in the south.
I am on the Osa. This small green arm of land hugs a vital body of water against the mainland, an aquatic treasure aptly named Gulfo Dulce (“sweet gulf”), in which a lucky observer might spy huge pods of dolphins or even large migrating species like humpbacks and whale sharks. No doubt a marine biologist’s wonderland. But the peninsula itself is perhaps the most spectacular place in this truly spectacular country. Described by National Geographic as one of the most “biologically intense” places on earth, the Osa holds tight to substantial areas of primary and secondary rainforest.
Everywhere you look on the Osa, you see green. Green is the theme. Impossibly tall trees, eager twisting vines, cascading leaves of every shape and size. Green atop green. The color pulls you like a magnet into its soothing embrace; it draws you in and fills your senses. It settles your mind, one deep breath after another until, calm and focused, you join its limbic rhythm. It’s not necessary to see animals to know they are here. You can feel them. And this green jungle, pulsing with energy is well protected by the local people. A model of good stewardship and a testament to environmental solidarity we all could learn from.
At the tip of the Osa, facing the gulf is the thriving little Tico community, Puerto Jimenez. This is the main hub of human activity on the peninsula. It is not a fancy commercial destination—it’s real Costa Rica. Local people living local lives. Pura Vida. The foreigners here assimilate into the culture, or leave. From PJ, one rugged dirt road forges south, and wraps around the peninsula. The road was cut by man but shaped by rain; it is hilly and pockmarked with deep threatening craters and thick mud. And it bisects several rivers that, like sly watery trolls, steal whole cars when silly tourists insist on crossing after extended rains.
Should a courageous driver choose to twist and climb and bump along 42 kilometers for nearly 2.5 hours (that’s in the dry season), he may arrive at Carate, which is not much more than a short landing strip and a small bar/cafe on the mid-western shore. Carate is well-known because it’s a few kilometers hike from the entrance to the glorious Corcovado National Park, which I hope to help you visit in a future blog. But let’s back up a little. About 2/3 of the way from Puerto Jimenez to Carate, an unassuming turn-off by the one-room escuela (school) leads to a lovely complex of rudimentary housing tucked back in the rainforest. This is the OBC—Osa Biodiversity Center, owned and run by Friends of the Osa—and it’s the place I am living during my stay.
If this minute you sauntered across the trimmed pasture of moist grass surrounding the campus and stepped up under the pointed tin roof of the kitchen, you would find me sitting at one of the fold-out dinner tables, typing away on the OBC’s laptop. Electricity and Internet access are advantages that few houses in rural Osa enjoy. When I was doing sea turtle work here last year we lived in a tiny palapa on the beach and did not have such conveniences and their addition to daily life make me feel deliciously spoiled.
So now you have me pinpointed on the map. Let it give you comfort that I have not disappeared; I’m just a few thin lines of latitude and longitude away. And I will write more soon about the turtles… and the other animals, people and places that lured me back to the Osa. But, alas, I didn’t come to Costa Rica to spend too much of my day at the computer, so I leave now for the forest where I will walk, look, listen—fingers to the pulse of life. The green is calling. I must go.