Sunday, December 11, 2011

Corcovado National Park

I know it's been quite some time since I've added anything to this blog. There have been some small projects, but nothing to write home about. This will probably be my last post and it has to do with my amazing Birthday trip down to Corcovado National Park.
I headed down to the park with my two good friends and fellow PCVs Angelo and David. This park has been at the top of my list ever since I got here. National Geographic called it one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet and I couldn't agree more.
It took us about two days to get down there by bus. We would have done it in one day but we decided not to rush. On the 7th of December we headed out into the park. This being the end of the rainy season and beginning of the dry season, rivers that are normally passable by car were too deep so our "taxi" driver (bea-tup truck) had to drop us off about 5km before the first ranger station/beginning of the park. We headed off, crossing relatively shallow rivers until we made it to our first station to check in at the Los Patos station (see map below). From there we started our journey deep into the park on a very muddy and difficult 23km hike through primary forest. This was truly the heart of darkness. Though this was hot and humid jungle, the huge canopy always kept us in the shade and cooled things down, relatively speaking. We walked for hours,crossing lazy rivers, through mud, around ancient trees, listening to the thousands of noises from howler monkeys, metallic insect chirps, frog croaks, bird calls and more. Our first day we saw: wild hogs, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, a myriad of frogs, toads, and lizards, all types of birds, a tapir, and all kinds of insects. See photos below:

Map of Corcovado: We started at Los Patos, hiked down to Sirena to camp out at the ranger station for two nights, leaving the park to La Leona.

Howler Monkey checking us out.

Strangler fig taking over it's host.

Angelo and David with a Walking Palm. The tree moves towards the light by slowly putting down these areal roots toward the light.
Jungle Liana.

Spider Monkey mom and baby.

This is a shot from the ranger station facing the ocean. The green lawn is actually a landing strip for small prop planes to drop off supplies and hikers.

This is hard to make out but the grey objects are wild pigs.

Beach by Sirena.
While relaxing on the beach, Angelo spotted a Tapir roaming the other side of the beach. We ran to get some pictures. It was about the size of a cow and just as tame. It didn't really seem to mind us much.

The next day we hung out around the station. It was rainy for most of the day, but we still enjoyed some of the smaller trails around the station and saw even more wildlife.

This Parrot has become a resident at the station, we caught it in the kitchen stealing someone's spaghetti.
Not the best picture, but there are three more parrots if you can spot them.

A Croc sunning by the river's edge.
I wasn't able to get a picture of them, but we did see the fins of a couple Bull Sharks. At high tide the water level is high enough for the sharks to swim up the river to go hunting. Their fins were enough to give me the chills.

Our third day we left the ranger station and hiked out of the park. This hike was the most scenic and absolutely breathtaking. It ran mostly along the coast. We threaded in and out of trails right on the beach or just off of it. The beaches were picturesque tropical paradises filled with animal life. It was spectacular.
La Sirena ranger station in the morning prior to leaving.

More pigs on the trail.
Morning sun on the trail out of la Sirena.

The beach all to ourselves.

Spider monkey hanging out.

This is a Pizote. It looks like a raccoon with long tail and snout. They were all over the place digging up crabs or eating coconuts. Not a bad life.

An Anteater! These are supposedly pretty hard to find, but this one was very photogenic.
White faced Cappuchin.

This is at La Leona Station. We made it.
Not a bad beach.
We had to walk 3 more kilometers before we could get a lift to Puerto Jimenez, and on the walk we spotted another anteater.

Sunrise on the gulf in Puerto Jimenez. We took a ferry out.

It was an amazing trip, probably the most memorable I have taken thus far and with great company. I couldn't have asked for anything more for my birthday, other than a pair of hiking boots instead of uncomfortable rubber boots...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Environmental Fair

Yesterday we capped off our three-day environmental fair - Unidos por el Agua, Aguas Zarcas. I have been working with a group of individuals in the town who are very passionate about cleaning up their community and spreading environmental education. The fair was a big success. Friday we had an a little inauguration, mainly for the school students, including games, songs, dance groups, a clown, local artists exhibiting their crafts made from recycled goods, classes on water conservation, trees and reforestation. Saturday was the big work day - we planned to plant trees and clean up the rivers of all the trash people throw in them. Sadly, the local Municipality didn't give us the truck we needed to haul all the trash away, so we weren't able to do the trash pick up. Hopefully that will happen within a month or two. Regardless, we had over 60 participants come to plant trees. In total we planted well over 300 trees around two streams that had been deforested and also a spring that was used to supply a couple communities with water. Sunday we had a bike rally to demonstrate to the entire town our concern for the environment and our commitment to cleaning up the town. Afterwards we had Bingo to raise funds for the school. It was a great activity, and I think it got a lot of people interested in cleaning up their town/being more environmentally responsible. I took a bunch of pictures, but forgot my camera Sunday, sorry.

Friday: Events for the kids, recycled art/furniture, typical dances, tree class.

Saturday: Tree planting in two different creek.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yes, I'm still here

By now I'm sure a lot of you have forgotten about this blog; you assume I'm probably just passing time on some tropical beach, sipping on a coconut and talking to the monkeys. Well, think again.
I'm still here. Still in my community. Still with a lot of frustrations. But.
But, I have some work. In my community I've gotten one family started with worm composting of their kitchen scraps/garden refuse. I have another family with a small garden and another will a simple greenhouse for producing vegetables.
What I'm really excited about, though, is work outside of my community. As of late I have been working with a group of people in Aguas Zarcas, which is my nearest large town. In fact, my community (Garabito) is part of Aguas Zarcas. Think of Garabito as a borough of Aguas Zarcas. Anyway, this group of people includes the director of the large school in Aguas Zarcas, a couple shop owners, my host father, and a couple other prominent figures in the area. We are preparing an environmental awareness weekend the 30th of September through the 2nd. What it looks like is Friday there will be a small inauguration and activities/cultural plays/environmental charlas Friday. Saturday we will be cleaning up streams and rivers, and planting trees. Sunday we will have a bike rally to promote clean transportation and spread the word about environmental awareness. It has the potential to be really, really big. We are inviting all of the news channels and already have lots of donations for big corporations/businesses all around Costa Rica.
An offshoot project of this is to eventually start a recycling center in Aguas Zarcas. Recycling is a relatively "new" concept here and we are pushing it in the schools. The problem is that there are very few recycling centers in the area and so even if a family were to separate their trash nobody would pick it up/it wouldn't be taken anywhere. We hope to fix that.
After this project I am planning to head South to give gardening classes in another volunteer's site. That's basically it for now as far as work is concerned.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rio Celeste

This past weekend I went up North for a meeting of all the volunteers in my zone. It was nice to get to meet other volunteers/do a little networking. I may have found some other communities who are interested in what I can offer. Also, we had a nice excursion to Rio Celeste. This river has been on my list of places to go in Costa Rica and it did not let me down. The area is surrounded by volcanoes, and the river basically runs down the volcano and through the surrounding areas. The interesting part is that chemicals from the volcano, or whatever is being spewed out from deep in the earth, have given the water an unnaturally blue tint. It looks very fake, like something you might see at Disneyworld or a dish detergent. The park is made up of trails which follow the river and take you to different "attractions". There is the waterfall, natural hot springs, the lake, heat vents etc. Some parts you can swim in and also enjoy a warm thermal spring. Other parts are either too hot or have too high a concentration of the chemicals to go swimming in. Regardless, you leave the water smelling of hard boiled eggs.

On the work side of things I may have found some volunteers to work with, as I mentioned earlier. I continue giving English classes, and this Sunday we will be working on the tree nursery (fingers crossed).
Here are a few pictures from the excursion.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

4th of July and What Not

I just got back from a 4th of July celebration/work in another volunteer's site. I left the 2nd for Playa Uvita - a beach park located close to Playa Dominical, on the Pacific side of the country. A group of about 12 volunteers and myself stayed there to celebrate independence day with sun, surf, and delicious food. The beach was amazing - warm blue water backed by palms and tropical forest. After spending a couple nights there I went back inland a couple hours away to a volunteer's site to give classes on biointensive gardening/making compost/ worm composting. We were both a little nervous that nobody would show, but in the end we had 12 in attendance. The classes went really well. They all seemed to be excited about the topic and had lots of questions. Sadly, I forgot my camera so I can't show you pictures from the beach nor the class.
However, I do have pictures from my garden. This time upon returning I found my garden in great shape. What a relief!
A little about my garden:
I'm practicing biointensive gardening. This is what we were taught in Paraguay, and the more I do it and see the outcomes the more I believe that it is the best for small farm/large garden production. The basic principle behind biointensive gardening is getting the most out of the space you have through intensive practices. There are 8 basic principles, but I usually teach the first four since they are most applicable to the people I work with. They are:
1. Deep soil preparation using the double dig technique. If done properly you are left with at least two feet of fertile, well cultivated soil. This is probably the most important technique though the most labor intensive
2. Constantly creating and applying abundant amounts of compost
3. Close-spaced planting hexagonally instead of in rows. This helps you maximize your spacing and creating a green mulch. This is when the plants are just close enough so that their leaves shade out any competitors.
4. Companion planting. You all have heard me talk about this. Growing certain plants together can boost the growth and/or flavor of both plants, as well as best utilize space.
Anyway, here are some garden pictures

Tomatoes grown with Asian greens.

Beans and squash.

Asian Greens.

Toucan in the backyard.