I have come to believe that our entire trip is becoming a waterfall-like chain of events that lead into unplanned adventures, sometimes ending in someone loosing a thumb.
We have been very busy in our first three weeks. As H mentioned before, we spent a few days in San Jose coming up with a general plan, and then pursued our first work opportunity in the southwest peninsula of Osa. This bit of land is remote; very, very remote. We took a bus out of a fairly sketchy section of San Jose (why is it that bus transportation always seems to have their hubs in the not-so-nice areas of town?) and then had to be patiently dragged down through the sweltering valleys and across washboard dirt roads. All so that we would end up unable to contact the guy we wanted to work for.
So we did what anyone in our situation would do in such a predicament: we went to the beach to enjoy the world-famous waves for which this part of the country is known. But you know all about this from H‘s post. What we skimmed over is our meeting with an incredibly friendly and amusing Kiwi who is also afflicted with H‘s inability to make decisions. He reminded us of how close we were to Corcovado National Park, and when H borrowed his guide book to review its merits we knew we wanted to get over to the other side of the peninsula. However, there was a swell due to hit Pavones a few days later, so our Kiwi friend decided to wait it out and come meet us if it was spectacular.
This is how we found ourselves scrambling back over washboard dirt roads and wandering with our huge packs towards a boat that would get us to the other side of the peninsula. We literally sat directly behind Kyle, one of the owners of a place we had applied to work for as well. He had given us a call (our cell reception was basically nonexistent on the peninsula, just one of the many reasons our first job hadn’t worked out) earlier in the day to see if we would be interested in stopping by to work. So we shared a cab with him up to the Jungle Hostel (he was in the process of getting their Land Rover fixed at that point, normally they do have transportation available for guests arriving by the ferries). But one fantastic guests who had been staying at the hostel decided to stay on as a worker, and we had a national park to hike.
So we stayed as camping guests, and here we met our good friend Traci while we taught her to play Pounce (one of our favorite card games, and it’s fairly easy to learn). We went for our hike through the national park, and when we returned Traci and her hiking partner Ben were getting ready to head north. We had a tentative job back in Dominical, and they were heading to a smaller beach town Uvita just 16 km south of our destination. So we tagged along, deciding that at the least we would be getting somewhere we could use our phone.
We were told to wait four more days to hear if we would have the job or not in Dominical, as they were looking to hire someone else. We took this to mean our chances were slim to none for getting this job, and Traci and Ben were headed up to the mountains so Ben could hike Mount Chirripo once more and Traci could start work at Casa Mariposa. With no other plans, and H‘s extreme dislike of backtracking (we couldn’t decide to go further north until we knew for sure we weren’t going to have to just turn back south to go to work in Dominical), we tagged along yet again.
So we signed up to hike Chirripo. To do a quick warm up hike we went to the end of the road out of San Geraldo, where the Cloudbridge Reserve arches up into the mountains. The land where the reserve is located used to be cattle land. The two owners passed through many years ago while hiking up Chirripo and decided that they would return and start planting trees. The reserve is now mostly grown back jungle filled with an enormous amount of breathtaking waterfalls and wildlife. This reserve sparked our interest so we decided to apply for a volunteer position.
But first we had to hike a mountain. Chirripo is a 14.5 km hike up the side of the tallest mountain in Costa Rica with an elevation change of over 2000 meters. This is what I like to think of as an excessively brutal hike planned simply to torture well-meaning outdoors people. There were elevation changes of 800 feet a kilometer (we know this because they label each kilometer, it’s both thoughtful and torturous)… Brutal. Then you have another thousand waiting for you after you reach base camp (which I was too much of a wimp to try in the same day we were going to hike back down that mountain; however, H had a beautiful experience where the moon was setting fuchsia over the Pacific Ocean while the sun was rising brightly over the Caribbean Sea).
After the hike we celebrated Ben’s birthday and met an extraordinary German family, the Rogers. We got along instantly, all being kindred spirits, and laughed the evening away. A perfect way to send them off to hike the mountain themselves!
After the celebration was over and Ben caught a taxi we moved to the end of the mountainous road to begin work at Cloudbridge Reserve. The first day consisted of meeting the wonderful manager Tom, gathering tons of cardboard, and picking out our own pair of machetes. We had the simple task of carrying the cardboard in our arms with machetes strapped around our waist up a path with a humble 1000 ft elevation change. Once we arrived we began chopping down weeds and bushes that were trying to choke out the baby native trees that were planted six months prior. We cleared a circle around the tree and placed cardboard around their base in order to give the new trees a barrier from the invasive grass.
Sounds simple enough… Until a machete goes awry and blood begins to shoot out of H‘s mangled thumb. Good news is we have fingernails, which ended up taking the majority of the blow. Bad news is, we were about an hour away from the nearest health care facility in San Isidro. So I, being first aid trained in my former gig as a hairstylist (thanks Gene Juarez!), pinched off H‘s artery to her thumb and we hiked down 1000 ft to the nearest first aid kit. Messy business. And let me just say that this wound was far beyond my abilities as a first aid responder. We got it clean, put a wrapping on it, and then H decided that she didn’t want to just sit by and do nothing, so we hiked back up the mountain to finish our task for the day.
After work we headed back down to Casa Mariposa, because we happened to remember that not only was Traci first aid trained to help horses, but that our fun German family, the Rogers, were heading down the mountain that day. And Susi just so happens to be a surgeon. So after a bit of discussion we got the thumb properly cleaned and bandaged, got the world cleaned up, and were able to trade for a haircut for Tessi (which required a headlamp, a swiss army knife, and a lot of patience on her part!) all with a healthy dose of laughter.
So to recap:
1. Rising Sun Farms had to commit and then not contact us afterwards so that
2. We could meet Brother Kiwi who would remind us about Corcovado so that
3. We could sit behind Kyle from the Jungle Hostel on a ferry so that
4. We could meet Traci playing cards so that
5. She could go hiking with Ben and then decide to travel together so that
6. Ben & Traci could convince us to stop in Uvita rather than heading to Dominical so that
7. Our Dominical job could cancel so that
8. We could go to Chirripo and stay with Traci at her new job at Casa Mariposa so that
9. We could find the Cloudbridge Reserve volunteer sign with Ben before our hike up Chirripo and
10. We could meet a doctor and her fabulous family at Casa Mariposa after our hike so that
11. When Tom gave us machetes to go help small trees grow and
12. H ended up chopping off her thumb
13. We would know a surgeon who was coming down off the mountain and could look over the wound properly.
And this is why we make friends with awesome people on our travels! You are all amazing!!!