4-3-3—–1. 11 Macaws departing the crown of an old mature tree fly 200 feet to another. The two trees have not changed an iota from the exchange. The tree exited appears unchanged and the receiving tree is unchanged. Not a color has changed. Not a leaf is different. The Macaws simply evaporated from one tree and slid into another dimension in the receiving tree. All sleight of hand. Now-you-see-‘em, now you don’t.
On an unassuming, scarcely visible, trail we went on a nighttime hike in the jungle with a biologist last night. Four of us. It is as the movies show: strange creatures lurking everywhere. Among the thick vegetation from the ground up were motionless creatures that remained motionless while we examined them with lights from our iphones and weak flashlights. I doubt that any of them remained motionless when a cricket, cockroach, or red-eyed frog ventured by. At our moments though they seemed to peer at us while we peered at them. Reciprocity? Fairness?
The Wandering Spiders seemed way too common for comfort. No web. They aggressively attack and bite their victim while injecting a paralyzing venom. On humans it is reportedly painful and leads to ugly skin necrosis at the bite. The good news: not fatal to humans. On leaves, under leaves, overhead, and ankle high, fortunately their view seems to be: why waste our good juices on those ugly giants?
Literally billions of leafcutter ants seemed to be busily engaged 24-7 in cutting and hauling their cargo on little ant highways (Hibiscus leaves seemed to be choice) to the colony that could be dozens of feet away only to pile them up inside to rot. Enjoy eating the rot later. For us, towering overhead in the dark, the scene appeared to be millions of bits of green silently shuttling across the jungle floor. The green carpet was all moving in tiny streams.
On other curling waves or ribbons of Ficus tree roots lurked stingerless scorpions. What God dreamt all this up? The scorpions are popular to have ringing your house because their favorite food is cockroaches. I suppose it is a value choice—a sensibility– to have this 8” across cross between a spider and a scorpion rather than a few cockroaches. The biologist said his wife prefers that he brings these home rather than the strange creatures he brings home. They were motionless but we were no cockroaches. Think about how fast the scorpion would have to move to catch a scurrying cockroach……
One could shout “Jesus Christ!”. We didn’t but the Jesus Christ lizard was, like its neighbors, similarly subdued. We have all probably seen the videos of these critters skittering across water on their flying feet, appearing in our dimension of time to walk on water. Never seen one lying on a palm frond just eyeing us.
Speaking of Jesus Christ, at the other end of this continuum are two huge yachts parked in Drake Bay (no “’s”—he may have parked here but as far as Costa Ricans are concerned, that doesn’t make him the owner of the parking lot). Lit up in red, white, blue, and a multitude of lesser lights, on this otherwise vacant bay they look as out of place as a disco. The locals are proud that Bill Gates has chosen their bay to grace. And yes, we snorkeled with Bill Gates. Well, we never saw him but that is what he was doing at the same spot where we went with our little 25’ outboard.
In the 1970’s I wrote a paper about the environmental and economic implications of
“intensive” and “extensive” recreation as the world was switching from observing, hiking, and biking to snowmobiles, jet skis, 4-wheeling, powered this’s and that’s. “Intensive” to mean intense utilization of the local or global environment (the focused example at the time in Wisconsin was the introduction of snowmobiles rapidly replacing cross country skiing). “Extensive” to mean environmental (and economic) impacts including and beyond the immediate area. What was to be lost as zipping through the environment, crashing through marshes rather than canoeing through them became the norm? What was to be gained by the emerging array of display toys for our masculinity? What were the implications for the world’s insatiable appetite for more, just more? Among them, I wondered, was the growing discontent with our government that couldn’t provide the means for ever more powerful toys. Feeding this appetite was the government’s new role. As it has evolved, government “stimulus” packages are consciously targeted to help people buy more toys.
The man with all the choices chooses intensive. A man presenting himself as aware chooses not one, but two, yachts of roughly 100 feet and 150 feet respectively to carry his submarine, helicopters, jet skis, water skiing, etc., and the crews to man them into places like the Cano Marine Preserve and make hi-speed noisy play while the lesser of us paddle about with our snorkeling stuff. As he got ready to move on, they literally helicoptered in the medical staff to conduct the government-required COVID tests prior to leaving.
Today we went for a hike with another biologist (same 4 people) in the Corcovado National Park, one of the first ones Costa Rica created. 40 years or so ago, people began to realize the implications of logging and expanding agriculture meant for the disappearing rainforest. Wisely they realized that their future was with the rainforest rather than without. 40 years ago the area where we started, accessible only by boat, was subsistence farming that had followed clear-cut logging. The government bought out the farmers and today you wouldn’t know that it had never been anything else… except for the few surviving mango and other plants that the farmers left behind. Wisdom is possible. Recovery is possible.
The transition from the second growth rainforest was imperceptible to us amateurs. Except for the more frequent, massive, centuries old trees the rough tangle of rainforest green intensity at the floor seemed the same. Hurray!
Scarlet Macaws can live as long as humans, but unlike humans their marriages remain for life. As delicately beautiful as they are, nature’s incongruity gave them a rough, coughing “CWHATK” voice. Can’t miss that in the forest even if you can’t see their magnificence in the canopy. A pair can produce 20 chicks in a productive lifetime and today, Corcovado’s Scarlets are found throughout Costa Rica.
Monkeys, well they’re monkeys, what would you expect them to do? Frolicking, munching upside down gaping at us, leaping astounding distances from one flimsy branch to another, they are endlessly entertaining without trying—just monkeying around. “Don’t stand underneath them” the biologist advised, “they’ll shit on you”. Well, fair is fair.
A family of Howlers was uncharacteristically quiet. No need to warn the entire neighborhood, I guess. 2 adults and 2 generations of children peered down without alarm. Nice.
More of Jesus Christ. Gorgeous colors when not just a streak across the water. Like catching a spider’s nest in the face while exploring? These are remarkably tough. The 4” spider remained but was not happy when the biologist demonstrated by pulling a strand about 2 feet out of shape. He told us that these webs have now been discovered to have anti-bacterial qualities for humans. More treasures forthcoming from the rainforests formerly known as wastelands.
Termites are about as busy as the leaf cutters. Black tunnel highways of shelters made from tiny bits of … something like dirt… and termite spittle run around the trees up hundreds of feet. Always something to eat and always something to eat it.
The Galapagos is a world wonder not only for the mind-blowing array of beautiful creatures but also for their lack of fear of us trespassers. I felt the same here. The dozens of Coati and Agouti sauntered past us going about their grubbing and eating with no concern. Territorial as they are, they tolerated our presence far more than those from a different family group. Then again, we weren’t interested in grubbing about for whatever they find in there.
Today with some regret we left Aguila de Osa Lodge on Drake Bay (check it out on the web and you’ll see why) and made our way through the vast mangroves by outboard motorboat to the car and on to Uvita. It is only the beginning of the rainy season here but the downpour, thunder, and lightning are sobering… what lies ahead when the real rain starts? We got a swim in (water warmer than the air) only minutes before the drama began. Drumming on the roof of our “suite” is all but deafening.
Somehow the only hole in the wall of water reaches out to the setting sun. Fierce.
The place, the people, the food, the commitments are inspirational. Not a single unfriendly face; sincerity and welcoming without masks or resentment of the wave of expats with their flash (not really, just in relative terms), curious behaviors, surfer dudes, wealthy show-offs, and just people…. The Costa Ricans are proud, proud people who are rightly proud of their country, customs, and “pura vida”. They want, it seems, to share it with anyone who wants to join them. More than refreshing.