Hello dear readers!
How are you all? I hope you are enjoying the changing seasons, tucked up in the cosy warmth with fluffy socks and Chia spiced tea…
There’s a fair amount to catch you all up on about life in the wild. Last week was a fun one – with both the boys gone on a visa run, it was an all-girl camp. It was a nice change, and just nice to have Charlotte and Emily back (they also were on a Visa run). The rainy season announced itself on the 2nd October and not a day later. For almost 3 days straight it rained pretty much all day, and we found ourselves unable to go on a few surveys as Birds and Primates are impossible to do in the rain. It was actually quite fun to curl up with a book for the afternoon, and I even found myself needing to put on a jumper on a few occasions as apparently 24 degrees is now too chilly for me…The rain began to ease off again at the weekend, and it has barely rained since. I’m not sure whether to be happy about having sunshine, or concerned about the clear negative impact of global warming in such a place as this where the rainy season is an absolute essential.
At the weekend, Nadia and I went into town to do a Chocolate Tour, which was really interesting and made even better by the glorious selection of fruit, chocolate, and pampering we were treated to. We were picked up from town and driven the short way to the Chocolate farm just outside Puerto Jimenez. It was a small family farm of about 20 hectares, but with over 200 cocoa trees, and many other plants and animals besides. We were first introduced to the numerous geese, ducks, chickens and even a turkey, while enjoying an orange picked straight from the tree above us. From there, we walked around the farm with our guide explaining to us the process of producing chocolate from bean to bar, and we also enjoyed coconut water from a fresh coconut and drunk with a bamboo straw sculpted from the plant next to the coconut tree.
Once ripe, the cocoa pods are split open and the beans are dried in the sun for upwards of 3 months. They are then ground down multiple times to make a fine paste – cocoa butter. We were able to try the cocoa at each stage, and I have to say it was most delicious was the cocoa butter. From this, our guide made us a face mask, mixing the paste with coconut oil before smearing it on our faces. After 5 weeks of camp’s somewhat sparse washing facilities, we felt like we were in the best spa in all of Costa Rica!
After washing off our face masks we were treated some fruit – banana, fresh orange and papaya – along with the chocolate we had just made. After many, many long days without tasting the smooth decadence of dark chocolate (my absolute weakness), I was not about to pass up the opportunity to stock up on a few sweet supplies, and so bought a little bar of handmade chocolate which they made on the farm themselves. It was truly a delightful morning, and I even managed to get that compulsory ‘Gap Yah’ shot of me drinking coconut water straight from the shell with a bamboo straw! Year Abroad completed.
I took the opportunity to have ALL my clothes washed in town in an effort to stave off the ever encroaching mould for the next few weeks. I have to admit, I found myself actually missing camp a bit over the weekend, and so was quite happy to jump back on the Colectivo and enjoy the bumpy ride to camp, especially when smelling like I had just walked out of a laundromatte.
Since Monday, we have been busy on surveys again as usual. With the addition of 3 more camp members – 2 volunteers and 1 new ARO (Assistant Research Officer) – we have been able to do more surveys again. On Thursday we made the long trek up to Leona trail for a bird survey, which is an hour and a half walk either way, and that’s before the trail even starts! We combined it with a Primate survey for a double hit (and to save having to walk the trek again next week!). In order to make it there for sunrise we had to leave at 3:30, and so walked the whole way in the dark. Luckily, we saw no snakes this time. In fact, we saw a Paca, which is apparently very rare to see, and also pretty cute! By the end of the day, having been up before the sun, I was knackered and was ready to get into bed at 7:30, but I held off to the more reasonable hour of…8 pm.
Other camp excitements include: The Night the Chickens Almost Died and Cooking with Coco. One night, we were all awoken by the raucous shrieks of the chickens. Having lived with chickens for 7 year or so, I unfortunately know what a dying chicken sounds like. Something about distressed animals really gets my heart rate going, and I couldn’t just stay in bed listening to them. Cautiously I poked my head out of the cabin and shone my beam of a headtorch towards the coop, very aware that you don’t really get foxes in Costa Rica and that there had been a few sightings of a Puma around Carate lately. Something definitely disappeared into the bushes when I shone my torch over, and our camp dog was soon barking too, but I couldn’t tell you what it was. With all the noise they made, I’m quite surprised we still had 4 chickens the following morning!
Cooking with Coco was a degree less stressful. Coco is a good friend of all of us at camp, and he frequently comes over to see us, sometimes cooking for us too as he works in the kitchen at one of the lodges. With a lot of people in town for the weekend, I took the opportunity to invite myself for a cooking session on Saturday. We were treated to a delicious Thai-style salad, a delicate Okra dish with onion and lots of spices, and even handmade spring rolls. I was over the moon at seeing actual salad leaves if I’m honest – for a girl who truly embraces the rabbit diet, I really miss lettuce here! Coco himself is one of the most fun-loving, relaxed, and truly good people I have ever met, and so it was a lovely evening, and a great way to spend my second last weekend in Costa Rica.
Today marks only 2 more weeks left on camp for me, and I know I will be sorry to leave such a beautiful and remarkable place. I’m really looking forward to my next adventures in Chile, and especially the little holiday with my Dad in the Chilean lake district (not least because he is bringing a suitcase full of clean and mould-free clothes). However, not waking up to the sound of the monkeys, or spending the whole morning on a sunny beach with Macaws flying overhead, will certainly be downside. I’m planning on throwing myself into every survey possible over these next two weeks, and I am also determined to go on all the trails we do at camp – I only have 2 more to do!
Hasta pronto amigos,