Tuesday, June 27, 2006


We left Las Cruces in style, a rather cushy bus. Bus rides are the place for these youngsters to recover from the "final night at a station party" so sleep and iPod rule the day. The Interamerican Highway is impossibly narrow for two cars going in opposite directions, not to mention a semi and a bus... ours. I choose to look away and trust, but I shutter to think of Holli and I renting a car after the course and braving these roads, knowing what I know now.

Departing the bus, we switched to jeeps and finally arrived at our destination high in the Talamanca mountains. “Don Carlos” is the owner and manager of this 350 ha parcel and small station in the sky, our home for 7 days. Carlos’s family managed the property for forestry but his innate curiousity in nature and exposure to travelers with a conservation focus eventually instilled in him an impressive balance of necessary use and protection where and when ever possible.

Our surroundings are dramatically different from the relatively lush accommodations of Las Cruces. We sleep in a large bunk room in tight quarters and the lab/work building next door has absolutely no connectivity (thus the lapse in my postings). The socially intense environment is completely offset by our isolated surroundings. Primary cloud forest is just out the front door and the reliable afternoon rains pounding on the tin roof are surprisingly soothing, a delightful reminder of my childhood summer afternoons in my family’s rustic cabin in the Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Don Carlos makes excellent use of the intact core of fallen trees, so all buildings at the site are made of beautiful wood. Nights are quite cold so we gather around a huge fire place (wasn’t this supposed to be the tropics?) for evening lectures on the basics of vascular plants, plant breeding systems (challenge: mature and have sex all while being stuck in the ground your whole life), the fascinating social systems of leaf cutter ants or a rather dry stats review. Much of what I learn, I learn from my fellow students. I’m inspired and humbled to join them on this course and together experience Costa Rica’s diversity. This picture was taken on one of our first walks at Cuerici as the late morning mist rolled in.

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