Jennifer Stefancik and Liz Oneil decided to spend Wednesday, March 4th getting to know the area around Cahuita better. Thier first stop was the Tree of Life Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates injured and abandoned animals. The staff explained to them that some animals are easy to return to the wild while others were not. Young sloths, because they are solitary animals, often adapt successfully to the wild. Young females monkeys are often accepted into a troup while males are not.
All of the animals they saw were indigenous to the area including Coati, Peccary, White Faced monkeys and Howler monkeys. Their favorites were the young sloth and the juvenile Howler monkey. Sloths are slow moving mammals that spend most of their lives in trees. They eat a low nutritive diet of leaves, which may explain their speed.
Howler monkeys are the loudest land animals in the new world. You can hear their guttural howls up to 3 miles away. We were lucky enough to be awakened by them every morning in Cahuita. The juvenile they saw at Tree of Life was very playful. He jumped around them using all his limbs and prehensile tail to swing around the bushes where they were standing.
Later they left the sanctuary and went to Cahuita National Park. Costa Rica has set aside a larger proportion of their land to national parks than any other country in the world. Cahuita National Park protects over over 3700 acres of beaches, forests, mangroves and coral reef. This is the only park in Costa Rica that accepts donations instead of charging a fee, allowing access to everyone. They walked down the shaded path along the beach. They saw Howler monkeys, leaf cutter ants, and amazing Morpho butterflies. Many beaches in the area have black sand due to volcanic ash, but the sand at this beach is white. There are riptides in some areas of the beach and in other areas it is very calm. The hike along the beach is about 5 miles long. It is a unique opportunity to enjoy wildlife and the beach. They returned to the Atlantida Lodge feeling lucky to have seen so much in one day.
Tonight we arrived at our hotel in San Jose for a needed rest.
We said farewell to our CATIE friends and companions, enjoyed a sweet desserts and settled in before our early morning to journey home.
We arrived with one hour to shop at the market. A mix of craftsman and vendors selling souvenirs and articles to remember your Costa Rican journey. Clothing, jewelry, wood products and toys. Bartering with vendors is expected!
We enjoyed this musical tune!
We traveled from Cahutia north along the Carribean shore and then headed west over the mountains to San Jose. After about 3 hours of driving we stopped by Braulio Carrillo National Park. We walked the rainforest on a narrated tour.
In the indigenous community of Yorkin, Costa Rica, a small group of women decided to improve their livelihood because of the poor economy. They wrote a grant asking the government for funding to start a tourism business in their small remote community. Their grant was funded and as a result they began a women’s association that introduced tourists to their unique way of life. The families in the community of 210 people raise cocoa to make artisan chocolate for the tourists. With the help of the ladies in the village we learned the technique of making chocolate! The smell and taste of the chocolate was better than any chocolate I had ever had!! We got to crush roasted cocoa beans using a large rock and then grind the cocoa pieces with a hand crack grinder. The chocolate paste was then mixed with sweetened condensed milk. The result was very tasty! We dipped bananas into the chocolate for a sweet treat!
Crushing the cocoa beans
Hand grinding cocoa pieces
The male head of household provided us with a walking tour of the farm. The farm is located on a hillside. They grow coffee, bananas, goats, pigs, chickens, eggplant, garlic, cilantro, mint, lettuce, onion, cabbage, and basil just to name a few! He shared unique strategies for keeping pests and other unwanted creatures away from his valuable plants. He uses raised beds and strategic planting to prevent soil erosion on the hillside. The view from the farm included an active volcano in Turrialba, Costa Rica.
Today we visited a farm family in Costa Rica. The family lives on approximately 17 acres of land. They grow coffee, bananas, ornamental plants, and garden vegetables. When we arrived at the farm they invited us into their home and shared their story with us. They talked about the opportunities and struggles in their journey to a diversified farming operation. Their specialty is organic coffee. All members of the family contribute to the farm operation. I was especially interested in the key role the women play in the family farm. The female head of household was in charge of the coffee processing and the marketing and selling of the farm produce. In addition to the significant role she plays in the farm she also does all of the cooking when groups like ours come to visit the farm. She made a great lunch for us!
Our team moved into the classroom where the teachers shared with us their philosophies and experiences about the program. It was obvious their passion for the children and their role at the center was not hampered by the lack of resources available for the program. The parents looked very young and we learned that 50% of the mothers were teens. We learned a lot of social issues the staff were dealing with was very similar to what we see and hear about back home.