By Hansel Herrera Vargas
Hansel Herrera Vargas, a Costa Rican biologist with a Bachelor’s degree from Berry College, Georgia, USA, is Osa Conservation’s new volunteer coordinator. The following is his first-hand account of his move to the Osa. Hansel has been very busy this summer, as the 2012 Sea Turtle Volunteer Program is well under way. Apply today for this opportunity to experience the wonderful Osa Peninsula!
I embarked on my first journey to the Osa Peninsula just before sunset on a rainy July afternoon. The road south brought glimpses of a magical landscape where the jungle mixes with the sea. My lungs filled with dozens of new scents: the sweet smell of Mamon Chino (Nephelium lappaceum), the soft smell of Carambola (Averrhoa carambola), the stench of Nonis (Morinda citrifolia), the Mimbro fruit (Averrhoa bilimbí), guava (Inga edulis), cocoa (Theobroma cacao), and many others.
The road to Puerto Jimenez brings one across many rivers and many histories. There are dozens of towns and cities dotting the road from Costa Rica’s capital to the Osa, and the nine hour bus ride is filled with sightings of beautiful mountains and valleys, exotic birds, and ancient trees.
I started my journey in San José, Costa Rica’s metropolis and home to various cultures including European, African, Amerindian and more. Two hours later, we made our first stop at Santa Maria de Dota, where you can already feel the cool wind foreshadowing the ascent of Cerro de la Muerte. The massive Cerro Buena Vista (3491 m), better known as the Cerro de la Muerte, owes its name to the stories of those who succumbed to the cold when it served as a route for pioneers of the Central Valley 100 years ago. Down the hill, a surprise in the landscape appears: a majestic plane seated at the foot of the Talamanca mountain range. Gradually the temperature rises and the bus makes its second stop in Pérez Zeledón. It’s all downhill from here. The paramo is replaced by dense tropical foliage, full of singing birds and howler monkeys. Several rivers later, we arrive at Chacarita, access point to the Osa Peninsula, a fishing and farming village. To the left, pineapple and coffee plantations, and to the right, the stunning rainforest, impregnated with the smell of the sea. Immediately, the first glimpse of the blue Pacific Ocean appears on the horizon and the remaining journey to Puerto Jimenez becomes a spectacle of sea, forest, colorful flowers and ranches adorning the purest rural landscape of Costa Rica’s Pacific: the Osa Peninsula.