Following ABCD: Amundsen, Borges, Chatwin and Darwin

The continent of passion

The first continent we travelled to as jubilados (Spanish for retirees)

How did it happen?

How did Costa Ricans (Ticos) come to protect 28% of their country from development, to have a national park system that biologist Peter Raven has called “one of the great accomplishments of the human race over the last thirty years?” To have 6% of the world’s biodiversity, to be a superpower both in species and ecosystems (900 different bird species, 250 species of mammals, 800 species of ferns), when it’s such a small country, covering only 0.03% of the earth’s surface, smaller than Nova Scotia?

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Young Resplendent Quetzel
Photo Credit: Ben Blankenship

When Ben, our guide for seven days in Costa Rica, asked us what wildlife we hoped to see, the number one response was “a quetzal.” The Resplendent Quetzal, named for the splendour of its shimmering blue-green plumage and quetzalli (“beautiful”) tail feathers—often considered the most beautiful bird in the world.

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Why are we drawn to the primal force of falling water? To waterfalls cascading in continuous motion, ceaseless renewal, perpetual reshaping?

The ancient Greeks philosophized that in waterfalls, we see ourselves, our own potential for motion, renewal and reshaping.

In Costa Rica, volcanic activity fractured the backbone of the Andean-Sierra Madre chain, resulting in an outpouring of waterfalls, what they call cataratas. Not world-famous showstoppers with crowds crushing and gushing like Niagra or Igazu, but cataratas with a quieter soliloquy, like the country itself.

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For days my brain jumped around trying to figure out how to tell you about the capuchin monkeys that thrilled us on the Osa Peninsula. Monkey mind. Not, that’s an insult to the capuchins. I couldn’t settle on a story thread, so today’s post is a knotted string of thoughts, yours to unravel.

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If a congress of naturalists were to gather to choose the seven wonders of the animal world, they would be compelled to include the bizarre and mighty civilizations of the attine leafcutters.

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