Thursday, February 14, 2008

Costa Rica: Discovering A Jungle Shack

by Donna L. Watkins

Note: Clicking the small photos will give you a full view.

La Selva Reserve gets 13 feet of annual rain, so you would think I'd be carrying my umbrella everywhere. Not so. With 5 things to load onto my shoulders, waist and back, the umbrella had not been placed in the backpack. Not having seen rain in San Jose for the 25 days I was there, I didn't think it was critical. I was about to really regret that!

Prevention in my mind ran more on the lines of Black Salve for snakebites, Capsicum Extract for heart support and to stop any bleeding, Tei Fu Oil for bites, Peppermint Oil for hunger or nausea, a few bandages, a bottle of water, and the essential oils for mosquitoes.

I only walk the trails in the mornings, since it gets pretty warm and humid by 10 AM. The howler monkeys have me up by 5. There are a few snacks packed in case I get "stuck out there." I've also thought I could toss the raisins and coconut to whatever might want to eat me. I doubt it would work, but it brings a giggle to mind to brush away any fearful thoughts.

I headed out on a new-to-me trail, wanting to walk as many of the trails as I can while I am here. As with all of the trails, there are other trails going off of them that look so enticing. Most are marked on the map. Today there was one with concrete stairs leading up to it, making it appear like something special. Enticing.

Like any adventuresome person, I decided to listen to the forest whispers that beckoned, "follow me."

I was surprised to find it a rather short trail that led to a clearing, but I was even more surprised when I entered the clearing and saw a crumbling house to the right. It had a small shed in front and a larger one in the back that were falling apart as the house was.

My thoughts wandered as I took photos. It was too old to have been placed there by La Selva's original land buyer. I had been shown the River Station which was the original buildings built after the land was purchased. This was not nearby. Maybe it was a family's home at one time and had stories to tell. It certainly had not been maintained. Obviously maintenance is very important in a wet tropical environment.

Could this house have come with the initial purchase? I didn't have but a few moments to think about it until I heard the roar of the rain coming up the river.

Yesterday was our first day of rain. I was in my room wondering what that increasingly loud sound was until it hit the roof of the cabin. It was a jungle downpour. Now I understood how this place could get 13 feet of rain a year. My guess on the approaching sound was it was rain with the force of it falling on the dense trees. I have never seen a rain hit so fast and heavy. It came like a tornado that you could see approaching. It was amazing to watch as the ground soaked it up as fast as it came down. What a visual representation of what trees do to prevent erosion, flooding and landslides.

Back to the jungle shack ....

As if it was a swarm of hornets, I ran for the shelter of the house while questioning how many poisonous snakes had taken shelter there after a long night of slithering and hunting. I hoped they had full tummies as I ran under the roof line and into the doorway of the house. I didn't discover the "restricted area" signs until after the rain stopped.

While waiting under the eaves of the doorway, my thoughts turned to the decay and creepy crawly things that had purchased residential space in this structure that was fast becoming a jungle of its own. The roof of the nearby front shed had a tree growing on top of it as vines and plants spread all over the roof of the house.

Talk about a "living roof." It's a green thing to do these days when building ecologically, but nobody needed to design this house for a living roof. The location took care of that and the weather enabling the constant and aggressive growth of any living thing in the jungle.

There seemed to be a type of grape arbor in the front, but a nearby tree had grown right into it and became part of it. The buttresses that the tree sent down for stability were actually the posts on which the arbor was now supported. Would the tree that was growing over and around the house keep the house standing? It surely needed a bit of support and then it could truly be called a "tree house."

The rain lasted about 20 minutes, giving me enough time to let my crawly skin calm down and enjoy the amazing wonder of the jungle reclaiming it's domain. Why they kept the clearing cut I have no idea.

At the back of the house I saw some backpacks that were hung. I couldn't imagine the floor holding anybody to get them there. Now I was even more curious.

But I left those thoughts behind as I turned to find a beautiful view. Somebody had chosen the perfect spot at the bend of the river. What a location for solitude. I should've backpacked a hammock and waited for the next downpour, but I didn't, so I headed back to the cabin to get ready for lunch.

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