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I’m back! & Coco’s Island!

Yes. I haven’t been posting around much because of college and other activities here and there.But then again, I haven’t been lost, only voluntarily. We just came back from a very interesting trip to a very interesting island declared as a candidate of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, and ranked second in the Island Category.

“Cocos Island National Park is a unique oceanic island. It is the only emerged volcanic peak of the Cocos underwater ridge (Central Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean) 532 km off the coast of Costa Rica. With 24 square km of terrestrial and 1997 square km of marine ecosystems, it constitutes one of the privileged natural sites on the planet. Due to its isolation and state of conservation, with its unique biological diversity, it is ideal for conducting research about the evolution of species and environmental monitoring processes. According to legend, Cocos Island was a refuge for pirates who supposedly hid treasures here. The search for these treasures has motivated more than 300 expeditions; however, the real treasure is the island.” – New 7 Wonders.

My friend Andrés and I traveled as volunteers to the Island not to find the treasure, but on a totally different mission. As our Architecture College requieres, we need to at least make 150 hours of Community Service with any other institution apart from the university itself. Given that one of a family’s friend of ours has been working on the Island making some of the planning and structures over there, they were super excited to send us not only to lay out what has been constructed and monitoring the structures, but also to get to know this amazing place.DSC_1563

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It takes some time to get to the island, 36 hours by boat to be exact. As we went as volunteers, obviously we didn’t get a separate room to sleep in, actually, it was a 2,5 m by 2 m room, with a small cabinet and a private bathroom. The room had 3 beds on a cabinet also, I mean, one on top of each other. The first bed basically on the floor and the other two at normal heights. O chose the one on top, Andres the middle one, and a park ranger who traveled with us was left with the colder, and lowest one. His name was Michel, though I still refer to him as Filligan, I didn’t call him that way, but that’s the name he reminded me of.

The best part of the boat, aside from air conditioning, was the amazing food you eat. The boat was the Wind Dancer, it’s a Scuba Boat, one that travels those 10 days to the island but only to dive 4 times a day on the island waters. As we were freeloading there, we ate the same food the tourists did, only that they paid a big about for it, so, it was real good food. Also they have permission to go to bay only 1 day, if they want more, they’d have to pay extra 50 dollars for each day.

Anyways, 36 hours of over-eating, sleeping and reading got us at 4 am to the Island. We went outside to see and although you only saw the silhouette of the island, it was amazing. Even beside the boat and with the dim light it portrayed, you could see the vast amount of fish wondering about. We helped by moving around the things that had to be taken to the island, food and such, and as soon as that was placed on the carrying boat, we hopped on and were off to Wafer Bay. That first ride with the sun coming up and the island lighting up, was probably one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. You felt inside the Jurassic Park movie; white birds flying around the green and gray mountains, and waterfalls here and there made the scenery even more dramatic. One felt small, real small.

The first day felt like a very long one. As soon as we took the firsts steps on the island and had to carry my camera case, a backpack, the 2 travel bags and the diving equipment bag to the room (they were all very, very heavy), we were told that the group that was working over there had this the only day off and they wanted to go to Cerro Iglesias, the highest peak. They asked us if we wanted to go because it would probably be the only day for it, and guess who agreed? We were not expecting to walk three and a half hours up through the jungle on steep and dangerous trails at all on the first day, but hey, it’s one of the most amazing rides I’ve done. Vegetation at 200-300 meters up on the island is equivalent to vegetation on mainland at 700-800 meters, even more. It’s a very humid tropical rainforest, and such is it’s vegetation, you sweat just by standing outside for 5 minutes, imagine walking three hours inside the forest. It also rained a lot while we were walking and none of us wore rain clothes and I had my camera in my bag, but a Ranger slipped it inside a waterproof bag so, all good.

The view from up top was really cloudy, I got a couple of good shots of the islands that can be seen over there, but we had to wait a bit for it to clear out.

We got back down and our legs were totaled out. We basically waited for dinner and as soon as that was finished went straight to sleep.

Next days were a mixture of heat, rain, and 120% humidity. Bed sheets were humid and moist even before you slept on them. We had to change rooms from the Volunteer´s house to the Albergue (park ranger´s) and even so could not sleep that well. We worked on what we had to, taking measurements, revising location and the checking the maintenance of the structure. We also managed to get around a GPS and marked the locations of each place.

We had a lot of fun meeting people over there, as a group of the CNFL (Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz) were working on a radar tower, there were about 28 people over there, without counting park rangers and us. Food is amazing: you eat as if you are going to be eaten in New Year´s Eve. I had a little problem though. Andrés and I wanted to do the Rio Genio trail to mark it with GPS locations and also to take a look at the waterfall. Well, half way there, rain started coming down HARD and my bag is not waterproof. So, I took my camera, opened a plastic bag, placed it inside and closed the bag. We got to the waterfall after a long complicated trail with lots and lots of nature, and got a look at this amazing waterfall inside the jungle. Rain was still real hard so we decided to take it up a notch and head back quickly because it was kind of getting dangerous.

When we were at the Hydroelectric Plant, the base of the trail, I decided to take the camera out. Imagine how this came out? Pouring water out of every whole it had. Yes. Till today I haven´t turned it on nor I want to, though at least I took everything out, and the photos were perfect. So all of the pictures I took from that part on were from my Samsung. I hope I can get my camera back ASAP.

So yes, these were the highlights of the trip! Oh! and we met Survivor Man (Les Stroud) from the Discovery Channel Show. He was on our boat throughout the trip. A very nice guy by the way, he know about the projects being done on the island and the Tower and illegal fishing and all. He plans on doing a show on the island.

Ps: An interesting fact about the island is that there are no predators. Only one type of scorpion that you don´t every really see. There are spiders though, a lot of them. A population of about 2000 deer, a lot of wild pigs, a few rats, and about 100 domestic cats that you never get to see.

Area of Island: 24 square kilometers.

Recommendations:

  • Take OFF! with you for mosquitoes.
  • Sunblock.
  • Jeans or Hiking pants.
  • A WATER RESISTANT CAMERA BAG
  • Enjoy.

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