Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve (6/3/06-6/16/06)

Hone Creek Travel Blog

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Two lizards, each around a foot long, fighting on the side of the trail up to the lodge.
    We woke up at 4am to head out by 5am to our project. We probably could have slept in a bit more, but we were all too excited to sleep. First, was a van ride from Hotel America to the bus terminal in Heredia. Then it was time for a bus ride from the central valley of Costa Rica all the way to the southeastern part of the country...to the Provincia de Limón. Since the central valley is surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, we had to pass through those before truly getting on our way to the Caribbean coast. Listening to Jack Johnson and staring out the window, I watched for 3 hours as we passed through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. There were mountains, hills, banana plants, palm trees, grasses, birds, and much more.
HUGE beetle on the wall in the lodge. Just one of the many enormous insects we got used to.
Although a few of us got carsick from the bumpy roads, it was a good way to start getting to know the other 10 people who I would be working with for the next 2 weeks.
    After travelling for a while on a road that switched between pavement and gravel, Pablo, our project leader, told the bus driver when to stop, and we all got out at a very small store. The store, located a very short distance away from main entrance to the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, is run by a few members of the Bri Bri tribe (the indigenous people who live on and run Kekoldi). Inside the store, we could get soda, water (even though the water on the reserve was absolutely fine to drink), candy, chocolate, cheese, crackers, cookies, etc...basically, anything we would need in the next 2 weeks to get a little variety in our meals of rice, beans, vegetables and occasionally fish or chicken.
Almost all of the group up on the watchtower.

    With a good covering of bug spray, some bandanas, and rubber boots, we were ready for Pablo to lead us into the Kekoldi Reserve. The lodge we would be staying in was 3km up the mountain, and besides not having hiked for a while, we all had our huge packs on (mine was a 4500 cubic inch pack completely full). It was a beautiful hike, but we all couldn't wait until we reached the top and could catch our breath. We stopped a few times on the way up, and one time, were fortunate enough to catch two large lizards in the midst of a territorial fight. Pablo said they were poisonous (basically, anything in the rainforest that has bright colors, is dangerous) but we all got close for a look anyway. They were dark with bright yellow heads and red strips down their sides.
Puerto Viejo de Limón in the distance from the watchtower.
We stood around watching for a good 10 minutes before one (which we think had a broken leg) ran off in defeat.
    When we reached the end of our trek, the lodge we were greated with was amazing. It was built by hand by Sebastián (a Bri Bri) and a few of the other members of the tribe. They used a hard wood found in the rainforest to build the lodge to it wouldn't rot or get infested with termites. We went around to the front and found two wood picnic tables and some nice wood chairs in a large living area surrounded by hammocks (all of which were handmade). Then there was a small office for Pablo and Daniel, and a kitchen. Past the kitchen were a few stairs leading to the showers and bathrooms. There was a side for the girls and a side for the boys, even though we only had 2 guys in our group (the girls ended up taking over the showers on the guys' side, as well.
The view of the mountains of Panama from the watchtower on the reserve.
..haha). Off the living area was a staircase that lead up to the bedrooms. The lodge had 6 bedrooms that could each board 4 people. We split up and took three rooms on one side of the lodge. From each room, you could access the upstairs deck kind of thing with an amazing view of the rainforest and the sunset each evening.
    Heading uphill a bit more from the lodge was a brick oven that the group before us built. They had to carry bricks and bags of cement up the 3km trail from the road. Still recovering from the hike with our packs on, the brick oven made us worry...what were we going to have to carry up the mountain??? Haha. There was also a watchtower that is used mainly to watch the raptor migration each year. From it we got a 360º view of our surroundings.
Two of my fellow ISVers along with Daniel (one of the guys in charge of us) putting up our first mist net.
You could see the mountains of Panama (that's how far south we were), as well as the beach in Puerto Viejo (an awesome little Rasta town).

    We soon learned more about what we were actually doing at Kekoldi. Pablo had started researching the effects of global warming on bird populations on the reserve, and it was our job to assist him and Daniel with the research. Every other morning, we were going to be birding. Half of us went out at 5am to set up the mist nets and to work for 3 hours, and the other half came out at 8:30am to work for another 3 hours and take the nets down. The way the research worked was that every half hour, everyone left the collecting table and went in groups of 2 or 3 to an assigned number of nets (we usually had 10-12 nets up).
Me holding a large wood creeper we caught so Daniel could take a few pictures for the records.
We checked each net for birds (it was usually pretty obvious because the birds would be freaking out). Hummingbirds were removed from the nets first, as they're the smallest and very delicate. Then the other birds were untangled and each placed into a separate bag to bring back to the collecting table. Once there, the hummingbirds were checked for a cut in the largest feather on the left wing to see if they had been caught before (we didn't have bands small enough for them). The other birds were then all checked for bands, banded, weighed, wings measured, and checked for a brood patch before being released.
    We caught a lot of hummingbirds, which was really cool because we all go the chance to hold one. One of the ways you can hold a hummingbird without hurting them is by their long beak.
Pablo holding onto the evil motmot that tried to eat Daniel's pinky finger. It later bit the ruler we were using to measure its wings and refused to let go.
They then start flapping their wings around and it's a really beautiful thing to see. We caught a lot of finches as well as some smaller birds that are common to the area. One day, just after we set up a net, 2 tucans swooped down from a tree. They just missed the net, and we were kind of upset that we wouldn't get to see one up close, but Daniel assured us that the strength of a tucan's beak is not something you want to be close to. Daniel ended up getting bit later on in the week by a very angry motmot. The motmot was one of the most amazingly colored birds I have ever seen, with just about every color in its feathers. It also, however, has the sharpest beak I have ever seen, with tons of teeth that were perfect for attempting to eat Daniel's pinky, as well as the ruler when we tried to measure its wingspan.
Sweaty, wet and dirty after carrying logs up the hill in the rain.
Bad motmot! (We caught another one later in the day that was very docile, so apparently the angry motmot woke up on the wrong side of the nest.)
    More information about what goes on at the Kekoldi reserve can be found at www.kekoldi.org

When we weren't birding (in the afternoons or on the off days) we would help Sebastián out with things around the lodge, since it still wasn't 100% completed. For some reason, that I still am unsure of, he asked us to move logs from the bottom of part of a hill to the other side, near the brick oven. Half of us went on a nature walk in the morning, while the other half carried logs, and then we switched after lunch. I was in the group that went on the hike in the morning, and at around 11am, it began to rain.
Me with Weimer and Deyedi after making a clay person from the clay off the trail.
..which left us with a very muddy mess to carry logs in. A lot of the logs were too big for one of us to carry, but two people carrying one log proved to be pretty rough, as it was hard enough to stay on your feet while not carrying anything at all. We ended up mud sliding on pieces of cardboard down the hill. Turned out to be a lot of fun.
    After all the logs were moved, we had some downtime. I had noticed some clay in the trail and since it had been raining, it was perfect for making sculptures. Weimer (9) and Deyedi (7), two of the Bri Bri children, thought it was great, and we made two clay figures. Deyedi named them Paulo and Laura. The clay people stayed around for a few days and were lots of fun until they somehow disappeared.
Relaxing in a hammock made by yours truly.
..probably went on a vacation.

    Besides helping Sebastián with work around the reserve, we relaxed in the hammocks, played card games (NERTZ!) and hung out. When we had arrived at the lodge, there was a half finished hammock hanging up, and I soon taught myself how to work on it. I finished that one and we put it up so that more people could lay around and relax. I then went on to make 3 more in the course of the next week and a half. Brittney and Aimee were the only other two who found it interesting enough to work on. I liked it, because it gave me some mindless work to keep me busy, and when it was done, we got to enjoy another hammock. I have yet to set up a hammock making station here at home, but I'm getting there...
    During the afternoons, if there was nothing better to do, we would get to go to Puerto Viejo.
Hitch-hiking in the back of a dump truck is a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation.
If you have never been, I suggest you plan a trip. It's a small Rasta town in the Caribbean and it's a lot of fun. From the road at the bottom of Kekoldi, it was either a very cheap bus ride (50 cents US) or a quick hitch-hike. Hitch-hiking, we found out, is perfectly safe in the area of Costa Rica where we were, and everyone is very friendly. We road in a VW station wagon, the back of trucks, Jeeps, and even a dump truck (which is perfectly acceptable, since there were 2 or 3 locals in the back when we got in there).
    It was nice to go into Puerto Viejo because we could go to the beach, get some food other than the Bri Bri food we had been eating (which was all pretty mushy), check emails and update our families, buy souveniers made by the locals (many of whom are of Bri Bri descent), and hang out. Many of the people who live in Puerto Viejo are originally from the US, Germany, and other countries. People visit the town, fall in love with it, and never leave again.
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Two lizards, each around a foot lo…
Two lizards, each around a foot l…
HUGE beetle on the wall in the lod…
HUGE beetle on the wall in the lo…
Almost all of the group up on the …
Almost all of the group up on the…
Puerto Viejo de Limón in the dist…
Puerto Viejo de Limón in the dis…
The view of the mountains of Panam…
The view of the mountains of Pana…
Two of my fellow ISVers along with…
Two of my fellow ISVers along wit…
Me holding a large wood creeper we…
Me holding a large wood creeper w…
Pablo holding onto the evil motmot…
Pablo holding onto the evil motmo…
Sweaty, wet and dirty after carryi…
Sweaty, wet and dirty after carry…
Me with Weimer and Deyedi after ma…
Me with Weimer and Deyedi after m…
Relaxing in a hammock made by your…
Relaxing in a hammock made by you…
Hitch-hiking in the back of a dump…
Hitch-hiking in the back of a dum…
Hone Creek
photo by: smhirsch