2014 Costa Rica Coast to Coast Environmental Transect (C2C)
The American Climber Science Program, in association with the Las Cruces Biological Station of the Organization of Tropical Studies (www.ots.ac.cr), Finca Loma Linda, and the Parque Internacional La Amistad, will be traversing the country of Costa Rica in likely the first ever Central American Coast to Coast Environmental Transect (C2C). This effort will provide a wealth of environmental data as the ACSP explores the mountain jungles of the Talamanca Range – the highest in Central America – and travels from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. The C2C will occur from December 15 through January 5th and volunteers who can pay their own expenses and handle grueling conditions while gathering scientific data are sought. We are looking for individuals committed to conservation and environmental education who are willing to volunteer with this project and fully participate in the research and data collection. Prior experience in Latin America, excellent physical fitness, and a willingness to work as part of a research team is required. We are accepting applications through November 15th.
MAP ROUTE (SEE BELOW FOR DETAILED ITINERARY). BLUE LINE IS SEA KAYAK. RED LINE IS A SMALL MOTOR BOAT (PANGA) THROUGH MANGROVE FOREST. GREEN LINES ARE MOUNTAIN BIKING. PURPLE LINE IS JUNGLE EXPLORATION AND DATA COLLECTION. YELLOW LINE IS INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY BETWEEN COSTA RICA AND PANAMA.
MAIN POINTS ON THE TRANSECT Golfo Dulce The Golfo Dulce is one of four tropical fiords in the world. Located along the most southeasterly coast of Costa Rica, it is approximately 50 km in length and 15 km wide. It has a very deep inner basin which is occasionally anoxic. The gulf supports an extraordinary abundance of marine life and is the only place in the world where humpback whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres overlap during their annual migrations. The gulf is surrounded by spectacular rainforest and steep coastal mountains on the mainland in Piedras Blancas National Park and Corcovado National Park to the north on the Osa Peninsula. The Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park have some of the tallest and most diverse rainforest in the Americas and the park has been described as the most biologically intense place on earth due to the extraordinary concentration of large fauna.
Finca Loma Linda Loma is a privately owned forest reserve and biological station located 15 km from San Vito in the Coto Brus highlands, a rugged, rural landscape far from the normal tourist track. Loma protects ~55 ha of secondary and primary montane rainforest. The historic property was one of the earliest settlements in the region, established in 1950 by the Cole-Christensen family. Loma has functioned as a center for outreach and education and is the site of many years of research on sustainable agriculture, tropical ecology, and ecological restoration. Loma will be our home base for planning, gear preparation, and rest on this transect.
Las Cruces Biological Station Las Cruces is located at 1200 m above sea level along a spur of the Fila Cruces, a pacific coastal range in Coto Brus. The station receives ~4 m of rainfall annually and harbors a distinct dry season from January – March; mean diurnal temperature ranges from 13-26° C. The topography is very rugged and elevation ranges from 1000-1400 m, which allows for high diversity of flora and fauna – including an estimated 2,000 species of plants, more than 400 birds and 113 mammal species.
The station is also home to the Wilson Botanical Garden – the most famous botanical garden in Central America. The garden features beautifully diverse plantings of tropical and subtropical ornamentals, representatives of unusual plant families, and rare and endangered plants from Costa Rica and elsewhere. The friendly staff at the LBCS has volunteered to work with us to make the material we collect on this transect available to local schools through their Ecomaletas Program.
Parque Internacional La Amistad Parque Internacional La Amistad is 401,000 ha region protecting the largest tropical forest in Central America. La Amistad encompasses the highest and wildest non-volcanic peaks on the isthmus, the Cordillera de Talamanca, which run across the spine of southern Costa Rica and northern Panama. The Cordillera de Talamanca rise from near sea level to over 3800m and provides refugia for an extraordinary wealth of flora and fauna including many endangered and endemic species. It is thought that La Amistad has greater species diversity than any other protected areas of equivalent size on the planet. The park has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it remains one of the least explored regions in Central America. Due to the extremely difficult terrain of the Talamanca there has been little scientific exploration and most research in the region has simply focused on cataloguing new species.
La Amistad encompasses 12 life zones including four distinct plant communities found nowhere else in Central America. Paramo (tropical tundra) is found at the highest elevations and the paramo on Cerro Kamuk contains some of the richest and least disturbed vegetation in the Talamanca. Other upper elevations are characterized by high oak forests which give way to dense cloud forests and diverse tropical wet forest on the Pacific slope and down to the Caribbean coast. Archeological sites have been reported near La Amistad including some of the oldest in Central America; however, there is an almost complete lack of archeological investigation in the region. Four indigenous groups still inhabit the Talamanca Mountains and thanks to the rugged and isolated terrain, they retain much of their traditional culture.
Brief overview of the proposed route: Day 1.The trip will start at Finca Loma Linda where we will prepare and store gear for the various stages of the transect.
Day 2. AM: Visit to the Las Cruces Biological Station and San Vito. PM: From Loma, we will drive 2.5 hrs to Los Mogos in the interior of the Golfo Dulce and stay at the Hotel Mirador (http://www.elmiradorosa.com).
Day 3. Starting early the next day, we will kayak approximately 6-7 hours to Golfito (a support boat will accompany us and take the kayaks back to Los Mogos at the end of the day). From Golfito, we will take a motorized ‘Panga’ though the mangroves out to open ocean to Playa Zancudo for a night at a local hotel on the beach.
Day 4. The support car will arrive at Zancudo with our bikes. Starting very early, we will bike on mostly unpaved through agricultural land and palm plantations to the hot, steamy lowland town of Neily. From Neily, the route goes steeply uphill on unpaved road through the Indigenous reserves of Abrojo and Montezuma, approximately 3900 ft of elevation gain in 60 miles to Finca Loma Linda.
Day 5. Optional day trip to Las Alturas de Coton to climb Cerro Chai (4-5 hour hike). Final gear and food purchases. Evening guest presentation on Peru research and the current trip and dinner at LCBS with students and staff.
Day 6. Very early start to bike the Interamerican hwy from Loma to Buenos Aires (65 miles, 3500 elevation loss and 1000 gain). Meet with Benjamin (local guide) in Buenos Aires. Support car drops off our backcountry gear and takes bikes back to Loma. Stay at local Hotel in Buenos Aires or at Reserva Durika (TBD). Day 7-15. Talamanca traverse. We will start from the Ujarras Indigenous territory and climb up towards Cerro Durika to an estimated maximum of 3300m. There are expected to be occasional sections of trail, however, the route may not have been traveled in the two previous years and we will have to open trail with machetes much of the way. Travel will be steep and difficult. The Pacific side is expected to be dry and pleasant. Temperatures may drop to 0°C near the high point of the route.
Once we cross to the Caribbean slope, travel will become much more difficult and is expected to be extremely wet and with heavy, prolonged rains, strong trade winds, and potentially high, flooding rivers and danger of landslides and tree falls in worst-case conditions. We will cross multiple rivers per day on the lower slope of the Talamanca and emerge out into the Indigenous Territories of Bribri and Cabecar in the Valle de Talamanca. From the Valle, travel will vary between foot travel and boat until we reach a roadway leading to the laid-back resort town of Puerto Viejo. The final leg of travel may be on foot or bike as it is possible to arrange on-site. Lodging and New Year’s party and celebration will be at the end of the traverse in Puerto Viejo. Onward travel can be to San Jose by bus, or into Panama through Changuinola and to Bocas del Toro. Note that the entire Caribbean will be very wet this time of year leading to potential delays in travel by road or air whereas the Pacific coast will be at the height of great summer weather.
Research and Outreach: We aim to produce several things of utility for environmental education. • The most important is good video and sound recording of our traverse for use by LCBS, MINAET (Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment) and the National Park Service (SINAC). • Collect samples of black carbon in water • Collect samples of cloud particles for analysis of cloud nuclei particles • Recording of bird and frog calls (30 minutes, 3 times per day at set times) • Collection of vegetation ground reference data for use with satellite imagery • Photos and narrative
Important Note About Preparation, Conditions, Safety & Risk Previous experience in the tropical rainforest and with the other activities described above, as well as excellent fitness and a high tolerance for uncomfortable conditions, are essential for participation. This trip will be difficult and involve inherent and other risks. In particular: • The Talamanca is very dense. It is entirely possible to get lost within only a few feet of a trail. You will be responsible for always carrying a GPS and keeping track of your location. • There are lethally venomous snakes and highly poisonous insects and plants in the areas where we will be traveling. You can also expect to encounter annoying ticks and chiggers, chagas bugs, wasps, bullet ants, bot flies, acid beetles, among other things. • During the course of this trip, we will be in locations that are home to animals that can present a danger to humans. For instance, large reptiles may be found in rivers, sharks may be found in rivers near the ocean and in the ocean and large, predatory animals, including jaguars and pumas, may be found elsewhere. • Weather can be unpredictable and present additional danger. For instance, in high rains or wind, there may be sudden tree or branch falls and making hiking and river crossings more dangerous. We may need to hike several extra days in order to find a safe ford in extreme conditions so be prepared for extra days out. Unpredictable weather may also lead to hypothermia and similar health-related risks. • In the areas where we will be traveling, there has historically been a moderate risk of Dengue and Leishmaniasis and a low risk of Malaria, as well as other similar risks. You should consult with your own medical doctor in advance of the trip to ensure that you have any necessary vaccines and take any other recommended precautions. • Although we will have a satellite phone with us, satellite phones are not always reliable. Even once contact with local authorities is made, any rescue response is likely to be slow (multiple days) at best. These and other hazards require a very high degree of competence, vigilance and care. This trip is being led by volunteers who are not paid professional guides or leaders. All participants will share in the responsibility for their own safety and the safety of the group. Participants are responsible for having the appropriate skills, fitness and supplies required for this endeavor. Participants accept full responsibility for the inherent and other risks associated with this trip.