LAST Week Ten: Pura Vida!

Our last day off was spent swimming and sunbathing and generally being very lazy and soaking up the Costa Rican sun. Then it was time to say goodbye to our volunteer, with only a couple of days before we got to meet our replacement research assistants. Some toucans turned up in our papaya tree and the macaws seemed even more numerous than ever, just to remind of us of how incredible our home for the past ten weeks has been.

We finished up a few things at the start of the week, collecting some final data on the mangroves and putting the final touches on our ‘mangrove report’, a first attempt at making some sense out of eight years of data from the project. We had one ocean day with just the three of us, so we went up to one of the further beaches and predictably didn’t catch any turtles, although this gave us some good time to work on our tans.

Our replacements arrived on Wednesday afternoon, an English guy and an American girl. He has just been at LAST’s other project, the nesting beach at Pacuare. By all accounts Pacuare makes our house look luxurious and Playa Blanca look big, so hopefully he will enjoy the additional comforts for the next ten weeks. She had just completed an internship in Utila, coincidentally with one of C’s friends from university.

Our really very lovely house

I had my last swim in the Gulf, with two turtles making an appearance for me. (It was either four or two twice each, but I’m pretty sure it was the same two). Down at the beach I met a family driving in their campervan from Argentina to Alaska – some adventure! So far they have been at it for two years and seven months.

We had one ocean day with our replacements. The new RA’s first attempt at putting out the net was predictably a little disastrous, and I felt very bad for her, but of course it happened to all of us and we told her as much. Sometimes I feel the only tangible evidence of improvement in the time I have been on the project is how much less terrified I am of both putting out and detangling the nets.

We caught a green turtle and a hawksbill. Both were previously tagged, so they didn’t get to see the whole procedure with PIT tagging and tissue sampling, but they have plenty of time! I was just relieved that we got to see some turtles on our last day (and while swimming C saw ‘Joe’, who we sat-tracked last week).

Last turtle release

We sat and had some beers on our last night before an early start to catch the bus. Here C and I parted ways as she is off to Panama to start two weeks of travelling, whereas I fly home on Monday morning. I came straight up to San Jose – the eight hour bus taking 11 hours due to the current national strike roadblocks.

I was determined to leave with a more positive impression of San Jose, and am succeeding in that so far. I’m staying in the ‘hipster area’ of Barrio Escalante, and it almost feels like I could be back in Bristol already! I am surrounded by craft beer bars and gastropubs. I spent the day doing my souvenir shopping at the Mercado Central and Mercado National de Artisanes. I love a good market, so this has been very satisfying (and more than a little bad for my bank account).

The only downside was seeing a ‘herbal medicine’ type stall in the Mercado Central selling shark oil and tortoise oil which claim to treat all sorts of ailments. I feel this can’t possibly be legal in Costa Rica so it was very disheartening to see it so openly available. It was also a reminder that Costa Rica is still very much a country of two halves, where a reasonably liberal populace and an active conservation community coexists with poverty, poor education, and damaging traditions.

Pura vida!

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