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The Sea Shepherd: “Are you willing to die for a whale?”

“All systems of oppression need to be challenged,” said a speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud, Bali last month.   Doing just that since 1977, Sea Shepherd,  a non-governmental, non-profit environmental organization, has been using direct action tactics [along with lots of media attention]  to protect marine life [and to educate consumers].

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Sea Shepherd seeking poachers

If you want to volunteer on a Sea Shepherd crew, you will be asked that question, “Are you willing to die for a whale?”  The boats carry no guns but use film and public education to achieve incredible  change.  Their important work continues.

Sea Shepherd claims responsibility for damaging or sinking multiple whaling ships, through sabotage or ramming. The group has attempted to intervene against Russian, Spanish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Makah, Faroese, and Japanese whalers in multiple campaigns around the globe.  Those actions have included scuttling and disabling commercial whaling vessels at harbor, using limpet mines (a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets) to blow holes in ship hulls,  ramming other vessels, throwing glass bottles of  butyric acid (stinky rancid butter) on the decks of vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizing  and destroying drift nets  at sea.   Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson has said that the organization has  destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment.  The Sea Shepherd media extravaganzas have highlighted whaling, long-line fishing nets, and shark fining to get people everywhere informed and conscious of the destruction of life in our oceans.

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Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – over fished, few regulatory guidelines

Some shark populations have decreased by 60-70% due to shark fisheries.

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Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

 

image from:       http://knowledgebase.lookseek.com/Scalloped-Hammerhead-Shark-Sphyrna-lewini.html

Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd, has spent the past 10 years on documenting, investigating, and exposing the shark fin trade. He was a guest speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud last month.  Indonesia is the #1 exporter of shark fins; Spain #2.

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Shark fin    Image from <ocean-news/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey>

There is much economic pressure to ignore the international bans on shark finning.

Fishermen often choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back alive into the ocean, where unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.  Shark meat sold to restaurants and markets is often used in seafood curries and stews.

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Shark fin soup – a sign of status at $100 U.S. a bowl.

Image from: http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey

Gary says that now 60% of the fish and seafood in our oceans are in terrible condition. Global fishing fleets are now at 2.5 times the sustainable level.  Just one poaching boat, the “Lafayette” which works the waters off Chili and Peru around the Faroe Islands processes 1,500 tons of fish a day!!    Much of that is Chilean tooth fish; in restaurants, it’s called “Chilean Sea Bass.”  😦  Much of caught sea food goes to animal feed.

“Chilean sea bass”/ tooth fish

A result of Sea Shepherd and other activists groups like Greenpeace and loud voices, many people now know to make conscious choices.

According to a National Geographic article, we now know to “look for the blue eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council, or ask where in the world the fish comes from. . .[to] help you find the best and avoid the rest”

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/12/chilean-seabass-goes-from-take-a-pass-to-take-a-bite/

Stokes reports that forty percent of the tuna that comes into the U.S. is from illegal, unreported fisheries in Thailand.  And forty percent of all fish caught is used for animal feed. 😦  If the world continues to consume and destroy marine life at the current rates, Stokes says that by 1948 there will be no fish!

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The Sea Shepherd Fleet now has nine ships including the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker, and the Brigette Bardot.

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Shark products.   Ask where, how, and by whom the fish were caught.

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Sea Shepherd goes after ships that  fish illegally

Recently, Sea Shepherd Asia had a hiatus, a year off, when Japan temporarily halted whale hunting.   Gary and his team got to go after other notorious pirate fishing vessels.  For 110 days, a Sea Shepherd ship chased the “Thunder” – #1 on the Interpol list of pirate fishing vessels.  Finally, the captain of the “Thunder” sunk his own ship rather than be caught with the incriminating evidence of illegal fishing!!    But while part of the Sea Shepherd crew was saving the “Thunder” crew, other Sea Shepherd volunteers entered the sinking ship in time to collect computers and other evidence that has the captain and crew serving time in a Nigerian jail.  [It would seem the owners of the pirate ships should be in jail too].  The photo above shows what has happened to other illegal fishing boats that Sea Shepherd has targeted.

Gary says of the ocean marine life, “We are losing everything.”  We must all learn and act.

So why was Gary invited to speak at the Vegan Fest?  The people who volunteer for the Sea Shepherd crews are ardent animal activists.  Many are vegans.  Since 2002, all Sea Shepherd vessels serve only vegan meals.  It would be hypocritical, says Gary, to eat meat while chasing people who are killing marine life.   Gary has been a vegetarian since 1980.  When he first started going out on Sea Shepherd missions, Gary was more worried about what he would get to eat than about the possible confrontations the crew would meet.  But, he has learned that the vegan meals are delicious, healthy, and accommodate everyone on board, and all religions.

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Vegan meals on the Sea Shepherd

The Sea Shepherd logo – a pirate to protect marine life:

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“If the oceans die, we die! We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean,” said Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson

Watch the following documentaries; you will likely cry, cheer, and laugh.

Paul Watson: The Whale Warrior: A Pirate for the Sea

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nzbTsrOUxw

and

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist – a full documentary film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOSo_LHZeTw

Seafood Watch has a free app for iPhone and Android that’s updated as recommendations change.

Please be ocean-friendly when you shop for seafood.  Even better, eat vegetarian/vegan.  Think about it.  And tell your friends.  Do what you can do.

Remember that ardent animal rights Sea Shepherd crews don’t have guns.  Gary Stokes says that even one pissed off vegan is a force to be reckoned with.

Full steam ahead, Sea Shepherd.  We need you now more than ever.

Aloha, Renée

Thought for the Day: The more I handled things . . .

“The more I handled things

and learned their names and uses

the more joyous and confident

grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the  world”

– Helen Keller

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Egret in Bali rice field. rr photo

Aloha, Renée

Kiawe? That thorny tree a super-food?

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A beautiful kiawe bean – bright, no marks, sweet, nutrient rich, diabetic friendly.

On Maui, we enjoy many blessings: the Hawaiian culture of aloha and chant, beautiful beaches, volcanoes, rain forests, temperate weather, splendid sunrises and sunsets, outrigger canoe paddling, . . . a vacation paradise. However, we import about 90% of our food and fuel. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean – 2,336 miles from San Francisco and about 4,034 miles from Tokyo – we are very food and energy insecure.

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Ocean as far as we can see.

This is a fact of concern.

However, most of us in Hawaii have been over-looking a terrific food source – a much-maligned tree that will give you a painful puncture wound if you step on its thorn. Its beans have been used as cattle and pig fodder or for firewood (mesquite). Tough and hearty – often looking like dead, brown trees during dry conditions, but quickly becoming green with new growth after a rain, kiawe trees are on all the leeward coasts of the Hawaiian islands.

A recent workshop shared that the kiawe beans – from that non-native, drought and salt resistant invasive tree – is actually a local super food. Wild-food guru Sunny Savage says, “Millions of pounds of kiawe beans are just falling to the ground every year, completely and utterly unloved. This tree of life can produce up to 6 harvests per year” (Wild Food Plants of Hawaii, 111).

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Naturally sweet, bubbling kiawe tea

We don’t need to be food insecure in Hawaii if we learn how to hunt (not hard in Kihei and other dry areas in Hawaii), gather, sort, clean, dry, make flour, and create from recipes using kiawe bean pods.

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Tasha making ‘aina bars

Sunny Savage and Vince Dodge presented our Kiawe 101 hands-on Workshop in Kihei, Maui.   Vince, of Wai’anae Gold, mills kiawe beans into flour and makes delicious products such as ‘aina bars, a raw power bar from kiawe flour.

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Kiawe trees grow on the dry leeward coasts of the Hawaiian islands

Vince and Sunny told us that kiawe (aka mesquite /algarrobo), was introduced in 1826, by a French Jesuit priest who had stopped in Peru for a while on his way to Hawaii. Father Alexis Bachelot was impressed by the uses the Peruvians made of the tree and brought it here. A memorial plaque at the old Catholic Mission on Fort Street in Honolulu commemorates that very first tree; its stump is still there today.

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Vince and Sunny at the Kiawe 101 Workshop

In Hawaii, the seedpods became animal fodder and firewood but was not eaten by the people. In contrast, in the Americas, the Middle East, India and many other places where the tree is native, the dried pulverized bean pods were a revered staple food. Naturally sweet, nutrient dense and diabetic friendly, kiawe bean pod flour is a Hawaiian Super Food. All our islands are blessed with abundant kiawe forests.

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Kiawe tea in a coconut

Wai’anae Gold is working with families to produce food and create livelihoods for the future. For ten years Wai’anae Gold under the leadership of Vince Dodge has been on this path educating and encouraging  communities to return to the bounty that the `aina has provided for us all.

To see recipes, buy milled kiawe flour and other kiawe products direct, go to the Wai’anae Gold site:< http://waianaegold.com/ >

Vince says, “We are `Ai Pohaku – The Stone Eaters. Come and join us. He ali`i ka `aina. He kauwa ke kanaka. The land is chief, people its servants (`Olelo No`eau 531 Pukui 1983).”

For the workshop, Vince and Sunny shared how to hunt, gather, select, dry, and use kiawe. We got to taste the super sweet (but diabetic friendly) tea, and eat a meal of kiawe and coconut soup, with kiawe cornbread, kiawe tortillas, and to top it off for dessert, kiawe ‘aina bars: delicious, filling and nutritious!!

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Hunting for fallen kiawe beans

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We all loved the kiawe tea

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Sunny making kiawe tortillas

Vince is “The founder of ‘Ai Pohaku, Vince Kana‘i Dodge, is a papa (grandfather), educator, cultural practitioner and longtime resident of Wai‘anae where kiawe trees are plentiful.

He shares the story that one day in early 2006 on MA‘O Organic Farms a couple from Arizona shared that “mesquite” – the cousin of kiawe – was a staple of all the Southwest native peoples.  All those years ago, Gary told Vince that kiawe was a sweet, nutritious and diabetic-friendly food.

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At that time the Wai‘anae community was in the throes of a diabetic epidemic (about one-third of the people in Wai’anae had diabetics, including some as young as 7th grade). Imagine: a sweet, nutritious diabetic-friendly food growing in our backyards… Vince was called. We believe it is no accident that the concentration of kiawe and diabetes are in the same place.”

Last week, Vince was able to meet Gary Paul Nabhan that important visitor from 2006, who was speaking here on Maui for the organic agricultural festival.  🙂

 

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Eugi’s kiawe bean dryer – with Vince and Erika

Sunny Savage is host of the wild food cooking show Hot on the Trail, presenter at the  2014 TedxMaui, a foraging workshop guide, and author of the beautiful and inspiring Wild Food Plants of Hawaii.  To be connected to the land, to absorb important trace minerals and nutrition we aren’t getting from our processed food, Sunny encourages all of us to forage for at least one wild food each day.

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Vince showing us how to sort the kiawe beans

 

Yesterday, my son Johnny and I ran into each other. We had an hour to spare. We each took a bag and in no time walking along the beach under the shade of kiawe trees, we had them filled with bright, plump kiawe pods. Right now they are drying (inside my car with the windows rolled up)! We look forward to making our kiawe flour into pancakes, bread, soup, sparkling drinks . . .

Again this weekend, we have warnings of two hurricanes headed this way. But now besides our cans of beans and bottles of water for emergency use, we have the knowledge of how to sustain ourselves on the humble kiawe bean pods that are all around us.

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Johnny making ‘aina bars – 2 parts kiawe flour, 2 parts nut butter, 1 part honey, and a pinch of Hawaiian salt. We are ready for a hurricane!

What overlooked food source do you have nearby?

Nature is bountiful; we just need eyes to see – and people like Sunny and Vince to teach us.

Happy foraging.

Aloha, Renée

 

Costa Rica: Snapshots – Ecological Sanctuary

Of course, Barry and I did the Cloud Forest hikes, places of great beauty and activity (tour bus destinations), but we also found the Monteverde Ecological Sanctuary, a Costa Rican family run site that we had to ourselves much of one morning.  It is on 48 hectors (about 118 acres) of reclaimed logged forest.  Although second growth, this forest is beautiful and a wonderful place to wander and explore.

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Monteverde Ecological Sanctuary – cost is $15.00 U.S.

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For the most part, the trails are very well marked.

We were impressed by the large and the small.

We learned of trees we didn’t know.

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The “Hippie Killer” tree – for all those darn tree huggers 🙂

One trail was particularly steep, but well worth the climb.

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With a rainbow too

Although we didn’t see mammals up close – probably because we were there mid-day and because conservation land that doesn’t allow people is nearby, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Monteverde Ecological Sanctuary.

Be sure to visit.    We think you will like the Monteverde Ecological Sanctuary too.

Pure Vida, Renée

Costa Rica – Snapshots: Bugs and Butterflies

In San José, the capital of Costa Rica, Barry and I loved wandering the colorful, bustling streets.

 

 

But Costa Rica is known for its land conservation and rich natural life.  So we liked being outside the capital too.  Most of the birds, the animals, and even the bugs are beautiful and wonderful.

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A bird feeder outside a Monteverde café and bakery

You may know of the sloths, monkeys, and coatis of Costa Rica, but did you know that the country is also host to many insects?  Surprises, for me, included:

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Assassin bug – also known as “the kissing bug” – that little brown bug with the orange edges.

Not everything is good for humans.  I’d never heard of the assassin bug – that Sara, our informative and friendly naturalist guide at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens, had found in her own bed!  To know how troubling that is, she told us facts about this small seemingly harmless bug.

They are known as “kissing bugs,” because they tend to bite sleeping humans in the soft tissue around the lips and eyes. Then, says Sara, when you wake up and the bite is itchy, you scratch it which allows the venom to get in your blood.

Those bites can be vectors for the trypanosomal Chagas disease, sometimes called “American trypanosomiasis.”  In the early stage, symptoms are typically either not present or mild, perhaps a fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, or swelling.  After 8–12 weeks, the chronic phase of disease can begin, but for 60–70% of the victims, it never produces further symptoms. 

The other 30 to 40% of people, however, can develop further symptoms 10 to even 30 years after the initial infection.  Ten percent may experience an enlarged esophagus or enlarged colon.  The damage includes enlargement of the  ventricles of the heart in 20 to 30% of those bitten, which leads to heart failure – death.

Later, we were told by a young Costa Rican woman that these are bug bites that disproportionately affect the indigenous and poor – and the reason many die early.  According to her, little research is being done on treatment since “it is a poor person’s disease.”

But don’t avoid Costa Rica or the tropics.  Know what an assassin bug looks like – as Sara does – and be aware.

Another insect here is big and not pleasant to see – but it is not a vector for disease:

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A Giant Blaberus cockroach.  Sara is holding it, not me

Another insect is known for its strength.

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Hercules beetles

The Hercules beetles are amazing.  They can reach 6 inches (15 cm) in length, making them the largest species of the Rhino Beetle, the largest beetle in the world.  Besides, pound for pound, these beetles are the strongest animals in the world. Where an adult elephant can lift about 25 times its weight, the rhino beetle can lift 850 times its body weight!  That is more than any other animal recorded.

Especially for Asian boys, they are  a popular pet; you can easily spend $350 U.S. dollars on a rhino beetle although they live only about a year.  Or just come see them in Costa Rica.

 

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A red liliko’i (passion fruit) flower in the butterfly garden!

 

 

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Sometimes you can have a very close encounter

Butterflies that feed on fermenting ripe fruit – like the Morpho butterfly below – become intoxicated; they tend to have short – and perhaps – happy lives.

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The Morpho butterfly

 

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Of course, we saw more leaf-cutter ants. These were marching along a roof pole on a shed in the butterfly gardens.

So know that when you come to Costa Rica, you can enjoy the museums, night life, and people of the city – and the interesting critters in the conservation areas as well.

Pura Vida, Renée

In Costa Rica: Facts

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Costa Rican flag

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Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a world leader in land conservation – but it hasn’t always been that way.  In 1500, over 95% of the area was forested, but by 1987 only 21%.  By 2010, 52% was forested and today, a bit more.   With 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, plus animal refuges, and protected areas, 26 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected.

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Along a trail in Costa Rica

One of those important parks is the Arenal Volcano National Park,  29,692-acre (12,016-hectors) that includes both the Arenal Volcano and the dormant Chato Volcano.  Beginning near Lake Arenal, the park has hiking trails and observational points.  Of the over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica about 112 have shown some type of activity: Arenal is the most active volcano in Central America, while Poás is the second widest volcanic crater in the world, and Irazú is Costa Rica’s tallest volcano.

Arenal Volcano National Park - the largest recorded eruption was in 1968

Arenal Volcano – the largest recorded eruption was in 1968

Costa Rica is serious about land conservation; it offers farmers, for instance, yearly subsidies if they keep part of their land forested.

Another popular tourist destination is  Manuel Antonio National Park: on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast; it includes rugged rainforest, white-sand beaches and coral reefs.  It contains a  vast diversity of tropical plants and wildlife, including three-toed sloths, endangered white-faced capuchin monkeys, and hundreds of bird species. The park’s 1,680 acres (680 hectares) have hiking trails meandering from the coast up into the mountains.

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Manuel Antonio National Park – beautiful!

But these are only two of the many wildlife and conservation sites you can visit in Costa Rica.  It is one of the most valued environmental destinations in the world – with over 100 protected areas to visit.

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Wildlife Crossing – puma

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Costa Rica – a land of conservation and adventure

<http://costa-rica-guide.com/maps/printable-costa-rica-map/&gt;.

There are zip lines, water adventures, beaches, wildlife tours, and much more to see in Costa Rica.

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The first – and some of the best zip lines

Other important facts:

  • The Costa Rican army was abolished in 1948 after a grim civil war that killed 2,000 people in 44 days.
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    Costa Rican civil war in 1948

  • On 24 April, 1944, led by José María (Pepe) Figueres, a powerful coffee grower and outspoken rival of Calderón (the previous president), anti-government forces entered San José, almost six weeks after beginning a revolt in southern Costa Rica against the contested election of the Picado government.  The United States helped determine the outcome of the revolution by its mobilization in the Canal Zone, constant pressure on Picado, and cutting off Nicaragua’s (Somoza’s) help.  Also, throughout the country, armed groups were formed, trained by Guatemalan military advisors, in part, we were told, because of a promise by Figueres to send Costa Rican fighters later to Guatemala.
  • No ArmyOver the following 18 months, Figueres acted as interim president, during which time he drafted a new constitution that prohibited presidential reelection, dissolved the communist party in Costa Rica, granted women and blacks the right to vote, abolished the army, and established a neutral body that would oversee future elections (the Electoral Tribunal). All of the social reforms that Calderón had established were maintained. Banks and insurance companies were nationalized, and ten percent of all bank funds were seized for reconstruction. In 1949, Figueres turned the country over to Ulate, who  had run as the unified opposition party leader, challenging Calderón’s party in the 1948 election. “Don Pepe” Figueres was elected president in 1953 and again in 1970. Upon his death in 1990, he was remembered as one of Costa Rica’s greatest leaders and a crusader against political corruption.  He also never kept his promise to send troops to Guatemala; he knew the horror of war and didn’t want any more Costa Ricans to die.  Costa Rica still has no standing army.
  • 2014 celebration of with former President José %22Don Pepe%22 Figueres Ferrer

    “Don Pepe” Figueres on the right

  • Costa Rica has more teachers than police!
  • Literacy rate is 95% for men and women.
  • Infant mortality /maternal mortality rate is 25 per 100,000 live births and it continues to go down.  In contrast, in 1987, there were 7.2 deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, that number more than doubled, jumping to 17.8 deaths per 100,000 births mainly because of obesity-related complications.  While the U.S. rate is still better than Costa Rica’s – that may not be true for long.
  • President Luis Guillermo Solís won the 2014 election with over 77% of the vote.  This was the largest margin ever recorded for a free election in Costa Rica. He is a member of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party. Now he isn’t as popular as when he was elected because the employment rate hasn’t improved as much as hoped.
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    Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís

    Previously, Costa Rica’s president was Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’s first female president and sixth female elected for president of a Latin American country.

  • In the 1950’s, the Monteverde Quaker community started with nine families from the U.S. – seeking a peaceful country.
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    A Quaker dairy treat – in Monteverde, Costa Rica

  • It has one of the highest life expectancies in the world according to the World Bank, Life expectancy at birth is 80 years compared to 79 in the United States.  The Nicoya region of Costa Rica is also one of five Blue Zones—“longevity hotspots” populated by the longest-living people in the world—on the globe.
  • At 19,730 square miles, Costa Rica measures slightly smaller than Lake Michigan. It has  801 miles (1,290 km) of coastline.
  • It is home to more than 500,000 species – with nearly 3 percent of the world’s biodiversity.   Corcovado National Park has been deemed “the most biologically intense place on the planet.”
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    A colorful bug on my jeans – in Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica contains approximately 90 percent of the butterfly species found in Central America, 66 percent of all neo-tropical butterflies, and about 18 percent of all butterfly species in the world.
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    A Sara butterfly

    – and over 50 species of hummingbirds.

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    One of the many kinds of hummingbirds in Costa Rica

  • Costa Ricans are some of the happiest people on Earth according to the Happy Planet Index, which uses three criteria—life expectancy, experienced well-being, and Ecological Footprint—to determine the overall happiness levels of 151 countries across the globe. With a score of 64.0, Costa Rica is near the top of this list while the United States has a happiness index of 37.3.
  • In case you think that Costa Rica is perfect, know that pedestrians are called “targets” and speed bumps are “son muertos” – [they are] dead people. Do pay attention when you cross a street.
  • Pura Vida is the response of  locals when asked how they are or in passing to say “hello or goodbye.” Pura vida is a state of mind. Costa Ricans take every opportunity to live life to the fullest.

Visit – you will love the people, the conservation lands, the adventure tours. . .

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A magnificent – and fun (for people) – Strangler Fig

 

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That’s me on the way up. The view from the top was spectacular. I felt like a bird perching high above the land.

Go to Costa Rica.  You’ll love it.

Pura vida, Renée

In Costa Rica: San Luis Ecolodge

One of the most interesting adventures we had in Costa Rica was experiencing the University of Georgia’s research facility and eco-lodge in San Luis, which is just a short “as the crow flies” distance from Monteverde.

Check-in wasn’t until noon.  We’d gotten an early start,  and the public bus didn’t come for 45 more minutes.   We’d walked to the Quaker meeting the day before, and according to Google Maps, the eco-lodge was just kilometers beyond.  How bad could it be?

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View toward the Nicoya coast

We started walking to the UGA San Luis Eco-Lodge.

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Artist studio on the way toward San Luis

The sun was shining – and the wind blowing –  at 25 miles an hour – with gusts much higher.

The views were  stunning.

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View down to San Luis

What we couldn’t tell from Google is the walk included several kilometers of a very, very steep grade down toward San Luis – at about 25%.  It’s so steep that trucks and buses are prohibited.

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A 25% grade-no trucks or buses are allowed on the road to San Luis

Much of the road to San Luis is not paved.

At times, I thought I’d be blown over the edge by the gusts of wind.  Barry was backpacking all our stuff, and before we got to San Luis, he said it felt like about 100 pounds.

However, the walk was beautiful.  And we did make it, but what we thought would be about a one-and a-half-hour walk turned into about three hours.

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Cows near the San Luis Eco-Lodge

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Welcome sign

We did arrive about 15 minutes before lunch.  Perfect.

And we had a great lunch – a buffet.   I ate two full plates!

And then we got to go with naturalist Dan, an enthusiastic, knowledgeable intern, on a three-hour hike/lecture to the Eco-Lodge farm and through a forest.

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Naturalist Dan – at the UGA sustainable farm in San Luis, Costa Rica.  David, on the right, from the U.S.

Along the way, we saw three white-faced capuchin monkeys, a coati, and an agouti – a big rodent that is the favorite meal of pumas, and, of course, we saw many colorful birds.

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An arguti in Costa Rica

We saw cool birds, animals, bugs, interesting trees and plants.   You would love it there.

At the farm, we saw innovative practices to promote sustainability.  One of their composting strategies is using black plastic tarps, which we are trying at home.

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Dan sharing wisdom of the forest

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Raised beds, rotated crops – beautiful lettuces

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A symbiotic relationship of stinging ants and this tree give the ants a home and a sweet nectar to eat, and the tree gets defense so it can  grow tall quickly.

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Leaf-cutter ants are busy day and night. They can strip a tree in one day!

Before dinner, we went up and sat on the great deck in wooden rocking chairs, drank delicious Costa Rican coffee, and chatted with other tourists and University of Georgia interns and staff.

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Waiting for the next meal at UGA Eco-lodge

Again, I got two full plates for dinner.  We’d heard the hot chocolate served after dinner was stupendous; it was.

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Dinner with the interns at the San Lois Eco-Lodge

Then we had an interesting lecture about the history of Costa Rica.  We could have chosen a night hike looking for frogs and snakes, but we’d had enough of hiking for the day.    I was asleep by about 9 that night.

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UGA – Costa Rica staff

The next morning, we went at 6:20 to milk cows and see the biodigester that converts  all the waste materials into cooking fuel.

 

We had a  medicinal plants lecture and field trip after breakfast.

Among many other facts, we learned from Dan that guava is good for hangovers; coffee is anti-Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases; dumb cane is for toothaches; catnip is like cocaine for cats, but as a tea, is calming for people; papaya is a good meat tenderizer; yellow oleander is very poisonous; the root beer plant is for headaches – put a leaf on your forehead . . . The reason aloe is good for sunburns is because it holds in moisture which allows the skin to heal.  The sap from the dragon-blood tree is anti-fungal and an antiseptic. . .

After lunch, we got an an introduction to bird watching.  Costa Rica has 850 species of birds; 250 species are in San Luis near the eco-lodge – beautiful and diverse!

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The rain brought rainbows

After dinner, I took a night hike seeking mammals.  Because it was windy and rainy, we mainly found spiders, moths, leaf-cutters, and other small beings.  Again we slept well in our beautiful and comfortable bungalow.

The next morning, we went out at dawn for bird-watching with a naturalist.

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We watched for birds from the deck on this rainy morning

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A bird on the deck railing

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After breakfast in the San Luis dining hall, Barry trying a Spam can strung like a guitar!  With Susan Stanley of The Hobohemians, a blues, folk, jazz group

Generally, we did lots of activities – and then we’d eat again.

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Another great meal

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No burning of cane as is done on Maui. On this conservation land, the cane is just dug up at its roots.

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On our coffee tour

Actually, there was much more!

But you get the idea: you will  learn about plants, animals, bugs, sustainability, Costa Rica, coffee,  history, and more from enthusiastic and knowledgeable interns and naturalists, meet other travelers, eat well, enjoy hot water and a new, clean bungalow, and have an eventful and wonderful time at the beautiful Ecolodge San Luis.

For more information and to reserve your visit, go to the website: https://dar.uga.edu/costa_rica/index.php/tourists/-/tourists

You will love the experience.

Pura vida, Renée

P.S. To leave the eco-lodge, did we walk back up the steep road?  No!  We took a cab. 🙂

In Panamá: The Coatímundí

Barry and I are here in Panamá and have had several experiences, including: 1) seeing the Panamá Canal – which is a huge, impressive engineering feat, 2) learning of one intriguing indigenous people, the Guna Yala, and 3) traveling with locals on a most luxurious bus, a double decker, quiet – even the infants – for the eight-hour ride between Panamá City and David (“DawVeed”), Panamá.

But what has surprised me the most so far is an animal I’ve never seen before – the coatímundí or coatí.  One is here where we are staying in David at Bambú Hostel:  http://www.bambuhostel.com

A coatímundí

A coatímundí

Image from: http://www.garlynzoo.com/coatimundi.gif

Coatís are found all over Central and South America – some even in Texas and New Mexico.  The story at Bambú Hostel is that a few years ago, someone staying here saw a coatí in the road, got a sheet, threw it over her, and brought her to the hostel.  She has been here ever since, which shows she is smart.  I’m calling her Anna, the coatí.  So far, she has taken the bread, mixed nuts (only a few), bananas, apples, hard-boiled egg,  and almond/coconut milk that I’ve given her.  It’s probably a wonder that she isn’t fat.  I’ve heard she loves raw warm chicken eggs too.

Anna the coatí

Anna or Andy, the coatí, at Bambu Hostel

Here’s what I’ve learned:

coatimundi (kōät´ēmŭn´dē, –mŏŏn´–) or coati (kōät´ē), omnivore of North and South America related to the raccoon. The coatimundi has a long snout, an elongated body, and a long bushy tail banded with dark rings. The coat color varies from yellowish brown or reddish brown to black. The males are significantly larger than the females and may be more than 50 in. (127 cm) long and may weigh up to 25 lb (11 kg). Active both day and night, the coati is a forest dweller and an agile tree climber. It eats lizards, birds, and fruit and uses its long mobile snout to grub for insects and roots. On the ground, its short forelegs give it a bearlike gait as it lumbers along with its tail erect. Females and their young travel in bands, but males are solitary (known as “coatimundis” ) and join the band only in the mating season. The young, typically four to six in number, are born following a gestation period of about seventy-seven days. The species Nasua narica is native to SW United States. N. nasua, the ring-tailed coatimundi, is a related species that ranges from Mexico to Peru. Coatis are often raised as pets in Mexico. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Procyonidae.

Information from:  “coatimundi.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2015. Encyclopedia.com. 6 Jan. 2016<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

a coatímundí

a coatímundí

Image from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4f/2d/15/4f2d1557240bd999f0491e942aa13307.jpg

 

Another traveler at Bambú Hostel, Beth, a young U.S. marine biologist who is working in Costa Rica for turtle research and preservation, said that she thought Anna might be actually an Andy since she/he is big and  alone.  So I consulted, http://www.zoo-zoom.com/Coatimundi.htm.  That source says, “The females average between 9 to 14 pounds with the males attaining weights somewhat larger about 12 to 17 pounds.”  So although Anna could just be a bit overweight (and we can guess why), this coatí is probably a male since he seems quite happy to be by himself.

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Matt, originally from Chicago, is a social worker from North Carolina and a volunteer at Bambú Hostel with Andy, the coatí. Andy never really has to be alone.

The source, http://www.zoo, says,”Because of their intelligence they can become bored if not kept adequately occupied. Although the coati will remain lovable and friendly after reaching adult age they may have infrequent rebellious outbursts at between age 6 months to 1 year (similar to human teenage years).”

Places like Janda Exotics sell them as pets:  http://www.jandaexotics.com/Coatimundi.html

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coati and me

I climbed onto a bench to be able to get close enough to Andy to give him an apple slice.

 

However, coatímuntí are wild animals.  It’s probably better to let one adopt you, and let it come and go as it will – as Andy, the coati, does here at the Bambú Hostel, in David, Panamá.

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An artist’s drawing of a coatímundí on a Casco Viejo wall in Panamá City.  The real ones aren’t this big!

Barry just came into our room to tell me that Andy knocked over the aluminum coffee urn, spilling hot liquid and coffee grinds all over the floor of the outdoor kitchen.

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Andy – look at that tail! He’s funny and entertaining. But as Greg, the owner of Bambú Hostel, says, “He is really aggravating sometimes.”

Coatís are curious, intelligent, active animals.  I’m glad I can interact with Andy here.  You may want to look for them in the wild too.

Adiós, Renée

Sunday in the Park: Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Green Lake Park

Green Lake Park

The parks in China brim with life.  One Sunday, Barry and I found ourselves in Green Lake Park in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.

People play music of various kinds throughout the park.

Several guitarists played

Some guitarists play alone.

Some guitarists played together.

Some guitarists play  together.

Some groups had a variety of instruments.

Some groups have a variety of instruments.

Some sang.

Some sing.

Some played jazz in groups.

Some play jazz in groups.

Some played alone.

Some play alone.

A lone horn.

A lone horn.

Many listened to the music.

Many listen to the music.

some do martial arts moves

Some do martial arts moves.

Under a blue sky and warm sun, many enjoyed being in Green Lake Park.

Under a blue sky and warm sun, many enjoy being in Green Lake Park.

Some people stroll the paths.

Some people stroll the paths.

Some run.

Some run.

Some bring their pets.

Some bring their pets.

Some come by bicycle.

Some come by bicycle.

Some chat with friends.

Some chat with friends.

Some come to dance.

Some come to dance.

Some come to watch.

Some come to watch.

Some offer things for children.

Some offer things for children.

Some offer treats to eat.

Some offer treats to eat.

Some offer yummy treats -and then run across the street with the hot coals when the police came.  And then they returned five minutes later!

Some grill meats -and then run across the street with the hot coals when the police come. And then they return five minutes later!

Some enjoy the flowers.

Some enjoy the flowers.

 

Welcome to Green Lake in Kunming.  There is something for everyone  especially on Sundays.

Welcome to Green Lake in Kunming, where there is something for everyone —  especially on Sundays.

Zaì jiàn, Renée

The Katy Trail – On Our Bikes Again

SF-KTbikeshadowwHeading out again to enjoy/tackle the Katy Trail after a great weekend in St. Louis with my family, Barry and I  felt better prepared (we carried less weight, had tools accessible, and had experienced biking miles each day), and this time, we drove our bikes to trail heads where we could reach good accommodations.  We did get to Clinton, at the west end of the Katy Trail although we didn’t bike all sections of the trail.  The second part of our trip began in Columbia, Missouri.  Highlights of our next five days on the trail include –

Wildlife

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A land turtle sunning itself in the middle of the Katy Trail

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A juvenile red-tailed hawk (I think) in a conservation area near Rocheport.

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Migrating geese on the Missouri River.

The Katy Trail –

We love the trail, and for much of the time, we were the only people there.

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The Katy along the Missouri River, the longest river in the U.S.

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Priceless

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Trail head shelters offer information, shade, and in one instance for us, protection from the rain.

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Perche Creek Bridge in McBaine

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The Katy has one tunnel, the 1893 MK&T Train Tunnel, the  243 feet long, dark tunnel is near Rocheport.

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The spur trail between Columbia and the Katy trail head was the most crowded part of the trail for us. Lots of joggers and dog walkers join bike riders on this well-used path.

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A bench along the Katy Trail spur from Columbia

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Columbia, Missouri, has three major universities. When I popped into this public library, I was so impressed with the collection, I almost wanted to live in Columbia.

Enjoying the college town atmosphere, we slept in Columbia for two nights and spent the days riding the Katy in different directions.

Surprises?  From the Katy in the section between Rocheport and Jefferson City, we could see Native American petroglyphs carved high on the cliffs.

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Native American petroglyphs  on Missouri River cliffs.

Problems?  We saw lots of kudzu, the parasitic vine that blankets plants so very little needed light gets through.  I wanted to rip it all out.   Although the vines come out easily, they  grow back quickly and kill the plants they cover.

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Kudzu

And we saw evidence of nitrogen runoff from the fields — probably too much chemical fertilizer.

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Green scum covered this pond at the edge of soybean fields.

Also, why didn’t we see abundant wildlife?  The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook, 8th edition published in 2005, describes numerous birds on the trail: “St. Louis Audobon Society members had already identified about 12 birds in their first two minutes of being in McBaine: yellow rumped warbler, eastern phoebe, killdeer, grackle and the red-winged blackbird to name a few” (81).

Although we rode through McBaine, which was practically washed away in the 1993 flooding Missouri River, we saw few birds there or anywhere along the trail.  Is it because we are not practiced bird watchers?  Were we there at the wrong time of the year?  Especially in the conservation area where we saw the hawk, we did hear several birds, but I didn’t see even one red-winged blackbird.  Where are the birds?

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Barry on the Katy

Entrepreneurial Spirit –   In the small towns along the now defunct rails some small businesses are evident.  Some wonderful old, restored houses are B&B’s catering to the Katy Trail riders.  The towns offer investment opportunities to daring entrepreneurs.

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Here’s one house in Boonville that’s for sale: Asking price $9,999!

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It does need some work!.

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Many other homes have been well restored.

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The Missouri headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

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Boonville has 450 sites on the National Register of Historic Places; many are homes on High Street.

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What was once a shoe factory near the train station in Boonville is now a condominium.

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Abigails, a restaurant with gourmet, healthy choices in Rocheport – a wonderful find.

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Larry, the owner of Trailside Cafe in Rocheport offers good food – and good bicycle help.  With my portobello mushroom, grilled onions and green peppers, and feta sandwich, I had a lovely mound of fried okra – tasty!

History?  According to information on the Katy, we learned much about Missouri.  For instance, we learned that William Becknell and his handful of men left Franklin, Missouri, in 1821 with horses and mules for trade and headed west.  They met Mexican soldiers who said that Mexico had won independence from Spain and that trade with Mexico would be welcomed.  Becknell’s party went on to Santa Fe, traded their goods, and returned to Franklin in January 1822 with tremendous profits in silver.  Becknell made two more successful trading trips to Santa Fe and thus started more than fifty years of trade between the U.S. and Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail.

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Commemoration  of the Santa Fe Trail – by artist Harry Weber in Franklin, Missouri

Surprises on the Trail –

A casino where we spent the night

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Barry enjoying the Capri Isle Casino buffet in Boonville

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Boonville renovated MKT train station

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The unique Pearson’s clay tile elevator between New Franklin and Rocheport, at mile 184.5.

We were surprised by the town of Sedalia too.  The Bothwell Hotel, a beautifully renovated 1927 building, is well worth a stop.  Our room was the 1927 size but quite sufficient and lovely.

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Hotel Bothwell dining room floor tile in Sedalia.

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Dinner at the Hotel Bothwell

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Hotel Bothwell in Sedalia, Missouri, has a long history, including being the place where Harry S. Truman found out he was being supported for a U.S. Senate seat.

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Hotel Bothwell opened in 1927. The friendly staff stored our bicycles in a ballroom and gave us water and trail mix (and discounted prices) since we were riding the Katy!

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Katy Trail humor – one box said “Rattlers” – inside were baby rattles.

Public Art –

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Sedalia mural

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Calhoun mural

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On our final day on the trail, we made sure we were in McKittrich by 6pm so we could have dinner with  Joey and Rich at their Mercantile restaurant  🙂

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“Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the shadow.” T.S. Eliot

We love the Katy Trail and think you will too.  Hop on your bikes and enjoy the Katy Trail.

To listen to Cindy Palos’ Travel Angel radio interview about the Katy Trail experience, go to <http://travelangel.podbean.com/#.Un1q8UqAWlU.email&gt;.

And if you want to create some of the great food we had at  Joey’s Birdhouse in McKittrich, go to Joey’s Experimental Kitchen.  The link is for the first part of a series on naturally fermented foods.  We got to taste her sauerkraut, melon kim chi,  pickled red onions, and the berry scrub! :  <http://www.midmoitv.tv/videos/joeys-experimental-kitchen-season-2-episode-1-pt-3-naturally-fermented-foods/&gt;

Aloha, Renée

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