Last night, we arrived back at the hut just before dark and ate a dinner of soup (chicken) and rice (sin bean). Over dinner we learnt that, in our absence, Holger and Jo had a productive time (more on that below) and it was nice to be all back together again.
Today I stayed at the hut (checking everything was working for our next live-video-link back to the Museum which will be happening just as this is published) so I had the chance to chat to one of the porters assisting our trip.
(From left to right) Leandro Vargas Astavia and Greyner Vargas Astavia
Daniel Lezcano Arguello and Carlos Godinez Cardenas
Daniel Lezcano Arguello started off by apologising for laughing at my new nickname - which has morphed from Yeti via Crouchy (as in Peter, the lanky, robot-dancing footballer) to Pie-Grande. I pointed out that Yeti and Pie-Grande are absolutely fine but Crouchy has most definitely got to go - I am an Arsenal FC fan!
He told me about his life when he is not working as a guide or porter. He is a farmer and has 5 hectares near the entrance to Amistad National Park where he grows coffee and bananas and keeps pigs and cows. The coffee he sells to a large Costa Rican company although he keeps a bit back for personal use as he prefers to know what is in his morning cuppa. The bananas are used to feed the cows and pigs.
The cows are for milk and he makes cheese, and the pigs are for meat. He also grows some vegetables and we swapped allotment stories although he seemed pretty unconvinced it was possible to grow anything in British temperatures.
He said he is typical of the porters in that they all farm when not guiding people through the park. This trip (like most field work, I imagine) would be impossible without the help of the porters.
They prepare trails and camps and ferry specimens and food to and from the field, and they carry extraordinary amounts and move incredibly quickly through the forest. This is the head porter and our guide Carlos.
Head porter Carlos making his work look easy while I struggle to keep up (hence the blurry photo!)
He is carrying a backpack, a few litres of water, camping equipment for 4 and - if that wasn’t enough already - a shovel.
Leandro taking a breather
I am in awe of their strength and athletic ability at this altitude and their commitment to our trip. They have an invaluable knowledge of the forest and are key in helping us find interesting sites and species. Also, they are vital for the conservation of the park so we are doubly thankful for what they do.
Species of the day today goes to Holger - the result of 2 hours hard work, blood, sweat and tears!
Holger found three different stream lichens with a high likelihood that they may be new for Costa Rica and maybe even new to science.
This lichen is a representative of the family Lichinacae and fresh water species of this family are commonly found in Nordic countries.
Holger didn’t expect to find something like this here and all of the lichens Holger has found reflect a climate far, far colder than would have been expected - something we can vouch for during the long cold nights!
This is why lichens are so important in that that they tell us so much about our environment. Sadly, no video today – I hope to get back to business tomorrow.
(Just a quick reminder that Alex is also writing his own blog about our trip and you can read it here and that our next live-video-links with the Museum are at 12.30 and 14.30 on Saturday 18 February)