Bob and Irma from Gaia and I have sought a different sort of wilderness than has been our venue for months, inverted with all the wildlife surrounding us from above rather than below. Almost since the first time I met Bob he’d talked about a young Costa Rican man who’d worked for him in the States some 15 years ago. Merlin had gradually elevated his life experience by escaping his father’s cocoa and teak plantation outside of Puerto Jimenez, going to the big city to seek his fortune, then capping it off by spending a while in Oregon as a laborer helping Bob remodel his house in Lake Oswego. I guess the deal was for Merlin to do upgrade projects for an hourly wage with the bonus that Bob sent him off to get training to develop the crafts necessary to do the various types of work.
Merlin’s family property, now his inheritance, sits close to the edge of the Corcovado National Forest on the Osa Peninsula. Twelve years ago an occasional tourist or family guest would ask for a place to stay. Merlin, not being inclined to take up farming, soon fancied himself in the tourist trade and began to turn his once-in-awhile guest accommodations into an eco resort. He doesn’t call it that, but that’s what it is in every sense but name. Farming is coming back in to the sustainability equation for the lodge with plans to grow bamboo and, once again, teak and cocoa.
So Bob finally put truth to his words by calling up Merlin and announcing our desire to visit. It was a short forty minute water taxi ride from Golfito where we’d left our own boats across Golfo Dulce to Puerto Jimenez. Merlin picked us up at the pier and drove us to the lodge for a few days of relaxation in style. We found the Danta Corcovado Lodge to be a wonderful place filled with peace and beauty. Everything has been designed and built or its construction supervised by Merlin. Nature flows through the place with the sounds of the forest all around and butterflies fluttering by. A ring road of leaf cutter ants has the place surrounded and a troupe of twenty or thirty squirrel monkeys makes their rounds of the lychee nut trees every day around two. A small green tree frog stood watch over the toilet in our cabin for us.
This is also Merlin’s family’s home and his four year old daughter, Montserrat, adds a special spice to the place, playing dress up with her cousin or singing quietly to herself as she plays alone. Last night they had a birthday at the bar for Montserrat’s eight year old cousin. He and some of his party guests entertained the adults by painting their faces in Seahawk green and blue with icing from the cake.
Yesterday, our second full day here, we just hung out. That was by choice at first, but became somewhat enforced because it began pouring in mid-afternoon. The previous day we took a short hike to a waterfall about 1-1/4 kilometers into Corcovado National Forest. Getting to the trailhead involved a seven or eight kilometer ride in a trailer tugged up the Rio Rincon, literally, by Danta Lodge’s tractor. We counted more than 30 crossings, some of them going up the river itself for fifty yards.
Our hike was a frequently slippery affair up a trail that was slathered in sticky red mud, but lined by verdant green forest. The humidity combined with the treacherous footing to make the short hike feel like twice the actual distance, but it was well worth it. Dorothy and the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion would have been chanting, “Lizards and toucans and spiders, oh my!” if they’d been with us. The second verse would have added macaws and snakes, bats and butterflies.