|Goodbye to Cocos Island...for now.|
Snapshot: Driving south of Jaco down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica along Rte. 143/34, driving south to Quepos in Guillermo’s battered Suzuki in which the windows only work half the time, driving south down the arrow-straight highway through miles and miles of palm-oil tree orchards, lining both sides of the road. We come upon the palm oil processing plant on the right. Greasy brown smoke billows out of the stacks, and Guillermo slows to show me the palm fruit piled in the back of old, beaten, tractor-draw carts.
Snapshot: Sitting in the shade of the trees lining the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park, surveying the several hundred tourists milling about under the Costa Rican sun. The group from France to the left is packing up, they were caught drinking liquor and were asked to leave. Further down the beach there’s a boy doing back hand springs down to the water. A troupe of three white-faced monkeys appears in the trees overhead, on the hunt for open food containers near low-hanging branches and then moments later the inevitable pack of camera-toting tourists arrives, some dozen strong.
Snapshot: Riding the bus from Jaco to San Jose, the bus is filled to capacity and then some. Can smell something fried – chicken, I think – and I’m listening to the soft murmur of voices and to the music blaring out of the ear buds of the larger women asleep in the seat next to me as I gaze out the window. Rain pounds down as the bus enters San Jose on Route 1, the Trans American Highway. Used car lots, industrial complexes, the San Jose International Airport, and billboards advertising McDonald’s Tica Burgers, Coca Cola’s 125 Anniversary, Kolbi, and EPA flash by.
No, I’m not on Cocos Island anymore; I’m in that other world now, that world outside of the island. I long to go back, I yearn to return to the Wafer Bay Station. I miss the routine, miss the bleary-eyed walk up to the Big House under the overloaded coconut palms in early morning light for breakfast, Filander’s cheerful “Buenos Dias”, the heaping plate of pinto, the morning meeting. I miss Golfin’s 5:30 am whoops of delight that rouse me long before my alarm , and chess games with Roberto in the evening and the Cocos finches fluttering and twittering around the big house in an eternal quest for crumbs. I miss those clear nights, when I would walk out onto the beach and look up at the myriad stars and at the broad band of the Milky Way, a view unmarred by light pollution and the noise of traffic, only the occasional cloud passing overhead. I miss the steady rhythm of the waves rocking Cocos Patrol, the chirping crickets that would lull me to sleep, and the sound of crabs scurrying across the sand when I stood still for a moment on the beach. I miss the remoteness, the feeling of disconnected -ness and peace it was possible to attain. I miss living and working in, around, and with virgin wilderness.
But thanks to the incredible generosity of Avi Klapfer, Alan Steenstrup, The Undersea Hunter Group and Sea Save Foundation, it’s only goodbye for now. I’ll be returning to the island aboard the Sea Hunter in mid-December, this time not in the capacity of a volunteer but as a diver. I will don my fins, mask, wetsuit , and tank to explore the submarine world that the park guards are working so hard to protect.