Monday, January 18, 2010

Day #11: Durika Eco Intentional Community

An example of one of the houses in intentional community founded some 17 years ago.
January 11.

I am in the intentional community of Durika. At 6:00 am I get a tour of the place. W. takes J. and myself around the grounds. We look at their goat operation. We tour their garden. W. shows us their medical clinic and their herbal medication drying room. They are into integrative medicine, and the community also has a dental office in the town of Buenes Aires. W. continues the tour and shows us their orchid nursery. She also shows us part of their "off grid" small scale hydro pipe which provides all of their electrical needs.

Everything is peaceful and calm.

After the tour we have our breakfast at the "restaurant". One of the ways this community earns money is to have ecological tours. For fifty dollars a day, you get accommodations, tours, hikes and three vegetarian meals a day. And the meals are outstanding.

This community of 32 permanent residents and some 300 Foundation members world wide adhere to a strict vegetarian diet. They live on the side of a mountain at 5,000 feet. Most of the members are Costa Rican and Spanish speaking. They are all thin. All healthy. They walk around in big rubber boots, which they wear almost like a uniform. But what strikes me the most is their healthfulness. All of the residents are thin and strong. Since they live on a side of a mountain, every place they go involves an uphill climb. As we walk around I am breathless. Their breathing is unchanged walking uphill. They work hard all day on their garden, compost, goats, coffee plantation, health clinics, providing tours and their restaurant. They do indulge in cheese and goat milk. They also eat fish once a week in order to get enough vitamin B12.

They share all duties and have a community meeting every night. They are very much about having a mission. They take their lifestyles seriously; they take ecology seriously. Most are ordained as voluntary "policeman" of the forest. They patrol the nearby nature reserves with steadfast love for the wildlife and plant life that lives there.

They also rescue wayward tourists who attempt to take a hike in the nearby nature reserves. This happens a couple times a year, when hapless tourists decide to go camping on their own in these very dangerous tropical forests.

A word about Costa Rica and their environmentalism. Costa Rica has preserved 23 percent of their land into reserves and parks. For those who think that direct action is not effective when it comes to preserving nature--check out Mike Roselle's chapter on the Costa Rican rainforest in his book Tree Spiker. Essentially, it was the Burger King boycott (led by the Earth First! inspired Rain Forest Action Network) that led to Costa Rica deciding to preserve much of their remaining rain forest. The result? A booming local economy where eco tourism is the number one industry. Costa Rica is on it's way to being out of the grips of the vestiges of the Big Agricultural Firms which have so dominated Latin American countries for seventy years.

After breakfast, Eugenio (our guide) meets with us to describe the hike we will be starting on the next day. It is rigorous. The hike starts at 2,700 feet and ascends to 7,200 feet the first day. There are also two precarious walk bridges to be crossed. There is no trail. Bushwhacking and cowpaths rule the day.

The second day has less of an altitude climb, but the rough part is the "green wall". This is a steep 500 foot climb up a mud wall. After that, we camp at around 9,800 feet. The third day is the summit climb of an additional 1,000 feet. Then back down the mountain for two more days.

This is a very difficult hike. I'm afraid that 44 days of training and a 21 pound weight loss is not nearly enough preparation for what looks like the most dangerous outdoor adventure I have ever done.

The rest of the day is left for walking around the community. Looking at flowers. And feeling anxious about the hike. We leave at 4:00 am the next morning. The weather is bad. It is supposed to storm for the next few days--but we can't put off the hike to wait for better weather because of airline restrictions.

Later in the day Eugenio shows me a snake he just caught. "One of 137 varieties of snakes in Costa Rica". The snake he shows me is a mere baby; when it is full grown it will be a ten foot long bird egg eater. I ask Eugenio how many snakes are poisonous? "19", he tells me.

"Watch where you step", Eugenio warns.


Tim Koppenhaver said...

Sounds like a fabulous trip so far. Looking forward to more posts from your trip.

Allan Stellar said...

I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts Tim...