Things Head South

Andy Pruter

Andy is the owner operator of the tour outfitter Everyday Adventures.  You may reach him at



It is no secret that tropical rainforests decompose organics faster than their temperate counterparts.  What would take ten years for leaf litter to become compost in Canada would turn into a fine Costa Rican loam in single year on the Osa!  There are many factors that boost the rate of tropical decay.  Our hot, moist climate, for one, is ideal for accelerated decomposition whereas cool, dry climes of the northern latitudes slow this process down and their snow and frost put an outright stop to it.  Other variables that enhance tropical degradation are bugs and saprophytes.  Saprophytes are plants, fungi and microorganisms that feed on dead organic material.  They get energy and also break down the organics into simpler units enabling the soil to add them as building blocks.  Chief among the invertebrate decomposition army are nematodes, slugs and termites.  Termites have a protozoan living in their gut that secretes the enzyme cellulase.  This enzyme breaks down cellulose into an ingredient that the termite mixes with soil to create carton, with which it builds its nest.  Imagine how much biomass we’d be struggling to walk over if the decomposers weren’t around to break it down!

Breakdown of the natural world doesn’t end with organics, however.  The Osa is a fabulous environment in which to witness the weathering of metal, plastic and asphalt.  Having the good fortune to live on the beach is, by all means, something I cherish every day.  However, on days of big ocean swell, I cringe watching the salt-infused mist sweep up the sand, through the trees, and into my home and garage.  Every metal screw, bolt and washer begins to methodically break down the instant it is unpacked from its delivery by trucks to the Ferretería El Colono in Puerto Jimenez.  The pace of entropy merely accelerates as these supplies head south over the washboard road toward Matapalo and points beyond.  There was a reason Tom Bubbles fiberglassed his Suzuki Sidekick; the metal frame and paneling had taken on the consistency of a soda cracker.

Assisting in the deterioration of car frames and the roads they travel, is good old water.  The well-intentioned but never fully realized work of CONAVAI to grade our dirt roads or lay down black top is a never-ending process, the poor quality at any given time not entirely their fault.  The extraordinary amount of rainfall eventually gets under even the best-designed road, and it buckles from beneath.  I give credit to the stretch from Rincón to Puerto Jimenez as an exception to the norm, though admittedly it is still only a few years old.  Even Chacarita to Rincón has shown improvement from the days of finally shifting from 1st into 2nd gear only to leave the suspension—if not the entire transmission—in a bathtub-sized pothole.  But in time, Tefnut, the ever vigilant goddess of water, will pool up and coat all surfaces and create the mechanical weakness that leads to the destruction of all things formerly smooth.

Not even plastic escapes the onslaught of molecular dishevelment.  Except this time its tormentor is the god Ra.  The ultraviolet light of the tropical sun doesn’t just wreak havoc on the melanin in your skin.  These little radioactive wave lengths penetrate plastics as well, destroying the molecular bonds that held moisture and salt corrosion at bay.  Adhesives that hold shoes together degrade; nylonand rayonin clothing fabrics become brittle, and just when you need it most, your surf leash will snap, leaving you to swim in to discover the micro cracks in the elastic polymers and the macro cracks in the rail of your new board.

Ahhhh the Osa . . . !

Yet there is one more bond upon which the Osa wears, one more ethereal than the structures and objects around us.  Relationships.

The tropics are a great place to find romance and foster fantasies beneath swaying palms and deserted beaches.  However, if unprotected, the ties that bind two souls can crumble like the rotted wood pillars of a house or flake away like the rust on an old car.  It’s hard to put a finger on why the Osa is so hard on couples.  It’s not like the same pressures don’t affect relationships elsewhere. . . financial stress, abuse of drugs and alcohol, physical separation, extramarital desires.  Maybe it’s the support groups available that help repair couples in duress that aren’t readily at hand here.  Perhaps the hard work and sustained effort required to live an unconventional life that is excercised by one partner is not fully matched by the other.  Regardless, no amount of Laro Sur or Rustoleum can halt the process. Only a committed approach by those involved can reconstruct the framework needed to repair the damage.

My own 18-year relationship with Terry is going through a rough patch right now. Enough of the readers of Sol de Osa are friends of mine on FB and will eventually catch wind of the situation.  Whatever results from these tumultuous times I want to confirm what an amazing time the years have been with her while spent together; raising Talon and Cayenne in Matapalo was, and will be, a source of pure life.  Unfettered by the trappings of a conventional childhood, may they bring these memories with them and forge their own adulthoods without limits.  And, as the continuum of time both builds experiences and wears away preconceived structure, may the sum result be as positive as mine.


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