Matapalo Mayhem


 Compare and Contrast: Osa v. Humboldt

Andy Pruter

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

The rough road conditions kept us at a reasonably slow pace, so when we rounded the bend and came head to horn with a herd of steer, the ABS didn’t even lock up.  Still, the stoic look from the vaquero and his comrades made it seem as if it was we that had trespassed using this coastal roadway made for vulcanized rubber, not keratin-hardened hooves.  A couple of high pitched yips and “pshreet-gnyaughs” by the horsemen had the bovines lumbering onto greener pasture and eventual barbecue as we motored along our merry way.cattleosa

If you’ve lived in the Costa Rica campo for any length of time, this scenario should be familiar to you.  However, this happened to me most recently on the farthest point of land on the continental U.S., far from the higuerón-lined stretch of kidney-bruising road between Puerto Jiménez and all Osa points south.  In fact, it’s just one similarity I’ve noticed shared by my wet, steamy home in the tropics and my wet, chilly home in Northern California.  I’m going to highlight a few of these kinships between Cabo Matapalo and Cape Mendocino.


As a freak for (and, of) nature, I relish the physical environment . . . botanical and zoological.   For that reason I’ll start my comparisons with . . .

Osa Humboldt

 ….trees!  Really big trees!  Each biome shares their giants.  Ajo (Cayocar costarricense), Manglillo (Aspidosperma cruentum) and Pilón (Hieronyma oblonga) go limb-to-limb against coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirons), Douglas fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii) and madrone (Arbutus menziesii).  There is a massive madrone across the valley from where I toil that could easily provide sanctuary for 2 troops of howler monkeys.  In reverence to the original inhabitants of this land, locals call it a “council madrone” and a tree of such stature would be worthy casting its shade on important gatherings and ceremony.

Osa Humboldt

.. . . animals!  Lots of bitchin’ animals!  The Osa has its dart frogs, Humboldt has its salamanders.  The jaguar (Felis onca) of our Central American tropics rivals the black bear (Ursus americanus) of northern forests and the peccaries of the Osa resemble the packs of wild boar (Sus scrofa) seen rooting under the

 peccary  boarca
Osa Humboldt

oaks and apple trees.  Both locales provide habitat and resources at different times of the year for neotropical migrant birds that travel to and fro much like myself.  It’s fun to imagine I might be seeing some of the same individuals but, quién sabe?

andyosafishing pruterfishing
Osa Humboldt

There is a common thread within the human population as well.  Artistically-minded people are mixed with the self-medicated.  Drawn to the beautifully-grained woods, craftsmen create stunning furniture and works of art.   Drawn to the open spaces, relatively benign law enforcement, and shifts in the war-on-drugs platform, hustlers and farmers paint on an empty canvass in shades of white and green.  Tourists and locals alike enjoy both forms of expression.

Osa Humboldt

Tourism is another shared state of insanity.  Few places on earth attract adventure travelers like large stands of healthy, robust forests stocked full of keystone species.  Throw in wild and scenic rivers, world-class surf, a colorful and rich history with a peaceful—if not outright stoned—populace, and voilà, you have the recipe for a melting pot of passports.  Keeping the turnstile of travelers fed and bedded, often in areas off-grid, requires forethought and planning unfamiliar to even the most ardent of military institutions when invading foreign lands. The USMC might consider contracting ICT instead of some Dick Cheney led nefarious rogue group of evil doers.  Something I’ve noticed is that propane hot-water heaters and refrigerators always seem to run out of gas on your rental house just as your dinner is being placed on the table.  Then, the headlamp needed to navigate the trails with the unwieldy propane replacement tank, naturally runs out of battery power.  Once that is remedied and the obelisk is exchanged, the crescent wrench needed to loosen/tighten the gas flow regulator is rusted shut tighter than a zancudo’s arse stretched over an Imperial bottle.  And, of course, the can of WD-40 is nowhere to be found because your kids left it somewhere in the yard putting the fire back into fire ants.

I laugh at such folly at my respective residences, but one thing is infuriatingly similar at these places I call home:  there is not a single decent mechanic!  Not only does the estimated time and cost exceed the original, but, invariably, soon after one repair another part fails.  It’s entirely possible the rough roads and salt-infused air contributes overly much, but stories of loose lug nuts and drained crank cases have little to do with external conditions.  And I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

That said, despite the similarities between I’ve mentioned between my Osa and Humboldt retreats, there are three glaring differences of which I am presently enjoying all at once:  a fantastic Napa Valley Pinot, a hot tub at 103°, and the cabin warmth that a wood stove can properly convey.



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