22-Jul-2004 -- Imagine a group of 25 educators from Ecuador, Germany, and the United States gathering in Costa Rica to learn about GPS, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), ecotourism, geography, and sustainability, but yet not visiting a confluence in the process.
Determined not to let that happen, I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer, successfully visited 10 North, 84 West on the outskirts of Costa Rica's capital
city, San Jose on a fine summer evening.
This gathering of teachers of geography, environmental studies, science, and technology from primary, secondary, university, and informal education settings was sponsored by Holbrook Travel and GIS ETC .
Together with local students and community members, the goal of this 9-day institute was to collect local data for the Selva Verde Nature Preserve and surrounding communities, and to give the educators confidence so that they could use these skills and technologies in their own schools.
After beginning the day at Monteverde, our group traveled to Sarchi and to the Intituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio). INBIO's task is to understand the biodiversity of Costa Rica, and therefore, they rely on GIS and GPS technologies to create land use and biodiversity maps by computer.
At 4:20pm, I left our group to call a taxi from the front desk of InBIO. I was amazed to see a taxi drive up only 5 minutes later. I met Wilburg, my driver, an excellent fellow. What happened next was an extensive conversation between myself, the front gate guard, and Wilburg about the curious nature of my destination. I am sure that it is not often that a taxi driver receives a request to visit a certain place, one which the passenger knows precisely in terms of latitude and longitude, but cannot provide a street address. In addition, my broken Spanish was not making things any easier. I could already see that like all other confluence treks, the journey is even more interesting than the destination.
Despite some confusion, we set out, winding our way eastward through the northern section of San Jose. Wilburg was quite adept at taking shortcuts and less-traveled streets. The GPS finally locked on four satellites with me holding my hand out the window. I was careful not to hold it too far, since objects such as motorcycles frequently appeared near our door. When the GPS fixed its location, less than 4 kilometers remained to the confluence. Traffic and winding roads made for slow progress. I did not mind, though, because it was interesting to see "ticos" (Costa Ricans) going about their daily business. Many people were taking children, smartly dressed in the Costa Rican blue school uniforms, home from school. We reached a bus stop at the edge of a ridge with 800 meters left to the confluence. We inquired of the young men there about our destination; they told us to turn right, and sure enough, down the steep hill, our destination was in sight as I reported our position to Wilburg: 'tres cientos' metres, 'dos cientos' metres... Wilburg parked and I walked the last 50 meters.
The confluence lies on the north side of a narrow road, sloping 15 degrees to the west. I arrived at the site at 5:15pm local time. I had just arrived at the confluence when three boys came up, one on a bicycle. Because these boys, their mother, and the taxi driver were all watching me, I felt no need to scale the 8 meter-high cliff lining the north side of the road. I estimate the confluence to be near the top of this cliff. However, because the timber cover was dense on the top of the cliff, the GPS unit would not have been of much help there. It was a perfect late July afternoon, about 25 degrees C with no wind. The neighborhood of the confluence lies to the northeast of San Jose, where the city has merged with some surrounding villages. Fields still lay between the villages, which added to the semi-rural character of the area. A few houses line the road to the south. No cars drove down the road, which was fortunate, as I made several attempts at a self-portrait by placing the camera on the street itself. After I had finished the movie, I walked back to where the taxi driver had introduced himself to the boys' mother. I explained to the family in my poor excuse for Spanish
what I was doing, and asked them if they studied and liked geography. I asked permission to take their photograph. Next, Wilburg took a photograph of the family and I.
I had never been to 10 north or 84 west, and as this point made a total of four confluence countries for me, I was very pleased that the visit was a success. Once back in the vehicle, I thanked Wilburg once again, and we drove back to InBIO. We arrived at 6:10pm, making the confluence trek a 33 kilometer round trip. However, our bus had left 10 minutes earlier, so Wilburg drove me 15 more kilometers, to the Buena Vista Hotel. As we were pulling up to the hotel at 6:55pm local time, our institute participants were just disembarking from the bus. Excellent timing! This hotel at the top of a tall hill truly lived up to its name, as the views were magnificent. Visiting this confluence was the perfect way to end the 2004 Costa Rica Summer GIS Institute by seeing more of the terrain and talking with more local people. Costa Rica must be one of the world's most beautiful places.