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Monday, April 1, 2013

A Costa Rica Eco-Hike or Eco Tico

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a hike: blue skies with spongy white clouds scattered overhead and a light refreshing breeze. But instead of taking off for hidden trails and picturesque rivers, the Santa Eulalia Gang, aka The 10:27 Club, donned gloves, grabbed big plastic bags and headed down the main road picking up rubbish. Our goal was to clean the ditches and gutters of detritus and in the process hopefully inspire our neighbors to be more aware of where they toss their trash.

As proud residents of such a naturally beautiful country, Ticos are rather casual about throwing things on the ground. It seems as though they think, "out of sight, out of mind," not realizing or choosing to ignore the fact that all those plastic bags, candy wrappers, cardboard boxes, soda bottles, computer cases and other garbage don't magically disappear. Alas, when the rainy season arrives, it all gets pushed down the ditches and into the rivers and ultimately into the ocean, where trash from around the world now forms a huge toxic plastic "island" known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Estimates on its size range from twice the size of Hawaii to twice the size of the state of Texas. As it leaves countries on the Pacific Rim -- from Japan and the Philippines in the east and from all along the West Coast of the United States -- debris is caught up in the North Pacific Gyre, a clockwise movement of four prevailing currents in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, where it slowly breaks down into even smaller polymers that provide a deadly soup for the ocean life there. Since the Gyre comprises the largest ecosystem on Earth, some 20 million square kilometers, we're talking some serious ecological damage.

So the Santa Eulalia "Drinking Club with a Hiking Problem" decided to take matters - and trash - into our own hands, literally. We knew we couldn't save the world but we might be able to save our little pristine corner here in Costa Rica. A little disorganized in the beginning (as we are wont to be), the gang soon developed a system: Stephen was Plastic Man, Layne and Carmen were talking Trash, Sue carried the Aluminum and Glass bag and I was in charge of Paper goods. Marcial, Bonnie and Chris had primary pick-up duties, delivering the goods to the appropriate bag handlers and occasionally taking on bag-handling duties as well.

It was slow going; we were amazed at just how much "stuff" there was to pick up, especially in front of and across the street from the local high school where the kids convene between classes to munch on candy and sodas and often drop the packaging where they sit. Along one stretch of concrete gutter we discovered a sludge-like liquid in the bottom in which plastics and other debris were immersed. We couldn't face picking that up as the sludge smelled of sewage so Stephen dragged most of it out with a stick so at least it could dry - and perhaps send a message to the litterers as well as the household with the poor septic system.

As the road leveled out near Bonnie and Stephen's house, they decided to call it quits for the day; it was hard work! The rest of us had every intention of going on but once we took a break for a few bites of delicious mango that Marcial had found, we concluded we had done enough for one day and it was time to relax. Our neighbor Juan had donated the bags and was coming in his pickup truck to take them for appropriate recycling but when he arrived with a bottle of tequila, limons and salt in hand, it was time for a Tailgate Party, Tico style!
Now that's a Tailgate Party!
This puppy fell in love with Sue - and she with it!
Our plan for the next clean-up hike is to bring along a sign as a means of public education: Let's Keep Santa Eulalia Clean! ¡Vamos a mantener Santa Eulalia limpio!

Check out Layne's book "Moral Turpitude," available for only $2.99 at High adventure with corporate intrigue, danger and romance; from the exotic jungles of Borneo and Costa Rica to the erotic jungles of San Francisco. Sample or purchase at --



  1. I am just an old gringa (nearly 63) that fell in love with Costa on a couple of visits (still longing to return) and I say GOOD FOR YOU GUYS! The roadside trash was the one thing I found dismaying in such a beautiful country. It's about educating the people about what natural beauty they have before their eyes everyday. Maybe a class in the local high school about what can be done with re-cycled trash would be in order?? They say kids learn best by example. Keep up the good work! Bless you all who participated!

  2. Very inspiring. My own Oakland neighborhood is full of street garbage--wonder if I can organize a clean-up.