The Ave Sombrilla

After a few peaceful days in Gamboa, our whole crew journeyed to La Fortuna. The ride was about ten-ish hours long but so beautiful, as the nature transitioned from lowland forest to highlands with dark, rainy clouds hovering over us. As the bus laboriously crawled up the mountains of Fortuna, we all admired a fiery red sunset in the distance. Then, the bus came to a halt at the entrance of the Jilguero Cabins. The girls unloaded the luggage and climbed up a steep hill with our hands full of suitcases and boots. At the top, we found several wood cabins. Kira, Sylvia, Caitlin, Ivon, Heather, and I selected a humble but cozy cabin, the Ave sombrilla, which overlooked the beautiful La Fortuna mountains.

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View from the Jilguero Cabins entrance

After a short introduction at the main station, we returned to our cabin ready to recharge from a long day in the bus. While resting, we suddenly heard a series of beeps coming from somewhere in the walls of the cabin. At first, the beeps were consistent and slow, but then they quickly escalated to fast beeps of what sounded like doom. Next thing we knew, lights went out and the cabin stood in complete darkness. We all fumbled for our headlamps, walking into each other and tripping down the stairs and over beds. After some time of stumbling around, we found a large, mysterious generator with a switch by the wall. We gave up, accepted the darkness, and went to bed. I did quickly take an ice-cold shower, which was one of the most painful experiences I have ever had.

After a dark and cold night, we arrived at the main station early to learn about spiders in the Fortuna forest. William Eberhart gave us a short intro on different webs, which include a dome (Pholcidae), horizontal flat (Anapidae), cloud (Mysmenidae), and vertical flat (Chrysometidae). Each with a sock full of corn starch, we all split into teams and drove to the forest in search for logs and spiders. My partner, Javier, and I picked a few plots and began “powdering” the ground. Despite getting powder all over my face and whole body, the corn starch was quite useful for seeing the webs.

After a long day of corn starch and spider webs, it was time for a shower. One problem: the Ave Sombrilla and its ticking generator and ice-cold water. Kira and I decided to muster up against the cold water and darkness at our cabin. Caitlin and Ivon took the safe route and stayed to shower at the main station. Poor Heather was accidentally left on the station as well and had no choice in the matter.

When Kira and I arrived to the cabin, we couldn’t believe it. The lights were working and the shower had warm water. It was two hours of complete heaven, almost as if it was too good to be true. Long warm shower? Check! Time for napping? Check! Reading a book while admiring the mountains through the cabin window? CHECK! Kira and I drove back to the main station feeling refreshed, rested, and happy. We shared the news that electricity was back and the dark days were over.

It soon became 10 pm and we all returned to Ave Sombrilla, excited to enjoy the cabin in full light. But as soon as we switched on the lights, the dreadful beeping started. After only five minutes of electricity, we were once again fumbling in the darkness, falling over one another. Perhaps that afternoon was just a dream? Kira and I will never know…

On our second day, we went back to our plots to count any new spider webs. After then, we took a trip to collect different fungus. I quickly found that I do NOT have an eye for picking out fungus in the forest, but I did find a lot of cool lichen! Getting back to the station, we started the data analysis and discussed the results.

When we got to the Ave Sombrilla, we had accepted it for what it was and embraced the darkness. Instead of attempting to turn on the lights, we lit a few candles, giggled for an hour, and showered in candle light. I became really grateful for my time in Fortuna because that was when I bonded with these wonderful people. I hope to return one day to hear that beeping generator and light some candles with my friends again.

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Candles in the cabin

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