There were two people in the back of the pickup when it arrived to transport us to the Reserva Biologica Werner Sauter. Alvaro Teran was behind the wheel. We drove about 5-10 minutes from central Samara, mostly up hill and turned into the reserve. We disembarked and stood in an open grassy area with a large stand of bamboo to our left. Alvaro asked for a moment of patience as he looked for something in the bamboo. ” Come, come” he said softly as he motioned us over. The tone of his voice told us to expect something special. There was an owl sleeping in the bamboo just above us, a second, his mate, was tucked in close by. These were not tamed creatures, but Alvaro knew where to find them, because he grew up exploring this place and is an avid naturalist like his grandfather, its founder.
Alvaro’s grandfather was born in 1928, the son of German immigrants. He had a passion for the land from an early age, and when he could afford it he bought a cattle farm in Guanacaste. Cattle farming did not suit him, so 28 years ago he allowed the land to begin to return to its natural state, a tropical dry forest. Tropical dry forest once covered most of Guanacaste before it was cut and burned to permit cattle farming. It is now a rare and fragile ecosystem. Trails were added in 2011 and Alvaro, who is 28 and a graduate of Earth University began leading tours.
Once we entered the forest everything changed. The temperature was a bit cooler, the only sounds were birdsongs, running streams and our own footsteps. Alvaro gave us a moment to enjoy the peace before beginning the tour. We spent over 3 hours hiking the main trail. Alvaro identified trees and birds, fed us wild plants and termites (really), told us about the lives of indigenous people that he calls the old ones, and gently encouraged his audience to respect and protect the earth he loves so deeply. There was a little sadness in his voice when he spoke of how his own generation has lost touch with the land and his hope that their children can still be reached. The land in the preserve is beautiful and the view at the top is spectacular, but the real treat is spending time with a passionate, intelligent man with the wisdom of someone much older. The preserve and its keeper are something to be treasured.
Plans for the 136 hectares reserve include adding a self guided trail to permit access to more people and more tours for children. Alvaro sees that when people visit this place they come away with at least a touch of his passion burning in them. He hopes to ignite that passion in as many people as he can possibly reach, especially the young ones.
After the tour I learned that Alvaro had spent 4.5 months as an intern at the University of Georgia. He went to study biofuels. He quickly learned that the particular biofuel process he came to learn about used more energy in the production and transportation of raw materials, before manufacturing even began, than it ultimately produced. It redirected his interest to the study of Emergy, an economic system based on measuring cost as the energy consumed in an object’s production. It made him rethink the relative value of things. It sent him back to Samara and the reserve.
I can only begin to touch on all that I learned in a few hours with Alvaro in a blog. Some day I hope to meet his grandfather who, in his 80’s, still hikes these trails regularly and with gusto. This is just one more example of the special nature of people who choose Samara as home and how the area could and should be exposed to the world as a center for unique and rich experiences.