Pristine wilderness: Costa Rica and Panama

Paramo at top of Cordillera Talamanca near Cerro Echandi, between Costa Rica and Panama September 1987


Cerro Echandi headwaters Rio Teribe Sept 1987

Central America: unexpected pristine wilderness between Costa Rica and Panama, 1987

After several years of doing medical work in Nicaragua and then consulting with the health ministry of Costa Rica, I had become entranced with the varied and, at that time, still untrammeled extensive wilderness areas of Costa Rica. In particular, I became intrigued with another blank place on the map: the continental divide between southern Costa Rica and northern Panama, and the unknown upper ranges of the Río Teribe, traversing north-east through a vast area of unexplored tropical forest in Panama to its terminus in the Bocas del Toro on the Panamanian Caribbean coast. With the thought of eventually carrying a raft from Costa Rica over the continental divide and then descending the Río Teribe, I decided to do a solo backpack from the Costa Rica side, over the 10,000 plus foot divide, near the high point of Cerro Echandi, and down to the headwaters of the Teribe. There was no habitation over 2000 feet on the Costa Rican side, nor any trail, and the ensuing 3-week backpack trip required a steep machete ascent up the Pacific rainforest onto the páramo (tropical tundra) at the top and down into pristine cloud forest and the Teribe headwaters on the Panamanian side. It was my third opportunity to be gifted with the experience of truly virgin wilderness.



Nicaragua Medical Work