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The  Collectivo

This old, battered truck is the only form of public transport through the jungle for the inhabitants of Carate and the volunteers of Frontier; and for many stepping off the plane in Puerto Jimenez - the first taste of what life will be in the jungle. Twice a day, the vehicle runs from Puerto Jimenez to Carate, transporting people and products. It is an indispensable link between the jungle and civilisation. It may be rickety, bumpy and thoroughly uncomfortable, but as you see the town disappearing behind you, giving way to luscious green trees and fields, it is impossible not to feel like you have entered authentic jungle life.

This vehicle is a vital part of life for Camp Osita. It brings us our new volunteers, our biweekly supply of food, and is our only link to the town. Volunteers have described it as ‘one hell of a ride’, with a slight emphasis on ‘hell’, due to the somewhat chaotic and bumpy journey, but they cannot deny the exhilaration they feel rushing through the jungle. It is imperative to the camp experience; enabling us to visit the town, Matapalo beach and go on various excursions. The Collectivo even helps with our efforts in conservation, as Tuto - the heroic driver - has often taken pity on us dragging the bamboo cages we use to protect turtle nests and stopped to pick us up and drop us off at the beach, free of charge.

But the Collectivo is more than just an experience for the volunteers. It is the vein that connects the more rural parts of the jungle to the main town - transporting messages, people and goods from Carate to the centre of town. Having recently had the pleasure of riding both the morning and afternoon Collectivo, I was able to witness first-hand the imperative role it plays. At 8:30 in the morning, the Collectivo was loaded up with empty ice boxes and a broken motorbike wheel. On the journey back to Carate, we picked up the ice boxes loaded with food from the supermarket and the now fixed wheel from the mechanics. Families waited along the side of the road for their prizes - children excitedly running to help unload the truck.

On top of its practical importance, the Collectivo also contributes to the feeling of community in Costa Rica. A welcome change from the tube commute I am used to in London - in which eye contact is avoided and words are suppressed - I was pleasantly surprised to find Tuto high fiving and first bumping passengers as they boarded. Once on board the Collectivo, passengers exchanged news and gossip, enquired after family members, and, even more surprising, struck up conversation with me. Above the roar and rattle of the truck, we cheerfully exchanged stories and shared backgrounds in broken English and Spanish. The Collectivo is a perfect place to integrate with real locals, and really get a feel for the community.

The Collectivo, I believe, is an important part of Frontier life, as it brings us both our supplies and volunteers, and provides us with a vital connection to life outside of the jungle. It also gives us a chance to integrate and get to know the community of Carate. I think that England, with its modern, regulated and comfortable modes of transport has a lot of learn from the Collectivo and the sense of community that can be created by one rickety truck. The physical journey of the Collectivo is a perfect representation of the spiritual journey our volunteers undertake in Camp Osita; a bumpy but beautiful ride, away from the stresses of civilisation and into the peace of the natural world.

By Ruby Jarvis – Frontier Costa Rica | Media & Journalism Intern

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