Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finding Koky, and other joys

Although we had found fine guides during our Costa Rican birding time, near the end of our stay we still lacked an experience with the classic guide who can spot every bird, identify their calls, and also imitate them. Our first day in the Monte Verde cloud forest had fallen short of expectations, and a guide recommended by our lodging host was unavailable. So, when we arrived at Curi Cancha, a private reserve in the cloud forest, our expectations of finding the uncommon, beautiful Quetzal were low. After paying our entrance fee, we spotted a parrot, and listened to the bird songs around us.  A man with a Curi Cancha birding vest and a spotting scope came over and began sharing what we were seeing and hearing. After listening to him for a short while, we recognized his skills and asked him if we could hire him to guide us. He said his party had cancelled on short notice, and he had just come up to have coffee with Mauricio, the manager, and to see if maybe a party might need a guide.  To our great fortune, we were that party!

We had not been with him for too long before we realized how exceptionally serendipitous this chance encounter really was. Koky Porras spoke excellent English learned over the years in Costa Rica. He knew multiple bird calls and their variations, instantly recognized the birds he saw, and could whistle their calls, from the tip of his lips through many tongue positions, to the back of his throat. Plus, he knew the symbiotic relationships of the forest to the birds, to other wildlife, and to the plants themselves. He explained that when he was young, he carried his sling shot into the forest and shot the birds.  Now, he brings elementary school students into the reserve and teaches the importance of protecting and preserving the wildlife and the forest. He is deeply committed to the future of the Costa Rican environment, and educating the younger generation to its wonders and powers.

The guides in this reserve are not competitive or secretive.  Soon, Koky's cell phone rang.  He smiled and told us that a male and female Quetzal were up ahead. When we reached their tree, he set up his spotting scope and we enjoyed sharp views of these magnificent birds. Michael, with his steadier hands and better eyes, took my camera and obtained some outstanding images.  And Koky took our iPhones and held them up to the spotting scope for some very fine pictures as well. Elation and exuberance and gratefulness filled us.  Wanting to extend our time with Koky, we invited him to lunch.

We returned to the car and removed our gear. As Meg was entering the car, she looked down at her ring finger. Her engagement ring was gone.  We looked all over in the parking lot and found nothing.  Koky called Mauricio, the manager, and told him of Meg's loss.  Then we gathered at a nearby restaurant for a late lunch. The restaurant has set out bird feeders, and we spotted several new species. However, the loss of Meg's ring overshadowed any deep pleasure in what we were seeing.

After we had all ordered lunch, Koky's phone rang, and he left the table.  We had assumed maybe his wife had called him.  About ten minutes later, he returned.  As he sat down, this most wonderful smile spread across his face as he held up his little finger.  There, sparkling in the light, was Meg's engagement ring!  Mauricio had called to say he had spotted the ring and retrieved it.  So Koky, instead of simply telling us it was found,  drove back to Curi Cancha and picked it up and brought it personally to Meg.  The memory of the ring on Koky's finger, his joyful smile, his kindness, compassion, knowledge and humanity will remain with us each day of our lives.

Loly_Porras, Quetzal, Curi_Cancha, Monte_Verde

Curi_Cancha, Quetzal, Koky_Porras, Monte_Verde, 

 Curi_Cancha, Monte_Verde

Koky_Porras, Curi_Cancha, Monte_Verde
curi_cncha, quetzal_monte_verde, vista_verde, Koky_Porras

photographing the vine snake, Koky_Porras, Curi_Cancha, Monte_Verde


  1. What a wonderful story to add to your many others! Thank you for sharing your adventures!

  2. Thank you, April. This time with Meg and Michael and Sara created extra special joy, on top of the unique time with Koky!