My first trip to the neo-tropics to look for Costus plants was filled with anticipation. I had researched extensively on the internet trying to plan a productive trip. I had spent many hours listening and repeating back the Spanish phrases from the Pimsleur Language tapes. I would walk our dog around Lake Ella with earphones in my ears, repeating out loud in my fledgling attempts to pronounce those new sounds. ¿Buenas tardes senior, como estas? ¡Mucho gusto en encontrarlo! Over and over again as I walked around the lake. People would look at me and shake their heads, thinking that poor man must be a bit crazy talking to himself like that.
By the time I boarded my flight to San Jose, I had everything all lined up. Upon arrival I would go to the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) in Santo Domingo to meet with the famed Costa Rica botanist Barry Hammel of the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
The next day, a flight south and two days at Wilson Botanical Gardens near San Vito. Their accession list on the internet indicated there were over 34 different taxa of Costaceae there that I could see growing in the gardens. What better way to quickly see many different species and know what to look for later in the wild.
Then I would go to the Austrian, University of Vienna research station at “Tropenstation La Gamba” which is at the edge of the Piedras Blancas National Park.
Then to top all that off I would cross the Golfo Dulce by ferry and meet up with the famed parataxonomist Reinaldo Aguilar, who had agreed for a reasonable price to guide me around the forests of the Osa Peninsula looking for Costus. Little did I know that Reinaldo would become my closest friend in Costa Rica and that I would see him again on several more trips to the peninsula.
The flight was on time and when I arrived that afternoon in San Jose I took a taxi to INBIO Parque and Barry was waiting there. We walked around a bit and talked about the plants I was interested in, then another taxi to Alajuela where I stayed the night in a small hostel.