Closing the Circle on Kobrita
Back in 2011 the Washington Post followed a shipment of donated bikes from Bikes for the World to their destination in Costa Rica. Specifically those bikes ended up in Sepecue and were transported there via small boats on the Rio Telire. While this was not a community that was visited on this trip, there was a more direct connection to the bikes and beneficiaries profiled in that story.About 3km down the long and dusty road from Amubri is the small community of Kobrita where we met Fabian. His family lives, like most Costa Rican families in Talamanca, in a communal sense where extended family lives in adjacent homes on a small plot of land. For Fabian and his family this is important because they operate a small one-room convenience store on the same parcel of land which is immediately next to the one road through this area.
In a fun twist we later in the day met Fabian's father at the nearby river crossing where he told me, at length, about the entrepreneurial endeavors of the family. They own a small pulperia (small retail shop) and gasolinera (gasoline filling station) adjacent to their homes while they also own land and farm bananas, plantains, and cacao. Given their entrepreneurial nature it was logical that Fabian and his father purchased 46 bikes from the local MiBici credit co-op, of which they are longtime members.
A common rejoinder among folks we spoke with who ended up with lots of bikes in 2019, Fabian told me that the inclusion of a good set of bike-specific tools was crucial since those are not commonly available in the area. This allowed him, in the span of 2 months, to sell nearly all of the bikes he received early in the year. The bikes that Fabian has been putting out into the community in Kobrita generally average about $67, which is one quarter of what a new bike would cost in Bri Bri before the costs of getting to/from the point of sale is considered.
We did see the ever growing number of inexpensive Chinese dirtbikes that are sold in the same stores where home appliances and groceries are available and that cost not much more than a new bike despite having additional running and maintenance costs associated with them. This makes access to purchase good quality affordable bikes even more crucial in areas like Talamanca where indigenous families live simply.
Fabian is also a bridge to Sepecue and that initial trickle of bikes into this more remote, and largely indigenous, part of Talamanca because he teaches evening English classes to adults at the secondary school. His commute is a prime example of why bikes are important in rural Costa Rica because it turns into what would be an unimaginably long walk into a 70 minute bike ride.