My name is Robert Cook and until 2010 my work background was construction, mostly home renovations. Over the years, most of my jobs involved residential work and I felt like something was missing. I had a deep longing to travel and be a part of something that would give me meaning. You know the saying “you have to watch what you ask for because you might just get it”? Well, on my way to work one morning someone ran a red light and I got T-boned, and for a while, the world went out of focus and very quiet…
During my recovery, I happened to read an article about bamboo in Central America and was astounded by the incredible strength and properties of this grass; not the kind that you smoke but the kind that can grow up to and over 100 feet in 1 year. The tensile strength of bamboo is equal to steel and the compression rate is the same or better than concrete. Bamboo produces tons of oxygen and soaks up an equal amount of C02. The turnaround harvest rate is 3 to 5 years and once cut can start up 2 or 3 more shoots on its own. The bamboo plant is used for many things as varied as clothes, food, building materials and now, baseball bats, skateboards, bicycles, pool cues, drum sticks and so much more.
The first leg of the trip started with a tour from Coco beach Costa Rica to the city of Granada Nicaragua. The transport trucks and cars at the border were backed up for 1/4 mile. We left our ride on the Costa Rica side and crossed the border on foot with ease to be greeted by an associate of the tour guide and continued to the city of Granada in Nicaragua.
While reading about bamboo in Canada I came across Jan Van Bilsen, a cinematographer from Belgium who had lived in Nicaragua for 30 years filming documentaries in Central and South America. While in the jungle areas he was captured by the beauty of the bamboo groves. Jan travels to different parts of Nicaragua sharing information with communities on the benefits of cultivating, planting and maintenance of bamboo.
Bob agreed to be my guide and translator for a couple of days. We took a bus from Granada to Managua for $1.00 to meet with Jan at a college pub for some cerveza and to begin my education on Guadua bamboo. It was a great meeting and after several cerveza and picking up Bob who had fallen off his chair, were on our way to meet with Pro Nicaragua. With Jan as our interpreter doors began to open and Pro Nicaragua was excited to help us explore manufacturing bamboo products in their country.
When we finished a day of visiting bamboo groves and searching for machine shops that could work with bamboo we would drink Flor de Cana rum and play pool.