Star Date: August
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
'Buenas dias', good day or 'Buenas tardes', good afternoon-
"Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms."
(George Eliot (1819 - 1880)
There's a frog in my suitcase! Spotting a colorful little tree frog relaxing on my clothes the first night at Pacha Mamas we knew we were in the right place. Pacha Mama means Mother Earth and this small guesthouse in the middle of a large forest reserve, stretching all the way to Panama, is teeming with the bounty that Mother Earth has to offer. Awakened by howler monkeys doing what they do best, howling loudly, we embarked on 2 weeks of living with our wild rainforest neighbors. Each day offered an up close look at monkeys, cheeky toucans or parrots far up in the canopy above, brightly painted frogs, colorful butterflies, slow moving sloths, large forest rats, 'agoutis', raccoons or 'coatimundi'. Thousands of frogs, crickets and fireflies danced every night.
Some animals announce their arrival loudly, such as the monkeys. As curious about us as we are about them, these wild bands of monkeys would come down from the high canopy for a closer look when we would utter a strange sound or imitate their scratching or noises. At other times we would stay completely still and quiet, scanning the jungle for what lurked within. Patience paid off as a slight movement alerted us to a sloth or agoutis slowly moving about. We miss so much as we rush by in our modern fast paced lives, thinking there is nothing to see. Slow down, enjoy what is around you now!
Talk about communing with Nature! Bill the helpful and all round great owner had a funny story about when he moved into our bungalow. One night while making dinner a sloth clumsily walked into the kitchen for a look. Bill proceeded to evacuate the stinky guy to a nearby tree ( as he has over 20 times through the last 7 years); grabbing him behind the neck and above the butt making sure to avoid the sharp claws of the now un-amused party crasher. He was heard to mutter, "I've been thrown out of better places"!
Puerto Viejo, 5
hours by bus from San Jose, is a lively bedraggled little coastal
town with pleasant restaurants, pretty beaches and
activities for the throngs of partying backpackers that
end up here. Not wanting to be in the noise of it
we chose to stay only 3.5 miles beyond at Punta Uva.
Bill's welcoming email drew us to Pacha Mamas with the
added bonus of one of the most beautiful beaches on the
coast only 200 meters away. Punta Uva Beach
is famous yet surprisingly deserted most of the
time - except Sundays when the locals arrive in hoards.
Living in the thick of the jungle with animals, near a
gorgeous beach, filtered water provided, with a fruit and veggie truck driving by
daily we were in 'travel heaven'. Hitching or
walking to town got us the supplies we needed and
provided a fun afternoon out. We even visited the
Saturday organic market twice to stock up. We took
a daily swim and walk in our beautiful surroundings.
One day we walked all the way (about 4 miles) to
the little surfing mecca of Manzanillo at the end of the
road. We saw endless wildlife as we quietly walked
on the mostly deserted road, taking a 2 mile detour
down a dirt road for even more animals. Arriving
on the quiet beach with the best break on this side of
the coast, we drank a coconut under a palm tree, then
went for a swim. This is where the term 'Super - Tuanis'
was coined by surfers. When locals would ask the
foreign surfers about the conditions of the waves they
would say, "Super - Too Nice!" And so our day was
- Tuanis', another rough day in the jungle.
Richness of the rain forests is immediately apparent with over 800 species of birds, thousands of orchids, an estimated 2500 plant species, 100 species of mammals (sloths, armadillos, porcupines, agoutis, white-tailed deer, monkeys ) and 500 species of butterflies. Hats off to them for preserving their wild areas, even if it is profit from tourism driven. So many areas of the world don't even see that benefit, as the wild areas of our world disappear.
Costa Rica also boasts a great variety of weather, from hot coastal beaches to steamy rainforests, to cool mountain cloud forests. The forest touches your soul on a primordial level, pleasing the senses and the soul. Finding your space, away from the beaten tourist path, is worth the effort and necessary for a true experience with Nature here. In this narrow country it is possible to swim on two coasts in the same day or watch the sunrise on the Caribbean and sunset over the Pacific coast.
Each eco region has highlights and after 2 weeks in the hot, dense jungle we decided to explore the cool cloud forests of Monteverde. After 12 hours on two different buses we arrived in the cool lushness of Monteverde or Green Mountain. We were refreshed by the drop of temperature and the lack of friendly mosquitoes. Welcomed into the lively fold of Pension Santa Elena we quickly adapted to life in the mountains. Good exercise, everything is either up or more up as we took our daily walk. Here with Mariah & Kevin in 1999 my jaw dropped to see what the sleepy little town with one store, 4 pensions and a dirt road had mushroomed into since then. Now on the backpacker circuit, it is full of zip lines, canopy walks, hikes and butterfly gardens. The main draw is still the unique ecosystems of the cloud rain forests of Santa Elena and Monteverde Reserves. Green luscious farmland is replaced with a mountain top of dense forest. A highlight is to visit the copious flora and fauna of Children's Eternal Rainforest. The largest private reserve in Costa Rica, it started with a gift of land then was expanded totally by the fund raising of children from 44 countries around the globe - including my children years ago. They are now trying to raise funds to make a corridor down to the ocean for migrating birds. With many species nearing extinction it is important for us, the stewards of the earth, to make a concerted effort to make projects such as this happen. Once gone - it's gone forever. Education once again and getting the children involved in their future is the key. Hopefully they will do a better job with the environment than their predecessors.
Raising my children as Quakers or Friends was a wise choice - for Peace and against War. While on Vancouver Island we shared silent worship with many dear friends/Friends including Hubert and Mildred Mendenhall. Having served in WWII in the medical corp they were instead jailed for not registering and refusing to go into yet another conflict with Korea. While in jail 4 young men decided to leave the U.S. with its aggressive war machine and seek greener pastures. They drove for 3 months from the U.S. through Central America into Costa Rica. They spent 6 months looking for a good place to settle, liking the coast but knowing that malaria could make short work of their dreams. The final 20 miles up to Monteverde took over a month with some days advancing only feet, not miles. Determined, this hardy group with their families who had now joined them, pooled their money, purchased the top of the mountain and began settling. Cleared trees became cabins and a school house and a dairy farm provided food and income. Their cheese factory is successful to this day. The school has expanded and Joseph was able to share some books with them. Spending a welcome hour of silence with Monteverde Friends in their remote Meeting House warmed my heart.
A blurb in the Lonely Planet explains, "The Quakers (or more correctly, the Society of Friends) who settled in Monteverde played a direct role in preserving the cloud forest, and they remain extremely active in the local community, though they’re not recognizable by any traditional costume. Quakerism began as a breakaway movement from the Anglican Church in the 1650s, founded by young George Fox, who in his early 20s heard the voice of God while walking in the hills of England, and claimed that direct experience with God was possible without having to go through the sacraments or organized religion. Today, this belief is commonly described by Quakers as 'that of God in everyone,’ and the community continues to lead a peaceful lifestyle in the Monteverde area."
One afternoon we decided to hitch
hike up to the mountain top settlement and were picked
up by Marvin, the "Ninety in November" friend of our
friend Hubert. One of the four pioneers to make
the grueling road trip in the early 50's, Marvin was
still a dynamite full of wisdom and knowledge.
Spending 2 days with him and his wife Florie included
sharing the Friend's settlement story with pictures,
hiking in his own private forest, cooking his favorite
Indian curry in their outdoor kitchen and visiting their
small farm house in San Rafael where they had hot bread
waiting cooked in the outdoor wood stove, fresh donuts,
and refreshing juice. When they couldn't find the
filter for their homegrown coffee Florie jumped up,
grabbed a clean sock and filtered the rich smelling brew
'a la sock'. This was just an example of adapting
to survive and remaining flexible in life. When
asked what the secret to happily reaching 90 years old
in good health, still driving, still giving guided
tours, still an active member of Friends Meeting, Marvin
listed 3 things:
Pretty well sums it up - and he should know; he walks his talk. Simplicity, one of the tenets of Quakers, often sums things up best.
The following was written by Mary K. at Christmas time in 1966: "Compared with the U.S.A. the standards of living in Monteverde are in the poverty group; but there are different kinds of poverty and we are in the good kinds. We know that we have all of the possessions that we need. We had some education, some travel, some interesting jobs, associates spiritually intelligent - hence merciful. Accordingly we conclude that we are able to interpret and enjoy our home amidst mountains, forests and fields in terms of wonder and beauty; our associates and neighbors in terms of beauty of heart...
If those of too many possessions might realize the freedom and the opportunities for abundant living that the good kind of poverty holds they would dispose of the money and things which make for a drab worriment, in order to achieve and enjoy the relations with men and nature that are worthy. One should give ones life to be and to know, rather then to possess."
When we couldn't find any other travelers that knew where Rio Celeste was we knew it was the place for us. Way off the beaten track we caught an early bus down the mountain. The scenery was spectacular with first dense forest teeming with birds, then clouds, then verdant pastures lining the small dirt road. Summarily tossed out at the Trans American Highway, we caught a bus up to Canas. From there it was small local buses and no tourists - a welcome relief from the summer crowd. The bus drove right between the two expansive volcanoes in all their glory - worth the ride for that alone. Jumping ship on the other side of tiny Bijagwa we hitched down the 6 mile rugged dirt road to Cabinas Piuri. We were picked up by a friendly young couple from San Jose who delivered us to the door in their truck, supplies and all. We didn't have long to wait to see the amazing milky turquoise waters of our quest, Rio Celeste.
The only cabins right on the river, Alexander and Sandra have created an artistic series of pools and waterfalls leading down to a swimming hole in the stunning turquoise river. This is important because for some unknown reason hikers are no longer allowed to swim in the river in the park. The rooms are clean, large and basic 'Tico' style and the hosts will help you with any and all requests. Such genuine, dear folks.
A swim in the refreshing river daily reminded us to play more. We would jump in, swim up the strong river (like being on an exercise machine), then dive into the swift current until at the last moment kicking off the rocky banks back into the quiet eddy, just before dropping over the small waterfalls. Exciting, fun, refreshing. We all need to play more! Hiking every day, trekking in Tenorio Volcano National Park to the waterfalls, hot springs and to the source of the rivers merging that creates the vibrant mineral color, kept us busy. But just sitting waiting for wildlife to come to you is the order of the day. We weren't disappointed as three large toucans flew onto a close branch as I was doing Qi Gong one morning. Later in the day a band of roving white faced monkeys stopped by to say hi for 15 minutes. In this remote, largely unvisited area the animals and birds are still curious about you.
We hauled in food for 5 nights and when it was gone we sadly bid adieu to our new friends, Sandy and Alexander. With such warmth, hard work and genuine manner, their new business is guaranteed to take off. Break from the herd. Experience Costa Rica at it's best.
And so it goes......................................... Next moving north in Central America, to remote Nicaragua. Until then Keep Smiling and let's learn unconditional love from the animals around us. These agreeable friends need our help in preserving the planet. We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch! Take care!
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00US = 500 colones
Retreat: Google this beautiful little place on
the edge of town, away from the noise.
Also recommended: Coconut Grove $30
Places to check
The Chocolateria - fresh hand made chocolate right off the farm. Also fun tours to see how your favorite treat is made.
500 metres past is
La Botanica Organica. An excellent little
restaurant full of organic items for sale and great
Forest Experience: Every Tues & Thurs ($26)
for an in depth look at how chocolate is grown (cacoa)
and produced plus an extensive tasting experience.
Leave with a smile on your chocolate stained lips!
We were talking to
Colline about their worthwhile project (ARA) to save
the gorgeous large colorful macaws in Central
America. Email them to see how you can
volunteer or help.
Education & Community Outreach Manager
ARA Project on Facebook
A great organic
farmers market on Sat mornings in PV. A fun place to
connect with like minded people and get tasty
produce for your meals.
Next to the bank is a big sign - Worm Clinic?? No idea what that's about.
recommended places to eat and relax in Puerto Viejo
(all have free wifi):
The Zion Cafe: down near the water this landmark has been recently renovated by a friendly Canadian couple who have fled south and added their own touches to make this an absolutely classy, tasty choice for mid priced dining.
Veronica's Place -
upstairs across from the bank. Relaxed
friendly health food store feeling kind of cafe is
open every day but Sat. Great juices and lots
of organic salads. Their main vegetarian
plates were not very big and a bit bland so I would
stick to the salads and juices. The owner and
people working there are very welcoming.
North of Puerto
lb. leatherbacks, green or hawksbill sea turtles
come ashore to lay their eggs in this humid, rainy
but beautiful low lying costal area north of Limon.
Phone (506) 2645 5051 or 2645 5682 or online. Call ahead - it books up quickly.
Get your bus ticket ahead up to Monteverde (and leaving). Only 2 buses a day. Once the seats are full they let 20 people stand for the 4 hour trip. A tough trip. We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of the 1:30 departure and got in line behind 4 people - only to get the last 2 seats on the rickety bus. People buy 5-10 seats at a time for groups on weekends. Avoid weekend travel if you can to this popular destination.
Macrobiotico/massage. Ana has a nice little health food store up the hill past the high school gym. # 2645 5972. They also have a table at the Sat morning farmers market in the gym 8-12. Three tables of organic produce, direct from the farmers are waiting to purchase.
Bosque Eterno de
los Ninos - Children's Eternal Rainforest
night hikes for $23 and you are able to visit the
park again during the next day. Great deal!
Check out: www. acmct.org
village of Monteverde:
Drop by the
Friend's Meeting House
Across the street at Stella's is a great place for a hot cup of tea and a piece of fresh baked pie - we had blackberry - yum.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Society of Friends, prayer meetings at the Friends Meeting House in Monteverde are held on Sunday at 10:30am and Wednesday at 9am. If you’re willing to give at least a six-week commitment, there are numerous volunteer opportunities available. For more information, contact the Monteverde Friends School.
Bus to Puntarenas from Monteverde - 6am
Transfer to a bus going up to Upala. Beautiful ride when you can see both volcanoes. Get off just past Bijagwa. Road on the right down a dirt road to Tenorio Volcano National Park. We hitched. Taxi is $20 - no bargaining.
One km past
the ranger station is
Walk to Peace tree - 2km
Heading to Nicaragua: Get yourself back out to the road - we hitch hiked thanks to kind drivers - and catch a bus to Upala (on the road by 9:15). Must be up there by 11 am to get the midday bus to Los Chiles border crossing into Nicaragua. Upala to Los Chiles about 2-3 hours - through Cano Negras Park, a low lying swampy area full of water birds.
The border closes at 5pm and you must visit immigration before taking the 1 hour boat up. A boat amazingly is waiting for you at the dock. Walk 4-5 blocks to 'immigracion', then down to the pier, (on your way pay 600c to municipality), where someone will put your name on the list for the 3:30 boat to Nicaragua. Change money - grab some food or snacks as Nicaragua hasn't got much, enjoy the quiet pretty trip except for the noisy, haha monkeys and birds. Immigration upon your arrival in San Carlos. Pay $12 for 3 month visa.