Accounts and photos of our two months in Costa Rica! My heart is FULL of this rich moist air.
After moving and all the upheaval, i just wanted to make sure i got this last costa rica post out since the trip. It has taken a long time, but here it is!
The first month of our trip was mostly us landing, hanging out with family and going on day trips around the central valley of Costa Rica. It was December so this included some big family gatherings for christmas.
christmas with both sides of the extended family! LOVED this
we did all the different picadillos, a favorite food of mine, i was thrilled
me and Grace at Christmas
me and Alvaro at Christmas
Most of January we traveled. Following are pics and brief descriptions of some of our travels around.
sunset Playa Guiones, Guanacaste
We mostly took buses around the country, sometimes family drove, or seth drove (my aunt and uncle let us borrow their little toyota) and once we flew….there was also a few hours with a horse-drawn cart with a horse named Pinto…
Here are some of our day trips….
Ruins of the Church of Ujarras, Orosi Valley (built 1693)
Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi, which was built in 1743 and is the oldest church in the country still in use today
drive to Cartago, stopped by this cable suspension bridge there was also a small dog on the bridge who looked a bit uncertain of the situation
My aunt, Silvia took us to a lovely farm in Coronado of some relatives of Alvaro’s.
On this trip we kept ending up at farms, talking to farmers by “coincidence” and collecting seeds. It stopped feeling like a coincidence pretty early on.
The place we went to was practicing silvopasture techniques. Silvopasture is an agroforestry practice that integrates livestock, forage production, and forestry on the same land-management scene. Pretty cool! (And very similar to something we would like to do on our land with other styles and how they apply to us and our unique situation). We were high in the mountains and it was gorgeous to walk around.
We connected with the main person implementing these systems and taking on the farm. We talked about caring for the environment through agricultural practices and shared ideas and visions. For lunch the family had cooked a huge pot of olla de carne a la leña (beef soup with local vegetables cooked for hours over the fire).
Our first long trip was to the Caribbean side of the country. A place dear to me.
on the bus in el caribe
As you go down into this lowland area you can feel the air get thick in your lungs.
el caribe, puerto viejo
Culturally it is very different from the central valley. Folks who identify as Ticos with Jamaican, indigenous (there are 8 recognized indigenous groups in my country) and even Chinese and Indian (as in India) backgrounds. There is a large Nicaraguan immigrant population as well in other parts of the country. Add to this lots of ex-patriots and tourists from all over and you’ve got a funky place. Sometimes awkward….I love it because of this wild mix. I have always appreciated the Jamaican influence here and felt comfortable or more relaxed because of it. The Jamaican-Ticos speak a language called Mekatelyu or Limonese Creole, a Jamaican-English Creole dialect. There is alot more Spanglish which i appreciate too. Plus, I am crazy about the Tico-Carribean food. Fresh sea-food, chile panameño, coconut milk, ginger, pinto beans, patis….oh..yes..
Riding in the bus through this area is a fast way to observe all kinds of aspects of a place. These banana plantations are monstrous. skip this if you’re not in the mood!
Ahem, i will now step onto my soap-box:
“The banana industry, the country’s second largest and an important source of foreign exchange, is currently undergoing a dramatic expansion. The government has proposed bringing nearly 21,000 hectares under banana cultivation with a target production goal of 90 million boxes of fruit for export annually. Spurred by tax breaks and incentives, banana companies are buying up new lands or re-occupying old plantations to the tune of 2,000 hectares per year, according to industry representatives. By some estimates, Costa Rica will overtake Ecuador this year as the number one exporter of bananas worldwide. The costs of surging banana production are high, however. Expansion is huffing a withering natural resource base and local populations are defenseless against exposure to large doses of toxic agrochemicals. Costa Rican indices of pesticide contamination and deforestation are now among the highest in the world. According to conservation groups and the Catholic Church, the continued unbridled expansion of the banana industry threatens to unravel the country’s hard-won social and environmental achievements of the last four decades, poisoning the workers. Though consumers in the First World have become increasingly concerned with pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables, workers and their families in producer countries suffer the detrimental impact of exposure to agrochemicals more directly [acute pesticide intoxication, dermatitis, eye problems, chronic respiratory disorders and sterilization due to a testicular toxin in one of the nematicides]. The banana industry in Costa Rica is responsible for the largest proportion of total pesticide use in the country, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of all pesticide imports. On the plantations, pesticides account for 50 to 55 percent of the total cost of material inputs. One of the main reasons that Costa Rica has been capable of producing such a large volume of bananas for export is the heavy application of fungicides, herbicides, nematicides and other agrochemicals. Workers, their families and local populations near banana plantations, however, are literally absorbing the real costs of this heavy pesticide use…”-By Christopher vanArsdale, executive director of the Costa Rican Audubon Society.
Why the use of chemicals? Some of you may know this, but the bananas we eat around the world are all clones, similar to potatoes (hence the blight and all the people going hungry in Ireland). Their entire environment is controlled. There are lots of other great varieties of bananas around the world. They just don’t export successfully. They do not meet the global-food industries demand.There is no genetic diversity. This makes them extremely susceptible to disease. They are not naturally resilient. This is one of the reasons why monoculture and conventional agriculture is so destructive to soil, organisms, our food (us) and the people who process/harvest the produce. The spirit of the fruit and it’s relationship to land and people is totally abused and dishonored. Diversity and relationship are necessary for survival. So does this mean never to eat bananas and be full of self hate and guilt if you do eat/buy them? No way, that’s not what i’m saying (those emotions could be just as toxic as the pesticides…). The secret to a global economy like this means we do not have to directly see the impact of our decisions. I’m just suggesting to be aware of what’s going on and make the best decisions you can for yourself in each situation. It’s overwhelming for me. So far long lasting change does not happen with aggressive self-denial and guilt/shaming. I’m going with gentleness along with awareness of impact in these times. Conscious decisions. Ok! Onward!
Closer to Manzanillo, we stayed at a lovely hotel called Almendras y Corales. It was a gift from my aunt and uncle- Irma and Chema- as a honeymoon-loving offering from them. So sweet! Everything was on stilts as it was right in the jungle. We were just a minute walk to the beach.
Almendras y Corales paths
inside our “tent”
It was a very fancy place. Note jacuzzi and swanky bed…all the walls were screens so at night the orchestral exuberance of the jungle was our lullaby. There were bats hanging on the outside of our little “cabin” who talked to each-other and exclaimed whenever the howler monkeys called out. For New Years the hotel hired this musician that was completely shameless. He called himself Tico Hendrix! He wouldn’t tell us his real name. He kept saying “Yo hablo mucho poquito espanol” in the worst accent, like he was making fun of everyone and entertaining them all at the same time. Brilliant and absurd. We loved him….
beach along Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
We stayed at a Hostel in Puerto Viejo. It was nice but i can’t even remember the name because this is where i had my second fall since my ACL surgery! Ugh….it was pretty scary. After being so careful on hikes and beaches, i fell on the super slick fancy hard-wood stairs! They had us take our shoes off to go up stairs and in my socks on the way down i wiped out. Classic. It was terrifying. Luckily i did not tear anything but all my muscles got stretched and strained and i was put back a good bit in my recovery. I was healing from this fall for weeks.
An important aspect of the Caribbean trip was that we spent two days with my father, Edwin. This was a different thing for me. Usually I do not seem him so often. I have been making an effort to connect more and be self-accountable in our relationship. It went well.
He has a house with his brother near to us in Cahuita. So we had a day having lunch (Pargo a la caribeña!) and then close to the Bribri indigenous reservation to visit a friend of his who has a farm. It is called Finca Integral Didactica Agroecologica Loroco. They are doing integrative, organic, aquaculture, educational agriculture. The main farmer/owner gave us a full tour of land and his seed sanctuary. Young people come from the Bribri reservation to learn and help as well as tourists, woofer-types, students and people like us. https://www.facebook.com/finca.loroco
We also spent time at Edwin’s house, Yemaya.
outside of Yemaya, view from deck, Cahuita
cacao tree at Yemaya, holy fruit!
I appreciated the time getting to know this part of Edwin’s life as well as just hanging out doing stuff together. We saw deeper parts of Puerto Viejo that we would not have because of him. Our relationship has had some painful chapters and lots of challenges along the way. On this visit, we got to connect on different levels which was healthy for us. But the journey continues and it is definitely not easy. It was important for me that Seth meet this very formative person in my life.
We had a good time together.
edwin and seth at Yemaya
Then, across the country-to the southern coastal region:to Osa Peninsula. The main reservation is difficult to get to and so i took a horse drawn carriage with our bags and everyone else hiking to get to Leona Lodge, a fabulous eco-lodge (actually living up to this “eco” title).
me on the cart feeling very….self-conscious about riding in a horse-drawn cart and everyone else walking….i soon overcame my awkwardness and decided to enjoy the ride!
on Pinto, the horse. Corcovado. silvia and alvaro in the distance
This hands-down the wildest place i have ever been and will probably ever set foot in.
corcovado, osa peninsula
There are countless stunning beaches, unique mangroves and powerful rainforests in my country. They are also wild. But there was something about this place. I could feel that here people were not really “in charge,” that i was just passing through in a place that was so heavy with life, independent and beautifully feral. There was a kind of intact-ness that was undeniable. I was nothing in the best sense of the term. Humans are all over the place in Costa Rica, tourism and “development” is huge of-course. But this place was something else. Like if i spent enough time there, it would conquer me, and i think i would be ok with that.
Even though i could not do the big hikes into the park, walking along the beach as well as hiking nearer to our lodge was great for me. Seth and i had some very powerful experiences with two troupes of monkeys – Geofrroy’s spider monkey, endangered – above us in the canopy. The guards of the park said it was common for the big cats to walk along that same beach we walked! Due to people disappearing/dying in the park you now can not enter alone without a park guide. I hope it stays that way. I could not get over the gift of being in this place.
a funny moment with alvaro and silvia, he is ready to go nice and early!
My aunt and uncle took us and we had such a great time with them. It was great to be together!
early morning, drinking a young coconut that seth cracked open
The treasure after all that work….
Below are more photos of Osa peninsula.
view from the Leona Lodge, all the “cabins” were giant tents, no electricity and beautiful outdoor bathroom/shower areas
tiny plane we took to Osa
seth, my uncle, aunt and i were the only ones on the plane….
I can’t believe we don’t have a group photo!? just this…haha
views from the plane
We spent a bit of time in the Golfo Dulce of the peninsula and Puerto Jimenez.
mangroves in the golfo dulce
There we had a most powerful experience with dolphins. They came to me in dreams before i even knew we were going to go on a boat in the Golfo. And then….there they were….speechless and for a long time photo-less until the guy driving the boat asked if we were going to take any pictures…..the main photo for this blog is of course, the most stunning of the dolphin shots.To break the rules, here it is again!
The others are wobbly as we were giddy with awe and gratitude. I played my flute for them. They stayed around us and went under the boat, they played. Their energy was a powerful mix of joy and equanimous love-this is felt profoundly in my dream as well as with them. It was PURE.
not a perfect shot, but the presence was perfect and so here it is….
my fabulous aunt, silvia!
who are these people?
me and my uncle, alvaro
From what i can recall, the Golfo Dulce is one of the deepest fjords in the world which supports habitat for marine mammals and tons of ecological diversity. I feel so blessed for this opportunity. I would like to go back to Osa when i can take the intense hikes!
views from the plane
Next is our trip to Punta Leona.
On our way, we had to stop by the Rio Tarcoles and the famous and very weird tourist scene with the crocodiles….they were massive…we think because people throw chickens over the bridge to them…..errr..
This is a beach along the pacific that is one i have gone to with family since forever. I was a baby on this beach and the family trips all together are a source of deep joy and nostalgia.I loved being with Jose, Silvia, Natalia, Seth and a young cousin.
seth in punta leona, i’m pretty sure everyone who comes to this beach gets on this palm, its a ritual
the powerful 400 year old tree and me
fossils from another time
the beach i love
So grateful for time with family and their sharing this place with Seth!
sunset Playa Guiones, Guanacaste
From Punta Leona we took a ferry across to the northern Nicoya peninsula, in the province of Guanacaste. A special area known for it’s dry forests and unique ecology. We took a solo trip for this leg to meet a close friend, Asha, who was leading a retreat in Nosara. What a great excuse to go out to this part of the country!
on the ferry to Guanacaste
The gifts of that short time together are heart-brimming, plus we were blessed to connect to Tilak whom she led the retreat with.
Stillness together, rest, refuge, sweetness.
the light and shadow of Being-ness with friends
seth humbled and exuberant after surfing
We loved the beach.
Guanacaste surprised me with it’s billboard commercializing agro-chemicals and big monoculture operations. And also a feeling: Like things moving too fast there and important aspects being left behind. I perceived that people were struggling with all the changes. There was not an obvious integration of the locals with the happenings there. It’s hard to explain.I left with a vague sadness
Guanacaste was the last big trip. We did not make it to Monteverde Cloud forest or Arenal Volcano area. For next time!
There are some other places and things we did that were important though. Day trips, family connecting etc!
Trip to family land in San Pablo. A place deeply seeded in my memories. It was bitter-sweet to come back after a few years. Much had changed.
It was great to see some of the projects the care-takers are doing, though hard because there are some tricky power and legal dynamics that we will need to work with in the years to come.
house and land in San Pablo that my grandfather passed down to us, his five grandchildren.
Silvia, Jose, Seth, myself and the caretakers of the property
checking out what the care-takers are growing, Jose being silly
seth talking about plants
feeling sad about all the changes and missing my grandparents: Jorge and Elia
honoring the land here, my great-grandfather’s grape vine and the years i spent visiting with my family
Mauricio, here for a week, treated us to go to the circus, amazing! Here I am with my cousins Mauricio and Natalia.
me and my primos at Cirque de sole
Though Costa Rica is getting more malls and grocery stores, Fresh markets remain a common part of life all over the country. Every weekend we had saturdays free we went to the Mercado Verde. It is an alternative market focussed on conscious agriculture and natural local products.
mercado verde joys
It is one of a kind there. Some organic and mostly local. People doing awesome things in my country from organic dairy and produce to home-made body products and medicines. Sadly, no organic/grass fed/free range meat being sold. It was heartening to be amongst other alternative folks. Plus one of the days we were there we spotted Sandor Katz (the fermentation super star! who also did a workshop at Lama) who wrote Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. He was leading a workshop at the mercado and we totally stalked him for a while.
the mercado verde had tasty eatery areas= this one was our favorite, with coconut carribean “rice and beans”!
We had a powerful time with Mauricio in Guayabo, a national monument where our ancestors built aquieducts, roads, buildings, ceremonial centers, petroglyphs and their homes right up against the volcan. This site dates back more than 3,000 years. I could say a lot about this time. Not sure even how to describe. For now i’ll just say that it was a power-spot and i am humbled to have felt the depth of that energy there. This place just keeps doing what it needs to do. Grateful for the messages it gave me.
road into and out of the center that many took from afar
So grateful for Mauricio for taking us!
Here are some more photos of our last few weeks!
hanging out with Carmenza, an old friend of my mom’s. she’s known me all of my life, so glad we’ve stayed connected!
We also got to spend time with Marita, my a close friend of my aunt’s from way back-dinner at an old Argentinian restaurant – a favorite of mine.
A day in Barva with Jose and Grace, Silvia and Seth. After a slightly stressful drive up the mountain, and a good hike, we made it to the park entrance to start the real hike to the volcan brave. a stunning spot! Jose, Seth and i did the hike- what a work-out for the knee!
on the hike up the mountain road, a great oak
a roble, oak- it was definitely the mother of all oaks! amazing!
time with my Tio! we made it to the caldera, an ice cold lake surrounded by forest
What a special trip for us.
view of the valley hiking up to the park entrance
Sometimes i got some help!
volcan Barva hike, thanks seth!
Days at the house in Santa Ana were pretty lovely….and full of fruits….
the leaf-cutter ants rule the land here…this is their pathway in the front yard
seth trimming mango tree, front yard, Santa Ana, eso!
the house in santa ana
grapefruits, oh yes!
We had such a sweet time with Olga, my aunt, and her husband Lazero – we got to have an amazing lunch and re-connect.
It is so interesting and enriching to keep the relationships with family and close-ones that have known me since i was tiny to now find the relationship as it grows in my adulthood, reconnecting in new ways.
A day trip to the Cataratas de la Paz with Silvia and Alvaro
the power of the water and the great vibration throbbing in me as i grieve celebrate grieve celebrate
moths and butterflies
hear-moment with this powerful water
I think personal blogs can be generally self-indulgent, at least…mine is sometimes…so just to carry that theme on, here are some self-indulgent photos of plants we loved along the way!
chile panameno-our favorite!
a sloth. not a plant.
The last few days were spent with family and a new friend, saying goodbye and enjoying time together.
Manuel, the gentle one i did language classes with, many blessings brother!
me and my cousin, Nati, happy to be together, sad to say good-bye!
me and dora, my great aunt, so glad to make this connection on this trip, a kindred spirit!
a goodbye-lunch at the family retreat house. so grateful for the time together eating, talking, sharing, listening….
My uncle Chema and Seth had such a sweet connection
family pic! chema, my uncle is taking the shot-
Saying good bye was not easy, it NEVER is.
at the airport with Silvia
sunset at my father, edwin’s home.
I left feeling full of my love for this place, the people and the gifts of who i am and where i came from.
full of gifts, or citrus…your pick
Up next: My mom and sister’s visits in the Spring and our most recent move to the land in Molalla, camping out, and building our yurt platform and the joys of hauling water