Pura Vida, Dura Vida Part two
If you’ve made it through part one, what I’ve identified as some of the Dura Vida (hard life) here in Costa Rica, and are anxious to know why anyone would pack up and leave a relatively comfortable life in the US in spite of all of that, here’s my version of the Pura Vida. Is this a life for everybody? No, but if you’re a lover of nature, a seeker of a simpler life, and have the desire to learn to be still and allow yourself to truly enjoy your surroundings then read on.
I’ve decided to take you, the reader, on a quad ride with me and my husband. Something we do at least weekly, and more often than not we end up making lasting memories. The sun rises and the day begins…
I wake up because the birds outside, including toucans and the small, green parrots are also awake and they insist, with their morning calls to one another, that everyone should be up to start this beautiful day. My husband has made coffee (Costa Rican of course) and is settled on his hammock out on the porch catching up on the news of the day. I wander out with my cup and hear the white face monkeys chattering away as they feast on the rich palm fruit that hangs in the tree above us. Used to seeing us, this troop glances at me for just a moment and carries on with their meal. Two among the group have babies clinging to their backs. We’ll get a troop of the smaller, more timid squirrel monkeys from time to time, working their way across the canopy. In the distance the larger howler monkeys make their signature grunts that echo through the trees. We have heard that the fourth species of monkey that is native to this country, the spider monkey, is gradually growing in number and the hope is that the population will grow and flourish.
My husband knows that speaking to me before I’ve had that first cup of coffee usually results in a sleepy, blank stare. He waits patiently as I begin to show signs of comprehension and then suggests a quad ride to the beach. With enthusiasm I agree and we decide to start the day with breakfast before our ride. I slice freshly picked pineapple while Michael goes to tend to the chickens and water the greenhouse. As I’m toasting some of my sourdough bread he returns with fresh eggs and a handful of arugula. We sit down to a stack of toast, arugula, sliced avocado, topped with a poached egg, pineapple on the side.
While loading up a backpack and lathering on sunscreen I watch as a Blue Morpho butterfly makes its way drunkenly across my path flashing brilliant tourquoise blue with each flap of its large wings. I take it as a sign of good luck for the day. Michael and I hop on the quad and head down the hill towards the beach. Our home sits high on a hill with close to 360 degree views. There’s always a breeze and the elevation gives us a little break from the heat. On our journey through the sparsely populated neighborhood we wave to everyone that we pass, whether we know them or not. This is part of the pura vida, the wave, the greeting of “buenos dias”, the handshake and the kiss on the cheek. This is a culture that actually makes eye contact and respectfully acknowledges friends, family and strangers alike, as opposed to the bowed head and busy thumbs of the smartphone generation I left behind.
Approaching the base of the hill where the road turns to traverse along the beautiful coastline, we see someone warning us to slow down. A small group of people have gathered on the road and are not only watching but protecting a sloth that has decided to leave his tree on one side of the road in favor of one on the other side of the road. We watch as he slooowly makes his way. The local Tico population is becoming increasingly educated and protective of the animals and are quite proud of the fact that 30% of this small country is considered protected wildlife refuge. The group cheers as the sloth has completed his journey and is on his way up his targeted tree.
We continue on our way and stop briefly to do the all important “surf check”. While Michael is focused on watching for the size and timing of the perfectly formed, world class, left-break waves coming in, I hear the distinctive sqauk of the Scarlett Macaws. I search their favored almond trees above me and find dozens of them perched, eating, fighting (or maybe mating?). These brightly colored and large parrots were once a fleeting sight here but due to an aggressive breeding and reintroduction program they are successfuly multiplying in great numbers.
As we prepare to get back on the quad I spot Beto, a Tico who makes the most delicious chocolate from the local cacao trees. You can taste the careful, handcrafted passion he holds for this traditional way of making his rich and delicious chocolate. Each precious bar is carefully wrapped and we buy one, tuck it away, and know that we (I) have a treat for later on.
The road continues along the coast and I insist that we stop at “the rock”, a huge rock formation at the waters edge that serves as an excellent vantage point. Someone, long ago, carved steps into this rock leading to a concrete platform that gives an elevated view across the entire Golfo Dulce. A clear view of the Osa Penninsula is directly across the gulf. The Osa, home to some of the more exotic animals of Costa Rica including jaguars, tapiers, peccaries, and pumas, has been featured in many nature blogs, articles, documentaries, and has been referred to as the most biologically intense place on earth. While gazing across at that amazing place I see something emerging from the ocean. A whale has decided to play at the surface, slapping her fins and tale, creating quite the spectacle. Being a deep water gulf, the Golfo Dulce is where whales come to calve and nurse their young. During this time a whale watching trip in one of the small “pongas” or fishing boats never disappoints. We have been witness to many mother and baby sightings and it’s as majestic as it gets.
The trip along the coast continues and I ask that Michael make a quick stop in front of a Tico home along the side of the road. I hop off and ask the older woman sitting out front if she has any fresh coconut oil. I’m down to my last few drops and thankfully she hands me a bottle of her latest batch. I use it for everything from cooking, to skin care, to lubricating the zippers on Michael’s backpack. Check it out at: http://thecoconutmama.com/coconut-oil-uses/
As the road meanders on we find ourselves riding through a tunnel of palms growing up and over on either side of the road. The hibiscus, ginger and orchids grow wild on both sides resulting in a cacophony of colors, red, yellow, orange, pink, white, purple, brilliant against the many shades and textures of green in the jungle, Mother Nature’s flawless floral arrangement.
We come upon a perfect spot to pull over, hang the hammock and relax for a while. The tide is low and the beach in front of us holds a myriad of tide pools. I choose one and sink down into the warm saltwater, feeling the current gently sway back and forth. After a while I decide to take a walk down this long strip of nearly vacant beach, marveling at the way the jungle flows from the tall bluffs all the way down to the beach. The palm trees arching over the sand gives the view an almost unreal postcard feel.
Returning to the hammock I see that Michael has picked out a coconut and is busy hacking away at it with his machete. The locals make this look easy but his skills haven’t quite reached that level. Nonetheless he breaks it open and hands me a chunk of the crunchy, sweet flesh. After our snack we head to a waterfall, hidden back off the road, to wash off in the cool fresh water. Michael lingers there under the heavy stream of water letting it work on the muscles of his shoulders and back like a massage.
Making our way back to the quad we hear rumors of a turtle hatching. A turtle conservation group tends a small turtle hatchery and helps to protect and release sea turtles. The program has been enormously successful and over the past couple of seasons they’ve been able to release tens of thousands of baby turtles into this part of the Pacific. We visit the hatchery just in time to watch the 100 or so tiny turtles counted, and carefully moved from their guarded nest to a bucket. Down to the shoreline we walk with a group of curious onlookers to watch as they are released just shy of the waters edge. We watch as they make a beeline towards the open ocean, working their way through the sand, getting tossed in the surf, but never giving up on reaching their new home. Although every part of me wants to jump in to help them, their struggle is a necessary part of their survival and will serve them well as they mature.
Wrapping up our time on the beach we start back towards home. On the way we stop by our favorite beach shack. A small family restaurant, not much more than a kitchen and some outdoor tables, that serves my favorite shrimp ceviche, patacones (a traditional dish made from plantains), and ice cold beer. We sit at an old, rickety picnic table, enjoying the meal and looking out at the priceless view of the sun reflecting off waves crashing against the rocks framed by palm fronds. Michael challenges me to count the shades of blue I see across the water, from light turquoise to deep indigo, an impossible task.
As we near home we take a detour to the small fishing village to check on the catch of the day. Michael greets his local fishing buddies and negotiates a trade for some fresh fish. We have far more sweet peppers and lemons that we’ve grown at the farm than we can eat so he’ll use those as barter. Most of our excess fruit and vegetable harvest, beyond what we’re able to eat or store, is traded among the neighbors for other local staples like rice, beans, corn and yuca. We rarely come home empty-handed and in turn we never leave the house without a stash of our surplus to share and trade.
While Michael continues to visit with the guys I wander over to the local craftsman who takes pieces of the abundant driftwood from the beach and creates amazing works of art. Some of his work is showcased in our home and always garners compliments. I am curious about his latest project and the story that he weaves through each piece of art. He has the soul of a artist and I can hear the passion in his voice as he describes the intricacies of his carvings.
I pull myself away and join Michael on the last leg of our ride. We arrive home to our attention-deprived dog who is full of energy and ready to play. The sun is starting it’s descent and the sky fills with a fiery glow. The breeze brings a heady, perfumed scent of ylang-ylang, a tree with unremarkable flowers that give off the most intoxicating smell and it’s at it’s most potent at sunset. As if the brilliancy of the setting sun wasn’t enough of a feast for the senses, Mother Nature, in all her glory, adds this new dimension to create an even more spectacular experience.
I pour myself a glass of wine, lower myself into the hammock to watch the final light of day fade, and feel a deep appreciation for what my life has become, living in this paradise. Another perfect day.
Costa Rica has a great deal to offer and this is just an example of our little corner of it. There are a variety of lifestyles that can be carved out and enjoyed here in this country, all of them unique in their own way. The one constant that permeates across all of it is the love and respect for nature, for family and for a simple, pure life…the Pura Vida.