Carara

Carara

November 17th & 18th, 2013

My friend Susan and I are off on another adventure. This time we’re headed to Costa Rica’s southern coast to visit Tarcoles, Jaco and Carara National Park

Before I tell you about our trip I want to share my warm fuzzies with you. How lucky am I to have met this amazing woman who started off as my landlord, and quickly became my friend, who is just as excited about travel and adventure as I am, and has volunteered to not tell me about the places that she loves, but wants to go with me, and she’s driving us there?! I can’t help it – every time we go to a new location I feel like a kid in a giant candy story. 

Tarcoles is about an hour and a half south of Sarchi, where I live. Susan wants to drive on the old highway from Grecia through Atenas and Orotina to Tarcoles, the old highway that locals and tourists alike used to take to the coast before the new, highly controversial Caldera highway, was built in 2010. Sure, the new highway is smoother, doesn’t have potholes, you can drive faster and you probably won’t get caught in a mudslide during the rainy season, but the old highway has more personality and is a stunningly beautiful drive – potholes, rain-washed roads, insect serenades and all. We twisted and wound our way through dense Costa Rican jungle on the old narrow, very steep, twisty-turny windy highway from Grecia through Atenas and then Orotina before we were dumped onto the new highway toward Tarcoles. Through it all I got to revel in the sublime beauty that is Costa Rica.

The bridge over Tarcoles River is a huge tourist attraction so it’s only right that we stop on the way to our hotel in Tarcoles, check out the souvenir stands filled with delicious mango ceviche, local cashews, and other artisan crafts posted in close proximity to the bridge, and walk out onto the bridge to get a glimpse of the enormous crocs sunbathing in the muddy river below. It’s kind of a windy day, and I can feel small tremors in the bridge as the cars drive across, giving me a really unsettling vertigo feeling as I lean out, camera in somewhat shaky hands, to take advantage of this amazing photo-op. I’ve only ever seen crocodiles (pronounced cocodrilos en Español) on t.v., so seeing them in person is a wee bit of a reality check. The crocs below are mind-bogglingly enormous, giving my mind all kinds of fodder for horrific stories of falling over the railing (or worse yet, being pushed) to fall to a horrific death below – being eaten alive by crocodiles. They’re so perfectly still, mouths hanging agape, that they don’t look real until they move, which gives me a whole new appreciation of the late Steve Irwin‘s fearless interaction with these very ominous-looking reptiles.

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We’re staying overnight in Tarcoles at Hotel Carara, where for $40 USD (₡20 milfor double occupancy (Susan gets a locals “paying cash” discount) we get an oceanside room with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean rolling in less than 50 meters from our balcony. It’s an extra $20 per day to use the air conditioning, but it’s still November and despite the humidity we don’t need AC just yet. Once we get checked in we park ourselves on the balcony to eat the packed cooler full of lunch we brought and revel in the stunning scenery we’re surrounded by. After awhile I feel mesmerized watching the bluish-black butterflies flit around, and can hear the ocean waves rolling in, calling me to come out and play. Still feeling self-conscious despite my best efforts at banishing my negative body perceptions I don the bikini that I bought specifically for this trip and force myself to walk out through the hotel lobby to the beach, acting confident but really feeling like a large white bloated beached whale. Oh well, the ocean doesn’t care if I have love handles or cellulite, and that’s all that matters as I allow my heart to lead me toward the cleansing waters. 

At the water’s edge I look up and down the coastline and am stunned to see miles of trash washed up on shore, some of it not exactly washed up but rather pitched out by locals who don’t have a sense of the ecological beauty that is their country. I won’t use this opportunity to put myself on a soap box, other than to say there are current environmental efforts toward educating the kids in Costa Rican classrooms about the importance of taking care of their precious resources. Dismayed, but not undaunted, I walk as far as I can in both directions along the Tarcoles coastline (which is not far at all). This is not a protected cove and my legs are no match for the powerful undertow displayed by the powerful waves here. I have a healthy respect for the power of Nature, so I have the sense to only walk into the water up to my calves, but no further. The frigatebirds flying overhead are beautiful in their aerodynamic design and aesthetic simplicity, and I sit down on the water’s edge, simply to take in their graceful flight until I’m ready to head back to the hotel room so Susan and I can drive into Jaco for some touristy sightseeing.

Frigatebird

Frigatebird

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Jaco is only the second beach (besides Tarcoles and Samara) that I’ve been to in the time I’ve been in Costa Rica so I don’t have much to compare it to. Suffice it to say, I find myself thinking “What’s the big deal? Why do people like Jaco so much?” When I think “beach” I have a specific construct in my mind of what the word “beach” looks and feels like. Maybe I’m being a snob here, but I just am not feeling it here. Despite my generally unenthisiast response to Jaco I still want to take advantage of checking out the local shops, so we park and walk for a bit. I’ve been to a lot of local souvenir shops since arriving in Costa Rica and I haven’t yet had the experience of thinking that anything being sold was junk, as I’ve often thought of the items sold in souvenir shops in the States. In fact, everything I see in every shop I have visited so far has been a work of art. As we weave in and out of shops, talking to the locals, I felt inclined to stop and “ooh and aah” over almost everything I see, but I only buy a sterling silver toe ring lined with elephants, which is significant to me because my daughter and I have had a “thing” with elephants ever since she was 5 years old (she’ll be 20 in January).

I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to see a really gorgeous beach in Costa Rica. “Be patient, I tell myself, they’re here…you just haven’t been to one yet.” Back in Tarcoles we enjoy a really delicious dinner of local-fresh-caught-that-day corvina sea bass with veggies, wine and french fries. I know, french fries with fish and wine? What can I say? Pura Vida….

In the morning I’m up before dawn, sitting on the veranda waiting for coffee and the complimentary breakfast to be served, while I watch the waves roll in. Even though I’ve been in Costa Rica for a month I still feel like I have to pinch myself sometimes, and this is one of those occasions. “I’m in Costa Rica, sitting on the veranda of a hotel ON THE BEACH, which only cost $40 per night for two people, and I’m watching the waves roll in (between coconut palms), while the Scarlet Macaws traverse the morning sky, it’s nearly 80 degrees F outside, I get to go to Carara National Park, I’ve made an amazing new friend, I feel incredibly blessed, my heart is open and I’m finally listening…,” you get the idea. The complimentary breakfast consists of coffee, orange juice, gallo pinto, eggs, toast, fresh Tico cheese, fresh fruit and it’s all delicious!

After breakfast we head out to Carara National Park. I’m wearing Goretex waterproof hiking shoes, but it’s the end of the rainy season and the park guide insists that I consider renting botas (boots), which cost $1 on top of my $10 park entrance fee. “Really,” I think to myself, “I’ll be OK. I’m not a wimp,” but once we get into the jungle I feel a little bit foolish and simultaneously incredibly grateful for the guide’s unrelenting insistence that I may want to rent boots as Susan and I slog through a muddy trail that gets progressively muddier, slippery-ier and deeper, until it becomes a knee-deep swampy river of water and mud that wants to suck the boots right off my feet.

A word to those who venture into the jungles of Costa Rica…Oh, how I wish I’d bought insect repellant!!! I’m getting eaten alive by mosquitos and other insects. It’s incredibly hot and humid today so instead of smartly wearing a thin long-sleeve shirt I thought I’d be OK with just a tank top. Big mistake! My back is covered in bites and welts, but despite the incredible annoyance I find myself somehow able to sink into my heart, into this moment and enjoy our jungle trek.

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Leaving Carara National Park I feel a mix of bittersweet emotions. On one hand this place feels so incredibly magical that I don’t want to leave. On the other hand, I can’t wait to get out of here so I stop getting munched on by the local mosquitos, can take a shower and apply anti-itch cream. The anti-itch cream wins. After a shower and lunch we’re back on the road, this time taking the new main highway back home to Sarchi. We stop off at a soda for lunch in La Garita, and Susan is super excited to introduce me to Patacones, but alas…they don’t serve them at this soda, so she settles for a maiz tamale and I order ceviche, which turns out to be made with Tilapia instead of Corvina Sea Bass. I don’t mean to be picky, but the Corvina Sea Bass ceviche here in Costa Rica R-O-C-K-S, and the Tilapia ceviche….is…well…I guess it’ll do in a pinch, but it’s really substandard flavor & texture in my opinion.

 

 

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Monteverde

Monteverde

November 7-9, 2013

My intention, whilst on this amazing adventure of a lifetime, was to blog about my experiences – both the fantastic and the mundane. However, the overarching intention for this entire trip was to stop listening to my head, and instead drop into my heart and listen deeply and intently, allowing it to become the guiding beacon of light for my life’s unfolding – instead of the old pattern of living from my head, making decisions that weren’t necessarily in my highest good, and then standing there scratching my head, wondering what happened while I watched my life fall apart.

In the past few weeks I have felt that what I most need is solitude. Lucky for me, I’m in exactly the most perfect place for the deep listening and unraveling that is occurring. I find myself luxuriating in the long stretches of time I now have to do nothing but what my heart and mind need: just be. Listen. Breathe into the space of beingness, pure awareness regarding itself, having an encounter with Self with no masks. I have truly surrendered.  What has occurred as a result is nothing short of shocking (to me, at least). I am encountering Self, at the deepest levels of consciousness that I AM. As a result I’m finding that the me I used to be is dropping away, and being replaced with…what….the me that I’m becoming. In short, I have been doing some interior remodeling. What’s really amazing is that I didn’t come at this like a project. No hammer and nails. No…just by listening and being present. And, as you know our internal beingness / awareness creates our external reality so the reality I’m experiencing now is different than the reality I experienced 2 months ago, 2 weeks ago, or even yesterday.

So, it is with some delay that I tell you about our trip to Monteverde – a beautiful cloud forest. I’m tempted to describe all the subtle nuances of every little detail. Instead, I’d like to just give you some highlights, snapshots if you will. The drive to Monteverde from Sarchi is an adventure in itself; the paved road winds through dense dry jungle mountainous terrain for the first half of the drive, and the remaining half is unpaved rocky, bumpy, ditchy, very windy, twisty-turny dirt road. Driving in Susan’s 4-wheel drive truck over this terrain was rough, yet I found it truly amazing that tour buses make this trip twice daily.

We stayed at Hotel El Bosque – a family owned lodge located about halfway between the nature preserve and town, and nestled in a garden-like jungle setting, within walking distance to a local women’s co-op, Monteverde’s Whole Foods Market, Stella’s bakery and coffee shop, an Argentinean restaurant / chocolatier (how many times can you say “Yummie” without sounding like your vocabulary needs a boost?).

View of the hotel garden right outside our room

View of the hotel garden right outside our room

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View of the hotel garden right outside our room; butterfly garden, orange trees, hydrangea, banana trees and palm orchids

 

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View of the hotel garden right outside our room

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After checking in, we walked across the street and ate lunch at Stella’s. We ended up eating most of our meals there because the food was fresh, organic and delicious, plus the presentation was beautiful. I even had a glass of wine with my salad because it was just that wonderful a place to be eating.

Susan's sandwich

Susan’s sandwich

 

My salad - the tomato on top looks like a flower, doesn't it?

My salad – the tomato on top looks like a flower, doesn’t it?

Before dinner we drove to the hummingbird reserve, where we stood with hundreds of hummingbirds zooming in and out of the trees, all around us, enjoying their dinner. It’s quite an amazing feeling to be “buzzed” over and over my hummingbirds. They fly so quickly that you hear them long before (or after) you see them.

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The next morning, after breakfast and coffee at Stella’s, we drove to Curi-Cancha – one of three nature preserves in Monteverde, where we hiked for over 3 hours through dense “dry” jungle. It’s referred to as a dry jungle because it’s not hot, humid rainforest like you would experience near the coast, although it was humid. One of the things I really wanted to experience while in Costa Rica was to see a sloth (or several). Before traveling here, all the tourist websites I visited made it sound like sloths were hanging out on the street corners just waiting for you, but so far I haven’t seen even one, so I spent the first half of the hike with my neck craned in all directions, trying to get a glimpse of one of the well-camoflauged, and rarely seen, sloths. However, you can only walk so long like that without A. falling over a tree limb B. walking into something or C. getting a severe neck cramp. Luckily, my neck spoke up before I did anything drastic, like walk into a hornet’s nest. No sloth sightings, but I did see two Agoutis galloping through the forest, then Susan pointed out a horde of Harvestmen spiders clustered in a tree (the cluster was about the size of a dinner plate) that were making a strange clicking cheeping sound. We didn’t know what they were when we saw them (creepy and looking like a miniature version of the arachnid scene in Harry Potter as they were all hanging together chirping). By this point I was getting thoroughly irritated with the flies, mosquitoes and an insect that kept finding its way inside my shirt. As I walked along feeling pissy about the bugs I walked right by a False Coral snake nestled in some leaves on the side of the path – only inches from my feet. If you remember from my post about El Mundo de las Serpientes, you can tell a Falso Coral (also called a King or Milk snake) apart from its look-alike the deadly coral snake, by its color pattern. After passing by, Susan called me back on the trail and we watched it, perturbed at us for interrupting its nap, slither into the hollow of a strangler fig and out of sight. At the end of the trail the dense forest opened up to a lush field, with one tree in the center that served as a hummingbird feeder.

Trunk of a strangler fig

Trunk of a strangler fig

 

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After our hike we ate lunch in a real tree house at Tree House Restaurant & Cafe. The food was ok, but my experience eating was less than stellar due to two mix-ups re: ordering gluten-free food that was in fact, not gluten-free. However, the experience of eating outdoors, perched in a live tree, was well worth the trip into town.

After lunch we stopped at Café Caburé Restaurant & Chocolate Shop for some much-needed chocolate, and decided to eat dinner there – the menu looked amazing! Continuing with the day’s adventure we drove down into the valley to Bajo San Luis – in the middle of the most spectacular cloud forest, surrounded by fog so dense we could see little of the surrounding landscape. Dinner at Café Caburé completely lived up to our hopes. Very tasty, and we ended up eating there the next night as well, met the owner (our server), who chatted with us throughout our entire meal and then gave us a complimentary chocolatier tour after dinner.

The next morning after breakfast at Stella’s we walked to the hummingbird preserve for another dose of hummingbird joy (a steep 45-minute uphill climb), but the hummingbird view was again, spectacular. On our way out of town we stopped at a funky little store, and I tried on two dresses, purchased one, which I now wear everywhere. Leaving, my heart was full.

Stay tuned for future adventures…

 

 

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Dr. Salas

November 20, 2013

I don’t have health insurance, and because I don’t utilize western medicine very often I choose to use energy healing techniques on myself and I also take advantage of myriad holistic therapies, which have proven to be incredibly effective so I’ve never felt like I was missing out on anything.  Plus, I save thousands of dollars per year by not paying for ghastly expensive insurance premiums and deductibles; instead, those dollars go toward my annual “female exam” and dentist. However, because of the rising cost of dental procedures I’ve even been shelving that expense, and haven’t had a cleaning in longer than I care to share here on this blog (if my dentist in Colorado Springs read it he’d be appalled!).

Occasionally, I do utilize medical services, and today was one of them. I went to see the dentist today. Yes, another not-so-adventuresome outing, yet I share this experience with the same intent behind sharing yesterday’s doctor appointment: medical care in Costa Rica utilizes cutting edge medical technology and is incredibly inexpensive compared to the cost of medical care in the U.S. My visit today has two purposes: a cleaning, which is LONG overdue, and an exam to see what can be done about a receding gum line that is causing some root sensitivity on two lower left teeth.

My friend Susan has a wonderful dentist in downtown San Ramon, Alejuelah, Costa Rica whom she recommended I see,  helped arrange my appointment (I was able to get in with only a 24-hour notice), then drew a rough map for me so that I could find Dr. Salas’s office when I arrived in San Ramon. I took the bus from Sarchi to Naranjo where I switched buses to San Ramon (total bus travel time plus waiting for the buses = 1.5 hours). When I arrived in San Ramon I was able to find Dr. Salas’ office very easily, with 5 minutes to spare before my appointment time (thank you Susan for the map!).

Dr. Salas has a small office, staffed with a very friendly secretary / assistant. Dr. Salas arrived a few minutes after my appointment time (time is relative here in Costa Rica), walked right up to me and introduced herself as Patricia, then proceeded to do a very thorough intake and exam during which her assistant used a small camera inside my mouth so I was able to see everything Patricia was looking at, poking, prodding and discussing.

She asked all kinds of questions and then offered her professional assessment:
1. I have three very small cavities that may develop soon or not for quite some time, and those can be taken care of when I am ready.
2. I have two very old fillings that need to be replaced when I have the time and money to do so.
3. Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and no she didn’t think it would be wise to do a filling over the receding gum line, which my previous dentist has been bugging me to do at a cost of $250 PER tooth (and Dr. Salas very thoroughly explained the why behind her recommendation).

After the assessment she (not a hygienist) cleaned my teeth.

*Total cost for one-hour appointment that included an exam and cleaning: ₡20.000 (approx. $40.00 USD).
Approximate cost in the U.S. for a similar exam, with cleaning and x-ray: $150.00-$250.00

*Estimate for three fillings: ₡15.000 each (approx. $30.00 USD apiece)
Approximate cost in the U.S. for three fillings $600.00 – $900.00

*Estimate for replacement of two existing fillings: ₡30.000 each (approx. $60.00 USD)
I don’t even want to attempt to provide an approximate cost in the U.S. for removal and replacement of two existing fillings, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not anywhere near $60.00

After the cleaning I promptly made an appointment for Friday afternoon to have the three cavities filled. I don’t want to waste this incredible opportunity to have such fantastic dental work done at such an amazingly low price, and I certainly don’t want to “wait and see what happens” in the hopes that they develop much later, rather than sooner. Thank you Susan for the referral!!!

Dr. Salas information: Many U.S. citizens choose to travel to Costa Rica because they receive top-notch, cutting edge medical care for a fraction of the cost in the U.S. If you are currently in Costa Rica, or traveling to Costa Rica, and would like Dr. Salas’s contact information I would be happy to share it with you. 

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Dr. Quesada

November 19, 2013

I went to the gynecologist today. I know, that’s not exactly travel-worthy news but I’m not exactly on vacation either. I’m not just la-di-da’ing around; I’m living in Costa Rica for 2 months. Doctor’s appointments, like trips to the grocery store, are part and parcel of life.

I wanted to share this particular excursion on my blog because I am blown away at the level of superior medical care I received. I’ve been having pelvic pain of unknown etiology (no known cause) for approximately a year, maybe longer. My last trip to the gynecologist for my annual “female exam” in September (just a couple of months ago) was inconclusive, with a “You’re in excellent health and everything is normal” stamp of approval. Excuse me, but pain isn’t normal and since it hasn’t bothered to decrease despite the fact that I’m living a pretty carefree life these days, I felt it prudent to dig a little deeper, especially because medical care in Costa Rica is a fraction of the cost of care in the United States.

My landlord, and now friend, Susan recommended her doctor to me.

I won’t gross y’all out with the nitty gritty details of what a gynecology exam entails, except to say that I was able to make an appointment with a 24-hour notice, based on Susan’s referral. The physician, Dr.Maria Jose Quesada, whose office is located in downtown Grecia, was very thorough in her intake questioning and exam, AND the bonus part – which is why I’m sharing this doctor appointment information on my blog – is that here in Costa Rica internal ultrasounds are routinely done with a gynecology exam.

Total cost for doctor fee, gynecology exam, and internal digital ultrasound: ₡50.000 ($100 USD). My cost would have been triple (or more) in the States!!!

The good news: I’m not dying; I don’t have cancer, no cysts or anything at all abnormal. I have nothing that points to a potential cause of pain I’ve been experiencing. However, my mom’s side of the family has a history of breast cancer and Dr. Quesada very matter-of-factly told me that just because my last (first actually) mammogram in early October, 2013 was normal doesn’t necessarily mean I’m in the clear. Apparently breast cancer and colon cancer are linked so Dr. Quesada recommended a few additional medical tests (colonoscopy and stool samples to test for cancer-causing bacteria and blood in the stool).

The bad news: no answers to explain the pain.

Now that I’ve exhausted possible gynecological explanations, I am going to seek alternative treatments, as they have proved invaluable in “curing” myriad ailments over the years which allopathic medicine said were “incurable.” In fact, I’m not quite sure why I went the allopathic route in the first place. I guess it’s because I’m aging and wanted to have an expert tell me I’m fine. Additionally, my life seems to be in a huge amount of upheaval these days and I felt it necessary to give myself peace of mind and not let this issue become a source of worry or fear.

My internal voice, call it intuition or heart wisdom, is telling me that I know exactly what is causing the discomfort I’ve been experiencing so I am going to go listen to my body’s wisdom. Stay tuned…

Dr. Quesada information: Many U.S. citizens choose to travel to Costa Rica because they receive top-notch, cutting edge medical care for a fraction of the cost in the U.S. If you are currently in Costa Rica, or traveling to Costa Rica, and would like Dr. Quesada’s contact information I would be happy to share it with you. However, I am not a regular patient and don’t have the “referral power” that my friend Susan has. Dr. Quesada’s normal wait to get in for an appointment is anywhere from 2 weeks to 1 month (or more) so plan accordingly.

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Playa Samara

Playa Samara

November 2, 2013

Playa Samara (Samara beach) is approximately a 3.5 hour drive from Sarchi, where I currently live in Costa Rica. We drove on La Pista (the Pan-American Highway) from San Ramon to Samara, through lush dense jungle trees overhanging the highway – I felt like I was on the Yellow Brick Road for much of our journey. As we neared the Guanacaste region, which is the Texas of Costa Rica (known for its cattle and beef), the landscape changed significantly, with dense jungle opening up to make way for expansive grassland sprinkled with palm trees and an occasional enormous Guanacaste tree.

We stopped at a little rest stop / coffee shop at about the halfway point, and as Susan was enjoying her coffee and cinnamon roll I strolled across the parking lot to check out the nearby souvenir shop. I left all of my water bottles back in Colorado in an effort to reduce my luggage weight to 50 pounds, and I am still wishing I had brought one of my beloved Nalgene bottles with me! I’ve been on the hunt for a suitable water bottle ever since I arrived in Costa Rica. To my dismay, the souvenir shop only had 2 very tiny (40 oz – TOPS) metal water bottles (los botelas son muy pequena). Disappointed, but not totally surprised, I wandered out and saw two tourists straining their necks to gawk and take pictures of something overhead. Naturally I had to look up too in order to see for myself what they were marveling at. Scarlet macaws and one rogue great green macaw! Apparently, this is one of their regular hangouts. Whipping out my camera as well, with a huge grin plastered to my face, my heart grew two sizes bigger from enjoying the magnificent beauty of these birds.

A Great Green Macaw

A Great Green Macaw

A Great Green Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaws

A pair of Scarlet Macaws. These stunning birds mate for life!

Scarlet Macaws

A pair of Scarlet Macaws. These stunning birds mate for life!

Scarlet Macaws

A pair of Scarlet Macaws. These stunning birds mate for life!

Scarlet Macaws

A pair of Scarlet Macaws. These stunning birds mate for life!

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A pair of Scarlet Macaws. These stunning birds mate for life!

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Scarlet Macaws

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Scarlet Macaws

 

Samara is a quaint little beach town with one long main street (calle) overflowing with souvenir shops, local sodas and restaurants. It’s got a bit of a Caribbean vibe – very low-key. Off the main road you can travel northwest to the more residential area or southeast toward Carillo Beach. Our hotel, Casa Del Mar, was just off the main strip directly across from the beach. The owners, Susan and Owen Taggart, have lived here for many years – and Owen, a young hipster in his prime (maybe 60 years old, give or take a few – I’m a REALLY bad judge of age) happened to be on site, getting ready to travel back to the States until January. The entire staff of Casa Del Mar made us feel like we were at home. We weren’t staying at a stuffy hotel, and we weren’t just a number. Carolina, who has managed the hotel for approximately 10 years, greeted us in Spanish and English, told us our room would be ready in 30 minutes and invited us to store our luggage in the hotel’s secure closet while we explored and ate lunch.

Lunch was at a local surf shack – very low-key, and grungy, but they served delicious Corvina sea bass ceviche!!! After lunch, we walked to the local “Whole Foods” (not Whole Foods in the U.S.) to check out the local health food market, and back to our hotel where Carolina, accompanied by the hotel’s parrot, Bella, greeted us and we were given our room key, bath towels, beach towels, beach instructions, etc. Bella is a gorgeous well-mannered Red-lored parrot, whose open cage sits in the hotel’s pool area. During daylight hours her cage is left open, and she stays in her cage, or frequently strolls around on foot, calling out “Linda.” At night, she sleeps in the owner’s apartment. Our second-floor room and balcony looked out over the beach. First scarlet macaws, a very social in-house parrot, delicious ceviche and an ocean front balcony. How much better can this trip possibly get?

Hotel Casa Del Mar, Samara

Hotel Casa Del Mar, Samara

View from our hotel balcony

View from our hotel balcony

View from our hotel balcony

View from our hotel balcony

After checking in to the hotel Susan and I donned swimsuits, then dragged our cushions & lawn chairs to the beach, where she settled in to read in the shade of a coconut palm (and was very politely asked to move so she didn’t get brained if a coconut fell), and I headed into the water. The water was rough – great surf water, but filthy! Turgid and filled with trash, I was reminded of a documentary I watched last year, which exposed the awful truth about where our plastic garbage ends up (guess what, I’m not swimming with dolphins here, I’m swimming alongside plastic remnants!). My heart feels sick, and I immediately have a check-in with my conscience about my footprint on our beloved Mother Earth. Seeing all the trash washing onshore definitely makes me want to kick up my global consciousness efforts up a notch. Because the water was so dirty, and very rough (riptides) I was only able to convince myself to wade in up to my thighs, and then walked that way for quite a while along the shoreline.

I’ll add a little exercise tidbit here – I wish engineers would make an exercise machine that duplicates walking in water. Talk about feeling the burn! I could literally FEEL my thighs saying, “yeah baby…feel the burn..!” I wonder if my legs will feel sore tomorrow?

For dinner we ventured all of 20 meters from our hotel to Lo Q Hay, a pub / restaurant situated directly across the street from our hotel’s gated entrance, where we enjoyed really delicious food. I ordered one taco con pescado (Corvina sea bass), one taco con carne (beef), and one taco vegetal (veggie) and 2 glasses of house wine – total bill $6. After dinner we were both BEAT and by 8:30 p.m. we were ready for some ZZZ’s. I know, you’re thinking, “You went to the beach and wanted to go to bed at 8:30?” I know, I know, but I was really tired from not sleeping well for 2 nights in a row. Besides, I walked in thigh-deep ocean water. And really, I had the whole next day to play!

Despite my body’s desperate desire for sleep, Lo Q Hay was just gearing up for their annual Halloween party. Between the music and street noise right outside our hotel room until 5 a.m. I think  I slept for an entire hour. The next morning I was out of bed at 5 a.m. enjoying the sunrise from our balcony for quite a while, having a little pep talk with myself about sleep deprivation and the fact that I was at the BEACH. “Lack of sleep or no,”  my mind said to my body, “Put your big girl pants on and get out to the ocean! You can sleep when you get home tomorrow.” I also had an ulterior motive that was pushing me to drag my tired ass out to the shoreline before 6 a.m.

Variegated squirrel in a palm tree just off our hotel balcony

Variegated squirrel in a palm tree just off our hotel balcony

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My mom passed away last year in September. We had a very “complicated relationship”, which is just a really nice way of saying I don’t feel like explaining it or going into it on my blog. I’ll just jump to the part of the story that is relevant to this blog entry. I have been holding onto half of my mom’s ashes (my sister has the other half) until I felt it was not only the right place, but the right time, to let them go. Somewhere along the way I discovered that my mom had always wanted to travel,  yet she (OOPS!) got pregnant with me while she was still in nursing school (maybe 19 or 20 years old), got married to my dad, and then had my sister just two and a half years later. Having two children at a very young age her dreams for travel and adventure were, out of necessity, put on the back burner. As I was packing for my Costa Rica Adventure I “heard” that I was to take her ashes with me. No further instructions were given beyond that simple message, until I started packing for this Samara beach excursion and “heard” that I was to take them with me to Samara. It was time….

At 5:50 a.m. hardly a soul was on the beach so I felt like I had my own private audience with just the ocean and God. As I walked toward the rising sun, I felt the sun’s rays softly kissing my skin and sand and water squishing delightfully between my toes (man, that felt good!), with the water rhythmically washing up over my knees. I kept going until I found “the spot.” Being a Minister I felt it appropriate to have a private release ceremony, both for my mom and for myself, so I let my heart do the talking and then released her ashes into the ocean. In retrospect I find it odd that I had built up so much of a story around how I anticipated this moment would play out. Instead of falling down in the water and sobbing uncontrollably for days (which is the story my mind dramatically made up), anticlimactic as it was I just felt my heart open and I was finally able to let go… of decades of pain, heartache, and disappointment from not having had the relationship with my mom that I most needed and wanted growing up.

After releasing her ashes to travel to distant lands I walked toward the rising sun, toward where shoreline met a small river tributary. The water was already rough at this hour of the morning and I didn’t feel courageous enough to wade across the rushing river to the jutting inlet so I curved around inland toward a small jungle and heard the most amazing sound. Howler monkeys! I wanted so badly to cross the river and dash into the jungle to catch a glimpse of the howlers, but I’d seen the warning signs – no playing in rivers – crocodiles!

Walking back toward the hotel I recounted the weekend’s blessings: Yellow brick road scenery on the drive here, a wonderful welcoming staff at the hotel, Bella, the beautiful parrot, delicious surf shack ceviche, awesome tacos at Lo Q Hay, listening to the roar of the ocean just outside my hotel bedroom window (in lulls between the loud bar music), waking up to magnificent birds and squirrels within arm’s reach of our balcony with the sight of the ocean rolling in less than 50 yards away, finally finding a home for my mom’s ashes, hearing howler monkeys….I just don’t know how it gets any better than this. I feel strangely empty and my heart aches with a pain that is beyond words, yet peaceful and joyful at the same time.

After coffee and a Tico breakfast of Gallo Pinto and eggs at our hotel, Susan and I drove southeast to Carillo beach – I wanted to see sloths and we thought that Carillo would be the perfect spot. No sloths, but we did see a roadside Iguana and a Kingfisher perched over the road – the scenery was spectacular. After our drive we walked into town and then headed northwest along the coastline in search of sloths. Again, no sloths, but we heard and saw howler monkeys. Feeling incredibly lucky to see them so close to the road, we wound our way around Samara beach for about 3 hours, hit the beach again, and then went to dinner. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was approximately 50 meters up the street on the left (a la izquierda). I’ll spare you the details of dinner, except to say that the food was less than yummy!

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Roadside Iguana trying to blend in with the foliage

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Roadside Iguana trying to blend in with the foliage

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Kingfisher

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Kingfisher

 

After lunch we walked northwest in hopes of seeing sloths or howler monkeys. No sloths, but we did see a family of howler monkeys!

Howler monkeys in the trees

Howler monkeys in the trees

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Howler monkeys in the trees

 

 

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Bajo la Paz

Bajo la Paz

October 30, 2013

Shortly after I arrived in Sarchi Susan (my landlord /and now friend) asked me what sorts of things I was interested in seeing / doing while in Costa Rica. I shared some of my “bucket list” items with her, and she proceeded to write down a list of places she likes to visit – one of them being “a great walking hiking area, a sort of hidden & sublime valley” (Susan’s words) where there is also a Trapiche – a local place where they make wood-fired sugar cane on Wednesdays. Today we went to Bajo de la Paz, which not only meets, but exceeds Susan’s description. It’s hard to put into words how beautiful an area is – I guess it’s just as much about the vibe of a place as it is about its visually stunning beauty.

Bajo is just outside of San Ramon, about an hour away from Sarchi. Susan has friends who live in Bajo la Paz, and part of the intention for today’s trip is to connect her friends Karen and Terri with her friends Ignacio, Jane, Jeff and Janet – who all live in Bajo la Paz. Terri owns a hotel in Santa Rosa, and part of her intention for today’s outing was work-related – she wanted to scope out Ignacio’s horseback riding tours as a nearby adventure opportunity for her hotel guests. Ignacio, Janet, and Jeff are all part of la Fundación Elvira (the Elvira Foundation) – a local organization committed toward the conservation and bio-cultural restoration of Finca La Paz. Karen is an expert in endemic plants, so the four used the opportunity to “talk shop.” I simply received the sheer joy of tagging along for the day as a guest.

Susan’s friend Ignacio Arias (pronounced Nacho in Spanish) owns approximately 16 horses, and he offers guided horseback riding tours throughout the Bajo area. His family also offers guided Quetzal tours. Getting a late start we arrived later than promised. Nacho had 5 horses already saddled and ready to go, matched each of us up with a horse, and off we went for a 2-hour horseback ride through one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen in my life, crossing a river (yes, I rode a horse through a river!) and back around to Nacho’s stable before dismounting (wow, my butt bones and inner thighs are gonna feel THAT in the morning!) and heading to Janet’s house for lunch.

Passionfruit flower

Passionfruit flower

 

 

Passionfruit flower

Passionfruit flower

 

 

Passionfruit flower

Passionfruit flower

 

 

Passion fruit

Passion fruit

Bajo is an incredibly quiet, tranquil area nestled between the Pacific and Caribbean so it gets both weather patterns, with fairly even temperatures year-round. It can be quite misty or rainy, almost like a cloud forest, yet still warm enough to enjoy being outdoors.

After lunch we stopped in to see the Trapiche

On our way home we stopped in so Terri and Karen could see Sarchi’s oldest oxcart factory, and they both loved it!

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Reflections of Alejuelah

October 29, 2013

It’s 6:00 a.m., the sun is up and I’m basking in the sun on my deck and enjoying a cup of Costa Rican coffee, watching the birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and squirrels begin their day, while listening to the sounds of jungle – LIFE – all around my deck. I feel incredibly blessed to be living in my sweet little cabina in the middle of tropical paradise!

Basking in gratitude for where I’m living, and the adventure I’m in the middle of (my boyfriend, Matt, emailed me to comfort me after my rough day in Alejuelah yesterday and reminded me that I’m currently LIVING one of my bucket list items, not just talking about it….and doing it….someday). Thanks for that reminder – I know we all get caught up in the midst of whatever experiences we find ourselves in and it’s easy to lose sight of the intention behind the experience itself. This morning I find my thoughts drifting, sifting, reminiscing, as if I’m picking through last night’s fire pit to pull out whatever charred remains are left. Reflecting on the experiences I had in Alejuelah yesterday, I sort through the sights, sounds and smells from my memories and one crystal clear thought emerges that actually causes me to laugh and cry simultaneously. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those moments, but they hit you with such force, right in the middle of your chest, that you can’t help but exhale (rather audibly, I might add, and the combined sound of laughter and tears combined is…well…sort of odd).

Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love? It’s one of my favorite books (I have many). If you haven’t read it and want a good heart opening / jumpstart, I prescribe reading it immediately. And no, I’m not getting a commission for recommending it. Anyway, I won’t give away the juicy details of Elizabeth’s story except to say that during one segment of her journey she and her friends were discussing how each city has a word that describes its dominant vibration. For example, New York’s word is ACHIEVE; Rome’s word is SEX.  Elizabeth’s theory about each city having a word correlates to the sudden clarity that hit me like a ton of bricks just moments ago, and brought on the aforementioned odd noise (laughter and tears combined). Once I have control of myself and have sufficiently dabbed my eyes of the free-flowing river of tears enough to see clearly I find my mind running with her theory, hypothesizing that cities probably have one primary word, with many possible secondary words. For example, I’ve lived in Colorado for 19 years so I feel pretty confident saying that the word for Colorado as an entire state is OUTDOOR because it has a plethora of outdoor activities to choose from: fishing, camping, backpacking, hiking, birding, whitewater rafting, sitting on a rock, walking barefoot in the grass, swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, sunbathing, skiing, snowboarding, roller skating, rollerblading, ice skating, hunting – by now I hope you’re catching on to the idea. Colorado’s secondary words, depending on what area of the state you’re discussing might be health, lifestyle,conservative, spiritual, farming, ranching, plains, mountains and consume. And, if you’re in Boulder – definitely the word is Granola (I’m kind of a grown up hippie Granola, which really just means health-conscious so I mean no offense or slight, merely love in stating this odd factoid).

The point of this train of thought (because I know you’re wondering where I’m going with this seemingly incongruous stream of consciousness) is that today I find myself pondering the words for Costa Rica. Now mind you, I’ve only been in a small isolated area of the Central Valley and I would imagine that other areas of Costa Rica have their own words that reflect the vibes, but so far, having traveled to Sarchi, Grecia, Alejuelah, Naranjo and Zarcero – the dominant words that have emerged are family and survive. Which brings me full-circle to the part that’s relevant to my sudden clarity. I have struggled with the vibrations of limitation, scarcity, lack, doubt and unworthiness my entire life. I have diligently worked to re-wire myself to vibrate within the continuum of abundance for YEARS. Yet, it seems like lack is a flea I just can’t seem to rid myself of, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much internal self-work and spiritual growth I do. To share the entire story of my struggle to break free from the chains of survival energy would take an entire book and this is neither the time nor the place for that. I’ll just give you the condensed version by telling you that one of my intentions in coming to Costa Rica on this grand adventure of a lifetime was to stop living from my head and, for the first time in my entire life, let my heart lead the way. Ironically, my heart,  in its glorious and infinite wisdom, with a mirthful twinkle in its eye, has led me to the most biodiverse country on our beloved Gaia – Costa Rica is teeming with abundance in every possible dimension - in order to heal the old woundings that have not only created, but continue to perpetuate, a cycle of lack and scarcity that formed the foundation from which my life has been lived up until recently. How can one show up fully to and for life, and really LIVE fully and authentically, when they’re constantly working on themselves to break free from old patterns?

Before I go on, I’m going to add one more ingredient to the stock pot, if you will. Each of the words I just described has a place where that vibration sets up shop in the body from an energetic / intuitive standpoint. For example, people who are driven to achieve live mostly from their heads, from a place of ego that drives them to MORE. This is where one’s sixth chakra is – the third eye – the place where you visualize and see, not only what’s there, but between the lines as well. People who are immersed in the vibration of sex have a lot of creative energy and passion; this is also where sexual and money dysfunctions and hang-ups come in. And, lack, scarcity and survival  are all functions of the both the first and second chakras, which ironically affects the lower stomach, pelvis and hips. Could this explain my lifelong struggle with tight psoas muscles and recent pelvic pain with unknown etiology (meaning it has no known medical cause)?

I fully, from the core of my being, KNOW that each one of us is here for a specific contribution to life – call it your Soul Purpose if you will. I also fully and firmly KNOW that it is our divine birthright to manifest whatever we truly desire to be, do and have. For as long as I can remember the torch within that keeps guiding me forward when all seems dark is the desire to express myself authentically, creatively, and joyfully. Yet, somewhere along the timeline of my life I received an imprint that kept stopping me from really LIVING full-out. I find myself living just at the edges, observing from the sidelines and every time I feel strong enough, courageous enough to step forward to live from the truth that resides within my heart something deep within has stopped me dead in my tracks. NO MORE!!!

I AM (as are we ALL) here to contribute my unique gifts to the world. I AM here for a reason, even if most of the time I feel like I’m bumping around in the dark trying to find the light switch – the reason for why I’m here. And this in itself is incredibly ironic, because one of my gifts as a Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor is helping OTHERS figure out why they’re here, what their unique contribution is to and for life. Kind of funny, don’t you think, that I haven’t figured it out for myself?

So the question I ask, of myself and of each one of you reading this, “What is it that already dwells within me / you that longs to be expressed, given birth to, allowed to come out to play freely and joyfully? What energy, emotions, memories are ready to be released so that I can fully and authentically LIVE and thrive?

Please feel free to chime in and share what you’re ready to release in order to show up fully, authentically and abundantly!

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