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I’ve reached that slowly steaming point, like a delicious bread during those last few minutes of browning in the perfectly warm oven, where I am aware of comfort and peace most of the time. Have met a bunch of lovely people who live locally so have walking dates, and breakfast company, and guidance on where to go (Everywhere) and what not to do (not much on That list… these guys really live… suck the marrow as they say… bit hardcore even for me, some of it!!).
Also enjoy that I’ve semi worked out the local logistics, like the amount of time the buses are usually behind the printed schedule (or, as in most of India and Africa, knowing which buses usually won’t arrive at all and how long to wait for those, before taking a taxi!)
I have local food in the fridge and cupboard – pinto beans and relatively cheap organic brown rice (after all it is cheaper to produce, weirdly enough), super-sweetened drinking yoghurt as no-one seems to make natural/greek/unsweetened yoghurts; completely pasteurised and homogenised milk which tastes disgusting but there are ot many cows around so I guess milk is ‘imported’ from the central highlands; muesli and nuts and vegetarian stuff comparable to the best stuff we get in London and about the same price, gorgeous fruit and strangely enough, pretty expensive vegetables. Tons of coconut and bananas/plantain, as that grows in everyones garden and Alex and Ana drop fresh coconuts (sweet baby coconuts for the water .. agua de pipa) for me every now and then after a walk in their garden. I always feel I save a bunch of money on my travels where others buy booze, although I do have a pretty steep coffee bill. Actually, come to think of it, beer is cheaper than water most places around here, local Imperial is 1000 colones, about 2 dollars US, 500ml water is the same or more with ice, and a coffee is more, 1200 colones. I need to change my aaddiction
I’ve taken a long cycle this week, along the local beach highway, actually a low way, as it snakes in a perfectly tarred avenue of trees right alongside the coastal beaches and hotels/casas but only changes altitude twice (very unexpectedly and with hilarious results on a bicycle) in the 12kms between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. That’s the furtherest point on the coast you can reach in Costa Rica… from where I believe you could walk to Panama although its quite a distance on foot, and serious old growth jungle all the way. In my uninformed state I might have thought that hike could be good fun, for a blogpost story, as there is some gorgeous coastline to see, but there’s also still Serious Wild Life out there.
The locals were chastised by the expats last week for beating up on a Big crocodile that had wandered out the jungle into town, I was on my eco-friend high-horse about it till I found out it measured 12 feet. ( and no, they didn’t intend to or succesfully kill it, they chased it into a yard with a wall, and called the environmental agency people who came to take it away — I believe he now has a luxurious position at the local Jaguar Rescue Centre, where his war wounds are much admired by tourists, and they’ve never had a Jaguar to rescue, sadly, so he’s kind of the star attraction… :-)♡
I’ve walked the Cahuita trail, with my spanish professor’s german husband, Alex, why do germans walk so fast? It’s a 7km beachside path overhung with palm trees and almond trees in their autumnal glory, and I gasped at the unbelievable beauty of the coast, white coral beaches and offshore reef, palm trees and tropical jungle. Alex did admit that he comes here to meditate, he didn’t call it that but when he has pressing problems he walks here, apparently about 60 times a year. That’s a lot of problems… (reminder, not to downplay the potential stress of crazy neighbours and he certainly has those, -but this guy lives in 6 hectares of paradise. With birds, red squirrel,sloths, the most amazing tropical garden with some old growth trees. I guess it could be the annoyance of tourists like me coming for spanish lessons with our horrendous dutch accents… hehe maybe he walks to spend the time laughing so he can keep a straight face when doing conversation classes with us)
We watched a white faced monkey stealing biscuits out a closed rucksack (he must have seen the YouTube video on how to open the darn thing!! Certainly he knew what he was doing and nearly made off with the girl’s camera too, although she fought him on that one). One of the park employees pointed out the scariest yellow snake leering down from the roof of a picnic area shelter which made me pretty uncomfortable as it was almost invisible, you’d never spot it unless it moved. And that in your sandwich would raise some pretty serious adrenalin
. We also saw a family of racoony creatures on the beach scavenging, who totally ignored all of us, a bunch of lizards and other small reptiles (spot the mini-dinasaurous in the photo below… if you can… hint – he’s definitely looking at you, and he’s just behind the palm frond)
and so many birds. An incredibly beautiful walk, completely flat and mostly shaded, I give it 210/10. Not to disapoint my avid fans however, who will be waiting for the but….
I have to mention that the whole trail is slowly falling into the sea. All along we saw huge chunks of coast which must have just dropped away, as the previously upstanding trees are now being slowly eroded away by the tides. Alex mentioned one particukar area he had played frisbee a couple weeks before with his son, and that beach no longer exists, also the picnic shelter with snake has been moved about 10 metres from what is now sea.
So this is the Caribean coast of Costa Rica and does not look- to the ancient geography trained science graduate in me, like a sinking coastline as there are huge beaches all around this point… I thought when landmasses sunk into the sea the beach was the first thing to go, but I’m open to feedback on this one. We conjectured about the dryness of some of the landscape, and a few areas which seemed particularly hard hit in terms of fallen trees where the jungle had seriously receded, all dessicated and sandy quite far back off the beach. Perhaps dead trees don’t hold their soil so well and the ever aggressive sea takes that piece of beach back. Apparently it’s been a couple years of quite drought-like dry (winter to us) season – try to imagine that, and picture 2-3 metres of annual rain as including any amount of dry.
I’ve also learned a ton of spanish, just don’t ask me to actually say anything yet, I’m just getting the pronombres sorted and I still get confused about reflexive and direct ones. That could take me a year or two.
Heh he and about any other tense than the present – who knew it was so easy to reach the enlightening position of living entirely in the present, by simply learning another language only in the one tense and then being forced to communicate like that, I am having a good time, I am having coffee, I am washing and showering and swimming and sleeping and eating and studying – like a huge banana-split of language, its just all here and now in this one bowl because the only thing I know to say in past tense is “yo fui” – I travelled – which means I can indicate my previous arrival in the country but have no way to indicate I’m ever leaving. Brilliant, pure Zen. Hilarious!!!!!
Nature here is extraordinary, she’s right on the doorstop trying to get in, any garden that gets ‘weedeaten’ which is the most popular method of holding Her back, looks exactly the same after about 3 days. Alex laughed when I mentioned this, and pointed out what it would look like without the weedeating. The fridge was full of little scarily black speckles this morning so I swept them out the back door, as I did the little fruit flies who’d been caught in the fridge trying to steal a snack, came back to unfrozen life and flew off.
A red squirrel, much cuter than the english greys, amuses us about the same time every afternoon, there used to be a hedge behind the patio (there’s a crazy neighbour story there….) and there’s now a narrow fence, this little guy has learned to traverse the fence sideways as it was far too narrow to walk along the top, its real circus entertainment. No photo as it always happens during class and I’m supposed to be studying…. There are sloths in the garden though I haven’t seen one yet, and fireflies all over at night. Not too many mosquitos, apparently the dry season is misleading on this as they practically carry you off when its monsoon time. We’ve had a solid 6 hours of rain one morning and a hour or two here and there to distribute all the humidity hanging in the air , didn’t help much, after walking or any activity the sweat literally pours off me, any physical yoga is a strictly evening or dawn affair. I have no idea what temperatures are, guessing they go up into the late 30s but never really drop below 20. Centigrade.
Its blissful and the average expression on people’s faces seems to include laughter. The expression of choice is “pura vida” which is used as a slogan for beer as well as a cheerful goodbye or hello and in answer to the question “how are you”. The Pure Life.
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This is me at coffee shop “bread and chocolate” ( can’t go wrong, name like that) with new friends, Katy and Connery from the Verdenergia farm, who I just ran into on the other side of the country in a beach town called Puerto Viejo, where I’m doing Spanish lessons and they’re doing party party party ( and the occasional coffee and lunch with old friends like me)
Verdenergia ecofarm community visit lasted for 3 weeks. Completed a Permaculture certificate, while enjoying incredibly energising yet peaceful environment, fab food too! Amazing sustainable perspective infiltrates everything they do- farming like this is really complex and detailed, to keep the process sustainable and eco-friendly, most things are done by hand. Like sufar drom cane, flour from potatoes. Its very low key, for example they don’t own a vehicle and use Omar, who lives nearby and has a great little truck, for all the town trips (still need plumbing and electrical materials etc. Although they are working on hydro-electric…) so Omar does the realky heavy lifting in his truck, because the horse is for pleasure riding, and the cow, who’s great at making milk usually, doesn’t lift things as she’s making a calf right now… fertile place – Chopa the dog had 11 (ELEVEN) puppies during my visit (These going free to a good home…? Organically raised…. )
So actually only the chickens are part of the production side…. they get to peck and dig weeds while laying as many eggs as possible.
Loved that I got time to know the individuals, it’s a big community (49 full shareholding tribe members, 12 were visiting at different times while I was there, and about 10-15 volunteers who came and went) and such setups are always complex, the interactions between people from incredibly different backgrounds choosing to live together (that’s why they call it intentional community)… are interesting, boy people’s lives get complicated.
:-):-):-) Beautiful group of individuals tho, like-minded Souls. Feel i made a lot of new friends.
The Permaculture course was great, now have a firm grasp of what permaculture is (as opposed to organic farming, which it incorporates, but covers much much more). Blog posts being formulated on my discoveries and inspirations. More later.
My teacher is a gorgeous Dutch guy, called Douwe, (‘dove’), experienced in agro-forestey and Costa Rican fincas. (Farms). He owns another farm adjoining the national park, and is helping this Verdenergia tribe reforest the land. Deeply knowledgeable,Douwe has lived all over the world mostly working with agro-forestry,but knows permaculture backwards…. one of his heroes is an Austrian called Sebb Holzer…. the Austrian rebel farmer, another character!
We watched inspiring movies, studied and read a very large textbook (the bible of permaculture by an ozzie forestry specialist Bill Mollison), dug swales and made gardens and took soil samples and made potting soil mix from the wormery and spoke to the devas abd the Spirit of Verdenergia, Findhorn style, and cooked with raw chocolate, homegrown pinto beans and picked salads to blow your mind with the incredible flavours.
Also had a fairly serious Permaculture design project, which I’ll tell you about one day as it was a funny story …. the permaculture design client from hell….
Finished course, presented design (sans client???!) and got our certificates alongside a talent show on Tuesday,then a whole bunch of us moved on from the farm Wednesday in a bus with Chico Mora. Another character.
Local police man and driver,knows and is known globally along the San Jose/Puriscal road (in effect if not literally) river-shrimp-catcher deluxe, does pushups after fixing tyres….so….he’s the Man.
Enjoyed a group trip with him, to ‘ the ark’ organic herb farm in the central valley, to get some trees for Verdenergia. Sweet parting from the gang, at my point of origon the Airport. Then I chilled at a city hotel for two days. Just to catch my breath and catch up on emails and Facebook….. which I almost have.
Had an absolutely amazing drive down the escarpment in the capable hands and minibus of Rafael – a local who worked in Boston, USA for 6 years then came home, and now drives tourist shuttles as Walmart closed his small school supply import company down…. nice company, those W people, pretty much universally evil then?
Much of the route from San Jose to Limon on the coast is covered (along the main highway pass, at least) in primary rainforest…. besides the suico (sp??) River which is an incredibly dirty yellow… naturally.
Now am staying at Ana’s place, in Hone Creek, 6kms from Puerto Viejo (and learning a lot about local buses as its far too hot/humid to walk), a gorgeous Caribbean surfer paradise on Caribbean coast of CR.
Will be here for a week or three. Intention is to get some basic Spanish into my multi-linguified brain, on top of my English, Afrikaans, German, Dodgy Portuguese, really dodgy Malayalam (from Kerala) abd snippets of French; we hope to interlay a new Spanish carpet. Ana and Alex, su esposo, are profesore de espanol. Super cool.
Just completed the Permaculture certificate course with Douwe Wielstra at Verdenergia in Lanas, near San Jose, yesterday evening.
Such great people on the course, Lauren with all her plant knowledge and Amanda with her incredible design skills and strong grap of all the principles of how to make a farm Permacultured. I’ve learned so much, and confirmed very solidly some of the wonderful things i learned in findhorn, and with frank and anna-kari e at moinhos in portugal, and swamiji and ram at Mandala Ashram in Wales.
I’ve really been blessed to find all these amazing places and meet all myincredible friendsand teachers, Verdenergia is oneof the most amazing places, with lots of interesting things going on.
Am seriously looking at becoming a formal member of their tribe, will be returning before I leave Costa Rica.
Travelled to Alajuela, near the airport in San Jose, along with half the people staying at the farm this morning (4am start…. 13 sardines in Chico Mora’s bus, Lauren is going to support a group doing a festival, Amanda is travelling with some of the Verde volunteers and tribe members, and I am attending a couple weeks of Spanish Language training.
We made an extremely brief visit to the Finca las Arcos, an organic herb farm in the area,
and then saw Ari Lapa, a great b&b where the plants we bought at the Finca for Verdenergia, are visiting, until transport can be arranged home to the farm. Use of taxis and hiring cars is much more carefully thought through than in London, all trips are coordinated to cover as many needs as possible.
Am staying at the same hotel as my first night in Cr again, Hotel Robledal, which seems much more expensive now that I’ve been staying in the rural areas – but they don’t remember me here, stuck me in one of those tacked-on single rooms where the couple next doors aircon and shower noise are definitely going to drive me nuts, so rather than hang out and explore locally for the rest of the week (butterfly farm, volcano etc.) I’m probably taking off to Porto Viejo tomorrow, start my beginner’s Spanish class a few days early.
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Initial pictures – still need to add the detail of some of the great practical sessions we had, this selection currently is mostly images from a presentation we prepared for a “client” in relation to his property, a finca with coffee and sugarcane and cattle, which has the potential to be a permaculture paradise, if only a community could be formed – first step was planning the inital community house (with a natural swimming pool that flowed into a pond….)
Amanda prepared an absolutely beautiful diagrammatic map showing our suggested layout, and
Lauren prepared a huge planting list with great suggestions of what to plant, relevent to the area, erosion issues, reforestation requirrments and altitude, which I’ll add later too.
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