Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
It had been over 36 hours since both Dylan and I had the opportunity to rest in a real bed. Our eyes were bloodshot and our bodies exhausted. Those delirious hours leading up to our arrival in Costa Rica consisted of a full day of work, a Steady Sun show, a house party, a taxi ride to JFK, a flight we were unable to board, another taxi ride to LaGuardia, a plane ride, a desperate 5 hour nap on the floor of the Atlanta airport in between connecting flights, a second plane ride, and a third taxi ride stuck in the traffic of a Marc Antony concert. Yet still, we were breathing, we were moving, and ultimately we were traveling over 2,000 miles to a tropical paradise. We paused in San Jose overnight and then caught a bus down to our ultimate destination, Puerto Viejo.
It may have been the fact that I hardly remember the journey we took to get there, which added to how magical it was when we actually arrived. It was as if we had just woke from a long dream, or rather, were entering a new one.
The bus from San Jose (which turns into a local bus through the smaller towns!) dropped us off in the center of Puerto Viejo. We were awakened by dipping our toes in the Caribbean, and decided to walk to our Airbnb, the only place we had booked thus far for our trip. We lugged our backpacks down the single road in the town which held no addresses for what felt like an hour. It was only then that we realized it was not a 30 minute walk to our new home, but a 30 minute bike ride. Starved and tired, we finally made it to our jungle treehouse just before sunset, one of the eight places we would call home in Costa Rica.
A huge part of the reason why we went to Costa Rica was to find Sebastian.
Sebastian is the director of the Science Center at Kekoldi. After corresponding with him in spanglish emails for a few months, we arranged to meet him on the side of the road at the "Centro Hielo de Atlantico", or The Ice Center. Thank god our taxi driver was familiar with the location, because we had no idea where we were going. Sebastian greeted us with a huge smile. We walked a few feet and suddenly took a sharp turn into the jungle onto a path I thought no one could possibly notice unless one knew it was there. "¡Vamos a mi casa!", he stated, as we proceeded to hike a mile up a mountain with absolutely no road access.
I am very thankful for Dylan's outgoing personality and ability to speak better Spanish than I, because Sebastian did not speak a single word of English to us the entire time. I have trouble speaking Spanish (shame on me and my Colombian roots), but no problem understanding. So, I listened intently while Sebastian educated us about his cacao farm, the birds who pass over Kekoldi from South America during migration to the north and the indigenous people who live on the reservation. He showed us snake heads in jars and pointed out sloths in the trees. He told us about how he and his friends built the entire two story Science Center themselves, which looked like a huge wooden treehouse. At one point, we were talking about Dengue and the Zika virus, when Sebastian pointed out a flower hanging from a tree; it was the cure for Dengue. He said that they don't worry about illnesses because there is always a cure provided by mother nature herself. To me, that notion is precious as I think it is so important to unite ourselves with the natural systems of the earth. Maybe then our lives would be much richer and filled less often with mysterious illnesses.
During our time there, he and his family cooked Dylan and I breakfast, lunch and dinner. We learned how to harvest our own cacao and turn it into cocoa, and made our own hot chocolate. Sebastian's brother took us on a hike to a beautiful hidden waterfall. Sebastian and his family are some of the most hospitable and kind people I have ever met, and I would highly suggest visiting or volunteering at Kekoldi.
After leaving Kekoldi, we were plan-less. We then waited for a bus that took us back to Puerto Viejo and decided that was the place we were going to spend the rest of our trip, as we simply couldn't leave.
Below is an excerpt from my journal:
".....This town on the coast of the Caribbean is unreal. A tourist destination, a party town, yes, maybe, but also a community full of people just like us, without the stress and pressure of a nine-to-five in a grey office, but instead, the beach within one arms reach, and the jungle within the other. Here, we all coexist. The trees, the ocean, the ants, the crabs, the roosters that wake you up at 5 in the morning, the monkeys that growl all night like a pack of wolves......It's really all so beautiful here. I am trying to forget the little voice in the back of my head that keeps asking "Okay, so what's next?", because I am here, now. Now is eternal, now is what is real, like you always say. I will never be able to know exactly what is next. I can only dream and hope and pray that life brings more beauty like this. I can plan all I want, but plans change, everything changes, its all temporary, moving and flowing and breathing together. "
Hands down the most beautiful place I have ever practiced yoga in my life. It was on the side of a mountain, in the jungle, overlooking the beach. One of the classes that we took happened to be at sunset. Dylan and I were in awe. They have lots of yoga retreats as well and the surrounding grounds are absolutely gorgeous. You can rent little bungalows to sleep in. A place perfect for meditation and relaxation.
Dylan spotted this place the second we walked by it. I would have to say it's probably the best price for the most central spot in all of Puerto Viejo. The vibe was very chill, hosting mostly young travelers. It is above a restaurant which hosts live music almost every night. Situated maybe 10 feet from the water, most of the rooms overlook the ocean. The best part was laying in the hammock during the evening, after cooking our dinner, listening to music, and staring at the ocean.
I swear it was fate that brought us here, as we arrived just in time for a room to open up for us. Lots of travelers already staying there had been there for weeks because they didn't want to leave. I was really interested in a Reiki session before I left Costa Rica because many people in Puerto Viejo practice it, but hadn't been successful in finding someone yet. When walked up to the front desk, I met Dannie, one of the owners of La Ruka who practiced Reiki. She is a beautiful soul and really opened my eyes to new things about myself. Everything vibrated up until we parted, where I was left with a sense of peace and a buzzing feeling for the rest of the day.
Thanks to a family friend Genevieve, we were able to take a tour of the Ara Project, which is a Green Macaw rescue and rehabilitation center. Deforestation, specifically of the Almond trees which at one point in history helped thousands of species thrive, has caused many species to slowly die out. The Macaws have not been present in Costa Rica for about 70 years, until now, when the Ara Project released 41 great green macaws back into the wild. Some have passed away because of human feeding (which is why it is SO important to not feed animals!!!), but others have been successfully breeding. Their goal is to educate the public and local community about how they can better take care of the Macaws. If you look *closely*, you can see them flying through the photograph to the left.
This is actually not in Puerto Viejo, its outside of San Jose. We took a day trip to this Volcano high up in the mountains. It felt like we were on another planet, and we got to see it just in time before a thick cloud covered the entire crater. We also were able to walk through the cloud forrest's trails.
a couple more things...
- Definitely rent a bike. Ride all up and down the single road to and from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo (about an hr and a half bike ride). Go hiking down in Manzanillo!
- There is a cliff by Playa Chiquita with a little trail to the top. Sit on the cliff and watch the huge waves crash against the cliff for as long as you can. Meditate. Be silent. Feel and breathe in Mother Nature.
- There's an awesome graveyard somewhere near town on the side of the mountain... Search for it.
- Take a surf lesson at Playa Chiquita or just rent a board for a few dollars (most places in Costa Rica, USD are accepted)
- Go whitewater rafting down the Pacuare river. I have no photographs of this because I do not have a waterproof camera, but there are companies that will take you rafting while you move to and from a destination (San Jose, Arenal, Puerto Viejo/Caribbean). They give you breakfast and lunch too!
THANKS FOR READING!
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