posted at 11:18 am
on Apr. 28, 2013
I’m in Costa Rica, Volunteering
My first weekend here in Costa Rica, and I wanted to do something adventurous. My friend Janine said she had some friends in northern Costa Rica, so Friday afternoon, I through on a backpack, grabbed a taxi ride from Leo, the fellow who drove me from the airport, headed to one of the private bus company stations (Pulmitan), and grabbed a ticket up towards Liberia.
I did the embarrassing tourist thing of WAY over-offering money to the ticket guy (I thought he said 13,000 colón (CR dollars) for the ticket, when really it was 3,300—but to be fair, that means my bus ticket to a city four hours drive away was only $6.60—less than a ride from the airport to downtown by skytrain in Vancouver!)
And the bus I was on, you would NOT believe it.. double decker, assigned seats, air conditioned, HUGE, amazing, comfortable and it totally did not plunge off a single mountain road!
Four hours later, I signaled the bus drive to pull over at the drop-off in Bagaces, and was greeted by this:
A deserted road, a no-name gas station, a town of 4,000 people near a national park, no one speaking English, and I was 30 minutes early for the fellow, William, who was going to pick me up, maybe at the gas station, maybe at the center of town, maybe.
But everything worked out, and I was soon miles up a winding highway at their farm—not what we’d recognize that way in Canada. William introduced me to Angie, and the two of them fed me fajitas and rice and hot sauce made by a neighbour from peppers he grows in his yard.
Their farm is less about rows of crops, and more about planting trees in a loose orchard. The trees grow so quickly here; in just a few years or less to huge heights and drop fruit like santa drops gifts down a chimney.
They have lemon (multiple types) lime (ditto) grapefruits, guava, mango, guanavana (which they didn’t just make up, I swear), avocados, basically, anything they eat, they save some seeds, grow a shoot form it, plant it, and are soon eating it anew. It’s awesome.
They’re also successfully growing a nut here called Jatropha which can be pressed for its oil and that oil then used in converted diesel engines. So yes, they are growing their own car fuel (though they currently lack a press).
They have dogs, a goat, a horse, chickens (which were delicious for lunch!) and a cat named Kitty. They use solar power to pump water from their well into their pond, which they stock with tilapia. And they recycle everything.
The whole place is astounding; a beautiful combination of rustic and modern, of the endless piles of broken gear and ongoing projects of a working farm, combined with a structure and tidiness of a zen garden. It’s clearly a labour of love and a work in progress, and through the outdoor bathroom (there are indoor ones too) you get a 50km view down the valley as you sit on your throne and think… this is the life.
They moved here from the U.S. about 6 years ago, and in that time went from a single house on the land to the multiple structures and gardens and nursery and chicken coops that they showed me today.
Downsides? Oh, there’s a bit of a problem with vampire bats biting the horse at night, so they had to create a bat-proof stable with chicken wire… And the poisonous snake that took out the eye of one of their dogs was a bad day .. but the vet did save the dog’s life.
The winds can be quite strong at certain times of the year, and the rainy season makes a heavy Vancouver shower look like that misting spray that supermarkets use to keep vegetables moist. Rain here means: the kind of water falling from the sky that might be mistaken for a shattered aquarium tank falling on you; look out for sharks from above.
I’m only here for two days, and while I don’t think *I* could handle running a property like this, the attraction of it is simple and undeniable. With an Internet connection and a few visitors a year, you could have a quiet slice of paradise and tropical fruit for breakfast every day of the year—at a price that’s far, far less than what I’m paying for my place in Vancouver.
And if the tradeoff is just that it’s harder to order from Amazon.com… I think that’s not a bad exchange.
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