Ok. So we’re not actually still in Costa Rica as we write you guys after a long spell of no posts and the appearance that the Scruffies may have gotten lost somewhere in the bogs of the Congaree National Park in South Carolina!
As I type these words, we’re actually enjoying a nice Idaho summer breeze lying here in “Flygirl” (the name we gave our new master bedroom addition) with all the windows unzipped, door open, no bugs, no humidity, and perfect temps & weather in our awesome new hometown for the next 3 months … Pocatello, Idaho!
But since I did actually START writing this post a few weeks ago while looking out over the mountains of Costa Rica towards the Pacific Ocean, I decided to leave my salutation as it was and finish up that attempted post before we share a subsequent post about our most current situation here in Pocatello with y’all.
Recently I got to witness some of the most gorgeous aerial scenery I think I’ve ever seen. Lisa and I were on the second leg of our trip to Costa Rica flying out of Ft. Lauderdale. Although I had taken the trek through the Florida Keys once by bicycle and once by car many years ago, I guess I had never seen these breathtaking waters from high overhead … the colors below were as many different shades and colors of blue as I’ve ever seen. Seeing the coral & formations of the ocean floor so clearly through the Atlantic waters on this perfect day at 30,000 ft above – with only occasional clouds floating by- was truly something to behold.
Since Lisa and I left our peaceful oasis among the tall pines of South Carolina on Memorial Day weekend and would soon be heading West to Idaho next, I was taking mental (and physical) pictures of this view out my small Southwest Airlines’ window so that I could envision it again and again once we reached the Rocky Mountains and high desert landscape of the West that I love so much in the U.S.
I never want to take for granted how incredibly blessed it is to be a “scruffy nomad” where one week we are seeing God’s extraordinary breathtaking creation of oceans, cloud forests and jungles and the next week the wide open expanse of the American West with a completely different array of mother nature’s striking color palette associated with the Rocky Mountains and picturesque humpback mountains. I do love nature’s stark skylines where huge humps of browns and greens meet the brilliant blue of a cloudless Western sky.
But before making the cross country drive that we both love so much and always look forward to, our sights were on Costa Rica and a land and culture that we had never before visited. We’d been so busy enjoying South Carolina that we had really not had any time to research the place we were headed, but we were most excited to let this first trip (likely not our last) unfold once we arrived. Lisa’s dear friends, Beth and Bobby, moved to Costa Rica as full time residents about a year a half ago and this was our first chance to travel to their new home and life in this beautiful, small Central American country chosen as their new home at this chapter in their lives.
(So the slideshow above includes pics from both the Wilmington trip plus Costa Rica ! If it looks “beachy” it’s Wilmington !)
It was a fabulous birthday weekend around Wilmington, NC and we both really loved the quaintness of this coastal area and especially its seemingly lack of commercialism as beaches go. Downtown Wilmington reminded me a little bit of Asheville in its days before it became such a popular city to move to. It had a great vibe to it and we also had the chance to enjoy a little time in both Wrightsville Beach and Southport … even if the forecast was for 100% chance of deluges that weekend ! We didn’t let that put a damper on our birthday weekend at all !
We stayed in the cutest little AirBnB a few miles outside of Wilmington on a 10 acre horse farm. “The Bunkhouse” was perfect for a special weekend getaway and the hosts made sure Lisa felt a little special for her Birthday weekend. If you’re ever in that area, we highly recommend this sweet little home away from home.
We had a blast hosting friends from Mississippi, North Carolina, and Alabama on three different long weekends while living on the lake there in Cheraw. We met so many kind and interesting people as they passed through the campground for a night or two or sometimes much longer. I loved that while there we had the chance to explore the Pawleys Island and Huntington Beach areas. I never knew how beautiful the South Carolina coast is. It reminded me a lot of how much I’ve always loved New Orleans and the landscape and culture there … I’d love to go back and continue more exploration from Pawley’s Island southward and to all the islands that I’ve often heard about below Charleston and beyond.
It was kinda weird leaving Cheraw State Park where we had sort of become a part of the park “family” there over our four month stay and two months as Campground Hosts, but we were leaving just as the SC humidity was taking hold ! We were leaving with great memories of an area we had never heard of nor seen before … we’ll never forget our time there and wish our Rangers Kirby and Nathan the best as they, too, moved on to promotions at other SC State Parks at the same time as our departure. And we’ll miss Rhonda in the park office who always made our jobs easy and made sure we had the canoes when we wanted a short excursion up lake to the cypress swamps to visit the lake’s resident Osprey couples. Thanks, Cheraw! And thanks for teaching us how to say it the right way !
After a busy week’s stop in Gatlinburg where Lisa had a very full list of items to help her parents with between her OT assignments, we spent a whole day in Knoxville for a number of annual healthcare visits, haircuts, and of course our favorite Knoxville cuisine. Our one day in Knoxville ended with our drive on to Nashville for a one day visit with the Buchanans before getting up at 3:00 am for our early morning flight heading to Costa Rica !
So we got a lot of great relaxation time there in their beautiful home high in the mountains above San Ramone. The views from their back porch were like something from a travel magazine with mountains for a far as we could see – with just a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean peeping through the Southern horizon in those rare times of no cloud cover over the mountains. Rainy season was just beginning, so being at such a high elevation on the side of a mountain we could watch the clouds move swiftly toward us at times throughout the day, engulf the house, and then disappear as quickly as they arrived.
We were pretty amazed at how quickly Beth and Bobby had formed really good friendships with a number of local people, and Beth’s progress with Spanish was most impressive in such a short time. She is also volunteering to teach English since a lot of people there want to learn. They also have a young 19 year old local woman living with them temporarily until she starts her college classes. She speaks very little English, so the co-habitation is mutually beneficial language wise both ways! Plus, she and Beth seem to have a special relationship that creates a lot of love and laughter in the home. As for Bobby’s Spanish immersion … he is pretty content to enjoy the company of their Spanish instructor and pick up handy phrases along the way !
For many who move from the U.S. to Costa Rica, it’s simply to move into a community of ex-pats and live a fairly American existence there in Central America. But for Beth and Bobby, their idea was to move headlong into being immersed into the Coast Rican culture. They have been warmly embraced by the super kindness of Costa Ricans and we found them both happy and content to be living their lives there. Lisa even got to experience a Universal Healthcare System up close and personal when she accompanied them for one of Bobby’s MD appointments while we were there !
One of the highlights of our trip was the two night excursion we all took to Monteverde. Set atop the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, Monteverde is a world above the coastal towns that dot the country’s famous shoreline. It is a place of cloud forests and coffee plantations, monkeys, mist, and friendly locals. The town of Santa Elena is small and quaint, filled with tasty restaurants and folksy artisan shops, while the nearby rainforest hosts a remarkable amount of biodiversity.
Beyond the beauty and the experience of the 22 mile rough dirt road drive up the mountain to Monteverde, I found the history of this unique and interesting place most fascinating. What is now considered Monteverde was founded by Quakers from the United States whose pacifist values led them to defy the American draft before the Korean War.
The majority of the group hailed from Fairhope, Alabama, and it included people who were not Quakers but pacifists and conscientious objectors. The spokesman of the group was Hubert Mendenhall, a dairyman who had visited Costa Rica in 1949 after joining a farmer’s tour. These Quakers and pacifists chose Monteverde for its cool climate, which would facilitate dairy farming, and due to Costa Rica’s non-violent, army-free constitution.
Mendenhall noted that the soil was fertile and the people were friendly as well. The Quakers stewarded and farmed a large tract of land, which they eventually set aside for conservation. This reserve, which was named the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve), has become a major tourist attraction.
We rented a unique little AirBnB located just a little ways down a dirt road about a mile outside of the main village. We were greeted by a jovial young Costa Rican woman whose grandmother had been one of the original families who settled this land. The original structure of a portion of the house where we were staying had once housed Monteverde’s original sky tram boarding platform. Part of the tram rails still butted right up to the front porch of the house. Her brothers had acquired it and converted it into a small bungalow designed as a window into the jungle! It was glass all across the back and sides creating an amazing one-ness with the jungle with which it resided. We immediately began seeing creatures we had never seen before. The vegetation was thick and green and it didn’t take long to see that we were indeed residing in a cloud forest.
The first night around 4 am Lisa and I were awakened from a deep sleep by the strangest, and somewhat unsettling, loud noises – the likes of which we had certainly never before encountered. We both sat up in the complete darkness of the room and listened. It sounded like it was coming from just outside our window.
Lisa bravely crept over to the side windows and peeped out of the curtains that we had closed for the night. Complete blackness as the sounds of the unknown beasts got progressively louder … was this a pack of something ? Were we ok? After all … we had never slept in a Central American jungle before !
Pretty soon we heard Beth and Bobby’s faint voices in the room down the hall … Lisa walked down the hall to inquire if they knew what in the world was going on outside ! “Oh,” Bobby answered as he began to laugh at our concern, “Those are the Howler Monkeys! Guess we forgot to tell y’all about those before we went to bed!” We continued to listen for quite some time in amazement that a few small monkeys could make such loud, disruptive noises! Absent were the comforting sounds of the South Carolina woodpeckers, Barred Owls, Canadian Geese, and common songbirds … Welcome to the Jungle!
The next day Lisa and I got to choose our activity for the day. (Beth & Bobby had made this trek a few times, so they were going to have a chill day while we got out for a Monteverde adventure.) We opted to have them drop us about 20 minutes away at a place called Selvatura Park.
Although it wasn’t raining just yet, rain was a normal part of daily life around Monteverde this time of year, so we had our raincoats readily accessible in our backpacks … It was still early and there was a bit of a chill in the early morning air. After a quick breakfast at the park’s cafe, we looked into the activities offered and opted to forego the Canopy Zip Lining since we had both zip lined before. We easily agreed on the Hanging Bridges Canopy Hike with a stop at the Hummingbird Garden …
Pretty quickly into the trail we encountered the park’s special Hummingbird Garden located in the middle of the cloud forest … Fyi … Of the 338 known species of Hummingbird worldwide there are around 50 in Costa Rica. This was definitely something neither of us had ever seen the likes of … strangely we had the Garden all to ourselves on this particular morning. No other humans – just Lisa, me, and about a thousand stunningly beautiful hummingbirds of various sizes and colors … whizzing by our heads, landing on the feeders, landing in the trees and bushes, sucking the sweet nectar in suspended flight only feet away from us … I had the binoculars moving from one bird to the next while Lisa was ecstatic getting to be so closely intwined with one of her favorite creatures on the planet ! She was so excited and happy being among the frenzied fluttering wings all around us. I wasn’t sure we would ever see the rest of the trail or the first suspension bridge! But after an extended time in the garden we were off – Deeper into the forest to explore.
Before leaving Monteverde, we did finally get a glimpse of three Howler Monkeys during a short walk near our AirBnB. They were swaying in the stiff breeze on the highest branches of some tall trees. Beth caught sight of them after we heard their distinctive grunting noises. We were most excited to finally get to see the source of all that monkey business that had frightened us a bit that first night sleeping in the jungle !
Thanks Beth and Bobby for the most wonderful time with you guys in Costa Rica … We had an incredible time on so many levels. The homemade meals were THE BEST and getting to be a tiny part of your world there for a week meant the world to us. Your home is absolute heaven and such an incredible place to enjoy that Costa Rican vista. We loved meeting your friends, hearing your Spanish, putzing around town, and going to the Farmers’ Market (Wow! What a market!). There’s no doubt whatsoever that your generosity and immersion there is a gift to that community. So few people ever realize even one of their dreams. You guys had the vision. Made the plan. And there you are. An inspiration to us all that if you have a vision for something that you really want to do in life … figure it out and go for it !
Bobby may be the one who can be physically mistaken for a Tico, but after less than two years it seems that you guys are both fitting in naturally. They say that Pura Vida means “simple life” or “pure life,” but in Costa Rica it’s more than just a saying – it’s a way of life.
Pura Vida is the way Ticos live, so not surprisingly Costa Rica has been named one of the happiest countries in the world, mostly because its inhabitants don’t stress about things the way most foreigners do. Ticos have a very relaxed, simple way of looking at life. No worries, no fuss, no stress—pura vida to them means being thankful for what they have and not dwelling on the negative.
Pura Vida, Y’all ! We sure are thankful for you both.
The Two Scruffy Gringos –