It is said that Christopher Columbus named Costa Rica based on his belief that it was a “Rich Coast” from his time and experiences with the land and the people upon anchoring here back in the early 1500’s. The visual, sensual, and interpersonal stimulation that he enjoyed during his time in this amazing country had clearly left a glowing mark on the veteran explorer. Although Columbus never discovered or obtained the abundance of gold and riches that he originally expected to extract from these hills (it didn’t “pan out” as well as Christopher may have liked it to, pun intended), he was certainly on to something special. According to Legend, the locations of the most abundant and profitable gold mines were never revealed to the foreigners by the Old Time Shamans. The Osa Peninsula is rumored to be loaded with gold and there is also a Gold Museum in the capital city of San Jose, so evidence points to the existence of at least a spattering of Leprechaun Pots at the end of Costa Rican Rainbows. In fact, there’s even an abandoned gold mine at the heart of the rural San Ramon de Alajuela neighborhood that my family and I lived in for more than five years when we first moved to Costa Rica. It is still unknown whether this particular gold mine closed because all of the value had been sucked from it already, like the last delicious straw slurp of a golden pineapple smoothie, or if rather the main vein had never been found and the mission was temporarily aborted… No matter how you slice it though, Costa Rica can legitimately be called a Rich Coast for many qualities other than Gold. Let’s stick with precious metals and stones for a moment. El Empalme, the neighborhood in San Ramón de Alajuela where our magical ocean-view mountain home lies, is Chock Full O’ Tropical Bling. The Hills Are Alive with The Sound of Music (singing birds) as well alive with the sights of shining, sparkling objects 💎. When I’d hike with my adventurous daughter and our pack of loyal canines, especially after a very hard rainfall, we would literally pluck chunks of Quartz Crystals out of the mountainside. My pockets were often stuffed to the point of bursting at the seams after one of our “Crystal Walks”, and I’d have to start overlooking smaller scores to save room for the clearest, most colorful finds- like a fisherman throwing back the smallest catches. I’ve always had pretty amazing powers of observation and an uncanny ability to find valuables that are Floating Around the Universe, which then cross my path, and are essentially Up For Grabs. This skill set has undoubtedly passed through into my seven-year-old daughter’s eyes and mind through shared DNA, because she has proven to be quite the archaeological phenom (in addition to countless other blessings and gifts). Violetta is tireless, determined, passionate, and is a natural born explorer. With Our Four Eagle Eyes On Task, very little “Slips Past The Goalie”. My daughter has always been energetically drawn towards special stones, shiny gems, skulls & bones, fossils, etc. and the fevered hunt of discovery in finding them. I’ll be the first to admit that I made a mistake by unleashing the “Jurassic Park” film series (filmed in Costa Rica, by the way) on V waaaaaaay too soon, but she had literally begged me to watch it with her. She loves dinosaurs so much that I made a foolhardy, albeit well intentioned, leap from the cozy comforts and the slow roll of “Barney” and “The Land Before Time” to the intensely terrifying and convincingly REAL gore and guts splattered all of over our living-room by the likes of T-Rex and Velociraptors… Violetta was perhaps two and a half years old… Live and learn every day, folks! These days my daughter is well past her nightmares of Sharp-Tooth In The Cinematic Flesh (We recently went to the movie theater to watch the latest installment of “Jurassic World” together, and V is altogether unfazed) and she’s a truly solid exploration companion. Think Dora meets Indiana Jones meets Tomb Raider. She’s a tough little nugget and we would dig up droves of these precious, magical stones on an almost daily basis. From a metaphysical perspective, the quartz crystal embodies all five of nature’s elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Aether. Crystals grow deep in the ground yet allow light to pass through. Heat and liquid shape and harden these stones into brilliant crystalline constellations over the years, and many believe that these powerful gemstones are ideal for healing, the grounding and refreshment of energies and chakras, the enjoyment of lucid dreams, meditation, and the enhancement of psychic abilities and experiences associated with the Opening Of The Third Eye. My wife is a yoga instructor, so I’m privvy to the Third Eye concept, but for those of you who may not be, here’s my estimation of it: My definition of the “Third Eye” is that it’s the source of wisdom and potential energy which each person has, and the idea is that this geyser of human potential and capacity for viewing the world with maximum benevolence is centralized behind the forehead. The Third Eye can be tapped or opened through many methods, although deep meditation and a consistent flow of positive energy seem to light a blazing path to this type of enlightenment. Perhaps by the time we’re through, Violetta and I will have so many of these magical crystals that we’ll be using six eyes instead of four 😉 Another priceless benefit derived from these long hikes in the hills is the vast amount of high quality fresh air we breathe in, courtesy of Mother Nature and the power of ancient trees. In Costa Rica, the protection of primary rainforests is taken very seriously. Approximatelty 25% of the country’s land has been set aside as nationally protected nature reserves, national parks, and designated safe zones. The rich oxygen produced by these rainforests and ancient trees is passed on and paid forward to all inhabitants of Costa Rica. Another gift from Mother Nature to Costa Rica is the steaming, bubbly embrace of thermal springs and the detoxifying qualities derived from volcanic mud baths. The thermal springs are all-natural, mineral-rich, and infinitely relaxing. Calgon couldn’t take me away into bliss nearly as deeply as these clear liquid lava pools do. Truly remarkable the affect a soak at one of these amazing Hot Spots has on the human body. They steam stress and tension out and up towards the heavens. Bathing in volcanic mud is a messier endeavor, but volcanic clay is known to suck impurities out of human skin and to tighten pores over time, which makes it more difficult for toxins to enter. Volcanoes are fairly abundant here in paradise, so your “au natural” spa treatment is right around any one of several winding mountain roads. Last but certainly not least, the riches bestowed on us from The Ocean, The Sand, and The Sun are of paramount importance. Beach sand is warm and walking on it barefoot drains the positive ions out of your body through the feet, while absorbing beneficial negative ions into the body. This phenomenon is called “Earthing”. A person is truly “grounding out” the electrical charges that have built up their body when they “Earth”. The ocean needs no introduction, but the salt water cleanses and heals the body while you swim away your stress and leave your worries behind. The Sun provides human beings with a daily cache of Vitamin D, which is essential for the enjoyment of optimal moods and overall happiness. Seasonal Affective Disorder is REAL, you better believe that. Gray skies and a lack of sunshine have been associated with higher rates of depression, and that should come as no surprise. I lived in Buffalo, N.Y. for over fourteen years before moving down to Costa Rica full-time, and I can testify to the difference I felt from the moment we stepped off the airplane at SJO. Don’t get me wrong- I Love New York and Buffalo is very special to me, but being encased in gray skies for most of the year is a recipe for tough sledding for many humans… Sledding leads me to snow, and now I’m sliding away from my point in an avalanche of memories formed from ice and winter madness… The Sun is Our Friend. In Costa Rica, we have the Good Fortune of being able to spend a lot of time with our Blazing Buddy. In Buffalo, he was the equivalent of that cousin you love but only get to see during Summer Vacation. Vitamin D is on tap here like an IV Drip Of Golden Rays Into Your Soul. Columbus was correct in identifying Costa Rica as a rich coast. Riches are determined by the quality of one’s life, not by the digits displayed in one’s bank account.
Choppy, sloppy, “That’s quite a drop…See?”. Beat up, winding, grinding, bumpy, lumpy, dusty, dirty. “Third World”, uncivilized, raw, uncomfortable. Unbelievable, imperceivable, 4-wheel drive recommended, unmarked cul de sac dead ended. Unlit patches of gravel, unfit roads for travel. Unsafe, unpaved, half-baked, dozer scathed. Old world, lastrie swirled, pebble strewn, paths of doom. I have heard all of theses words and expressions from potential buyers as they attempt to describe their perspective on the road conditions, particularly in Costa Rica’s rural neighborhoods. It sticks to the walls of their mind like a dense booger. One of the Sharpest Thorns stabbing forth from The Pura Vida Rose of Purchasing A Piece of Property In Paradise, is this strange fear we sometimes associate with the apparent condition of the streets. What’s the big deal? If you’re searching for a really special, secluded spot which is located “off the beaten path”… Then you will have to Take The Roads Less Traveled. This is the nature of the beast if you crave a country home teeming with nature and gorgeous views. Heck, you might even be pretty close to town in the bargain. You’re still going to have to deal with these potentially frustrating roads, more often than not. I say “potentially frustrating” because it all truly depends on each individual’s perspective and how the information is processed. A person can choose to accept Road Reality in Greater Costa Rica as a trade-off for living in such a gorgeous, old school hideaway. Typical farming neighborhoods which originally only used tractors and bulldozers to go up and down these rugged roads. More often than not, these rural pathways lead to magical worlds which elicit awe and amazement in the Eyes Of The Beholder. Gem-laden hillsides glimmering in rays of all-important sunshine. Seasonal Affective Disorder dissipates under the golden sun and is whisked away on a fresh breeze. Native birds sing a song of victory and freedom, a return to times of old when Nature Dictates Action rather than the man-made time parameters and virtual calendars which we as human beings are forever inflicting and imposing on ourselves. Somewhere in the jungle, a baby sloth yawns awake in his mama’s furry, gray arms. The Proud Mother Slowly Smiles a Grateful Grin which Radiates Pura Vida into the warm sphere of pulsating life which surrounds her. A wind gust whips by, prompting a powerful reed concierto. Leaves ruffle and palms flap on Mother Nature’s Breath, carrying Anecdotes of Old on Spirit Wind. Dreams drift from forest to valley, touching all along the wide spiraling path to peace. Clockwise is the Direction of The Earth’s Rotation, And We All Spin Right Along With It. Get In Sync. Adjust Your Pulse to Make Rhythym & Harmony With The Vibration Of The Earth. Two hearts beat as One. Breathe In Purity, Breathe Out Gratitude. Have you found the Pot O’ Gold at End Of The Rainbow? Let’s Take A Walk On The Wild Side. Ramble down the Rocky Road To Paradise with me and Sing The Song of Aquarius. Let The Sun Shine In.
What is The Jesus Tree? If you Google this topic, you’ll find amazing photos taken for National Geographic, Pinterest, and Flickr, but it’s unlikely that you’ll discover any other information about this remarkable tree. According to local lore, El Arbolito Solitario might be approximately two hundred years old and the miracle is that she has lived that entire time standing within the tidal wash of The Pacific Ocean. The Jesus Tree lives in salt water… The coastal trail that takes you from Tambor Beach to El Arbolito is magnificent in it’s own right. From the “muelle” (dock) in Tambor, the beautiful nature trek to The Jesus Tree takes less than an hour at a moderate pace. First you wind down a craggy dirt road and through a salt-blown neighborhood of fisherman and artisans, living close to the sea in tiny makeshift homes that pepper the coast. Cocks crow, street dogs scratch and yawn, and locals laze on their front porches enjoying the cool breeze and a cerveza or cafecito while waving at people passing through to make the pilgrimage to El Arbolito. The smiling brown faces you encounter along the way provide an intimate glimpse into the warm simplicity of this alluring culture. As the rocks and ridges become more prominent, the barrio fades into the rearview mirror and rough civilization gives way to large ancient trees, thick roots clinging to cliffs and leaning over the trail dangling families of monkeys like tropical jewelry or furry Christmas ornaments. Flowers jut out in bursts of color and the spectrum of exotic birds squawking overhead is truly impressive, all color and feathers and song. These jungle gems flavor the journey as you walk in complete peace, hand in hand with Mother Nature. The Jesus Tree awaits.
When asked about the official name of this magical tree, local Juan Carlos Cruz, birder, volleyballer, and manager of the regal jungle resort Tambor Tropical stated: “The tree has two names. Costa Rican Tamboreños call it “Arbolito Solitario”. “Solitary Little Tree”. Faithful to our custom of giving the termination “ito” (little) to everything that is dear to us. The curiosity about this tree is not only that it grew in such harsh conditions, but the fact that there are no other trees by it. Expat Tamboreños generally call it The Jesus Tree, because on high tide it gets totally surrounded by water, giving the impression to be “walking” on water like Jesus did.” That is one perspective regarding the origin of the Jesus Tree moniker- the holy image the tree appears to conjure when the tide is high. It’s also possible that this nickname emerged due to the fact that the tree has survived so long on it’s own in a salt water home, thereby making it a bit of a miracle. Some folks even claim that The Jesus Tree performs miracles for visitors when they ask at the right time, granting chlorophyll wishes and sunshine kisses while answering prayers on the sea breeze. Juanca Cruz further observes, ” Although this is not considered a place of worship, it definitely shows in a good way how locals appreciate and respect nature. With that being said, a few misguided romantic juveniles have thought that it was a good idea to make markings with their names on the trees bark.” Perhaps these lost souls were attempting to commune with the power of the tree. Our hope is that future visitors will have a high level of respect when encountering our living landmark. El Arbolito cannot be branded for ownership by a few star-crossed lovers. She is there for all of us to enjoy for as long as the miracle lasts. Some senior members of the Tambor community attest to the fact that the tree is at least eighty years old, and it’s generally accepted that it may very well be close to two hundred years old. A local biologist, Ruth Rodriguez, believes that The Jesus Tree is a “Red Mangrove” (Rhizophora Mangle) and that is why it has survived this long. Here is a link to more information about this remarkable species of plant: http://www.mangrove.at/rhizophora-mangle_red-mangrove.html
The next time you find yourself at Tambor Beach, put on your bathing suit and fill a backpack with water, fresh fruit, a good book, and some sunblock. Bring your camera and a pair of binoculars. Hit the trail, breathe in the fresh sea air, bask in the warmth of the sun, and swim in the calm waters underneath the mysterious gaze of The Jesus Tree.
Twilight Stroll On The Beach
The River Mouth Speaks Volumes
A Twinkling Peace Falls Over Tambor
As The Fishing Village Winds Down
To An Ocean Blue Heartbeat. Silence.
At first glance, it didn’t seem like there would be a whole lot of action when we pull up to The Festival Of Lights event this year in Cobano. Small pockets of chatter & intensity are sprinkled across the main drag. Vendors selling red Santa hats with flashing lights on them. We set up camp in front of Super Maya and sit down on the curb. Anna & I figure it’d be nice to check out the holiday scene while Violetta parties with a few of her schoolmates, kicking off her Summer vacation with a bang. A definitively festive buzz swirls in the air, and rather quickly that buzz morphs into a frenzy of color, music, flying candy, and fevered dance performances. Sidewalks and street corners fill and pack in with a deceptively exponential swell as the front hem of the crowd spills forward onto the glittering asphalt course. Out of the joyous masses, my daughter manages to pluck a few sugar plums. Several of her friends happen to be on the same stretch of observance. No formal plan or rendezvous had been made. Warm greetings amongst the parents and playtime commences. The dazzling procession rolls out 45 minutes late, led by a couple of Jeepmas Trees adorned with vibrant Christmas lights. Bus loads of band members march melodiously, forming a pulsating musical snake which stretches to the back of town, tail coiling around the community center, the birthplace of the parade. Drumming the holiday into proper perspective, trumpeting in the start of Costa Rican Summer and the ecstasy of vacation. Marching bands from all over the country traveled to Cobano as did performers from Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Each band bringing tremendous passion and flavor, with the Hondurans being especially saucy to close out the show. What an extravaganza!!! Once the gyrating tail of the musically lit BoaConductor disappears around the corner of the main intersection, the elated crowd begins to slowly disperse. Hoping to beat any likeminded patrons to the proverbial punch, we hug and kiss our tribe goodbye and streak across the street to snag some crispy fried chicken with tangy hot sauce and soft corn tortillas. Seated and served the “food crack” first and just ahead of a gaggle of half-starving stragglers, satisfaction reaches a pinnacle. Ice cold beer to wash it all down and we skip and sing all the way back to Tambor Beach. Traffic thick with the sugar of celebration, the music from the gargantuan collection of after-parties on the main road booms across the landscape as children ricochet within bubbly bounce-houses and adults dance the night away on shiny tiled floors, lights flashing overhead. The warm glow of the holiday season washes over everyone in attendance, and we are truly blessed to be counted in that grouping. We will certainly be making formal plans for The Festival of Lights next year- a rendezvous has been earned What a beautifully powerful event for the whole family- my senses are still tingling with joy!!! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Kwanza, Happy Holidays, and Festivus For The Rest Of Us – to you and yours from The House Of The Rising Sun, Tambor Beach, Puntarenas, Costa Rica!!! PEACE
Who wants to visit an island cemetery on Halloween night? 🌊🎃🌴⚰️☠️👻… My lovely wife pushed for this magic ✨ to happen, so off we went! Isla Cabuya is only accessible on foot at low tide. Hang in serenity for a spell with the dearly departed, but make certain that you head back to the mainland before the sea encircles the cemetery again and you’re there for the night… A swill of vodka in honor of the dead 💀 as the crabs ticker and snicker past, rustling in the jungle brush. The sun simmers in the reflective pools of the vacant sea as the moon presses to outshine us all. Until next time, Isla Cabuya. Rest well.