As I sit and write I hear thunder rumbling in the distance, the birds belting out a cacaphony of different songs and the howler monkeys adding thier odd voice to the mix. It is a lovely moment, I am glad I got to share it with you! In our next installment of "The Binford's Costa Rican Adventure" the Binfords will move to the Finca and begin life on top of a mountain in view of a very large volcano...
June 8, 2009
And now for the continuing story of: “The Binford's Costa Rican Adventure”. When we were last together, we were preparing to move up to the mountain with a view of the very large volcano... Our time in Tilaran was pleasant, we enjoyed the company of friends and did some preliminary shopping to outfit the house. We have made the trip up to the finca yesterday. A family from our fellowship helped us get our stuff up here and then graciously left us with their 4x4 pick-up for the next few days. That was a big help, since we live a fer piece from town and the buses only run out here Mon., Wed., Fri., during regular weeks and during holidays not at all... In the next week or so we will have to tackle the job of finding a functional car that we can afford.
Before first light this morning, I was startled awake by a Howler monkey that sounded like he was right next to my head. He is more effective than a rooster as an alarm clock, as a matter of fact, I think he woke the rooster up! Their howl is very difficult to describe... somewhere between the roar of a bear and the tirade if a chimpanzee. It's sound can carry up to 3 miles across the mountain tops. Howlers are notorious for bombarding you with poop when you stand under the tree to get a look at them. Monkey humor...I don't get it....
Friday is normally a busy day for us since it is preparation day for the Sabbath. Today is no different except that we don't have a thing in the house to eat, for that matter a fridge... the one in the house chose to die last night. So I made something simple for our first Sabbath at the finca. We are having Erev Shabbat (the beginning of Sabbath which starts at sundown on Friday) at the bungalow, which is out in a clearing with a wonderful view of the sky, lake and on other days, the volcano Arenal.
This photo was taken with a cell phone so the photo is really grainy.
We were driving down the mountain from our house when we witnessed this eruption.
This coming week we will be purchasing sheep. Erin has been setting fence post and stringing wire and completed the gate late this week, so we will go Monday to buy some sheep from a local farmer. Speaking of livestock...Thursday night or actually 1:30 a.m. Friday, I was startled awake by a moo-o-o that sounded like it came from the pillow next to me. I was on my feet before my eyes were open. I looked around and saw that the cow was not actually on Daniel's side of the bed, but was in reality standing with her head stuck through the fence in front of the house. I opened the front door and spoke softly to her so I wouldn't spook her or wake the household. She seemed distressed and was trying to force her way through the fence. As I stepped out the door to discourage her from pushing over the fence, I saw my elderly Tico neighbor shuffling out of his house in his pajamas and flip flops, with a jacket thrown over his shoulders. He slowly shuffled past the cow at my fence to the gate of the pasture to the left of our house. He opened the gate, pushed it back and walked past the cow a few feet, turning to face the cow he waved his arms widely in the air once, the cow fled into the pasture and my neighbor closed the fence behind her. He then shuffled back towards his his house. It was quite comical, especially since the cow does not belong in that pasture, it is the young heifer of another of our Tico neighbors that grazes on the fields below our finca. This evening though I saw her back in her own field so all is well !
We are going to head back to the house for dinner. The thick darkness that clings to the edge of the rainforest will absorb most of the light from our flashlights, the sounds of the nocturnal insects and birds will keep us company along the way. Life here is good, simple and sweet. We are finding our way and becoming part of the ebb and flow on top of a verdant green mountain in view of a very large volcano.
July 18, 2009
A note...The blog editer won't let me move this posting to its proper location so this entry and the next are out of order...I apologize.
It is necessary for all persons staying in Costa Rica on a tourist visa to renew their visa ever three months by exiting the country for three days and then re-entering to recieve the new three month stamp. Erin and I chose to go to Nicaragua for our "out", since it is the closest exit to where we live. Daniel didn't have to go since he had recently been back to the US. We did some internet research and found out there are basically two places you can go: San Juan Del Sur, which is at the beach, or Granada, a Colonial Nicaraguan Town right on the edge of Lago Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua). We decided to go to Granada since a recent bout with shingles made it too risky for me to be out in the sun (at the beach). Daniel drove us to the border, about 2 1/2 hours from Tilaran. He kissed us goodbye and went to find a mechanic for a pressing situation with the car.
The border was shear chaos. Masses of people trying to exit Costa Rica and enter Nicaragua or visa versa interspersed with shady looking characters trying to "help" you get through the border (for a price...) or trying to get you to exchange your cash for Cordobas (at an outrageous exchange rate), take a taxi or sell you very questionable looking snack items. People were pressing all around, it was hot, we were standing in line for hours. Just about the time we got to where we could see the immigration official, about three people away from the window, the official behind the glass shut the window (presumably to go eat his lunch...) and the entire line of people quickly scrambled to get into the next line. Well, Erin and I were close enough to the front of the line that we were inside the metal que rails, so, when the music stopped....we were left without a chair... We had no other choice but to go to the end of the line and start over. It would have been an aggravation if it had only happened once, but the same thing happened three times. Each time we would get close to the window, it would close and we would have to go stand in another line. The last line we stood in, (we discovered too late to choose another line), had a French person who spoke no Spanish, trying to get 13 passports processed for people not standing in line. It took more than an hour for him to process through. Everyone in line cheered when he finally processed through and the line moved up. Two or three more people got their precious entrance stamps for Nicaragua, and it looked like we might get to the window before they started closing for dinner, when a bus driver with a whole bus load of tourists coming out of San Jose, Costa Rica, cut into the line at the window and tried to hand the official two stacks of passports to process ahead of those standing in line. A small scale riot ensued, old ladies, pregnant women with one or two in tow, workman going home to their families, foreigners of all sorts, became "as one" and bodily forced the guy to take his stack of passports and flee to a less hostile line. Shortly thereafter, we got our entrance stamps for Nicaragua and began our three day "out". It began with a very long taxi ride that cost $50 US, with a taxi driver who looked more like a bar bouncer than a cabby. I tried not to think about ending up dead in a Nicaraguan cane field and prayed for the courage and peace to get in the taxi with its surly driver and drive two hours from the border. God is good, we did have a peaceful, safe trip. The driver delivered us safe and sound at the front door of our hotel,(no detours to deserted cane fields...), and we took his card so we could call him to come get us for the return trip.
Well, Daniel is home safely. Erin and I drove to San Jose to get him. Actually, Erin drove, I was just along to enjoy the scenery! The drive takes about four hours, not because it is so far away, but because it is the only truck route across Costa Rica. Imagine pulling a grade from sea level to 3500 ft. in about and hour, behind a very long line of 18 wheelers laden with goods going from the port at Limon to San Jose. Oh my,is it slow going. It is hard to get above 2nd or 3rd gear for the entire climb. Fortunately, the view from the highway is breathtaking. The massive mountains loom above and to the left, dappled with sunshine and shadow from the clouds that move constantly across the landscape. In some areas, rows of coffee plants cover whole mountain sides while other areas have tropical foliage squeezing it's way through every nook and cranny of rock and covering both trees and ground alike. It is quite a show.
Daniel had a good visit to the states, he shopped, conducted business and saw some friends in the local area. Unfortunately, his time on the ground was limited, so he didn't get to visit everyone he wanted to see, but he was greatful for the hospitality and heart that was shared with him on his short stay. We are glad that he is back with us safe and sound.
We are also happy to have to goodies that he brought back with him! Now that we have construction tools, we can start building some much needed shelving and other storage space. Tico houses are small and have virtually no storage space. There is no space for pantry goods in the kitchen and no closets in the bedrooms. Ticos live lightly and in the moment, there is not much thought to tomorrow... this includes what "will we eat" and "where will I put my stuff?" I guess I am still very much a gringo where it comes to storage...
This week has been full of strange weather and mishaps. Normally, this is the beginning of rainy season. That means, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunny weather followed without warning by intense moments of torrential rain, then just as abruptly, it is sunny again. This week though, it has been more like a hurricane was lurking close by. The winds have howled for days across our mountain. Our roof, which is supposed to withstand 120 mph gusts had it's mettle tested. I have mopped buckets of water off the floor of the house as the winds drove the pouring rain through the window frames, down the walls and onto the floors. Our newly built greenhouse, which we located against the west facing wall of the bodega to protect it from the northeasterly winds, was blown to bits earlier this week. The winds literally bent the rebar supports and tore the plastic from the framework. Fortunately, we were there when it happened, so we were able to save our seedlings and recover the plastic before it took a trip to the lake! Being in close proximity to an active volcano can make life interesting. The volcano creates it's own weather, which means that whatever weather report you get on Weather.com is irrelevant, Arenal has her own ideas about what the weather is going to be.
Erin has come head to head with a local ground pest and so far the pest is winning. The creature is called a Toltusa. It is a root eating ground rodent, about the size of a ferret. It is kind of like a mole on steroids. The Toltusa has been eating the roots of the trees in one of the fields flanking the lane. The first indication that we had of a problem was the day a 20 foot Madera Negra tree came crashing to the ground. Upon closer inspection we discovered that the entire rootball had been eaten away. Erin confired with a local farmer to see what was up. He was informed of who the culprit was and how to get rid of the little twerp.
The locals set a trap by finding a recent tunnel, as evidenced by a mound of very loose dirt, placing a piece of tasty root or freshly cut stick in the ground which is attached to a large stick (8-10 ft. in length) by a rope. On the same stick, right next to the root/stick bait, you tie a wire noose. Both of these are carefully buried in the tunnel, which bends the larger stick and puts it under tension so that hopefully, the Toltusa will be lured to stick his head through the noose to reach the bait. When he chews through the stick the tension is removed from the large stick above and "zing!", the large stick whips upright interupting the Tultosa's snack and dragging him out of the ground, where he can be dispatched. This is what is supposed to happen. In reality the Toltusa wasn't born yesterday, he circumvented the noose, chewed the stick from the opposite side, and tripped the trap. Zing! the trap snapped upright with the wire noose dangling uselessly from it's string. So much for local wisdom...
The saga doesn't end there though, Erin was still faced with the problem of a root eating rodent who had it's beady little eyes set in the direction of one of the tree mango trees on the left side of the lane. I left him amidst the mango trees contemptating rodenticide, so that I could make our lunch. I stepped to the door to tell him lunch was almost ready and found him on his knees, up to his shoulder in a Toltusa tunnel. I told him to come eat and heard a muffled response that I took to be, "Okay". When he didn't appear, I went out to see what was up. I walked from the house to the lane, as I passed the orchid garden I saw Erin, he was standing over a 3 foot deep hole filled with burning coconut fronds and wood. He was using a piece of plywood as a bellows to force the smoke down the tunnel. For several yards in each direction, there were places that the smoke was puffing up out of the ground, one hole in particular was blowing perfect smoke rings each time he pumped the plywood. As I stood there watching the smoke rings puff up from the ground, the movie Caddy Shack came to mind.... The thought occured to me that Erin may have lost his perspective, but with him standing there covered in dirt, pumping smoke down a rodent hole with a manic look in his eyes, I decided to keep my mouth shut. The next morning with much satisfaction, he noted that there were no Tortusa mounds in the mango grove. I didn't have the heart to tell him about the tell-tale mound of loose dirt and downed yellow bamboo a little further down the lane. It could wait until after breakfast.
Tonight, after the Sabbath sun goes down, we will be going to a fellowship cookout and then to a local cultural event, a Costa Rican rodeo. There will be Ticos in their customary cowboy get-ups, beautiful high stepping horses, and Bhrama bull riders. So, while the winds blow, and the rains pound, we will sit next to Ticos and Gringos alike and enjoy the fun! Until next time, love to all and Shalom!
|Brook and Brian in the rainforest|
July 26, 2009
Early in the week, I was awakened by the absence of the howling winds that had buffeted us for the better part of two weeks. It was completely still. I sat up and looked out the window towards the rainforest. Darkness encompassed everything at ground level, but the sky was full of stars. Finally, a change in the weather!
|One of our mountaintop views|
The morning was calm and clear and we all went out early to relish working on the finca. The baby plants in the garden had faired far better than the greenhouse we lost last week, but some of the mature plantings really took a beating. A mature Madera Negra tree had blown over, the poinsettia tree along the lane is blocking the drive to the cabina, two of the coconut trees along the backside of the lane are listing seriously, and everything else looks like it withstood a two week long hurricane. Fortunately, this is Costa Rica, even the fallen tree can be reclaimed. Just cut off the branches, shorten the trunk, put it back in the ground a little deeper than it was, and before this time next year, it will be full of branches and leaves again. I don't know if I mentioned that if you plant it, it will grow.... a good example is the supports on the cabina veranda. The front two supports of the veranda are Madera Negra tree trunks. They are set in cement but must be making contact with the ground beneath the cement, since it is in our lease that it is our responsibility to keep the
Josh and Dawn arrived in San Jose intending to spend Friday and Saturday nights in San Jose, and then travel by bus to Tilaran on Sunday. We encouraged them to come to Tilaran as soon as possible, since San Jose is really not a very nice (or safe) place. They worked it out with the hotel and left San Jose early Saturday morning, to arrive four hours later in Tilaran, where we picked them up. There were hugs all around, it was so good to see them! Then we were off for the finca and the start of a really sweet visit.
With things set right on the farm, it was time to go have some fun. The first thing on the docket was a trip to Arenal Volcano. The day was clear and bright and the volcano was actually visible for at least part of the day. We ate lunch in La Fortuna on the back side of the volcano and then hiked up to the 1992 lava flow. Dawn, Josh and Daniel also took the Jungle walk and got back to the car just in time to watch a spectacular sunset.
|On the step leading to the 1992|
lava flow at Volcan Arenal