Day 12- Settling into the "Real" Costa Rica

Trip Start Jan 14, 2013
Trip End Apr 11, 2013

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Where I stayed
Casa Astrid
What I did
Cemetery Island
El Chorro Waterfall
La Playa Grande
Santa Teresa
Montezuma Falls
Cabo Blanco National Park

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Friday, January 25, 2013

We have finally settled into the Costa Rican way of life. It has been more than a week, but less than two.  Time is fuzzy here.  We are very aware of sunrises (no curtains) and the tides (because it affects what we do during the day), and the lunar calendar (it's a beautiful full moon tonight) and Domingo (Sundays mean the organic farmer’s market and church for many people), but beyond that, we often have no idea what time or even what day it is. 

After an agonizing several days of being unsettled, we have finally found our home.  "Casa Astrid" is located on a quiet road in the town of Cabuya, a quiet fishing village near Montzuma.  Nestled under some extraordinary shade trees, our small house sits less than a hundred meters from the ocean.  Upon our arrival, an iguana was eating flowers off the hedge, and two little dogs excitedly greeted us.  We knew it was going to be great.  Click here to see a video of an iguana in our front yard.

We had no idea how happy we would be here.  Every night we listen to the surf, cicadas, crickets, barking geckos, and howler monkeys.  Hundreds of little hermit crabs emerge at dusk, and their shells make tiny clinking sounds as they scurry around our front yard.  Graceful pelicans, magnificent frigate birds, and hummingbirds are almost always within sight, and we’ve even spotted a parrot (or parakeet—not sure).  On multiple occasions, white-faced capuchin monkeys have graced our front yard, much to the delight and amusement of the girls.  Click here to see a video of the monkeys passing through our yard. 

There is a lime tree in the back yard, and Vivian and I made some bracing fresh-squeezed limeade.  Despite copious amounts of sugar and water, it remains quite tart, I am the only Millhouser who actually enjoys drinking it.  

We dispose of our organic garbage by dog, hermit crab or tide.

The two dogs that greeted us on the first day quickly became regular visitors.  We believe they belong next door, but like most Costa Rican dogs there are no collars, leashes, or fences, so they could actually be strays.  However, they are extremely respectful toward us, they only beg with their big brown eyes, they are tolerant with the girls, and they never try to come in the house.  So of course we’ve named them “Patches” and “Brownie”, we save scraps of food for them, and we are admittedly a little disappointed when they (very rarely) don’t come to the car to greet us upon our return home.  Paul is pondering whether we can bring them home, but fears Stella and Stanley (not to mention the cats and Lesley) will be annoyed.

Jenny is the manager of our house.  She is in fact Costa Rican despite her very Western name (this is a common phenomenon we’ve found in CR).  Jenny has been instrumental in making our stay here absolutely amazing.  In addition to managing our house and several other properties, she owns and manages El Café de Coyote, a delicious restaurant down the street, and also runs a tour-guide company for horse back riding, and mountain bike, ATV and car rentals.  She personally has arranged horseback riding tours for us, as well as additional maid service, childcare (her daughter Andrea has babysat Vivian and Ivy for us), and she has even baked gluten-free cookies for Miss Ivy.  Her pizza is delicious, and her pesto salad dressing so fresh and amazing.  We feel so lucky to have been thrown in her path.

There are a lot of international people living in and traveling through Montezuma.  Having two small children invites many opportunities to socialize and bond with other people with kids, and we’ve been delighted to meet so many interesting people in such a short time, including people from Canada, Austria, Portugal, and the good old U.S. of A.  Vivian has a knack for making friends everywhere she goes, and it touches our hearts to see her yammering on (in three and a half year old English nevertheless) to a group of friendly but perplexed Costa Rican girls. 

Things we have done:

We’ve hiked in Cabo Blanco National Park.  We started off way too late and it was ridiculously hot and we didn’t see very much wildlife until the exit, when we saw a couple acrobatic coatis.  Vivian turned to me at one point and asked “what is this water all over me?” and I had to explain to her what sweat was!  Click here to see a video of the girls hiking in the the park.

We took a trail to the upper pools of the famous Montezuma Falls.  Fortunately our friends Russ and Tania live nearby and were able to guide us to the kid-friendly pools.  They also warned us about the crawdads just as one was crawling up Paul’s leg . . . Vivian jumped off a boulder into one of the pools by herself.  She won’t even do that in a pool where she can see the bottom!?  This kid astounds me daily.

We visited Santa Teresa and found the most perfect tide pool on a gorgeous secluded beach.  This tide pool was a little bigger than a hot tub, was about 18 inches deep and had a sandy bottom.  Viv, Ivy and I could have stayed in it all day, but high tide made it a little too exciting, so we were forced to vacate eventually.  Funny to recall how Ivy was scared of the ocean on our first days in Costa Rica, but now she marches to the end of our yard and points to it to let us know she wants to go for a swim.  Click here to see a video of the tide pool (as the tide starts to come in).

We walked to Cemetery Island, which is only possible to access during low-tide or via boat.  Once again, we relied on the experience of some friends Emma and Andrew, to show us the way to a great snorkeling spot.  And yes, Cemetery Island is exactly what it sounds like . . . it is a beautiful burial spot for locals.

We’ve spent countless hours at El Rio Lejas, a little river about 5 minutes from our house.  This shady river is home to a bazillion tadpoles and baby frogs, and once I taught Vivian how to catch them, she became obsessed with this hobby.  Ivy loves to splash around in the shallows, and Paul and I love to sit on the banks and watch the birds and howler monkeys that are common in the overhead trees.

Paul and I took a morning horseback ride to El Chorro waterfall in the protected Romelia Wildlife preserve.  It was a beautiful ride along pristine beaches with virtual no human habitation.  The waterfall itself runs almost directly into the ocean, which apparently is a fairly rare occurrence.  On the way home, a lone howler monkey hung just above our heads, clearly curious about us.

We’ve spied two snakes.  A small brown vine snake, and a larger lyre snake.  Both of them were in our yard near the beach, and both of them were minding their own business when we came upon them.  Regrettably, I invited our neighbors over to see the lyre snake, as he was impressively large specimen (4 to 5 feet in length) and had a beautiful pattern.  My neighbors in turn called over their other neighbor (a Costa Rican) and, despite my pleading, he promptly lopped of the head of the this snake with a machete.  It was a blessedly clean kill.  This man has three children living nearby by, and he kills any snake he deems a threat to his family.  While I understand this logic, I was devastated nevertheless.  It seemed like a senseless killing of an animal that makes its living eating lizards and bats.  Lesson learned: unless it is a truly dangerous snake, future snake viewings will be kept private.

By the way, Vivian now concedes we have arrived at the "Real" Costa Rica!
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Mom on

Your photos are wonderful, and the journal is extremely well written and very
Interesting. Love it. Mom

Jenny on

I loved reading this entry! I am just getting caught up your adventures tonight and am thrilled to be reading about what an amazing time you are having! Wonderful writing with beautiful photos for visuals. I love that Viv deems that you are now in the "real" Costa Rica. Enjoy the adventure and I will enjoy reading about it along the way. ¡Pura vida! - Jenny

steph on

love this! so well written. xoxo. miss you-

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