The past ten days we spent our time volunteering at the Rio Celeste Organic Farm with our new friend Luis and his family. Neither one of us had ever done so much manual labor before. It really gave us a deeper appreciation for people who do that kind of work. Our first day of work involved weeding the greenhouse area and planting new keiki (baby) ginger plants. It wasn't too bad. Midway through our work, Luis brought us mini bananas grown on the property. They were the most delicious bananas I've ever tasted. Super sweet with less of a tang than their larger counterparts. We discovered lots of bugs and things, friends and foes in the garden. Andre even found a little baby snake that was red with a black and yellow head. Was it poisonous? We don't know, but we marveled at it anyway. Our second day we hand brushed these wooden planks with wire brushes, stripping all the bark off and smoothing them out. Then we got to spend the weekend at the beach. All I can say about that was that it was a weekend of unexpected affairs including 44 mosquito bites. The sunset was to die for though, and swimming in the ocean was a refreshing reprieve.
Monday was nice and cloudy which meant tolerable temperatures despite the humidity. Don't get us wrong, we were still sweating away. Our task was to finish hand brushing the wooden planks, and then stain them. Tuesday and Wednesday our work was performed under the blistering sun while we hand weeded a garden with machetes. It was tedious! Any sunscreen we put on was soon dripping off our bodies and attracting flying dirt particles. The worst part was uncovering clusters of ants which immediately went crazy crawling all over, biting us on their way. Thursday and Friday we raked up cut weeds, loaded them into a wheelbarrow, and wheeled them off - again under the hot Costa Rican sun. We were praying for clouds which came and went. I guess it was better than working in the pouring rain. There was, though, a soothing element of meditation to all the work. Sometimes we'd play music, sometimes we'd work in silence, but time went by so slowly that the work became an, albeit laborious, meditation. The reward was in knowing that we were helping a local Costa Rican family survive, and see a dream become reality. Luis, the owner of the farm, has a dream for his family's farm and he works incredibly hard each and every day to make that dream come true. I know a lot of our friends back home in LA are all doing the same.
All of our work was done between breakfast and lunch so on two occasions after lunch we had the opportunity to walk down through the jungle to the famous and extraordinary Rio Celeste River! Our trek the first day took an hour and 15 minutes because our "tour guide" didn't know his way. We eventually found a path leading to a beautiful swim hole. The color of the river is the most striking blue you can imagine. It seriously doesn't look real! It's a milky cyan that seems as though someone upstream is playing a trick on you and just dyed the river, but leave it to nature, it's real! Jumping into the cold river was just what the doctor ordered after a hot and disgustingly humid hike. The next day we went back to the river because, yes, it's that amazing. Only this time we went with Luis and he lead us down a path that took no more than 15 minutes to an even more gorgeous part of the river. While we were swimming, we caught a glimpse of the magnificent Blue Morpho Butterfly! It was surreal seeing this plate sized, bright iridescent blue winged creature floating through the jungle! #thisplaceisamazing
As we made our way back toward the house, it started to rain. Then it started to pour. Before we knew it we were caught in a torrential downpour that felt like inescapable buckets of water being poured over our heads. We made it back to the house soaked to the bone with our jaws on the floor at the amount of rain falling. A brand new river formed running down the center of the property! Video on that to come! Friday, our final day on the farm, while we were working away, Luis was struck by a Terciopelo - the most venomous snake in Costa Rica! Fortunately it struck his rubber boot, so he was ok. Sadly, the snake had to be put down because, well, like I said, it's the most venomous snake in the country. They lost 3 cows last year to deadly snake bites. #thisshitisreal After an exhausting end to our work week, we had the opportunity to go to the nearby Tenorio National Park and hike to the celebrated Rio Celeste Waterfall. A sight too stunning for words.
The more time we spent on the farm, the more like family we became which made saying goodbye that much harder. Saturday morning we were sent off by Luis, his permanent volunteer Kenny, and his cousin's family - wife and two children. We hopped on the first of three buses to get to our next destination Monteverde. The first bus was an hour of standing room only. There were several moments where I thought to myself, "There's no way we can fit more people." Yet the bus would stop and groups of 6 would make their way on. The second bus was only 30 minutes, yet it was the most comfortable and easiest of the rides. Our third bus was the funkiest! It was an older refurbished school bus with super narrow seats that we awkwardly maneuvered our way through with our giant backpacks on back and daypacks/camera gear on front. We sat all the way at the back of the bus near an engine I'm guessing because it was very hot. That ride was 2.5 hours on a dirt road through the countryside. The views out the window were gorgeous. Andre and I made the most of the situation, which we always do. Talks of existentialism, pointing out funny signs, videoing and photographing the unique visuals, etc. Finally we arrived in Monteverde. It was raining and we had a rocky, hilly walk to our airbnb. Once inside though, we set our bags down, fell onto the bed and breathed a sigh of extreme relief. That evening we walked to a well known and popular restaurant called Taco Taco. Our walk was graced by the crossing of an armadillo! I just love armadillos! Ok, I love a lot of animals. It felt like a nice welcome gift from nature. Our stay here in Monteverde is a short 3.5 day visit. Thus far we've visited the Orchid Garden and the Butterfly Garden. Plans for the Cloud Forest, a chocolate farming and making tour, and local art to come next. Then it's off to our next and final Costa Rican destination Uvita! Hasta luego amigos! - S