I can’t believe we leave for Peru in less than 3 days! It’s our last day in the quaint beach town of Uvita, but it’s one of the first days we have nothing to do but just chill and hang out. With nothing on the books today, we both had plans of sleeping in. Between the Howler Monkeys howling, and flocks of Scarlet Macaws squawking, and consistently waking up early every day since we’ve been here, it was difficult for me to sleep in. So I’m up, with coffee in hand, and at this very moment writing from the hammock on the porch. It’s working out better than I even predicted, but we’ll see how long I can last writing in this position. The sounds that surround me are mesmerizing - cicadas buzzing away becoming the monotonous white noise of the jungle, alongside grasshoppers shaking their rattles, various birds singing and chirping, roosters cawing, (Is that what roosters do? Caw? Or is the technical term cuck-a-doodle-doing?) I can even hear the deep roll of the ocean breaking from here. It smells like fresh, dampen tropical earth, and now all my senses are fully engaged. 

I previously left off the day before our hike through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We found a recommended guide by the name of Jorge through Trip Advisor. Someone left a review saying, how great he was and to just contact him directly “here’s his number: “ So we did just that and made plans to meet up with Jorge in the morning. We got up early, made breakfast and coffee and then walked the 20 minutes to get into town to catch the 7:30am bus to the reserve. The roads here are very primitive and at times hard to believe the buses drive through these places, but what choice do they have? Once at the reserve, we waited in line for our tickets and linked up with Jorge. We only had one other hiker with us, her name was Siobhan from the UK. We felt so lucky to have such a small, intimate group! Right off the bat, Jorge inspired us with his vast knowledge of the jungle and it’s inhabitants. Immediately he spotted a type of Costa Rican Robin, who was in fact, in the middle of mating. He had never seen this happen his entire 12 years of guiding. We were off to a sexy start! 

Jorge was a wizard at spotting things. He had along with him a telescope, so he’d spot a creature and then zoom right into it so we could take turns seeing it up close. The best thing about Jorge was not just his vast knowledge, but his passion - for nature, for his home Costa Rica, for the jungle, for life. It truly made our experience in the Cloud Forest a rich event. One of the highlights was when I spotted a tarantula crawling slowly on the side of the path. Jorge immediately went over to pick it up. His calm and interested demeanor made me want to hold the giant, fuzzy spider too! So one by one, each of us took turns handling this wild tarantula. According to Jorge, they’re not poisonous and would only bite if they felt threatened, and even if they did bite, it’s no worse than a bee sting. Siobhan even summoned up her courage, challenged her fear of spiders, and held the tarantula! We were beyond blessed with perfect weather; a light misty rain in the morning, sun peaking through in the afternoon, and the famous clouds blowing in and out allowing us the chance to at once be enveloped by the mystifying clouds, and the next moment to have a limitless view open wide for us. What was supposed to be a 3 hour tour was already at 5 hours long! Unfortunately we didn’t see as many mammals as we hoped for. No monkeys, no sloths, but it didn’t seem to matter as there were endless amounts of things to marvel at. The one thing Andre really wanted to see was the infamous Quetzal. A symbol of Costa Rica. A legend in it’s own right. And they’re here, in this forest! We were at the tail end of our 5.5 hour tour and I spotted something dip off a tree and fly into the forest. We stopped and waited for a moment. Then…”There! It’s a Quetzal!!” I exclaimed. “This is a miracle!” said Jorge as he hurriedly set up the telescope. The Quetzal is a magical looking bird decorated with bright iridescent blue and green feathers, long cascading plumes of perfectly coiffed tail feathers, and a distinct little tuft atop its cute head. We didn’t have very much time to wonder at this creature before it flew off again, but it was a true gift to be sent away with. A quote by John Muir states, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” I can say with most certainty that this is true. I felt a literal glow emanating from the inside of my soul out walking out of the jungle. It was a magical feeling I won’t soon forget. 

By the end of the hike, the four of us had felt like a group of old friends. We were all starving so Jorge took us to a nearby local restaurant that I’m sure we wouldn’t have found on our own. It was the most delicious Costa Rican meal I’d had this whole trip! Then the four of us went to the local cheese making factory and got milkshakes! I felt like a little kid. We ended our time together interviewing Jorge for Love Set Run. It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends, but that’s just part of traveling. The impermanence of things is felt at an almost constant rate. You just start to get to know a place, or a person, and you have to leave. Saying goodbye to Monteverde had me in tears. There was something about it that captured a piece of my heart. 

 The Love Forest, I mean, Cloud Forest.

The Love Forest, I mean, Cloud Forest.

Our cat Kiki passed away just a couple months before this trip. We’ve planned to have a ceremony and spread her ashes in every country we visit. Costa Rica being the first country, I’ve constantly been on the lookout, and listening to my intuition, on where I should put a piece of Kiki. Monteverde felt like such a special place, but there was never a time or location that presented the perfect moment to do so. Our last morning in Monteverde was a super early one. I was up at 3:45am to finish packing and catch a 5:15am taxi to the bus station. As I was brushing my teeth, the necklace that Kiki’s ashes are in fell off. I caught it with my free hand underneath my shirt. I tried to catch all the ashes and put them back in the bottle, but for some reason they weren’t fitting as compactly. So I felt like it was sign that part of Kiki should stay in Monteverde. I remembered that when we first arrived at our Airbnb and our host came to greet us, there was a beautiful Blue-gray Tanager that flew into the tree outside our unit. Kiki had the most gorgeous blue eyes; and in Kiki’s final days, a pet intuitive told us that she would bring us messages through birds and feathers. As we ran down through the rain to catch our taxi, I stopped to sprinkle a little of Kiki’s ashes in the tree with the blue bird. 

 The Blue-gray Tanager in Monteverde & Kiki

The Blue-gray Tanager in Monteverde & Kiki

Uvita is primarily known for a very special geologic formation along the coast called a Tombolo. It’s an outcropping of land that’s connected to the beach by a long spit, only visible during low tide. The curious thing about the Tombolo here in Uvita is that it’s shaped just like a whale’s tail, and each year this area attracts the migration of Humpback whales specifically to reproduce and nurture their young before heading back out to cooler waters. Do they know? Did the gods create a signal for the whales? It’s just too uncanny. On Thursday afternoon, we caught the low tide and walked out to the end of the “whale tail.” I made a bouquet of flowers and we had our Kiki ceremony out on the edge of the rocks. By the end of our ceremony, the tide had already begun rise and come back in. It was the perfect place to honor Kiki here in Costa Rica. 

 Uvita Whale Tail, photo by Andre Mercier

Uvita Whale Tail, photo by Andre Mercier

We hung out on the beach for a bit and watched the crabs busy themselves digging holes. It was pretty hilarious watching their scoop, drag, and pat down technique. As we were leaving the beach, I picked up trash, as I usually do. I’ve noticed a trend that when I pick up trash on a beach, I usually find a gorgeous shell. So I did indeed find a beautiful, intact shell as my prize. However, I knew it’s home is here and not in my pocket, so we offered it back the sea. 

The past three days, Andre and I completed the final portion of our PADI Open Water Scuba Diving certification course. The first day was at a pool learning all the exercises we would be asked to perform in the ocean. The next two days were spent out at Caño Island, 50 meters off the coast of Uvita; about an hour and a half boat ride. Since it’s the rainy season, the local diving has poor visibility from runoff sediment, so we were encouraged to do our dives off Caño Island. Caño is a small, protected national reserve, so it’s teeming with life! The fish have no human threats so they aren’t afraid of divers. Large schools of fish comfortably let us float on into their classrooms! We did two separate dives each day. On Friday we saw White Tipped Reef sharks, stingrays, turtles, eels, a giant lobster, an eel bickering with a lobster, starfish, parrotfish, Bluefin Jacks, Runts, Morish Idols, beautiful, delicate sea fans, and all kinds of different fish. Saturday on the boat ride out to the island we saw Brydy whales surface! We also had a pod of dolphins come swim alongside the boat, I spotted a turtle at the surface, and on our last dive, we were graced by the esteemed presence of a 15ft wide Manta Ray!! This was definitely some of the most spectacular diving we’ve done together. Both Andre and I passed our course with flying fish colors! Our instructor Sarah was just awesome. We feel very accomplished and super stoked to finally be certified. What a perfect way to end our stay in Costa Rica. 

 Officially certified divers, with our instructor Sarah

Officially certified divers, with our instructor Sarah

We have one more bus ride from Uvita to San Jose. Our last night in Costa Rica is at an Airbnb yoga studio/apartment so we get to participate in yoga class mañana! I’ve also made contact with a fellow Nichiren Buddhist Soka Gakkai member in San Jose. We have plans to meet up with him for breakfast tomorrow before our flight(s) to Peru. It just so happens that he’s an environmental specialist, so he’s agreed to do an interview with us! Our rhythm is palpable. I’m excited to see what the next chapter has in store. Adios Costa Rica. Hasta la próxima vez!