Pura Vida

I’ve been in Cabuya, Costa Rica since June 19th. My specific location is at Resurrection Ranch which is part of Horse Spirit Healing, a place created by my SIL whose specialty is Equine Gestalt Therapy.

My first impressions of Costa Rica were mixed. While the place is beautiful and tropical, San Jose was a typical, bustling city with an energy to match. They are under Covid restrictions which restrict travel and require masks among other things.

The first obvious difference was transportation. Rental cars were in short demand and apparently only high end models are automatic transmission. We witnessed a US couple walk away after discovering the car they reserved was manual transmission and no other cars were available. The models of cars were also different with many being older models from the US, most from the early 2000’s or earlier.

While our hotel was nice, it was not long before I began to see how the lifestyle here is very different from the US. You are lucky if you find a place with a/c and hot water. We had both, but the hot water took so long that I gave up on waiting for it. The a/c worked but made such a horrid sound that I opted to just turn it off. The sun rises around 5:30am and sets around 6:30-7pm. This doesn’t change throughout the year because there are no seasons really except for “rainy” and “dry”. The temps are also pretty consistent – humid and in the 80’s. Most Costa Ricans just don’t use a/c because the nights are pretty comfortable in the mid-70’s in most places. I hear the mountains get much cooler, though.

The drive to Cabuya took around 5hours and we had to get on a ferry to go to the peninsula. The roads were of good quality and navigation was not a problem. There were iguana crossing signs all over, which I thought was funny. I was grateful my husband is fluent in Spanish because there were tolls to be paid, about 5-6 total, on the way and the ferry tickets to be purchased. I know some Spanish but not enough to get into details, just enough to ask directions and prices, etc.

Once in Cabuya the reality of this place and just how “pura” it is was unavoidable. Cabuya is very rural and towns are not like ours, not by a longshot. A town is mostly just people with businesses from their homes along the roads. You only know you have entered a smaller town because of the sign.

Our accommodations were provided by my SIL who rents 400 acres and three cabanas. Our cabana was 2 bedrooms. It did have a/c (yay!) but the other amenities were sparse. The houses are built very simply and doors and windows are not sealed so every bug can enter and exit, and they do! Every morning it looked like the bugs had a party as the floors were covered in dead ones and excrement, carcasses, and ants or spiders or centipedes. Geckos hung out inside and chirped all night and day.

We had no hot water and no oven or microwave or really any more modern conveniences. It is like we were glamping (in an RV) but inside a house. The stove, had there been one, would have been tiny. Coffee makers are a luxury. Most people live outside on their porches during the day and into the night. Some have beds outside and are quite expansive. The kitchen I have now has no windows, just wire “screens”. Their washing machines are different, too, with one side to wash and the other to rinse and spin. If you want hot water to clean the clothes you have to boil it. There are no dryers used. They just hang the clothes outside. I discovered this is the norm. Everyone lives like this.

It took me most of the week to get use to living like this and now I am perfectly fine with it. I did not had any issues sleeping which was nice!

The weather was another surprise. We came in the rainy season and the storms sound like hurricanes when they blow through. With a tin roof I was sure the house would blow away, but it didn’t. I have since grown use to this, too.

The 80 degree weather feels like 90 or more. The humidity is killer and I grateful that I packed mostly tank tops and gym shorts that dry quickly and are made for high amounts of sweat. If I’m not wearing that I am wearing a bikini top with shorts (mine is like a half tankini). It makes it easier to just strip down and get in some water to cool down.

The activities we participated in were not planned. My SIL wanted us to meet and be with the herd, so we did lots of that. We also took advantage of a pool and restaurant across the road which also had a great beach. The only drawback of the beaches here is there are lots of volcanic rocks and stones which can cut your feet. The kids usually opted for the pool as did I but we did go into the ocean a few times. The water was also very dirty so when you got out you had to rinse off well or a piece of the sea would go home with you.

The flora and fauna constantly surprise me. The sounds never end and there are some odd ones! The frog sounds scared me at first but now I am use to them. They do not sound like any frog I’ve ever heard! The first morning, howler monkeys were close and I was thoroughly freaked out. If you’ve ever seen the movie I Am Legend, the sounds are like the infected. I immediately thought of that movie when I heard it. Not a nice sound to wake up to! I have sense gotten use to it, too.

There are also critters on the tin roof and fruits falling with a loud bang. Iguanas are the main visitors making scratching sounds that kinda freaked me out at first because I didn’t know what it was. The loud bangs from fruits falling in the night often wake me up. It sounds like someone kicking in the door.

Other things I’ve noticed: cell phone and data coverage are limited, everyone uses What’s App, the stores have limited food items but do carry some US stuff at extreme prices, fruit is everywhere so you just go outside and pick what you want (mangoes mostly). There are lots of naked toddlers as it is normal to just let them run around naked. People also let their kids (and pets) wander. The cars/bikes won’t stop for you so don’t get in their way. Going barefoot is common. There are land crabs that come into the house and crawl up the walls (ick!). The monkeys will throw their feces at you (hahaha). The natives here are called Tico. Most speak some English. You can go to “town” and get pretty much any food item that nature provides and then some – beer, honey, milk, jams/jellies, baked goods, chocolate, etc. There is even a local woman who does nails! Another local is coming to give me a massage on Sunday and there is a woman who teaches acupuncture. The store milk goes bad quickly so I drink almond milk but you can buy it fresh from someone in town. They do take US dollars but you will get their money back. Not many people smoke but drinking is common and drunk people not unusual. lol There is a “town drunk”. Ylang Ylang trees are native and the scent is intoxicating (I want one!). There are lots of Americans who have transplanted here as well as people from other countries. I met an India man yesterday and someone from the UK recently as well. It is not unusual to find someone just hanging out for months or years without ever getting residency.

I may write another post about the horse healing at a later date when I have time. Since I decided to stay on for three more weeks I should get around to it, but I’ve been focusing on being lazy and inactive since my family went back to the US.

Below are some images of my trip. The images of the cabana are of the one I am currently living in – one bedroom, no a/c or hot water and kitchen that allows all kinds of critters inside (land crabs for one).