Throttling down through the clouds with the thunder crackling overhead and sharp lightning just off our wings, the pilot had just enough vision to touch down at the San Jose airport. Pitch dark night, with heavy rain blowing in sheets, we felt rather lucky to be alive—as we scrambled under a heavy downpour to the airport. This was my first flight on the Spanish owned Iberian airlines and I highly recommend their professionalism and outstanding service. I will definitely book their airlines again.
After a crazy taxi ride to San Jose– I settled in at the Johnson Hotel for the night. The following morning I took the first class bus to Cahuita which takes about three and one-half hours. Taking the bus is an excellent way to view the countryside and take in the sights as you cruise through the mountains and reach the fertile green valleys. We passed miles and miles of green palm trees swaying against the bright blue sky and couldn’t help but wonder what lays ahead.
Arriving late afternoon in Cahuita, I thought I must have dreamed about this town before ever laying eyes on it. As I wandered around on the dirt streets and could see this was no modern high rise cement factory— like so many of the other tourist destinations are turning into, but a simple fisherman’s town with it’s quaint buildings, streets, and shops. This entire section of the coast is wild and wonderful with huge colorful plants growing everywhere. I found a backpackers room and thought I was settled in for the night. It’s one thing to hear balling cats during the mating season, and barking dogs that bark all night, but to be awakened by wild horses whining next to your bedroom was a first. Sometimes we need to go with the flow and enjoy what is being served. Speaking of breakfast, I meandered to the north of town and sat in the restaurant for approximately two hours— before I was served my breakfast.
You are thinking ahead of me! This is another of those Zen tests to see if you are going to complain, act out, or adjust. Your self talk takes over and says: “just sit back and relax and watch the cats play in the foreground.” Your alter ego is edging you on and says: “This is mas redicula! I am getting pissed— there must be other restaurants that would appreciate my business. I think I’ll get up and walk out.” Just then my self-talk answers back and says: “what do I care —I have a very comfortable seat and the smells from the kitchen are beginning to permeate through my skin. Just then- A huge cup of steaming hot Costa Rican coffee has arrived and the smiling dark haired waitress welcomes me to Cahuita and takes my order. It’s amazing what a big smile can do!
There were three other customers in the restaurant so I could see why the long delay. Your self talk interrupts and says: “You are just being facetious!” Then the homemade bread with homemade wild berry jam, a fresh tropical fruit plate to die for, plus a large glass of freshly squeezed pineapple juice arrive. I am in food heaven now! And just think I almost left the place. Should we say instead of Father knows best —-“-Zen knows best”!
I love to explore on foot, so I headed north with a small backpack and ran into a native Costa Rican who had the Costa Rican flag mounted on a coconut tree hanging out over the blue waters. ” Of course I love Costa Rica he volunteered. Can’t you see I have my fishing and sleeping shack, several chickens, and yams planted everywhere. Then he broke out into a huge belly laugh. Rich people don’t have this. I am probably the richest person in the world. Look at my sunsets and sunrises, my blue sky, and the beautiful trees that produce coconuts for eating and drinking. My family settled this part of the coast nearly one hundred years ago. There was a ship wreck just yonder and my grandfather and grandmother— originally from the island of St. Vincent, destined to be plantation slaves, escaped and swam to shore. We have been here ever since. Yea mon!— this is the life. I wouldn’t trade it for all of the tea in China. Come back and visit me. Who knows what destiny brings— maybe you will be my neighbor someday.” Looking at this ageless wise man I wondered if this was another test in my journey.
As I trekked farther north I discovered the beaches turned into volcanic black sand; however the water was crystal clear and shimmered a bright blue. I took a long swim and felt like this is the way to travel— just you and the elements. Moments later I came upon a small fisherman’s house with a sign which read: “Restaurante”. I sat on the front porch overlooking the blue sea and shared my meal with the owners. It was a combination of arroz con pescado, breadfruit, and fried bananas. It’s times like this you reflect and wish everyone in the world could have such a good feeling.
The following morning I got an early start and went south through the Cahuita Natural Park. Crabs that looked like rocks and sticks were moving everywhere, plus a variety of birds flying in and out of the canopy. There’s a bright green parrot. Too bad I don’t have my birding notebook, vest, binoculars and those rather intellectual looking glasses birders always have. I figure I have an advantage by knowing the birds are a bit weary of people running up kneeling down and pulling out their birding manuals for a quick spot identification and then talking in low whispers to their birding partners. The little bird asks the big bird why are they spying on us— have they nothing better to do? Birds don’t get it and I don’t either. There’s a family of monkeys scrambling along atop of the canopy. I am the only one in the park it appears. The only human that is!
After walking approximately seven miles and meandering along the beach like a child, I am very relaxed and think to myself— this is it! I pick up a small coconut and play stick ball. I spot a bottle floating and wonder whether it has a message in it. Maybe I will find some gold pieces of eight coins and claim the hidden treasure. What would happen if I got stranded here? I say to myself.”I could live off of the coconuts and crabs if I had too.”
As if in a dream or an oasis here comes a brown bodied bikini girl up the beach. After a brief warm handshake, she told me she was from Germany and was staying in a natural retreat at the southern most point in Costa Rica. “I can walk to Panama if I chose to.” she replied. She wanted some info on the town of Cahuita and was considering relocating for her next leg of her trip. She asked me what I was doing in this part of Costa Rica.. I picked up a flat rock and skipped it about seven times across the bright blue waters and told her: “I was trying to figure out the meaning of life.” She laughed and asked:” if I found it– would I share it!” I thought to myself this is just another of those Zen koan tests and wondered if I passed all of them would I get the big bright light that Buddhist monks and sages talk about throughout history. Just then the black clouds rolled in and the sky opened up with a sharp jolt of lightning— zig zagging down to the edge of the water. I better get a move on —- it looks like a tropical storm is fast approaching. Was this a sign?
Drenched in a downpour, I made it safely to the next town of Puerto Viejo— making my day trek of approximately ten miles. I stayed overnight at a waterfront cabina and met some of the local surfers. They informed me their town of Puerto Viejo is fast getting a reputation as one of the hot spots for surfing in the world. The following day I had a typical fish lunch prepared with coconut, a fresh garden salad, and a huge helping of wild rice. This small friendly restaurant was under a thatched roof with all of the meals prepared by a native husband and wife team. As you finish your second cup of Costa Rican coffee you can’t help but notice the outrageous flowers and plants that are growing everywhere due to the rich soil and extremely warm climate. I hitched a ride back to Cahuita and started looking at maps to start the next leg of my journey.
So there you have it! If you want to spend some time in one of the most tranquil villages in Costa Rica and explore the world famous Cahuita Nature preserve then why not book a trip here and become one with nature. Who knows you might like it so much you will move here someday.
“Costa Rica’s world-renowned natural beauty is abundantly present in Cahuita. Toucans, sloths, iguanas, howler monkeys, sea turtles and other exotic fauna run wild. Orchids, jasmine, ylang ylang, and frangipani perfume the salt-sprayed air. With access to untouched rainforests and volcanic black sand beaches, the village and its surrounding area boast endless possibilities.” —–Frommer’s Guidebook
QUOTE:”The truly still mind, with which you were born, is the mind that moves freely. Without ignoring anything, it reacts wholeheartedly to everything it encounters, to everything on which it reflects. And yet, for all that, it is the mind that is never seized by anything, but is always ready to react on the spot to whatever it encounters next. The mind that is still is the mind that never forfeits its freedom and is able to constantly keep rolling and rolling and rolling.”
– Soko Marinaga Roshi (1925-1995)—–dailyzen.com
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: Did a Beard ever start a war? Surprisingly enough, yes! It all happened back in 1152 in France. King Louis VII, who wore a beard, married the lovely Eleanor of Aquitane, daughter of a French duke. As a dowry, Eleanor’s father gave Louis two provinces in Southern France.
Then Louis went off to the Crusades and, alas, returned without his beard. Eleanor said he looked ugly without the beard and asked him to grow another. Louis refused. Eleanor then divorced him and married King Henry II of England.
Eleanor wanted her father’s two provinces to give to her new husband, but Louis refused. Henry therefore declared war on France to get those provinces by force. That war, called the “War of the Whiskers” lasted 301 years!—–bigsiteofamazingfacts.com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Indigenous people around the world! They have some good secrets and a wealth of information that you will never learn if you eradicate them.
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Travel with an open mind and practice being a cigar-store Indian. You might be amazed what you see and learn.
Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free.