Week Eight: The Secret Garden

We haven’t gotten very far.  We came out to Zancudo (only 30km or so from Punta Banco, but it takes you almost an hour to get here as you drive through three good sized rivers and around potholes that would eat a small car alive), to see the friends we met in San Vito, completely unsure whether they had gotten my message, or if they were even still here or whether they had invited us thinking that there was no way we would actually come.  We got here and discovered: no, they had not gotten my message; yes, there were still here; and if they were faking the invite they’ve covered it up nicely now.

Melissa is designing her own natural and holistic skin care line and is here doing research on sources for free-trade natural ingredients, like the ylang ylang oil.  Together we searched out the nearby curandera (“curer”), also called the witch by some of the locals.  To get to her home we drove a little ways out of town until we came to a yard where the plants grow so thickly they spill over the top of the fence and you cannot see the house.  The gate is padlocked, so we had to convince them that our intentions were good before we could come inside.  We came armed with gifts of bread, cookies, peppermint oil and money.

The couple (it turns out her husband is involved with the plants too) spent about 3 ½ hours with us telling us all about the plants.  Usually both of them would be talking at once while a parrot in the background squawked crazily, which makes it hard to understand the Spanish, but somehow I seemed to get it.  Apparently the parrot gets jealous and the husband had to go and reassure her that it was alright and talk to her a bit before she would be quiet long enough for us to talk.  They brought out all kinds of tinctures and potions for us to try, usually refusing to tell us what they were until after we had tasted it and laughing at the nasty faces we pulled at the more bitter ones.  They told us their secret recipes too.  I could pass them on to you here, but then I’d have to kill you.  We left with our arms full of flowers, neroli leaves, bits of bark, scattered seeds, several grapefruits, about ten coconuts and our heads stuffed to the brim with medicinal plant lore.

While us girls were working the boys were playing.  The kids got to take surfboards out for the first time, even standing up on the boards!  The surf is mellower here than in Punta Banco – definitely a better beach to learn on.  Aidan was sore the next day, after spending two hours helping the kids lug the boards around.  Because of our timing with the curandera, we weren’t able to leave for Golfito that day, which means that we had to stay in Zancudo surfing and doing pilates classes on the beach until Saturday since buses and things weren’t running over the holiday.  Oh the hardship.

Saturday morning we took a boat up the bay to Golfito.  Melissa and Cayden came with us to say good-bye and to enjoy the ride.  It was lovely, but alas, no crocodiles, so the boy was disappointed.  The taxi driver met us at the dock and we made our way to Uvita.  Here however, we realized that we had made a mistake.  You see, in Zancudo and Pavones people had been saying ‘oh, watch out for the huge tourist rush at the holidays’, but it never came.  The locals were getting concerned since a good portion of their income for the year is dependent on the tourism boom between Dec. 15 and New Years.  We took this as a sign that things were going to be mellow and it would be ok to just roll on in to Uvita and find the place we liked best to stay in.  Once again – and I seem to find myself saying this a lot on this trip – we were wrong.  The hotels were packed out, not so much with gringo tourist but with Ticos from all over the country, there to enjoy the park with their families.  The only place we could find to stay was a little motel right across the lane form the pounding disco dance hall.  It was so full there that people were literally setting up camp on our doorstep at 11:00pm.  In the morning, after wading through the people outside, we left in search of something better.

We found a cute cabina run by a sweetheart called Cabinas Los Laureles.  From there we wandered the town and hiked up to a waterfall called cascada verde which features beautiful green pools that you can swim and dive in.  That night the power went out.  We thought it was only out on our little dirt road, so we walked out in the torrential downpour to get to the office so we could call a cab and go get some food, but when we got there we were told that the power was out clear up to Dominical and down to Palmar and so we had a choice: we could either beg the afore-mentioned sweetheart for a ride in to the grocery store (which had a limited amount of back-up power), or pay about $40 each way for a cab to take us for dinner in another town.  So, we ended up making a dinner of almond butter and cheese sandwiches, cashews and avocados by flashlight in our cabina.

Yesterday we did our dolphin watching 3-hour tour (insert Gilligan’s Island theme song here).  Here is a play-by-play for you of what goes on in my head during this time:

First hour: please don’t throw up, please don’t throw up, please don’t throw up, etc.

Second hour: maybe I should throw up – I wonder if dolphins are attracted to regurgitated almond butter and coffee?

Beginning of the Third hour: the kids are getting mutinous and I’m considering letting them go psycho on the captain if we don’t see something soon.

But then, just as hope is nearly lost… there they are.  Whole groups of them playing alongside the boat.  And it’s like magic and somehow you don’t care about the previous hours of nauseated hell.  The kids are running back and forth looking off the sides as people are shouting ‘oye’ and pointing as they breach all around us.  Wonderful.  Snorkeling was also part of the tour and that was lots of fun, following the beautiful fish over the anemones.

When we got back the hotel search had to begin again however, since Los Laureles was all reserved for that night.  Sweetheart/Victor started calling places for us.  He called literally everybody in the book and we could not find anything.  I was starting to threaten that we would be sleeping under the picnic table on his deck.  Finally, he called “a friend who might know something about something” and his friend happened to be standing and talking to someone he knew when his phone rang and the person he was talking to just happened to be the owner of a new ridiculously beautiful five-star resort that had taken too long to finish and therefore was not booked.

So, here we are.  The four of us and the owner are the only people here.  We are the first guests to stay in our room.  The kids have taken over the pool.  I am sitting with my laptop looking out over the rainforest covered mountain on either side, the pool in the foreground, the ocean just past it and the only sounds, other then my banshee-shrieking children, are the waterfall and the birds.

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