Costa Rica Cost Of Living Update: Package of 2 Gillette Razors— $4.30
Have you been thinking about writing a novel but never seem to be in the right frame of mind? Look no further; I believe I’ve found the perfect place to get started.
Finca Dos Rios is a lovely, rustic farmhouse located just outside of a small town called Balsar. My friend Anne, the owner, invites us down for a couple of days.
“Jorge, the caretaker, will give you a tour of the property. Are you up for getting on a horse?” The answer is no. I do not want to horseback ride again considering every time I do, I find I’m myself racing up a steep mountain or at the edge of a cliff. I can never seem to find flat ground while riding a horse.
“I’ll pass on that Anne.”
“Ok, but don’t you want to see the ancient sphere?” she asks.
“Wait, you have a sphere on your property?”
“A real one?”
“Yes, but the best way to see it is by horse.”
Oh boy, this is a game changer. Spheres are one of the biggest archeological mysteries in Costa Rica. They date back to at least a thousand years, and no one is certain how they were carved. They’re usually found by workers clearing fields, and now I have a chance to see one not in a museum, but right where it has been sitting for eons. I’ll certainly get on a horse for this.
Anne’s farmhouse is approximately forty-five minutes south of Dominical. We turn left at kilometer marker 196 and drive up a dirt road leading to another dirt road. The more dirt roads you encounter in Costa Rica the better your chances of seeing something really good.
As per Anne’s instructions, we stop by her caretaker’s house. He’s out working on the farm, so his wife calls to let him know we’ve arrived. A few moments later, we hear the clickety-clack of horseshoes against the stones in the road. Two riders approach; Jorge and his five-year-old son. The child’s head is held high; his small hands holding onto the reigns, steering the horse without any trace of fear in his eyes. He’s so little that his legs barely fall past the bottom of the saddle. It makes me feel silly for fearing something this child is confidently managing. I think I just found a way to crack everyone’s phobias: watch a child do the very same thing that they themselves are afraid of.
Jorge grabs a key from his wife, instructs us to follow him, and gallops away like the Lone Ranger. He goes so fast, our Mitsubishi can’t keep up and he disappears in a cloud of dust. Eventually, we find him up the road, unlocking a large gate with two metal carvings of cattle welded to it, and follow him as he trots up the driveway. It’s now we realize why Anne wanted us to visit. It’s divine.
As we step out of the car, a flock of parrots pass overhead and land on an adjacent tree. One stretches his wings above us as a holy man would welcoming a group into his fold. It’s as if I’m stepping on sacred land.
These parrots look different from the ones I usually see in Guanacaste. They seem bigger, louder, and more colorful. When one flock flies away, another group lands. There must be hundreds.
Rob collects our bags and carries them inside the house. As Anne suggested, we plan a horseback tour of the property with Jorge. He promises to show us the sphere and gallops back home.
“It’s really hot today,” I say while putting on one of Anne’s cowboy hats.
“She said it’ll cool off tonight,” Rob replies while tying a GoPro camera around his neck.
“Why are you wearing that around your neck?”
“I can get video footage with the GoPro while simultaneously freeing my hands to take pictures. It’s genius.”
Jorge returns to the house with two additional horses. Mine has satiny, brown hair and blue eyes, looking more like a Hollywood horse than a working farm one. Jorge gives me a boost and hands me the reigns. Here I go again on another horseback riding excursion, but at least this time, it’s for fun and not to look at a piece of property that requires my friends boarding a helicopter to visit.
As we enter the woods the air cools ten degrees. Trees surround us, and all the obscure sounds of the forest become more recognizable: birds in the trees, melodic frog calls, and the rustling of a forest floor full of life and decay. The sun manages to peek through branches, piercing the air with golden lightsabers.
“I can’t believe how wonderful this is! Take a picture,” I yell back to Rob, but he is too busy getting smacked in the face with the GoPro. It’s genius: every time he goes over a bump, the GoPro socks him in the nose. He attempts to let go of the reigns to take a picture but almost falls off the horse. I swiftly turn back around and pray that I won’t need to use my YouTube medical degree today.
We stop by a river and Jorge explains how white-faced monkeys occasionally stop here for a drink before darting back up into the trees. They never stay on the ground long, always fearing predators, namely caiman. There are no white-faced monkeys here today, but I bet they’re watching from overhead. This forest is full of peeping Toms.
The three of us trot toward a herd of cattle that barely acknowledge our existence. One mother has a suckling baby and refuses to budge. The horses don’t seem to care and push straight past them. My leg brushes up against the baby calf who glances upwards, batting her eyelashes at me as if on a casting call. It’s amazing what you notice on a trail ride when you aren’t having a panic attack.
We pass under a Mamón Chino tree and I watch Jorge yank the fruit from its branch, peel off the skin, and eat the inside. He’s been picking things off trees throughout the entire tour. I guess you don’t need to pack a lunch when you work on this farm: just shop at the produce market dangling overhead.
The Mamón Chino tree is crowded with its odd-looking fruit. At first glance, you might shy away from eating one; its exterior has rubbery tentacles emanating from it like a Koosh ball. Remarkably, what’s hidden inside is white fruit that tastes like a plum. There must be a thousand of them hanging from this tree, and an equal amount untidily strewn on the ground. It’s impossible to starve if you have one of these in your backyard. They are probably a lot of fun for the children, who undoubtedly pelt each other with the fruit after school. We had snowballs growing up; they have Mamón Chinos, each one perfect for smacking your friend in the face when no one is looking.
Jorge takes us farther up the mountain and points into the distance. I see it: the sphere. Only the top half is excavated, the rest still buried in the same ground it’s been sitting in for over a thousand years. I jump off my horse and run my hand over it. It’s cold, smooth, and I can’t get over how a person made this for some unknown reason lifetimes ago. Many think these spheres were created in honor of a nearby volcano they may have worshiped, but there are no volcanoes in this part of the country. Some believe that the stones these spheres are made of may not be native to this area, and have been hauled in from other parts of the country. How exactly did they do that? What kind of tools did they use?
As I brush my hand against it, I wonder if this same family of parrots stretched their wings over ancient civilizations as they have for Rob and I. Or if white-faced monkeys sipped from streams while natives chiseled the rocks. These spheres hold many mysteries and are just as historically significant as Easter Island or Stonehenge.
The last part of our tour takes us to the very top of the mountain. I gasp as I am greeted with a three hundred and sixty-degree view of the area. My horse seems equally impressed and stands at full attention. To my right, I can see the beaches of Uvita, and to my left is the Osa Peninsula. Down below roofs dot the countryside like tiny monopoly houses. I’m so grateful for this, all of it: the trail ride, my patient tour guide, and the time I’m spending with Rob. The view reminds me of how marvelous this world is, and how much more I want to see of it. I can’t believe I’ve been in this country for seven years, and still feel like I just stepped off the plane. I often find myself here: on top of the world. However, there is something even more special about today.
My horse is on autopilot as we make our way back to the house. There is no need to pull on the reigns, as he obediently follows Jorge down the mountain.
“Wow… look up honey!” Rob says as we return to the house. A pack of Titi monkeys jumps from branch to branch, dropping broken twigs as they go. Titi monkeys must be some of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen. They have an adorable white and black facial mask across their face and bounce across the treetops in groups ranging from twenty to seventy-five. Titis communicate through squeals and chirps, and when encountering a predator they let out a specific high-pitched alarm to warn their buddies before diving for cover. Their bodies are small, only about ten to seventeen inches in length, but the main reason I love them so much is because they are monogamous. After a female gives birth the father plays a large role in caring for their young.
We jump off our horses and say goodbye to Jorge. He gallops away and once again disappears in a cloud of dust. As we enter the farmhouse we are surprised to find a fruit basket unlike any other. I shouldn’t even call it a fruit basket, more like a fruit table. While we were gone, Jorge’s wife brought us coconuts, lemons, mangos, oranges, bananas, red peppers and Mamón Chinos. There is no possible way we can eat all of this in the short time we are spending here. I open the refrigerator to find a covered plate with a large wedge of white cheese inside. Who knew we’d enjoy a five-star experience in this lovely little, rustic farmhouse?
As Anne promised, the cool night air sweeps away any lingering heat. There is no Internet here, but I am able to get a faint 3G signal and it is strong enough to send an email, but not fast enough to surf the web. I’m actually happy about this; I didn’t come here to play on the computer all day.
We lie in bed filling our stomachs with fruit and cheese as the stars twinkle outside our window. The faint hum of an overhead fan is barely heard over the sounds of the crickets and toads. It’s the perfect finale to a day that has been filled with adventure; a day where I learned that I actually like horseback riding.
Rob also learned not to tie a camera around his neck while riding a horse, but I have to give him credit. He did get great pictures and video of me on that mountain, gasping at its view and feeling on top of the world. It was genius after all.
If you would like to rent the farmhouse or take the horseback riding tour of Anne’s property, you may contact her on Facebook or through her email: