We recently spent a day exploring the Barra Honda National Park. It’s about an hour from Samara and is a unique place in Costa Rica, as the park sits atop numerous intricate limestone caverns. The Barra Honda mesa is mostly flat but climbs up to 450 feet at its highest point with a dramatic view of the Tempisque Valley and the Nicoya Gulf in the distance. The base of the Barra Honda hill is a former coral reef, from over 60 million years ago. It was uplifted by tectonic faulting, which raised the seabed. The rains then created dramatic underground water paths, and the massive amounts of rainwater that flowed through these paths millions of years ago resulted in a mysterious system of underground caves, covered in sparkling limestone.
We each paid $30 for a guided hike through the park. Our tour guide Joe was very friendly and knowledgeable as we meandered our way through the vegetation. He paused to point out many medicinal and edible plants. He showed us a plant that tastes like garlic and is used to season food, and another plant that acts as a natural medicine for numbing tooth pain. He pointed out a bark that can be eaten to reduce kidney stones, and a special root you can dig up to help with sinus issues and breathing problems. Joe also showed us a plant with spikes on it, which the locals plant inside fences to keep animals or intruders out. The plant has a delicious pineapple-tasting fruit hidden in the center, protected by the barbed-wire like plant leaves.
Our first stop on the tour was the dramatic lookout point with a sweeping view of the valley, village and gulf below:
We enjoyed the view and fresh mountain air, and then continued on our hike to the La Cuevita cave opening to begin our cave spelunking. We were each given a helmet, head lamp and were hooked to a harness. One by one we descended the narrow ladder 17 meters down into this mysterious cavern below the Earth.
The cave is filled with a peaceful silence, as the wind and elements outside seem to disappear. As I shine my head lamp around I notice the luminous forms and patterns jumping out from the shadows. We are standing in an underground art gallery created by God. The special energy of this cave can be felt instantly and everyone is quiet with appreciative silence as we admire the works of art that surround us. We are being given a glimpse into the core of the Earth and the magic that is contained there.
Eventually we descend another ladder down into the deepest part of the cave. The limestone figures sparkle around us as Joe points out shapes and sections they have nicknamed. There is a giant sea turtle, a hidden octopus and a protective lion head overlooking the cave entrance. We admire a grouping of figures that is called “the holy family”, which looks like a naturally formed nativity set carved into the limestone.
We turn off our lights and sit in complete darkness, surrounded by a peaceful silence that penetrates our souls. I am blown away by Mother Nature and her talent. We are in a sensory deprivation chamber and this pure and naked moment is one I want to live in.
Eventually we exit the cave and climb back up the long ladder, to join the outside world. The jungle around us is filled with howler monkey cries and exotic birds calling to each other. A unique and beautiful experience, one we will never forget and will carry inside us.
scorpions for breakfast…
Sophie has a stomach of steel, she is a very adventurous eater and will try anything once. She has no fear. Watch out Andrew Zimmern! Watching her eat a whole tarantula was traumatizing enough for me, but I should have known that was only the beginning. The other night she started making her typical “doggy puke” sounds, and casually throws up an entire scorpion onto the kitchen floor. No big deal. And it was still in one piece.
We have no idea how long it was in her stomach, or where or when she ate it, but she seems to be fine and there is no evidence of scorpion stings around her mouth, or anywhere else. That scorpion didn’t stand a chance against the Sophinator. I hope he sent a message to his friends before he took his last breath, a telepathic note to at all costs avoid the loco-hotdog-shaped-canine-scorpion-hunter.
We recently discovered a hidden gem in Samara. La Perla is a small family-owned soda located just off the beach. Sodas are local restaurants that are known to serve delicious and affordable Costa Rican food, but they don’t serve alcohol (which may be part of the reason it took us so long to eat at one). We gather around a surfboard table and order. Almost everything on the menu is only $5. You can’t even cook a meal around here for that price. Angi and I try the chicken chalupa and Andy orders pan fried chicken. Everything is incredibly delicious and we are all impressed with the quality and amount of food we get for only $5/plate.
Angi and I love it so much that we eat there again the next day for lunch, and we’ve been back almost every other day since discovering the place. We love watching the family that owns it, and lives there, working together to take orders, cook the food and wash the dishes. They work hard, and are very welcoming. This place exudes good energy. If you’re ever in Samara this is a restaurant you have to try. (Mom if you’re reading this you better plan another trip back ASAP to try this local gem.)
the Caribbean is calling…
We are in the process of saying another temporary goodbye to Samara and getting ready to begin our next adventure. For the month of February we’ve rented a tiny 1 bedroom cabin in Puerto Viejo, 100 yards from the beach. It is next door to a funky beach resort with a large and welcoming pool, which we will have access to for free. The Caribbean side has limited air-conditioning but of course I managed to find the one rental in the town with A/C. (I have my ways.)
We’ve spent the last couple of months sharing our favorite parts of Samara with our families and loved ones. It’s incredible watching everyone fall in love with this beach town that will always have a place in our hearts. But now it’s time to get back to what we came here to do, which is to explore every inch of this country, and to see every possible beach that we can see. I love having the freedom to point to any place on a map and say let’s move there next.
For the next 4-5 months we have a list of places we want to check out. We plan to live for at least a month in each town, and to possibly venture into Panama, or Nicaragua, or another country. Our schedule is wide open, leaving room for us to stay longer in any place we fall in love with. February seems like a good month to fall in love. And eventually we plan to come back to Samara to end our travels in the same place they began.
Hasta luego Samara, until we meet again...
White-faced monkey sex
On our recent trip to the secret tidal pools of Carrillo we also took my mom to what we call “lookout point”. A random stop on a jungle road, we take a trail that leads down to dramatic rock cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At the very edge of the lookout point you are nearly surrounded by ocean. Standing on this cliff, overlooking the edge of the world, enveloped by the endless sea...I feel like Leonardo Dicaprio in Titanic, and I have to stop myself from shouting that I am the king of the world.
As we get back to the car we notice a family of monkeys in the treetops above us. Upon closer inspection we see they are white-faced monkeys, or capucin monkeys, which seems to be a rare sighting in Samara, as we’ve never seen them in this area.
Capucin monkeys are known to be one of the most intelligent species of monkeys in the world. They are smaller (and much quieter) than the howler monkeys that act as our 4am alarm clock each morning. Andy grabs our camera and fires away as they swing from the limbs, inspecting us and munching on leaves. He points out two monkeys cuddled together in a tree and snaps away on the camera. He tells me they were just hugging, but upon closer inspection of our photos…I think it’s safe to say we captured some accidental monkey porn...
It’s a Dog’s Life…
(You know you’re an animal lover when you see a dog and your first instinct is to say hi to it, and when you see a person your first instinct is to think how do I make it go away?)
One of my favorite things about Samara is all the roaming beach dogs. In a small town like this you get to know the local animals as quickly as you get to know the human residents. We have nicknames for all the regulars and when Andy or I come back from a lone beach walk we always ask “did you see any dogs you know”? My personal favorite is “Tripod”. A sweet soul of a black lab, with only three legs and a graying snout. He hobbles up and down the line of beach bars each afternoon, looking for anyone who is willing to share their meal. He may be one of Samara’s most famous residents. He is well-fed and has a nice owner, but the dogs in Samara roam freely around the town and come home when they please.
I also love “Snaggletooth”, the small tan and white dog that explores the beach of Carrillo each day. He has an underbite and a snaggletooth that sticks out. He is very sweet and friendly, sometimes a little too friendly when he tries to hump someone’s leg, but we’re always happy to see him.
“The Wieners” are another crowd favorite. Sophie has some competition in the cute weenie department. We love to watch this pair of long dogs waddling around town. Nothing is cuter than two little dick-shaped-dogs playing in the surf at sunset.
But not every dog we see regularly and nickname is all pura vida. There is the dreaded “Loco-Muzzle-Dog”, who runs around with a big muzzle on his face and an even bigger attitude. He chases and terrorizes people and dogs, pausing only to try to rip the muzzle from his face. He’s the reason we prefer to walk the beach with a machete. And we can’t forget the gang of “Murderous Mastiffs”. They have been involved in multiple attacks, from what we’ve heard, and we always try to avoid them if possible (although for the record they are very cute and seem to be nice to most people).
We recently completed our 2nd border run to Nicaragua to renew our passport stamps. Every 90 days we have to exit the country and then re-enter, to renew our travel visas. On our way to the border we dropped off my mom at the airport in Liberia. Thanks for everything mom, we miss you already! Hope you’re staying warm and come back soon! Te Amo Mucho!!!
Our friends Eric and Kalen came with us again and this time our sailing was not so smooth. As we were waiting in a long line to get back into Costa Rica, the power went out and all computers were down. We stood in a stagnant non-moving line for over 3 hours. Eventually we made it back through and happened to meet a very nice girl named Magy, from Switzerland originally. She was crossing from Nicaragua and heading to Santa Teresa, in Costa Rica, to surf. Her iphone was stolen at the border crossing so she approached us asking where to catch a bus. We offered her a ride to Samara, which is a few hours from where she was trying to go, and we managed to tie her surfboard to the top of our forerunner. We listened to her many interesting travel stories on our drive home and then dropped her off at a beach hostel. Safe travels Magy, enjoy Costa Rica!
I’m so happy to have my special friend Angi visiting us in Samara right now. She’s been here for a few days and is already in love with this unique piece of Earth. Angi is a fish (literally, she’s a Pisces) and could spend all day, every day, swimming in the ocean. The wildlife has already put on a good show for her as she’s witnessed frantic parakeet sex in a tree, a possible tarantula sighting, a gang of white-throated magpie jays, and a baby scorpion, all in her first couple of days.
We have many adventures planned during her trip, from cave spelunking to full moon goddess circles to exploring secret, hidden beaches and tidal pools, and who knows what else life will bring our way. As we show our loved ones the things we love most about Costa Rica, we are constantly reminded of why we chose to move here in the first place and go on this life adventure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. You either die with dreams, or with memories. This decision to really live life for the first time will never be regretted. Some days it’s hard and scary. But every single moment is an adventure and each adventure is a part of our story in this chapter our lives.
As mom zips into her 60th year on Earth, we’ve been celebrating the BIG 6-0 for weeks now. We are continuing our holiday theme of no material gifts, replacing them instead with forever memories. Starting with a ziplining tour flying through the jungle like Tarzan, sprinkled with mucho pina coladas, fueled by homemade pancakes topped with fresh mango, banana, pineapple and real maple syrup, and wrapped up with a boat tour through alligator-infested waters, my mom’s 60th year is off to a pretty good start.
She has perfected the art of doing nothing while swinging in a hammock by the sea and drinking a coconut, which is the pura vida life lesson everyone comes here to learn (don’t forget to take it home with you too!). And with the horror stories of the below freezing temperatures back in Oregon, she says she’s never coming home.
On her actual birthday we woke up early and took a boat tour through the Palo Verde National Park. We finally got to see the famous “Jesus Christ” lizards, famous for running across water. Two of them were fornicating on the shore…hmmm, can’t help but wonder…What Would Jesus Do?
Looking behind our boat, we see a few sets of eyeballs sticking up out of the dirty river water, slowly creeping closer, and we realize our boat is surrounded by alligators. No worries, they are much smaller than the crocodiles we’ve seen at Playa Carrillo, in the same river the little Tico kids swim in...(rumor has it the crocs never eat Tico kids...just dogs.)
We spend the boat ride photographing alligators, many different birds, iguanas and lizards of all shapes and sizes, and we are lucky to see a couple of white-faced monkeys, one of the four monkey species that reside in Costa Rica. Two of them approached the tour boats and put on a little show for us in the trees. They must be working for bananas on the side.
After the boat trip we enjoyed a typical Costa Rican lunch of chicken, pork, rice, beans, pineapple salsa, salad, plantains and watermelon juice. Then we stopped at the quaint little village of Guaitil, famous for its abundance of pottery shops. Mono Congo Loco caught our attention and we were taken to the back of the shop and given a pottery demonstration by a family of four men. Traditionally the potters in this town are female, so we are lucky to stumble upon a group of males. They are incredibly kind, and creative, and show us how they make the clay, how they shape it and paint it, all with natural ingredients and recycled materials. Their pottery wheel is made of a motorcycle gear, a ceiling fan and a stove burner. We thank them profusely and purchase some souvenirs we will cherish for a lifetime.
Nicoya is our next stop, for a much needed $10 car wash. We head to what we call “Central Park” to kill an hour by drinking fresh coconut water, eating ice cream, playing on the teeter-totters, and photographing parakeets and grumpy policia.
We end mom’s birthday with a delicious dinner at El Colibri, the steak house in Carrillo. We order tuna steaks, rib-eye, fresh rolls with garlic dipping sauce, baked potatoes and salad. It was the best meal we’ve had yet. For dessert we stop by our ice cream stand that we frequent every other evening. They were out of coconut (Mom’s favorite) and bubblegum (Andy’s favorite, and the ice cream lady always makes sure to tell us that no one over the age of 5 orders this flavor…except Andy. Oh and Stacey, Andy’s sister. DNA is a funny thing... :) So instead we try chocolate, coffee and dragonfruit, which is bright purple and delicious.
A 60th birthday never to be forgotten!
We’ve taken some road trip adventures up and down the coast over the last week. On our first trip we headed south, first stopping at Playa Camaronal. The pure, black sand was so hot it burned our feet through our sandals, so we danced and hollered our way down to the water in our now very familiar “damn hot sand” beach dance routine. We took photos of the sea turtle hatcheries and the cute beach signs, and then headed onto our next beach.
Playa Corozalito was our next stop, which is where (on our previous trips here) our car was almost robbed and the Tico kid called Sophie a hot dog. A local couple came up to us, asking in Spanish if Sophie was a puppy? I was so proud of myself for understanding their question, and being able to reply in Spanish that she’s 9 years old. They tell me how cute she is and then we head off to our next beach.
We end our beach road trip at Playa San Miguel and Playa del Coyote. This area is usually where we stock up on coconuts from the low-hanging coconut trees, but the area is pretty picked over due to busy season. We do manage to come home with a few coconuts and we spend the afternoon walking the beach and collecting shells.
Our next beach road trip is to explore the Northern beaches. We drive through the adorable, artsy town of Islita and check out Playa Islita. Then we stop at Playa Garza, where we spend time collecting more shells, then onto Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada. We check out the town of Nosara, and we end at Playa Ostional. Playa Ostional is the famous sea turtle beach, although we don’t see any turtles but we do see a recently hatched turtle egg. We plan to possibly come back at night, when we hear the turtles are there, to check out the sight of a mama turtle laying her eggs in the sand.
In Playa Guiones we see a cute jungle restaurant, called Al Chile and decide to stop for lunch. We order a hibiscus ginger frozen drink, so refreshing and delicious. The food was unforgettable, mango smoked chicken burritos, and slow roasted pork tacos with pineapple salsa, with a side of fresh yucca chips and fresh salad. Another one of our favorite meals, the fresh and flavorful Costa Rican food continues to blow us away.
who steals flip flops??
Well, we’ve finally been robbed. I remember someone telling us once that flip flops are the most stolen item in this town…and I remember thinking who steals flip flops?? Apparently someone does because we had two pairs stolen from outside our house the other day. Maybe they need them more than we do. Maybe we were asking for it by leaving them outside (we were just trying to keep the sand out of our house). Maybe it was the howler monkeys that taunt Sophie day and night…or maybe my little sign will make the thief’s guilty conscience return them:
Deuces, Peace Out Beaches!
As 2015 ends, and the new year begins, we send most of our family guests back to the cold Pacific Northwest, overflowing with warm memories that will long outlast their tans. Watching our loved ones fall in love with Costa Rica helps us fall in love with it all over again. We are once again seeing it for the first time, with eyes anew. Much like seeing a holiday through the eyes of a child, it magnifies the beauty. Sharing our favorite things with our favorite people makes everything more sacred.
We spent Christmas day swinging the day away in our hammocks, at our favorite beach, Playa Carrillo. We drank ice cold coconuts and munched on fresh ceviche. We ended the day with a tropical homemade feast of pulled pork over rice, topped with fresh mango salsa. A refreshing, colorful side dish of fruit salad, bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers for appetizers, and a nice random swirl of what we call ‘BBQ’d meat snake’. Completed with white wine, pineapple and mango trifle drizzled with cream, and Brazilian Brigadeiro chocolate balls covered in crushed nuts. Everyone contributed and it was a perfect little tropical feast.
We’ve spent the last few weeks ziplining through the jungle, swimming in waterfalls, bird watching, floating in the salt water, pothole dodging, feeding stray dogs and cats, exploring hidden beaches and watching sunsets. We enjoyed many wonderful meals, bought countless hammocks, made waitresses burst with laughter over our sad attempts at ordering our food in Spanish (pan-que-what??), made friends with iguanas, and exchanged many pura vidas. A Christmas vacation that won’t soon be forgotten.
This was our first Christmas spent away from Oregon, and our first Christmas not opening one single present. The holidays can be a stressful time for most people. Rushing around amongst a swarm of freezing, angry procrastinators, swiping pieces of plastic to pay for unneeded gifts, feeding into the monster of a system designed to make us all slaves…is that really Christmas? No wonder I had come to dread this holiday, to grin and bear it while traveling the icy Oregon roads, bouncing from one holiday gathering to another, barely having the time to enjoy the smiles our gifts were designed to purchase. Removing the stress and the rampant over-the-top gift giving was the best gift we’ve ever received. Removing the chaos made us appreciate the quality time we had with each other. Putting aside material gifts opened our eyes to life’s best gifts.
As the holiday season wraps up, we are reminded that the very best gift of all is this chance we’ve been given. The chance to simplify our lives, to live abroad, away from all the comforts of the home we’ve known forever. The chance to de-clutter ourselves and our lives, and to learn to live with less. To be surrounded by beautiful souls, both animal and human. And now to share this with our loved ones. The lessons we’ve learned, the people we’ve met, the animals we’ve befriended…are a gift that will give forever.
Mom, Andy and I ended 2015 on Playa Samara, drinking straight from a bottle of Chardonnay, admiring the massive display of fireworks as they sparkled and lit up the night sky. The stars were bright and the tide was perfectly low, making room for the thousands of people that littered the beach. We watched the Japanese lanterns meet the moon and the bonfires rage up and down the shoreline. We said our goodbyes to 2015, and our thanks for the memories it brought our way. We welcomed the new year and opened ourselves to the experiences it has in store for us.
Muchas Gracias to our family and friends that have visited us over the holidays. And to those of you who didn’t make it, we love you and miss you and it will be your turn soon enough! We have a few more guests scheduled throughout January, and then Andy and I will be off to explore the Caribbean side of Costa Rica during the month of February and beyond. It’s been incredibly special to pause in our journey in order to share it with others, but we do plan to take a few months off from hosting visitors so we can continue exploring this wonderful piece of Earth in order to find our next home. Who knows where our path will lead us to next, but we can’t wait to find out.
A new year is a fresh start, a blank canvas. It is an empty book with 365 opportunities to write the life you want to live. I don’t like to make resolutions, as you never know what the next 52 weeks will bring and resolutions are attempted predictions that may set you up for failure, guilt, self-bashing or regret. I vow to live with no regret and no resolutions, but instead to wake up each day and attempt to be happy. The only resolution I will make is to wake up with gratitude and determination to be better than the person I was yesterday. I may not succeed at this every day, but hopefully I am lucky enough to be granted another tomorrow.
Today you are being handed a pen, with permanent ink. Open your book. Be the author of your own life. Only you can write the pages of this next year, and may you make it a damn good one. Bless you and your journey.
May 2016 be the year you no longer care to pretend to care about things that no longer care about you.
May you release things that no longer serve you.
May you learn to let go.
May you learn to rest.
May you learn to forgive, especially yourself.
May you learn patience.
May you learn to complete things you’ve started.
May you learn to say no, without an explanation.
May you learn to speak up for yourself and your needs.
May you learn to let go of control.
May you learn to be kind to everyone, but most importantly yourself.
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.