Notes From the Jungle – The Rainy Season

It is raining nonstop in this tiny Caribbean village. It has rained incessantly for 3 days straight; the only exception was the first day following the night of my arrival. Unfortunately I spent that beautiful first day inside the local jungle internet café working on my website, falsely assuming there would be plenty of time for the beach. In addition to the rain, my stomach’s abrupt and vehement rebellion against the local cuisine has placed a damper on my visit here.

It is my final day in Puerto Viejo and I feel surprisingly melancholy. The rain in this village brings a certain element of tranquility that is perfect for my creative flow. However with my departure for San Jose fast approaching, I long to enjoy the beautiful stretch of beach that I remember so well from my last visit here. There is a narrow jungle path that leads to a vast expanse of unspoiled coastline. I started on the path yesterday afternoon anxious to relax on the warm sand and swim in the calm water, but a darkening sky and the rumble of thunder off in the distance sent me back to the shelter of the peaceful Casa Verde Hotel. The rain has hampered my ability to enjoy the new addition at beautiful Casa Verde, a lovely swimming pool built to resemble a natural lagoon, with interesting rock formations and a soothing waterfall gently spilling into clear blue water.

I am sitting at my favorite hangout Café Rico, an open air bamboo hut hidden inside a dense cluster of beautiful tropical foliage. The place feels like a remote jungle hideaway. The voices of local children and a sweet floral aroma float through the balmy air as I observe locals and tourists ambling along the muddy dirt road just beyond the café. My new friend Liza, whose boyfriend Roger owns the café, graciously serves me unlimited helpings of the best cappuccino in town and shares with me her latest impressions of the eccentric American man who has taken up residence here to promote the health benefits of colloidal silver and the dangers inherent dangers of government sponsored terrorism.

A Canadian surfer walks in and orders a sandwich and a fruit smoothie. A local bush doctor named Gregory offers to brew me a cup of medicinal tea made from an indigenous plant to cleanse my ailing colon. Puerto Viejo seems to turn up a constant stream of random characters and I never know what new surprise awaits me around the next corner. Will it be a Canadian surfer, a group of European backpackers, an Australian retired journalist or a local bush doctor? I have been spending time these past few days with a dance choreographer from Astoria, Queens. We have decided we are kindred spirits grappling with parallel life issues and searching for our soul’s enlightenment through solitary travel.

The rain has just intensified and it is beating powerfully against the bamboo roof of this makeshift café, drowning out all other noises from the surrounding village. I am safely ensconced inside a tropical hideout with delicious coffee and a constant supply of revolving drifters with a story to share. This is a writer’s haven, and yet, the inner stillness and spiritual contentment I am seeking continue to elude me.

My mind remains preoccupied with extraneous details. I am reflecting on the sharp contrast between my present experience in Puerto Viejo and memories of my exciting, sun filled week nine years ago when I was a young graduate student from Manhattan traveling through the country in search of new adventures. During those restless years of young adulthood, I was a hopeless romantic with idealistic views about life and love. I was carefree and naïve, always searching for validation in people and places while failing to look within for my sense of peace and fulfillment.

Through the passage of time and weathering several harsh storms in my life, I have come to understand that true happiness cannot be found in the material world as it must originate from within the heart and soul. Even so, I struggle with many of the same emotional dynamics that challenged me during my last visit to Puerto Viejo nine years earlier. Perhaps the experience of solitary travel brings these issues into sharper focus due to the length of time spent engaged in deep introspection.

It is funny how time works. The past nine years have brought many changes- losses and triumphs, blessings and heartbreaks. Despite the passage of time, I sit here now watching the rain fall and wondering how much has really changed inside of me. I could swear it was only yesterday I stumbled into this café laughing and seeking shelter from the tropical storm that chased me off the beach. Tomorrow I must leave this village and head to San Jose, where I will spend the night before continuing my journey on the Pacific side of the country. I wonder if I will return to Puerto Viejo in nine more years and reflect back on this period of my life with the same sense of bittersweet nostalgia.

Time moves so fast and yet at the same time, it appears to stand still. There is no denying the aging process, and yet time is an artificial construction created by man- a dimension borne out of the human mind designed to placate the ego and apply order to chaos. We place enormous emphasis on the passage of time. Perhaps we would be better served focusing on the empty space between the hours and minutes- the universal sense of timelessness where inner peace and stillness lie.

I am the same soul I was nine years ago, despite the aging of my physical body. If the soul goes on after the physical body breaks down, then we are all inherently capable of entering the space of universal consciousness where the gift of timelessness awaits us. That gift is the present moment, and we are all free to enter it whenever we are ready. This, I realize, is my goal for this journey, and my journey will continue long after I leave this village.

Brief description of two hotels on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica:

Almonds and Corals Resort- Manzanillo. Luxury bungalow tents located in the heart of the Manzanillo wildlife refuge approximately 10 miles south of Puerto Viejo offering five star service, accommodations and amenities. Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable with an IF (Insect Factor) grade of A-. While I did not spot a single critter in my own room, the people in the bungalow next to mine complained of several large insects in the bathroom area. The bungalows are elevated by platforms lifted on stilts and connected by narrow wooden boardwalks illuminated by gas lamps. The rooms include comfortable queen sized beds surrounded by mosquito netting and open air showers. This gorgeous, tranquil resort sits in the midst of a rainforest jungle on a stretch of beautiful beach. The beach is not ideal for swimming due to the strong currents but it is perfect for relaxation.

The closest swimming beach is a ten minute scenic walk from the resort. The resort is constantly shaded from the sun due to the surrounding rainforest, giving the place a true jungle feeling akin to a five star sleep away camp for adults or the setting of the 1960’s television show Gilligan’s Island. At the huge open air restaurant, a warm and friendly Jesse will greet you with a beautiful smile, eager to make your stay a pleasant one. A full buffet style breakfast is included. Dinners are tasty and satisfying and meal portions are more than generous. An unlimited supply of delicious Costa Rican coffee and bananas is available to guests throughout the day. The resort has its own zip line, a full service spa and many comfortable nooks and crannies perfect for reading, napping or just relaxing and mediating. This is the perfect place to relax, unwind and commune with nature. However if you are seeking cell phone service, Wi-Fi connection or a resort located in easy walking distance of shops, restaurants and nightlife, this is not the place for you as the closest town (Puerto Viejo) is a good 15 minutes by car.

Cabinas Casa Verde- Puerto Viejo. Located in the heart of Puerto Viejo, Casa Verde offers a clean, friendly, safe environment tucked away from the dust and noise of the village center yet still within easy walking distance from the beaches, cafes and restaurants sprinkled throughout the village. The place has a strong hippie vibe and tends to cater to backpackers and budget travelers in search of quality accommodations at a reasonable price. Walking the hotel grounds, it is easy to forget you are in Puerto Viejo. The IF at Cabinas Casa Verde is a solid A+, as I did not spot a single critter inside my basic room with private bath and two double beds. This tiny slice of heaven with its beautifully manicured gardens, lagoon style swimming pool, soothing waterfall, open air Jacuzzi and spa area could easily be found anywhere else in the Caribbean yet it maintains the wild and natural appeal of Costa Rica. Casa Verde serves breakfast in a beautiful outdoor garden surrounded by exotic birds and beautiful tropical flowers.

Guests can help themselves to an unlimited supply of coffee and the kitchen serves delicious breakfast option like homemade crepes filled with tropical fruit and blended fresh fruit smoothies. The owner Rene and his wife Caroline reside on the premises, and Rene is a constant friendly presence in the open air lobby and throughout the grounds of his beautiful tropical oasis. It is clear he takes enormous pride in his surroundings, and he treats the guests like personal friends visiting his home. The reception desk arranges bicycle rentals for guests to enjoy the many beautiful jungle trails and beaches that line the outskirts of town. Bottled water, snacks, juice and soda are available for purchase in the open air lobby. The place feels like a tiny slice of heaven, comfortably secluded from the rest of the village like a tiny island paradise. If you decide to visit Cabinas Casa Verde, be sure to ask for one of the rooms with a private bath and bring plenty of mosquito repellant, rain gear and comfortable walking shoes. Be sure to ask for Rene at the reception desk, and prepare to enjoy the many wonderful pleasures of the Pura Vida.

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