The next adventure
Surprised by the sound of bouncing tires I’m shaken out of my dreams. The plane just touched Costa Rican ground. The impact made me sit up straight like a Russian ballerina. I didn’t notice anything from the flight, my dreams had taken me to another place. In a state of being half awake and half still in dreamland I grab my stuff and follow the rest of the passengers out of the aircraft.
Once out of the airport I don`t see anyone who looks like the picture Phil had send me of him and his daughter. Phil had approached me at the beginning of January through workaway.com, a website for backpackers and business owners who are looking for a temporary volunteer. Phil has to go to the States for a couple of weeks and needs somebody to take care of the B&B, garden, coffee field, animals and his 15 year old daughter. It didn’t take me long to say ‘yes’ to this challenge.
I decided to sit down on my backpack and just patiently wait while enjoy the comfortable strays of sun. A short 15 minutes later I saw him approaching. More than a head shorter than me and best to describe as mixture of Santa Claus and a Hells Angel member (use your imagination).
During the drive we mainly talked about Cuba. Phil appeared to have lived in Cuba for a couple of years (quite special for an American), bringing in car parts from the States every three months and filling up his empty suitcases with cigars when going back (I didn`t dare to ask about the extent of legality in this activity).
On the ranch we are enthusiastically greeted by 2 massive dogs and a small white poodle, named mister Rodelle) running in between. I’m introduced to the housekeepers Helena and her daughter Danielle who are sipping a fresh fruit juice. Phil takes me outside and shows me around the property. The house, studio and guesthouse are surrounded by a beautiful green field with orange trees, tropical flowers, bushes and a breathtaking view over San Jose valley and the Cloud forest Mountains of National Park Brauillo Crauilo. Behind the garden lies the coffee field and a meditation garden. Eric the gardener quickly comes to say high and then the clock tells us it`s time to pick up Kalina from school.
Kalina is half-Cuban and somewhat a shy girl. Luckily when I tell her I`m just back from Cuba, she slowly starts talking. There’s a click, I feel at home and at ease with the area. This is going to be fun.
Driving in Costa Rica for Dummy's
Considering the fact that one of my most important tasks is going to be dropping off and picking up Kalina from school, Phil wanted to put my driving skills to the test. A few beads of sweat are slowly making their way down my forehead as I jump behind the wheel. The inclines so steep I would have trouble walking up, sharp turns, bikes, pedestrians, dogs, no traffic rules, just `guidelines`)… “How much insurance do you have on this car?” I ask. Phil laughs; “Full comprehensive insurance Dutchie, so no worries.” After a few laps around the neighborhood I appeared to be better than I expected. It seemed to be a matter of checking your mirrors regularly, go with the flow and change lanes once you have enough space to squeeze the front of your car in between. Communicating with your horn is another very important feature:
Two weeks have past and I settled in quite well on the road. I`m honking like no tomorrow. I’m even becoming accustomed to zig zagging in between cars on the highway.
A walk around the block
Neighbour Mario wants to start his own company in organizing jungle tours. The honor was all mine to be the first tourist to join him on the condition to write a promotion for the information folder we provide to our tourists.
Mario, armed with a large knife ‘what they use in the jungle’ and me with a camera, pen and paper, hit the road. It appeared to be quite an incline, making our way to the top of the mountain, fields, bushes and finally, it begins… the jungle! Considering the fact that there were no street signs nor roads or paths in general, Mario needed to swipe his knife firmly from left to right to clear a path for us. Every couple of meters he marks the way by cutting a piece of bark on a carefully selected tree. Even though he has grown up in this area, the jungle stays a tricky place and is not a hard place to get lost. After every hour we take a small break enjoying one of the tasteless roots, plants or leaves Mother Nature has to give to us.
After a bit of hiking, climbing and crawling we finally get to the river that will lead us to the waterfall. Recent rainfall and high rock faces make going into the river our only option. We leave our gear at a tree and with my camera above my head I let myself slide into the freezing cold water. Mario can`t stop laughing about my semi-retarded sea lion way of swimming, desperately holding my camera up in the air, wildly expressing how cold I am by screaming and shouting. He explains that the water originates from the clouds hanging above the mountain and it rainfall has barely any time to warm up before it hits the stream. Luckily we`re both good swimmers and quickly we make our way to a beautiful oasis. With the high cliffs surrounding us, decorated with beautiful ferns and orchids which all plays a part with the light that`s beaming down from the sky. Around 15 meters above us, I see a beautiful, thin waterfall which is elegantly making its way down the cliff face. We can’t stay long as the water is way too cold, so quickly we make some pictures and enjoy this little slice of paradise. Once we return to the riverbank we dry off and warm ourselves by looking for some rays of sunlight. Mario goes out to gather food for lunch and after another tasteless, superfood meal we start making our way back.
Helena waits for us with a big plate of warm spaghetti which I proceed to attach like a goat on grass. Mario starts to make his way home and I’m starting to make my way to my warm and comfy bed. Effortlessly, I drift off into deep and sweet dreams.
The world at our feet
Funny how pavements have changed. Before I was the one travelling around the world and now I`m the in the center of other travelers passing through. I meet people and make friends from all over the world. It seems like the next story is bigger and more interesting than the last.
I open up the gate and park the car in the carport. A new guest awaits at the entrance, a girl my age. Her boyfriend recently had a job offer, making it impossible to join her on vacation. That`s why she decided to turn it into a challenge and go on her own. The next two years she wants to travel around the world, so this would be a good exercise. We drink a cup of tea together and talk like we’re already friends for years. The next morning I prepare breakfast as usual. Ellen my new friend told me she loves animals (I`m sure that`s a big reason why we can get along so well). She had turned her hobby into a profession and had her own dog washing service. While I`m preparing breakfast I gaze outside the kitchen window. My eyes catch the rental of Ellen, a massive 4x4 Chevrolet. Ellen walks in, we give each other a hug and she gracefully sits down the kitchen table. She’s a good looking girl, not like one you would find in the magazines, but she`ll definitely do good with the men when hitting the night clubs. She has this permanent flirty flow in her armour. Observing her perfectly completed hair extensions, manicure, pedicure and carefully selected outfit. I try to measure if she`s up to the next question I no longer can keep for myself. “Ellen, what do you really do for a living?” Somewhat shocked she looks up and looks me straight into the eyes. She looks around making sure nobody else is in the room and then let`s a grin appear on her face. “You’re a smart girl Sanne. I work as a High-class-escort”. “Don’t worry your secret is safe with me (her real name is not Ellen). I’ll tell you what, I state, you’re not fond of driving and I could use a day of fresh air. Pick a spot where you want to go, I’ll bring us there. Let’s have a girls-day-out!”
Resembling two teenage girls, we drive around the valley, through the mountain, singing along with the radio. We decided to finish the day with a dinner and I drive us to the best restaurant in town. As curious as I am, I bomb Ellen with all kinds of questions about her job. The most hilarious, embarrassing and amazing anecdotes come to the fore. We both can`t stop laughing. Suddenly Ellen’s expression changes while she points at an old, chubby men a couple of tables further, presumably around 65 years old. “That’s how by far most of my customers look like”, she whispers while holding her right hand close to her mouth. “How in earths name do you do it?” I ask her amazed, although I’m far from fully surprised. “It’s an illusion, I create an illusion. One of my customers bought me exclusivity. Working 2 nights a month I make more than $120,000 a year. I want to quit, but I can’t. I’m too addicted to the money. The financial freedom I’m experiencing now is unknown. Once you start, it’s almost impossible to get out the illusion.” She looks straight into my eyes and grabs my hand. “Please Sanne, promise me, you’ll never get yourself into this madness. Even though the money is so tempting, whatever offer they make you, don’t do it.” I gently smile back at her, knowing it would never be so easy to keep a promise.
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto