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From Beaches to Mountains

This week I had a friend come visit with us.  She has had an exhausting 3 months, caring for a sick family member while keeping up with her job, her family and life.  What I wanted most was to give her space and rest to refill her soul.  She arrived on Friday and Sunday we left for 2 nights in Cahuita, a quiet beach town on the Caribbean, settled by Jamaicans originally brought to Costa Rica as slaves.  Arriving after the 4 hour bus ride, we were sticky and hot.  Wandering around the 8 street town, looking for a place to call home for a few days, we immediately knew when we saw Alby Lodge, that we had found what we needed-4 bungalows, a shared open air kitchen and sitting area, surrounded by a tropical garden.  As the host was showing us around, we spotted a toucan sitting in the tree nearby.  Watching the shaking branches of a palm tree,  several Capuchin monkeys made their appearance.  Yes, this would be a perfect home!  Oh, and then we were told that we would be awakened around 5:00 AM to the sound of howler monkeys-cool.   The bungalows were constructed by the German couple who owned the property, sturdy and well cared for.  Thatched roofs made us feel like we were in some other exotic location, after seeing mostly tin roofs throughout the country.  We each claimed our bed, canopied with lovely lacy mosquito nets, unpacked, changed and headed to the Atlantic Ocean.  Sinking into the water was like relaxing in a warm bath.

Monday morning the howler monkeys were indeed our alarm clock at 4:5o.  Their eerie deep crescendos gave the impression that the trees were filled with gorillas rather than the small brown creatures.  Laying in the porch hammock I listened to their mysterious sounds, rain steadily falling to add to the symphony, until all that remained was the sound of water and birds.  The rain provided a slow, contemplative day of reading, journaling and talking.  In the afternoon, wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella, I walked the trail in the tropical National Park that lined the beach, the heat and humidity from the previous day washed away.

Our alarm clock

Our last morning in Cahuita was spent riding horses, just my friend and I, and our guide, Joe, known as the last cowboy in Cahuita.  Leaving the center of town with hostels, open air restaurants and small shops, passing through the rural neighborhood, we came to the Playa Negra, or Black Beach.  Cantering along the waves of the deserted beach I felt my breath catch at the thrill of the moment.  This was horseback riding like I had never done before!  Weaving between lush tropical forest and the beach I soaked in the sounds, the colors, the smell of the sea, and the feel of muscles that received quite a workout!  (the saddle sore was so worth it!)  Unfortunately I don’t have pictures to share because while we were at the beach, Rod was on a collecting trip with his lab and needed the camera.  What an amazing trip he had, as they captured 1 spider monkey, 2 howlers, 2 capuchin monkeys, 1 two toed sloth and a 3 toed sloth and baby.  They drew blood from each animal (tranquilized), then released them back into the trees.  A student waited with each animal until it was awake enough to wander away.

Rod holding a baby sloth on his field trip

Wednesday morning Rod, Patrice and I left for Whitworth University campus in Costa Rica, near Braulio Carrillo National Park.  Rod presented a talk to students about his research and Fulbright scholarship opportunities.  We hiked into the park, crossing the continental divide, between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  With the crisp air, meadows surrounded by towering, cloud covered  mountains, it seemed as though we had left the beach and arrived in Austria.  Rod needed to return home in the evening, but  the 2 lakes, mountain views, meadows, and a sense of timelessness were all Patrice and I needed to choose to stay for 2 nights.  I got my fill of much needed girlfriend time!  I also saw my first blue crowned motmot, a beautiful exotic bird.  Unfortunately Rod took the camera home with him, so I only have the memories of his blue head, black face, yellow belly and long blue tail.

I would love to study at a campus that looks like this!

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