Full Circle - A Return to Pura Vida


The closure of a circle in our life was approaching and so was the Costa Rican Border.  On the road for 18 months in new and strange lands, we were finally arriving where this all began so many years ago, a familiar place that we didn’t have to wonder whether we would love or hate.  When it comes to Costa Rica, Karin and I are both smitten kittens.  Nicaragua, while beautiful and breathtaking, was hot. Damned hot.  And when not in rainy season, as dry as the Mojave.  The atmospheric pressure from the numerous active volcanoes combined with ash residue floating in the air had left my sinuses tortured.  

No sooner than we crossed the border, the temperature and landscape changed.  Dead, leafless trees were replaced with lush jungles.  Roadside stands filled with exotic fruits appeared. We wondered if we had warped  into some alternate universe – how could things be so different so quickly? 


We excitedly  made our way to Tamarindo for the night and planned on getting an Airbnb as we had spent the last week beach camping and needed showers and a car cleanout.  Also, it was time to seek out a quality veterinarian for Gracie’s checkup.  Tamarindo is beautiful, developed, touristy and packed of American and Canadian expats.  Its  full of howler monkeys and I love howler monkeys so win, win.  Tamarindo is also home to the famed Witches Rock, one of the world's most popular surf spots. 

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I contacted Christopher Brenes of  Expedicion Costa Rica because I had been following him on instagram. I asked him if he would be interested in doing some trails and camping with us while we were there and he quickly accepted the invitation despite our poor Spanish and his poor English. We arranged to meet the following weekend to explore the Nicoya Peninsula.

We spent the evening walking around Tamarindo and going into shops full of things we did not need and could not afford. We spotted our first rainbow flag, always a nice surprise.    It was strange to hear so many people speaking English.  But for the monkeys, Tamarindo could be Any Beachtown, USA. It was clear Karin and I had become feral because neither of us were comfortable in such manicured, regulated surroundings.  The seven days we planned on spending in Tamarindo turned into 3.   We only had two weeks to make our way to Dominical where Karin had secured a lengthy housesit for us in a mountaintop mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean and we wanted to spend them doing things we loved. Tamarindo was cool but not for us.

In Tamarindo, we did find a fantastic and knowledgable veterinarian, Tranquila Vet, who came to our Airbnb, gave Gracie a thorough exam, reviewed her records and lovingly gave us the news we had already prepared ourselves for, Gracie’s time was getting short.  Three countries back, in Guatemala, she had surgery to treat intestinal cancer and remove a tumor-ridden spleen.  For the last three months she had been on a regimen of cancer-fighting medicines and supplements but she seemed to feel better than ever, running fast and swimming hard.  We did not pass up an opportunity for her to feel wet sand between her toes.  Costa Rica was perfect for this type of goal.


Just as we started to plan our next few days, we received a message from Mark and Holly Bartholomei.  The couple owns a small ecotel, the Mar y Sol, in the southern zone of the Nicoya.  They had been following our travels and invited us to come and spend a few nights at their hotel and explore Montezuma falls and its surrounding beaches.  Karin and I are not ones to turn down an invitation.  Mark told us it would actually be quicker and more fun to leave the peninsula, head south and take the car ferry from the mainland directly to Tambor, where they are located.   

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Already Costa Rica was taking us in and charming the pants off of us.  In one way, Costa Rica always reminds me of San Diego – the people who live there are pretty satisfied with their lives and it translates into a friendly and laidback atmosphere.


We spent a couple of days at Mark and Holly’s, thrilled that they turned out to be incredibly awesome and obviously friends we would keep.  We explored the local beaches, went to Montezuma falls and had some pretty amazing cocktails. 

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From Tambor, we headed North to meet Christopher Brenes.  We had no idea what to expect or where he would take us but I couldn’t wait to find out!

We meet Christopher back in Tamarindo and realized quickly that his English is better than he thinks it is and with patience and charades we wouldn’t have any trouble communicating.  The first thing you notice about Christopher is that he is meticulous and creative.  His truck setup is flawless and his branding does not miss a beat.  


For the next four days we camped on beach after beautiful beach, experiencing river crossings, leatherback turtles,  indescribably beautiful remote overlooks and places that surely no one has ever gone before. 

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 photo taken in the middle of the night by Christopher Brenes

photo taken in the middle of the night by Christopher Brenes


On our third night, at one particularly remote campsite,  we realized that Gracie had not been in our view for more than a few minutes.  Assuming she was at the beach puttering around, Karin went to look for her.  What we found was our mischevious daughter tearing apart a full-fledged pufferfish that had probably been dead for more than a few days.  PERFECT.  Just what she needed – the stress of eating one of the word’s most poisonous fish on her already damaged digestive system.   A few frantic phone calls and facebook messages with our Tamarindo vet later, we gave gave her hydrogen peroxide to make her throw up and charcoal tablets to absorb any leftovers.   She was not only fine but incredibly proud of herself.

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More to come on our time in Costa Rica! Look for blog posts on San Jose, Arenal, our time in the mansion, the Caribbean coast and an unforgettable experience with the plant medicine, Ayahuasca.  

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