Friday, September 19, 2008

Free again - lesson learned again

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade right? When Costa Rica gives you shitty roads, get a motorcycle. Living with less is like turning down the noise to hear the music. It´s never been about a quest for poverty, but a search for more satisfaction in things I realize are important to me. Transportation and better yet reliable, fun transportation is a lesson I learn yet again here in paradise. When I first came to the castle and had the chance to cook, I had my backpack, two legs and the will to carry six frozen chickens daily from town. When I bought a used bicycle it was like being a kid again. Then came the old Land Rover and I was almost back to being a mobile modern person. But the hammer of reality hit hard owning a used, illegal car in Costa Rica. Five dollars a gallon for gas with a 5000 lb Land Rover meant I needed a lot more money. I´m happy I´m able to fix old cars, but laying in the mosquito infested mud dropping a starter kills motivation. So the stout 4x4 was reduced to guest pickup and emergency shopping trips. At the same time shopping was getting easier with all vegetables coming by delivery once a week and even fish being brought to my front door. The need for the freedom of transportation lessened since I was busy with exploring my new work. The walk along the beach to town kept me in shape and always made me feel better. Social connection came in dry season with guests and friends. Funny how traps are built from such seemingly content surroundings. Easier and easier it became to just stay here at the castle by the beach. Rainy season came and the reasons to stay in just kept growing - cars now have to take the long way to town since the river is too high to cross and the words "cut off" take on real meaning. The rain brings mud which makes walking a sloppy, slippery trek. There is nothing carefree about stopping by to see a friend, or make a friend. Back to the definition of living with less - the idea is not a punishment to money or things, just a recognition of what´s important and that availability can be more powerful than ownership. At this point it´s clear I need a change but I´m low on cash. Motorcycles are intrinsic to Costa Rican culture - with an infrastructure of roads that look more like trails most Ticos own motorcycles and the most revered are motocross. I owned a few street bikes in the states, but burned out on oily roads and blind drivers. I decided a motorcycle was just a smarter choice and set off to sell the land rover to raise cash. When you decide you want something or wish for something you send your ripple through the universe and the results spark the conversations of amazing "coincidence". My friend Chris is three months new here and the proud owner of a new 400 enduro hybrid from Honda. He also has a new love in his life and made plans to get his woman a motorcycle. Chris is a uniquely generous person in that he truly enjoys sharing. I say this because I´m fiercely independent and slice my own throat before taking help I need, which means I must be very convinced of someone´s motivations. We came together on owning a motorcycle half and half and we found a 1999 Yamaha 225 XT - the name should be changed to WOW!!! Instead of waiting until I raised my half, Chris made all this possible now and reminded me again that happiness comes from taking help and getting past your own ego saying you have to do it all yourself to be strong. Now the roads are roller coasters and "long way" means "fun way". Mud, dirt, and asphalt run together in an adrenaline paradise. But the return of freedom and spontaneity top the list of what makes life fun. Places only a few miles away are completely new to me and the simple act of getting away makes me fall in love with the castle all over again. Videos coming soon...

Friday, September 12, 2008

"We have a problem.."

Starting this blog in rainy season means many stories will be about nature, the Castle, or our local population since tourists are not so common. When is rainy season? It´s not as simple as the guidebooks explain and depends where you are. Here dry season starts about the middle of November and the sunshine stays through April. May brings the first rains and can be heavy, but mid-June through August are known locally as small summer and although it rains at night, the days are still sunny. September and October tend to be the heaviest months for rain so I was a bit surprised when Klaus called me from Germany and said a couple comes to stay despite his warning of heavy rain and all the fun that goes with it. They arrived yesterday and this morning I drove them to Samara to get a new hotel. From the moment I saw them standing on the road I knew we had a problem. After 24 hours of travel from Germany to Costa Rica it´s tough for anyone to smile, but the shock factor was worse and they hadn´t even seen the car yet. The castle "Chariot" is a Dodge raider held together with parts from other cars and lots of luck - it´s very Tico. After loading their fancy new backpacks I turn the key and hear the familiar click when the starter doesn´t feel like working. I grab the trusty screwdriver, pop the hood and proceed to hot wire the problem. The raider sparks to life and the big my smile on my face doesn´t compare to the frown on theirs. People surprise me all the time so maybe things will get better. At this time of year you have to take the "long way" since the river is too high to pass. After 13 miles of bumpy dirt roads, the smell of gear oil and no conversation we arrive at the Castle. Chris runs the Wunderbar this month and has two cold beers waiting for our new guests. I sense the relief of finally arriving when the man says "everything will be all right as long as we have a clean, pretty room." Expectation and perception shape our experiences and give us all the ability to suffer or smile. Honesty without hesitation works for me in these moments so I pick up the bags and say "let´s go look at your new room." Now it´s my turn to gauge their honesty. Ten minutes later he walks from the room, sits at the table, takes a deep breath and says "we have a problem." "You don´t have to be very perceptive to see that" I say. In an instant the dam of awkwardness blows up and real conversation flows. They admit they need more luxury and although they want something off the beaten path, being trapped by muddy roads and rivers without a car is a bit much. They know they were warned about the conditions, but were very excited about such a peaceful retreat away from stress. We tell our stories and realize we have similar backgrounds and now the man opens up telling us more about the catalysts in his life that reawaken the question of satisfaction and happiness. This conversation is always welcome and it becomes obvious they´re not arrogant complainers, but a loving couple exploring their lives. I see the unique effect this place has on people whenever the environment strips away formality and leaves honesty. As I said earlier, people surprise me. I´m sure this couple will always remember their first night in Costa Rica at El Castillo. I know I will.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Lost the Kayak!

Some days in rainy season bring out bad judgement. Being wet and bored can make one yearn for a little adrenaline. It´s been raining steady now for about a week and a half, but what started last night and continued all morning was heavy. Young volunteers interested in saving the turtle population make a simple camp on the beach with no electricity and water that must be switched on manually every day from a remote location. Normally they cross the estuary from the beach side and walk through the castle for their daily chore. Sometimes when the estuary is too high we use the sit on top kayaks to run a taxi shuttle. That brings me to this morning. Two volunteers asked for a ride and I didn´t open my eyes or my brain wide enough to appreciate the conditions. It was between low and high tide, but the volume of water from rain was creating a very strong current running out to sea. I ferried the kayak across and reached the other side, but at that point I should have appreciated the strong current and said nope it´s not going to work, but what the hell. There were two guys, but only one needed to go for the water. The current was very strong and just getting in the kayak proved difficult. We finally got a good launch and we´re headed across toward the beach parking lot when a set of waves comes in and collides with the water going out - if you push two ends of a piece of paper together you´ll see the bubble the kayak was in. Kayak flips - we get it back over and get back in, but now we´re caught in the outward surge. A wave comes in and I see a chance to ride it back in the estuary - it´s good at first, but more waves hit from the side and the kayak is over again - this time we´re further out and it´s time to swim and get to safety - I tell my turtle guy to forget about the kayak and swim across the current until we´re clear and then back to the beach. I don´t know his name, but I give him loads of credit for getting through his panic attack and swimming back safely. He told me later that he developed a recent phobia of deep water being exposed to glacial lakes. This explained why he was screaming "I can´t breath, I´m freaking out, I´m not going to make it, I´m done!" - but as I said he calmed himself down and everything ended safely. Oh did I forget the title of this post?? No, but first I had to get myself back to the castle side of the estuary where this all began. That was quite a swim and reminded me that I´m no longer a raft guide! Back on the other side is when I realize there´s no kayak. These kayaks are very difficult to sink and yet I don´t see it anywhere. Under normal conditions the kayaks always return to the bay or the rocks of the reef. Since the tide was low I climbed around the reef still not believing the kayak could be gone. And after turning on the turtle campers water ( yes I could have just turned their water on and all this would not have happened but hindsight blah blah..) I walked up to Alegria for the tall view - nothing. As I write this post I´m happy poor judgement didn´t cause injury or death, but I´m very much hoping to work on my next post - I found the kayak!

Monday, September 1, 2008

A great place to start..

Has anyone seen this video on Youtube?


Originally made five years ago by German television featuring Guanacaste Costa Rica, this excerpt about Don Klaus and the Castillo shows the beauty of the place and gives insight into the character of the man. It´s in German but basically the commentator berates Klaus a bit saying his hotel remains empty because he doesn´t utilize the Internet, his car sits broken and he drinks wine in the afternoon. Klaus counters the stereotype of success or lack of it pointing out that with less here you can see more. This is not a hotel or hostel for those that travel with their lifestyles and keep real experience at bay. If you leave your expectations at home then you can really enjoy what´s actually here. The cameraman goes beyond all the words and reveals the bright colors, soft winds and ocean rumbles that make imaginations stir. Many Germans visit just because of this video and it´s a great starting place to see the castle. There is a nice touch of irony starting this blog with decent Internet access now available at the castle, but hey.....