Thursday, June 12, 2008

Places with a view: Monteverde, Costa Rica

My rustic cabin in Monteverde, Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, my wooden, VERY RUSTIC cabin (built by a couple of inexperienced Quakers as their first abode there) in Monteverde, on the outskirts of a nature preserve, had two acres of land attached to it
with a fascinating, gone wild tropical garden in front and to the right of the cabin,

a path of candy-cane amaryllises,

and wandering blue irises suddenly and quite unexpectedly appearing behind the curve of a jungle road, framing a path to the front of the cabin;

On the back, the land was raising on both sides,

with a mini banana plantation on one side
and a remnants of a vegetable garden, now taken over by the jungle, on the other. In the middle there was a small patio - and a large concrete contraption on legs and with a roof, a pila, but I did not know then what it was or what it was to be used for. So, with a rain season approaching, I promptly... filled with soil and planted mesclune in it, seeing that it had a roof.

My Costarican housekeeper went speechless for a long while, when she went out with a bunch of rugs under her arm, to wash them in a pila (as they were too big to fit into the cabin's small electric washer)... and then burst laughing explaining to me what a pila is supposed to be used for. So I had to replant the mesclune before her next visit ... or live with dirty rugs.

I learned a lot of things from that young lady. I learned how to cook Costarican, where and how to shop, where and how to hang the laundry in the rainy season ( drapes, for example, are being hanged wet directly back on the window rods, while the rest of the laundry hangs on a long line spanned through the entire length of the cabin, from the front entry to the back exit and the wood stove in the "living room" is fired up to dry the clothes - not a bad idea!), etc, etc. She was a very conscientious and energetic worker. But I digress...

Behind the patio, there was a down slope and a clearing at the back of a cabin, allowing a view of the mountains,
of the rain- and cloud forests at the tops, coffee and dairy fincas on middle part of the slopes, and a glimpse of the Pacific down, down and away between the green, green slopes.

There, besides the view of mountains, the sea, the tropical flora, I could also observe some of the fascinating local fauna: butterflies huge and colorful like flowers, some so iridescent and blue like the ocean away, and the birds: funny-looking, “singing” brown colored bell-birds with their long “mustaches” ( I guess they are the only kind of bird with that type of an unusual “adornment”), and fabulously colorful mot-mots, with their tails swinging like a pendulum of an old fashioned clock, and - on a very rare occasion - even a very rare and very shy resplendent quetzal digesting a wild avocado.

The view of the birds I could enjoy most often at predawn, when howler and capuchin monkeys were feasting on my bananas, on the metal roof of my cabin, making such a racket, that it was impossible to sleep, so I usually got up, muttering some expletives addressed to the monkeys, drank my morning coffee outside or at the window (if it rained), and enjoyed the views and the birds, who liked particularly a stump of a broken of branch just outside my "dining room", to sit on and regurgitate their breakfast of wild avocados.
This little fellow (?) on the other hand decided to digest his breakfast on a stair step...

I was initially afraid that lack of sleep would affect my job performance, until I figured out that electricity and with it computers, Internet etc. usually went down early afternoon for a few hours, so I could take a leisurely stroll through the jungle to my cabin, take a little midday nap, a siesta, and return to the institute to work till the evening, when we anyway often had open lectures or musical performances for both tourists and the locals. I just had to remember to keep my headlamp with me at all time for that pretty scary - imagine all the snakes living there in the brush of impatiens - night stroll back to the cabin. But I digress again…


Ewa said...

Dear Minerva,
your bird 'collection' is amazing - I think I haven't seen them in my life before :) thank you for commenting on my blog and thank you for sharing those handsome fellows

Minerva said...

Hmm, actually the three first pictures of the birds: bellbird, mot-mot and quatzal aren't mine: I put them in for illustration purposes only. I was lucky enough to have seen them all: bellbirds and mot-mots are easy to spot there, but - as far as I know - few people have seen quatzals - they are so shy, but I was lucky enough to live in a somewhat secluded spot, where they were feeding and feeling safe, so i could watch them from my cabin. Costa Rica has an amazing variety of fauna and flora, so I guess it is a Costarican collection. :-)