After having some slightly freaky experiences in the deep jungle area around the Arenal volcano area, we decided to shift gears and leave a day early. We booked an additional night at the Airbnb we had for the following night and jumped on the road.
The drive around the lake during the day was magical. It was hot and humid and we stopped occasionally to take it all in. In one town, we saw a sign for an organic store with chocolate + kombucha. Immediate U-Turn!
We arrived at La Farmacia Organica and were blown away by the carefully-curated health, wellness, herb + food selection in the small store. We got a booty of chocolate for travel snacks and gifts for home, grabbing just about every variety of local Costa Rica bean-to-bar chocolate we could find. We also indulged in some kombucha and some other homemade raw chocolate treats that the store owner, Christian referred to as, “the town crack.”
While Taylor and I enjoyed the huge chunks of “crack”, Christian gave us a tour of his backyard garden. Filled with medicinal herbs, fruits, flowers and trees, he told us all about the unique healing benefits of each one, giving us leaves to chew on every now and then, including: coca leaves, a local version of sweet stevia leaf, a mucilaginous leaf that can be eaten like salad + a super duper bitter leaf that cleanses the body.
Christian opened up, sharing his life story of growing up in Costa Rica, spending nearly ten years in the U.S. and then coming back home to discover that massive amounts of chemicals were being used in banana and pineapple crops. He described his life trajectory, sharing stories about organic farming and his 2.5-hour weekly drive to Costa Rica’s only organic farm to create a hybrid CSA/grassroots organic food delivery. He talked about his experiences using hallucinogenic mushrooms and other plants, his curandera ‘witch’ grandmother, his current spiritual path, and about the different kinds of venomous snakes we might encounter. His stories + experiences were so fascinating, we just let the camera roll, capturing as much as we could, over the hot tea he made us of fresh coca + lemon verbena leaves plucked straight from his garden.
We’ll translate the stories into a video and podcast, but in the meantime, here is our new friend and beautiful human being: Christian Rodriguez.
We felt so at home at La Farmacia Organica! After hours chatting on the outdoor porch, we realized the sun was setting. We still had a long drive ahead of us, including the challenge of finding an Airbnb that was way off the beaten trail. As per the usual, what ensued was several more hours of driving in the dark on gravel roads with potholes, drop offs and even one place where power lines had sagged and a huge bus in front of us had to turn around. I hopped out and asked a guy on a motorbike if we could cross - it looked seriously iffy - but he said it was fine. So off we went! careening around a curve where the earth had fallen out from underneath the road, shifting the weight of the electrical pole. Siempre una aventura! Always an adventure.
The Airbnb directions were fantastic, but exactly what you’d think of for the middle of nowhere: when you cross the river take a left, and after three houses down look for a blue gate until you see … We eventually - and miraculously - made it. Our host was waiting for us and graciously drove us down the road to an empty bar - except for one large rooster sitting on a table - for dinner. After fish, rice and salad, we lumbered home and to our studio on the second floor, with a large balcony that overlooked the lush green trees.
That balcony was my best friend for the next few days. Our host Tonio would make breakfast for us each morning with fresh-squeezed juice, fresh fruit, eggs and vegetables.
We’d sit in silence for hours in the morning, in meditation, watching the swarms of brightly-colored butterflies, listening to tropical bird sounds and drinking coffee.
This was by far THE BEST Airbnb experience I’ve EVER had, not just because of how magical the place was, but also the incredibly rare form of sincerity and kindness bestowed by the hosts. Tonio felt like an uncle to us.
He personally took us to an organic, family-run cacao farm, toured around the 500 cacao trees with us, watched as we ground cacao beans and had lunch with us. I was so thrilled … I had always wanted to taste fresh cacao fruit. It’s incredible!
After the cacao farm, Tonio brought us back to the house and took us on a tour of the property, pointing out every fruit tree (macadamia, jackfruit, avocado, soursop, citrus, banana, plantain + more) medicinal root (tumeric, ginger), plant and flower.
He’d given us rubber boots to wear with little nylon socks … and kept quiet every time we asked about snakes, choosing only to bring along his machete and whack every log and tree that we walked near.
Tonio told us stories and shared traditional Costa Rican herbal wisdom with us. After the tour he made us huge soursop smoothies (omg, my favorite fruit!).
He showed us all the different flowers and orchids we could make flower essences of on his property. I chose a beautiful white orchid that looked like hundreds of flying angels exploding on the tree! There were so many of them and the fragrance was exquisite.
Something about the house and Tonio’s sincerity made me feel so totally in the groove: comforted, uninhibited, free and timeless. Two nights seemed like a soft, beautiful eternity. One night I stayed up until 3am writing poetry. We forgot to ask him how to turn on the hot water and I grew to love the cold showers. The full moon rose + I reflected on the year-long anniversary of the book launch. I watched soft, furry creatures moseying around in the driveway bathed in moonlight. When we left Tonio asked me, “Are you ever coming back? You’re not coming back, are you?” He got a little choked up and the impermanence of life hit us both in the heart. He gave me a keychain of a slice of wood with a butterfly painted on it. As we said goodbye to the three dogs and pulled out of the driveway, I felt a strange sense of nostalgia wash over me like a wave.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to experience this place and, even luckier, to develop two really special relationships with such special Ticos (Costa Ricans). It’s rare to meet such incredible human beings, and rarer still to feel such an immediate closeness. Meeting both Christian and Tonio felt like instant alignment and sincere mutual care. We all had such love for the earth and appreciation of the gifts of life and each other. Taylor even remarked at how unusual it was to be able to talk to someone for hours on end - and not once feel drained. On the contrary, we felt totally revitalized.
It’s such a good reminder: it is one hundred percent, totally worth it to open your heart and let other people make a profound impression on you. It’s totally worth it to slow down enough to spend time with a new friend. It’s totally worth it to be vulnerable, open up, listen deeply and find the places where we overlap. Sometimes we are all unforgettable.
Feeling full of richness and love, we headed toward the airport to pick up some ultra special women who were arriving for the second part of the trip. More here …