6/24 & 25 Rancho Tranquilo, in the Diamante Valley
Friday, June 25th, 2010
The next few days, I spent with Linda Gray at her beautiful ranch in the Diamante Valley, which is between San Isidro de El General and the well known Playa Dominical. Anxious to see the farmer’s market in San Isidro, Silvana, my hostess of the past few days, accompanied me on the drive from San Vito to San Isidro.
The road runs high, along the mountain ridge, with spectacular views on either side. Silvana was a great traveling companion. Her stories are so interesting. I’ve never met anyone who was born and raised in a communist country. She is from Slovenia, which used to be Yugoslavia. What was the world like where she grew up? Everyone had their job. They went to work each day and hated it, but kept their mouths shut. No one spoke out. No one gave their opinion about much more than the weather, for fear of government repercussion. And no one was very happy. They just seemed to live a sad life of servitude. Although times have changed and Slovenia is now a democracy, according to Silvana, its peoples’ perspective remains the same.
It is no surprise that Silvana ended up in Costa Rica, she never really fit in with the society to which she was born. She had a happy spirit and an optimistic outlook, which her countrymen seemed to resent. Nevertheless, her spirit has served her well, as she’s accomplished much in her life. Her first career was that of an interior designer. Although she was successful, later on, she changed to something that would give her more freedom. Now she can live and work anywhere in the world: she is a translator.
Silvana has only been in Costa Rica for six months or so and she’s still feeling her way around. She loves the alpine village of Linda Vista, where she lives now, but I think she’ll try out a few more locations, before she finds a place to call home. Most importantly, she is enjoying the process. She is a lovely example of someone who follows her heart and her dreams.
On the two hour drive we crossed the great Rio de El General, passed many pineapple plantations, and finally arrived in San Isidro. It was a pleasant paseo.
The San Isidro feria or farmer’s market was just as bright and colorful as any I’ve seen and bigger than most. After the feria, Silvana and I parted and I headed out to the Valle Diamante (Diamond Valley), named after its eight hundred foot waterfall, El Diamante. This is stunning cascade is the second largest waterfall in all of Central America.
Costa Rica: the land of extremes. You’ve heard me say, “Just when you think it can’t rain any harder, it rains harder.” Well, just when you think the views cannot be more beautiful, they are. You’ll see. Along the way, there were many miradores (view points) of the verdant river valley, with it’s quaint little houses and farms.
At the town of Tinamaste, I took a turn by the big white church, San Cristobal, and dropped down a thousand feet, from the 2500 foot altitude highway, into the Diamante Valley. This church has an interesting story. Linda told me it was built by a German millionaire named Bruno. First he built himself a castle in the clouds. Then he wanted to pave the road up to it. The townsfolk said no. “Oh, but I also want to build you a church,” replied Bruno. And so it was done: the church, the road and everyone was happy.
Down I went, into another world. It seemed the road pointed straight down, and it was winding. Down and around I crept cautiously, and down and around again – down, down, down, down, down. I readily admit to being a bit over anxious about the steep winding roads. “Whatever happened to Lisa?” – “Oh, she got stuck in the bottom of the Diamante Valley, never to be seen again…..” But it wasn’t that bad. The gravel road was wide and level; well graded. And Linda had assured me that cars like mine without four wheel drive took this road all the time.
Linda met me on her four wheeler, at the turnoff to her place and I followed her up the next few steep hills. I don’t think I could have done it without her. “When you get to the hill, just gun it!” she yelled. “Ok,” I thought, “If she says I can do it, I guess I can. And I did, no problem.
I may have over reacted to the sight of the steepness. I made it in to Linda’s and back out to the top with no trouble at all. It was my past experience that caused my apprehension. Roads like this, in the Caribbean, are too much for my little Sidekick to handle. The precipitous, coastal, mountain roads where I live, require the spunk and strength of a Toyota Land Cruiser – mostly because they have streams running down the middle of them. They are not so well cared for. The road into the Diamante Valley has drain gutters on either side and is very well maintained.
The evening I arrived, Linda had plans to go to dart night and I went along. It was great fun! It seems that the Diamante Valley is chock full of Gringos – mixed in with the native population. Many live full time in Costa Rica, tucked away in lovely little farms with their own private waterfalls. There are a number of Gringo social groups, as well. The one Linda runs with has grown from a garden variety, and they all like to play darts. This week dart night was at Jerry’s house, a rambling, open, hippie house with a crystal blue swimming pool, right off the living room. Jerry is a seventy year old who looks sixty. He’s a vivacious, dynamic soul. When I asked him what he had done previous to his sixteen years in Cost Rica, he seemed bored with the subject but thanked me for asking. Nicole, a pretty blond in her early thirties, has a Talapia farm with her tall and handsome John, and their friend, Chris. The rest of her family live on the gulf coast of Florida. Due to the recent oil spill, she’s really worried about them. Roxanne, in her fifties, moved to Costa Rica to be close to her grand children. Her daughter moved here with her nine year old and now has a Tico baby. Sal and Joanne – late fifties – had an incredible Italian restaurant in The Hamptons, on Long Island. I’m told dart night at their house is a feast! There were several others I did not get to talk to, in depth, but they were all welcoming and friendly.
The next morning Linda took me riding. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the way she has set up her business and indeed, her world. This woman has had lots of life experience and learned her lessons well. She is smart and puts her abilities to good use. I admire her. She’s another one, following her dreams.
Linda grew up in New England, always around horses. This was not because her family was one of the privileged, but because she was willing to work. She worked on horse farms and they let her ride. Later, she grew up and got a “real job” in the computer industry. A skilled and creative person, she made her own niche in training. She made one hundred dollars an hour until U.S. industry discovered India. Outsourcing changed everything. It was then, in 2004, when personal life changes prodded her into re evaluating her choices, that Linda took the path of her heart’s desire and moved to Costa Rica.
When she came upon the land, which would one day be Rancho Tranquilo, it was love at first sight. Linda envisioned her dreams and methodically made them come to life. First she built the barn, which is practical, functional and well set up. She acquired her horses here and there and has developed them into the handsomest, healthiest, most well trained and polite horses around. Her home is just as fine and functional as her horse back riding business. And she sells real estate, too – Diamante Valley Properties.
Aside from Linda’s accomplishments I was impressed with her as a person. She cares about people and gives back to the community, training a young, local boy in horsemanship and keeping the local school supplied with computers. And in turn, the community takes care of her. How does a woman live alone, in the back woods of Costa Rica and come to no harm? Her neighbors watch out for her.
The subdivision and sale of parcels of her property, along with her other businesses have kept Linda afloat and today she is doing quite well. But she’s been tested. There was a time when she had only forty six dollars in the bank and had horses to feed and a property to support. Her determination to stay and be successful in Costa Rica, was the mother of a new invention – she created a pizza business. Everybody loved her home made pizza. So she packed a pizza oven in the back of her truck and sold pizza at the farmer’s market, soccer games and whatever other event she could find. It was enough to keep her going.
There are lots of places to live in Costa Rica. I happen to love my Caribbean home; but the rich, verdurous Diamante Valley with it’s sweet, friendly people, is another viable choice. I highly recommend a visit to the area and a ride to the waterfall, with Linda, too.
I really enjoyed myself at Rancho Tranquilo. Linda was a gracious hostess. I was surrounded by nature, in peace and tranquil beauty. But most of all, I loved the horseback ride. Linda’s horses are well trained and well cared for. She loves them like family and it shows. They are not the droll, lifeless, rental horses that simply follow in a line. But they won’t bolt and run off with you either. They are spirited, sweet and delightful creatures. My time at Rancho Tranquilo will be a most memorable part of my gran viaje.