6/29 & 30 The Lingering Traveler
Friday, July 2nd, 2010
I’ve come to the end of my trip and I feel like I am sitting on top of the world – and literally, I am! I am writing this from the Pochotel, over 3000 feet, up in the mountains above Turrialba. As I sit and write, I am inspired by a view surpassing every other one I have seen on this trip, and there have been more than many. I can see for miles across the mountaintops: almost a 360 degree view. Looking to the south, I see the ridge which holds the highest road in Costa Rica, Cerro de la Muerte. I drove through there just a few days ago. The town of Turrialba lies below, to the west. To the northwest, I look straight up to Volcan Turrialba, with its continual puffs of smoke and steam. And far off in the north, is the Caribbean sea.
Yesterday, when I left La Zona de Los Santos, I had no plans but to head toward home. I could have made it in a day, but I was in no hurry. I’ve been enjoying navigation by intuition, so I thought I’d just drive and see where I landed. I didn’t want to stay in the Towns of Cartago or Turrialba. I had more tranquil, serene accommodations in mind. I envisioned a sweet little place in the mountains, where I could snuggle in and write. I saw a sign for Hotel Villa Florencia and was drawn in that direction. This was an opulent, five star type, in a lovely rural setting, but at $140.00 a night, I passed. However, I had a nice conversation with the woman who works there, Jana, a pretty Canadian girl. She directed me to another possibility down the road. Finca Monte Claro owner, Marie Beuchet, (beautiful, pregnant, and very french) showed me around her organic farm. It was nice, but the lodging did not fit my vision. Beds were set up dormitory style, on an open platform, under roof, with a great view. The price was only $15.00, but I doubted I could get much writing done, while sharing space with a gregarious family from California. Marie suggested another hotel, again, just down the road. It was getting late and the road was getting steep. Up and up I went, thinking, “Here I go again.“ I’d been planning to drive on only good, paved roads that weren’t so steep and scary. “Well,” I thought, “Once I get up there I’m going to stay put. This has got to be the one.” And it was! Driving by instinct paid off again and got me to an incredible place.
Pochotel gets it’s name from two words – Pocho, which was the type of wood used to build the place, twenty seven years ago. And of course, the word hotel. Pocho – hotel. Oscar Garcia, the owner, built it himself, and the good strong construction has held up well. I was the only customer, so I was surprised, that evening, when I saw several men at the bar. This place is way up high and secluded. The town is a mile or so below. Soon several others wandered in. Que suerte! Ateriso una fiesta! (What luck! I landed at a party!) The partiers were several of Oscar’s cousins and other friends. Together, they called themselves “EL Club Buffalo Mojado” (The Wet Buffalo Club), taken from Fred and Barney’s men’s club, on the Flintstones. It was called the Water Buffalos. Seems, they didn’t mind letting a woman in the club for one night. I was invited to be a miemrbo honorario (honorary member). How could I refuse? So much for writing, I decided to hang with these guys for the evening and party. And what fun they were – a bunch of old pot smoking, hippie Latinos. Que sorpresa!
As every other place I’ve been, the people here were lovely. It was fun to be the only hotel guest for a few nights. I felt almost like family.
In the restaurant I was fascinated to see an old Juke Box (rokola, in Spanish). It was in good condition and Oscar told me it still worked! But he hadn’t used it in over a year. I knew you’d like to see it. I asked him to turn it on for me, so I could testify that it was actually functioning. He told me he got it from his father, twenty years ago. He fiddled around with it a bit and soon the rokolo was blasting Spanish ballads, Beatles tunes and a classic ballet. The next morning, bright and early, I was amused to see Oscar with tools and cleaning supplies, at the juke box. He had it opened up and was cleaning and fine tuning the mechanisms. My interest had inspired his actions!
This morning I woke up early and couldn’t stop taking pictures. I was infatuated by the constantly changing colors of the magnificent vista, as the sun rose higher in the sky. I’m spending the day writing and I’ve decided to stay here another night. It’s just like before, I arrive somewhere and I don’t want to leave. I’m “The Lingering Traveler.” That’s it! That’s what you can call me. I enjoy the trip, so much more than the destination, that I just may never get there!
I don’t know what it is that fascinates people so, about vast, panoramic vistas. I could gaze at these huge rolling, rambling mountain ridges; the clusters of houses, settled in, along the hillsides; the water from the dam, spread across the valley floor; the birds, swooping and chattering by and the massive moving clouds: I could peer into a million little worlds from this one vantage point, forever. And indeed I have been, all day long.
There is something about the indulgence in nature’s beauty, that inspires one to ponder philosophically. I’ve had some heartfelt realizations in the time I’ve been here, up high in the sky. They are all about happiness.
Last night, upon introduction, Martin, an American music lover, asked me if I remembered that old song with my name in it, Sad Lisa. “Of course,” I replied brightly, “because I was sad at that time, but I’ve been happy ever since.” Today as I think of how gloriously, marvelously happy I am, I see a deeper significance to that simple chat. When I was a teenager, Cat Stevens’ song was on the radio and I was in jail, in my parents home. I vowed that when I got out, at age 18, I would be in control of my life and I wouldn’t be sad again. I never knew it would take so long for me to learn how to be happy.
Spanish has a good way to express happiness. Estoy contenta. I’m happy. I’m content. Happiness is not being excited about a new toy or friend or business proposition. It is not about what happens to you. It is about you. It is a feeling you have inside that is always there. It determines your perspective on everything and carries you through adversity. Its the feeling – the knowing – that in this moment, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you have absolutely everything you need. And not only that, you know life has more on the way. That is how I feel. I’ve got enough money and plenty of time. I have friends and family and fun – so much fun. And best of all: life is a gas! I never know what crazy, odd, strange, funny, magical, bizarre event will occur next.
For example, lately, I’m developing a fear of abuelas (you know, those sweet old grandmothers). The one in I knew Panama was a ladrone! That’s right. I had a chocolate bar stowed in the refrigerator, waiting, just for when I needed it. When I couldn’t find it, I asked, and all eyes went to the guilty party. “Grandma loves chocolate,” they said. “She can’t resist. We keep ours hidden.” The day I left she came to me, with her head down, like a little kid, and admitted, “I ate your chocolate.” (So I bought her some more.) Here, at Pochotel, there’s an abuela who wanders absently around, chatting to herself. She comes up to talk to me and I can’t understand a word she says. I try to speak politely. I say, “Katia (her daughter) is in the house.” She gives me a horrified look and says, “Katia?” I’d better just keep my mouth shut. Can you imagine trying to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s, in another language?
Odd events….. profound thoughts….. Another thing that makes me happy is knowing I am at home in Costa Rica. A strong connection with nature is a big part of what determines that feeling for me. I’ve always been at home in the forest, but wondered if I would ever feel that way about the jungle. Recently, walking barefoot without fear of snakes or other creepy, crawly creatures, has shown me that I can be at home in nature, anywhere. Last night, as I listened to the Wet Buffalos discussing the trip I’d just made in relation to the nearby mountains, the highway and the grand cordillera that runs, like a backbone, through Central America; I had an “Ah Ha!” moment. Wherever I’ve anchored myself, be it the Pennsylvania Poconos or the Rocky Mountains of Montana, I’ve developed a knowing of the lay of the land. That simple knowledge of geography – what’s where and how it all works together – makes me feel part of the place. It dawned on me last night, during that conversation, that this trip has given me that gift. I know the lay of the land – I know Costa Rica. In that moment, Costa Rica became my home.
Looking off into the far beyond, backing off and viewing the world from a distance, as I have been doing from this skyscraper height, makes me think about the bigger picture. So often we get sucked in to the immediate circumstance, caught up in trouble. This trip has shown me that I can keep my eye on the bigger picture and embrace the knowing of my inner contentment. Yes, I cried when my car broke down. But that was just the release of emotion and I let it go, quick. I was worried about money, and about the steep slippery roads and the rain. But the worry was dispelled by my ever present view of the bigger picture. “I am happy and I know everything is just fine. Conditions will change but my knowing will not.”
And it was fine, everything turned out splendidly. I figure my angels and my big secretary in the sky got together. They decided my car needed a real mechanic to get it fixed right, so I could make this arduous trip over the mountains. And they arranged the breakdown, so the car could be fixed. I might have requested an event a little less disconcerting, but I am stronger for it. And since then, my little Sidekick car has been running like a charm, indeed, like a rugged little Land Cruiser.
It is quite appropriate that I finish my trip in this heavenly place. The statue in the yard, here, informs me that my angels are still with me. In fact, I am in the abode of the Queen of the Angels – La Reina de Los Angeles – Patrona de Costa Rica.