Updated: Jun 15, 2019
Take me back to Costa Rica -
We had returned “home” to Oregon in November 2018 and the cold wet days of the Pacific NW were getting to us. I was not looking forward to spending chilly and soggy days here during the late Fall/early Winter. Campgrounds were sparsely populated with diehard campers, a few sketchy characters included. If it wasn’t close to freezing at night it was typically soggy and gray outside. You haven’t lived until the two of you are cooped up in 100 square feet, day after day with awful weather outside. Not even Winston wanted to go outside to take care of his frequent “business” trips.
The last time we were at our casita it was a five week stay, just enough for us to envision living there for a longer period, and we liked it. I booked our flights to Costa Rica but we would not be departing until mid-January 2019. This time we would spend 11 weeks. If you stay more than 90 days, you must leave the country and then return. Many expats take “border runs” to Nicaragua and return the same day. I’ve thought it would be great to spend three months there and three months here, alternating so we can visit family and friends from time to time and take care of other business like medical appointments.
January 11 could not come fast enough. Wintering in the Pacific NW is no fun, though certainly better than half the rest of the country. We were stuck inside this tin can and had depleted our cell phone hotspot data allowance watching shows on Amazon.
We got Winston’s travel paperwork updated within the requisite 10 days before departure. On the day before our departure, we retrieved our suitcases from storage where they already held some things we had decided to take with us. It’s tough to find everything you need down there, and it can be expensive to buy imported items, so we try and fill a suitcase or two with these things. On the return trips we nest one suitcase inside another to reduce baggage costs and hassle.
From Portland it is necessary to take two flights to get to Liberia, our preferred airport, which is about 1.5 hours from Lake Arenal. We have a car parked at our place and a friend drove it to Liberia to pick us up. What a welcome change of weather. I’m back in shorts and T-shirts for the first time in months.
The beach areas can be about 10-15 degrees hotter and about 20% more humid than at the Lake. January through April is usually the driest season and, for the next 11 weeks, we rarely had significant rain. The mornings were in the upper 60s and the afternoons got into the low 80s.
These two pictures were taken the same morning, one is a telephoto shot and the other is a very wide angle view of the best sunrise I've seen, showing Volcano Arenal from our casita.
It's not always sunny and pleasant though. On one of our visits a few years ago, we spent two weeks there when the wind blew almost constantly. The rain fell sideways day after day. The weather here comes from the Caribbean. Usually, it rains the most on the north and east side of the Lake and we get fairly balmy conditions, but when the more significant storms come all the way across the Lake? They can be real soakers. We get about 100 inches of rain per year, 3x what Portland gets. The other side of the Lake gets nearly 200 inches !
“What do you do all day?”
We get asked that a lot. Well, Kathy likes to pull weeds and I wash the car. Winston’s gets to go on walks about four times a day. And before you know it, it’s happy hour. My favorite rum, Flor de Cana 7 year, comes from Nicaragua and costs about half of what it does in Oregon. When you mix it with “Mexican Coke”, which has sugar instead of corn syrup, it can become habit forming. On average we go to town to buy groceries and other supplies every other day.
We sit on the patio and watch the weather. Yes, I’m serious. There is so much activity in the air and it is constantly changing. If the wind picks up, we move to a covered arbor area on the other side of the casita and resume the watch.
Vistas del Lago is positioned such that you can gaze out at the Lake and watch clouds zooming by and dissipating to your left. When you look to the right, you might see darker, heavier clouds pouring up and over the mountains. The Monteverde rain forest is about 15 miles SE of where we are. Sometimes you can hear thunder from over the mountains in that direction but never see the lightning.
Thanks to a neighbor who planted a few banana plants on our lot, we harvested our first bunch. You know they are ready to be cut down when the larger purple flower that hangs down from the bunch blooms and falls off. If you wait longer, the birds will find them and start feasting. This first bunch we estimate had about 180-200 bananas. They still need to ripen so we hung it up away from the birds. Kathy peels them and puts them in the freezer. Smoothies anybody? Whenever someone has a new batch of bananas, they put out a message to the others in our community using WhatsApp announcing there are bananas for the taking… please!
These winter months are a favorite for us part time residents to come and stay for a few weeks or months at a time. Many are escaping the cold and brutal winters of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts or Eastern Canada. The community comes alive with frequent group activities, usually centered around food of course. Every time another couple or family arrives or is getting ready to depart it’s a good excuse to have a potluck at the Clubhouse! There is a wood fired pizza oven there so sometimes it’s pizza night and people bring ingredients to share. Other times, people will gang together and invade a local restaurant, numbering at times more than 20.