Ohhh Craigslist. Home to creeps and trolls, and also where I go sometimes to shop or find housing.
In my article, How to Find a Place to Live in Costa Rica, I talk about how it’s easier/better to find a place to rent by walking around and looking for physical “for rent” signs than it is to find something online. But I’m an introvert who is repulsed at the thought of calling a bunch of people, so I don’t follow my own advice.
So picture a poorly written, vague Craigslist ad with a blurry photo advertising a studio apartment in a town I’ve never been to in the middle of nowhere, and then picture me responding to it and suggesting a viewing day and time.
I’ll call to confirm our meeting today, Friday at 1;30 pm, main entrance
iglesia in san isidro ,heredia. If for some reason I can’t talk TO YOU ,
I’ll be waiting there in a big beige ford crown victoria. From the 90’s.
They look like new york taxis !! adrien
I was intrigued.
As I pass the bridge that marks the edge of San Pablo, the town at the base of the mountain, the road begins to narrow and wind upwards. Foliage thickens and greens multiply in a million different hues. Fuschias, yellows, oranges, purples – colors are popping out from all around and the sky blazes a more brilliant blue. The sun shines bright while the air cools and tiny moisture droplets hit my skin, invigorating all my senses.
The closer I get to San Isidro de Heredia, the more alive I feel.
I pull up to the iglesia, church, and see the big beige Crown Vic occupied by a tall grinning older man with wild, disheveled white hair and a wrinkled threadbare button-up shirt blowing open in the breeze. He yells out of his window in a singsong voice “follow me!”
Wondering if I’m starring in an after school special or a Costa Rican version of Alice in Wonderland, I follow this scruffy stranger further up the mountain to a slipshod gate hidden behind towering bamboo, tropical corn plants, and cold climate evergreens. He opens the gate to reveal a modest property surrounded by a small stream with a few houses that look like they’ve been pieced together with leftover construction materials and pieces of art.
A turquoise crowned motmot is tick-tocking its tail on a branch over the trickling stream. Yellow and blue butterflies flutter by.
He leads me to the “small studio” from the ad. It is actually a tree house.
I was home.
Adrien was originally from Switzerland, but considered himself a man of the world because he’d lived in so many different places. He was an artist and under the influence of Mondrian (bright colors, geometric shapes), he had constructed all the houses on his property. They were not built to any building code for sounds structure, but rather to an outdoorsy artist code for aesthetic. I loved it.
I had hot water from a hot water heater in all the faucets, but I didn’t always have running water. I had a gorgeous view of the Costa Rican wildlife all around me, but no way to keep it out of my house. I had high speed internet, but I didn’t always have electricity.
Spiders would build webs on the ceiling at night. Birds would attack my windows at sunrise. Mice would sneak around my cabinets.
Besides being in a perfect climate living next door to my best friends, the thing I enjoyed most about my time in San Isidro were the daily challenges like dealing with leaks, figuring out how to live without running water, or fighting off an unwanted creature encroaching on my space.
I even enjoyed the time my dog Mocha disappeared.
Well, enjoyed it after the ordeal was over.
Mocha was always by my side and didn’t walk very well. One day she wasn’t there. I looked all over the property. Anxiety increasing, I started screaming her name “Mocha!” My neighbor, Alejandro, heard and came running “what’s the matter?” “I can’t find Mocha!” I’m scared because she could have easily hurt herself to the point that she couldn’t walk back to me, which meant I had to find her in the Costa Rican wilderness. I felt really small.
Then I hear her bark. It sounds like she is in the pasture next door. I run over the bridge and off the property to the farm next door and stop abruptly, the grass is shoulder height. “Ugh, ticks,” I’m thinking as I scream for Mocha again. She barks in response and this time it sounds like she is back on our property. I run back and can’t find her.
Disregarding my fear of ticks, I run back to the farm and push through the tall grass, following her barks. I come to the edge of the steep creek bank and I see her. She is on the edge of the water, barking, and trying to get back up the steep muddy wall on the opposite side.
I’m panicking a bit. The creek is narrow and sometimes water comes rushing down, raising the water level to way over Mocha’s head. I have to get her out of there before that happens or before she hurts herself trying to get out.
Alejandro and I come up with a plan. Since Mocha can’t walk well, much less climb a 30-foot wall of mud, I’m going to climb down and make her a harness out of her walking harness and a rope. Alejandro is going to pull her while I push her. All 70 pounds of her.
Did I mention that the creek also smells like poop? Before we execute our plan, Alejandro and I suit up in long sleeves and pants to protect ourselves from the poop, ticks, rusty barbed wire, and crazy plants growing all over. I wonder how I’m going to get out of the creek after we rescue Mocha.
I descend the mud wall into the creek with the drive of a madwoman rescuing her baby from under a car. “NO! GO AWAY!” I have to scream at Mali because she is scaling up and down the embankment and jumping all over me and Mocha, putting herself in the way. “Play time in the creek is AWESOME!” she says to me with her eyes. I fight off a fit of the giggles, trying to be very stern, while I eventually get Mali to leave us alone.
Mocha is smart, she knows I’m there to help and cooperates as I hook her into the harness contraption. I lose my grip on her slippery body half way up the bank. In slow motion, with panicked eyes and paws grasping at earth, Mocha slides back down the muddy bank. Mali jumps all over her, excited for more play time in the creek.
We got Mocha out on the second try. Alejandro and I had a weird rash for the next few days, I had sore muscles, but no one was hurt. That was a good day.
My time in San Isidro is filled with wonderful memories like that. The perfect climate, perfect friends. I highly recommend living in a ramshackle cabin in the Costa Rican mountains next to your best friends, at least long enough for some adventures.
I left San Isidro just a few weeks after Turrialba Volcano started erupting on a regular basis. Volcanic ash is partly responsible for its beauty, but is deadly when it first comes out of the volcano. I also hear that a construction company tapped into the town’s water supply and they’ve been living on extreme rations. I hate that this beautiful town full of nice people is dealing with all this crap. I’m grateful to have lived there before it all happened, though.
Have you ever found a home in an unlikely place? Comment below, I want to know!
Thanks for reading my post about my perfect little Costa Rican mountain town, part of my Leaving Costa Rica series. Next week I write about my move to one of the most beautiful jungle beaches in the world, how not to find a house to rent at the beach in Costa Rica, and a dumb accident. Stay tuned, subscribe here.