Farming Rocks: Liberia, Costa Rica
I have never seen ducklings like the three we saw swimming all alone across the stream. Fuzzy and black with bright yellow patches.
When they started climbing up the cliff on the other side, and kept tumbling down again, we decided to rescue them. It wasn’t very difficult to catch them, keeping them safe however turned out to be an impossible task.
Our first stop in Costa Rica was the small city of Liberia. We’d arranged to stay with a guy called Stephen but hadn’t been able to confirm what day we would be arriving. Our Nicaraguan mobile numbers stopped working the second we crossed the border, so our first stop in town was to buy Costa Rican SIM cards. The equivalent of $4 got us a chip and call credit that lasted us our whole stay in Costa Rica.
It turned out that that evening Stephen was out at a boxing match, so we arranged to meet him the next morning and checked in to the dorm at Hotel Liberia. We parked the bikes in their secure parking area and managed to get unpacked just before the skies opened up. Good thing too, because when it rains in Costa Rica, it pours.
Stephen and his girlfriend Jennifer came by the hotel in the morning and we all immediately hit it off. There was a soccer game playing on the TV so we stayed for a couple of hours. Steven was brought up in the USA, but spent a few years in Spain, and now lives in Liberia, and part-owns a farm just outside of town.
While we were watching the game, I got a call from another couchsurfing host I had been in touch with – William from La Fortuna. He was very keen to host us, and we agreed that Phil and I would head to him after we left Liberia. I promised to contact him for his address and directions before we headed over.
In his emails to us Stephen had suggested that we could camp on his farm. Phil and I had had a discussion about the likelihood of there being drinking water available there. The availability of drinking water is an element of our travels that has taken on much more importance than I had imagined when we started out. We were so used to always being able to drink out of the tap, that when we hit a run of five countries where you can’t drink the water (from Mexico down to Honduras), carrying enough drinking water with us became a central focus.
I was convinced that as it was a farm, they had to water the crops, and so must have water. Phil joked that “they might just farm rocks”. We had a good laugh at that. Who farms rocks?
You can imagine our surprise when Stephen told us that the main business they carry out on the farm was, yes, a quarry. He’s just started planting some corn and other vegetables, he has a few cows and he’s built a pig pen that currently only has a few chickens in it, but primarily they are providing all the rock and sand for the expansion of the highway to San Jose.
We spent the afternoon watching Spain play in another soccer match, while eating a huge pile of barbequed meat. Unfortunately Spain lost, and it poured again, but we were dry and a good time was had by all.
We stayed at Stephen’s apartment that night, playing frisbee and jenga, and all piled into his truck to go to the farm the next morning.
He gave us the grand tour of the farm, including the quarry, the pig pen, the dorm he’s building to house WWOOFers (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), and his fancy new storage shed. It was during this tour that we came across the ducklings.
We took the ducklings back to the pig pen, and decided that it was too dangerous to put them in with the chickens. Those chickens looked mean!
We put the ducklings in the next pen along and tried to block all the escape routes, and Phil and Steven built them a log cabin to live in.
Back at the house, it was time to render beeswax. A friend had given Stephen a load of beeswax, but it was still sticky with honey, and had been sitting around so long that it also had become home to quite a few maggots. The chickens made short work of the maggots.
To clarify the wax, we boiled a huge pot of water, and then added the wax. Once it had all come back to a boil, we strained the liquid through cheesecloth. The water and melted wax passed through, while all the other junk stayed on top. The wax floats to the top of the water and solidifies there. Hot work!
When we went back to check on the ducklings, only one was left! Two ducklings had escaped, leaving their brother all alone. Phil put him in his baseball cap and brought him up to the house.
It was about this time that the rain started. We thought it had rained hard the day before, but this was much, much worse. Poor Jennifer happened to be out walking around when it started and had to take refuge in one of the backhoes! Steven drove down to rescue her. There were some lightning bolts that struck very close to us. The thunder was incredibly loud, I almost jumped out of my skin a couple of times!
We finished up with the wax, the rain eased, and then we looked in Phil’s cap, which he had left on the table. It was empty. Duckling number three was gone. Basically we are the worst duckling rescuers in the world. We couldn’t even manage to keep one of them safe.
When we got back to Steven’s house, I sent William a text message to ask if it was okay if we arrived at his house the following afternoon. He called me back right away and was extremely angry. Somehow he had been expecting us to arrive that day. I tried to be calm and speak rationally to him, but he was convinced that we had just found something better to do, and had blown him off. He said he’d been sitting at home waiting for us all day and had been worried that we’d been in a motorcycle accident.
I apologised several times for the misunderstanding, tried to ask him why he hadn’t called us to check, and to point out that there was no way we could have shown up, as he hadn’t given us his address, but there was no reasoning with him. He was shouting so loudly that both Philip and Stephen could hear him clearly. He then told me that we were not welcome to stay at his home. By that point I had no desire to spend time with such an unreasonable, unpleasant person!
It’s the only negative experience we’ve had in our year of couchsurfing, and it escalated over the next 24 hours, that evening William left a slanderous negative review on my couchsurfing profile. It called us “arrogant jerks who were ruining couchsurfing”, said “these people are terrible people” and said “these are bad people, do not host them”.
I was incredibly upset that a small misunderstanding had blown out of control like that, he had never even met us! Phil wrote a note to William, apologising again and explaining the situation, William wrote back a swear-filled, angry reply. When William realised that his negative review of us also appears on his own profile, he changed it twice, each time becoming less slanderous and closer to the truth.
I was very upset, but also had an overarching feeling of sadness, because obviously this man is leading a very unhappy life. He was so excited to meet us when I first spoke to him, for him to transform into such an angry, unpleasant being must have deeper routed origins. I hope that he works out his problems and finds a way to live a happier, more peaceful life.
Whilst I would have preferred not to have experienced that unpleasant episode, it did lead us to a wonderful family. Kim Walters accepted our last minute couchrequest and invited us into her home in Nuevo Arenal.
The next day we packed up our bikes, said goodbye to Stephen and Jennifer, and headed out to see more of Costa Rica.