“Sometimes it is better to begin the journey, to get under way, then it is to sit back and wait until such time that you’re convinced that all conditions are perfect and that there’ll be no surprises along the route”. – John Engler
After an exhilarating day exploring rural tourism in Rancho Quemado, a tiny community in the Osa Peninsula, it was time to check in to another local accommodation for the night. I was feeling rather tired from a day in the hot sticky sun learning how the locals mine for gold and turn sugar cane into sugary sweet desserts and drinks. By the end of the day, I’d had my fix of sugar and Costa Rican food. I felt like I was ready to collapse into a food coma of some sort. However, little did I know I would be staying at the perfect venue for the evening to slow down and relax. It was nothing fancy but what the Rancho Verde Rural Cabins didn’t have for luxury, it made up for charm and delightful hospitality from its warm, lovely owners husband and wife team Enrique and Alice Ureña.
As we drove down the dusty gravel roads, I could hear the roar of the howler monkeys off in the distance. There were birds everywhere chirping and singing in the late afternoon heat. All I could think about was how good it would feel to take my icy cold shower. I’d grown used to not having hot water showers for the week and the only thing that was difficult was washing my long hair. I had discovered a way to get the shampoo and conditioner out by bending over sideways so the cold water wouldn’t rush down my back and give me the chills. Thankfully it worked out pretty well.
I had no expectations for our lodging for the night. In fact, I didn’t even really read the itinerary before I signed up to go on this trip. The anticipation was part of the fun and adventure of it all. My lodgings ranged from a jungle cabin with no electricity high up in the mountains to a luxurious ecolodges with no walls. Everything was different and very unique. I would soon discover that Rancho Verde had its own charm.
I confess to feeling a tiny pang of disappointment when we pulled into Rancho Verde. It looked so basic and rustic especially after my amazing night at the Amazonita Lodge. At first glance it didn’t look particularly exciting. Then I reminded myself of a few critical rules of travel: Go with the flow. Don’t judge. Embrace. And that I did.
We were greeted by Alice who handed me a key to my cabin. It was basic but clean and a space to myself. I was thrilled to have some down time to write in my journal, take a shower and relax to the sounds of the jungle. There was no internet connection again so it meant I would have another day of disconnecting. It was amazing how much better I felt not being attached to my phone constantly.
Rancho Quemado is part of the Caminos de Osa, an organization that has invested tons of money into developing rural tourism throughout the Osa Peninsula. People like Alice and Enrique have significantly benefited by the program which provides training on tourism, conservation, and business management and also helps bring in new customers to these often overlooked, unvisited areas. It is a brilliant concept to help empower people to conserve and protect the environment as well as their culture.
What I learned that night was that oftentimes in life, it is more about the connections that you make with people on an everyday basis that is important. I had arrived at the lodge feeling a bit disappointed that it was nothing special but oh how wrong my perception turned out to be! In fact, this place was anything but boring.
I spent the evening eating outside with Alice and Enrique conversing in my broken Spanish and learning all about their beautiful life together and their family. After dinner, I lounged outside in a hammock in their open-air living room while their family of four girls watched a Disney movie in Spanish, the same movie I had taken my own little girl to see before leaving to Costa Rica. I was not only invited into their family home, but into their lives. And that is the beauty of rural tourism. You never could get such an intimate, unique cultural experience if you simply stayed at a tourist hotel.
I went to sleep once again pinching myself of what a magical week I’d been having in the Osa Peninsula. From immersing myself into another language and culture, to bathing in waterfalls, trekking in the jungle and living in the moment. I was embracing life and nature like never before and for that I felt so thankful.