We just survived our first tropical storm…. barely! The storm was in fact the worst anybody can remember. The amount of rain that fell out of the sky over the period of 9 days was more than fell in 6 weeks of rain 13 years ago. Neither Brendan nor I had ever seen anything like it. Buckets, just buckets! Sheets of rain so thick you could not see across the street.
A few days before the rain started we were woken up from our jungle slumbers to a terrifyingly swaying bed. It took a moment to realize what was happening, earthquake! Being from Washington DC and Vermont this is not a sensation either of us are accustomed to and it is certainly shocking. What does one do when the earth is moving beneath them, threatening to take down your house with you in it? It was too late to make any decisions when the rumble stopped leaving us both too excited to fall back asleep. It turns out the earthquake was a 6.2 with it’s center in David, Panama which is a good distance away from us. So for us it was only the aftershock, poor David was pretty bad off.
A couple days later while serving breakfast to the southern invasion (an entertaining group from Atlanta filled up the bungalows for one night after making it to the finish line of an insane mountain bike race that ended near us) we heard a loud crash. We assumed it was the neighbors who had been cutting down some trees the other day. We forgot about it until I walked dawn the path towards our house and was completely shocked seeing one of the largest trees on our property had ripped out of the earth leaving a massive hole where the roots had once taken hold. Lucky for us there was no human or house near it. The day was strangely crisp and clear yet gusty and there was definitely something brewing. That evening was the last bit of sunshine we would see for 8 days.
The rain started that night and it was to create disasters this part of Costa Rica hasn’t seen in years. Tierra de Sueños faired very well. There were some moments we got nervous watching our gutters turn into rivers overflowing the paths and rushing under some of the bungalows an inch away from the floorboards. Thankfully the bungalows were built on stilts as was our house. We watched our gutters flow out into our neighbors property who were totally flooded. The road was flooded with rivers coming up over bridges preventing any crossing. The ocean rose faster than anybody could believe and soon took out trees, flooded houses and dragged out what once was vast stretches of sandy beaches. On the fourth day of rain, the news traveled to us that a major bridge entering Puerto Viejo connecting us to the rest of the world was flipped on it’s side. There was a mad rush to grocery stores to collect supplies, nobody new when we would get support down here. We were expecting friends that night and had no idea if they would be able to cross. They did eventually show up after sitting in a bus with water up to the wheel well and an indecisive driver. They crossed the sketchy bridge by foot and made it to us to celebrate their honeymoon in the worst torrential rainstorm in Costa Rica’s history.
By day 6, Brendan’s family had arrived to Costa Rica to celebrate Thanksgiving with us and ended up sitting at a road stop half way between here and San Jose trying to figure out if they could get to us. The flooding was growing worse by the minute and landslides were preventing cars from passing on the main highway between San Jose and Puerto Viejo. They managed to find a rustic lodge whose owner, Cheeto, enjoyed wrestling a massive crocodile in his spare time and waited out the rain there until the morning when it was declared safe to cross.
The worse seems to be over and although we stayed relatively high and dry, many people in this area did not. Indigenous communities in the Sixiola valley experienced severe damage. We read that 4,000 people lost their homes last week and some areas are still completely flooded. If anybody is interested in helping these communities you can go to greencoast.org for information. We have been donating canned goods but I know they are accepting donations as well.
Amazingly, the coast is on its way to a speedy recovery. Yesterday the sun was shining and the water had retreated significantly. There is a temporary bridge allowing people in and out of the area and now more than ever we need tourism to return and help restore the flow of life in this little piece of paradise.
Nature showed us her strength and power yet again. We have a lot to be thankful for this thanksgiving.