Published: June 28th 2012June 28th 2012
My first real stop on my Central America adventure was in Ciudad Colon, situated about 40 minutes outside of San Jose, in the country side bordering the jungle. I heard about WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) from a friend and thought it would be a neat experience to stop at some of these organic farms along my travels and volunteer in exchange for room and board. Not only would I experience and learn new things that I couldn't otherwise as just a backpacker, but it would also help to offset some of the travel costs. Some are free and will provide you with the basic foods, while others might charge you a small fee per night to help with the cost of food.
Robert Roman is a retired American, who has been involved with the organic food movement all his life. He had spent most his life as a cheese maker, farmer, or import/exporter. 16 years ago he moved to Costa Rica for a nicer weather and the proximity of many tropical fruits and vegetables. He owns a farm here now and has a local drivers licence, but like many foreigners he does not a visa,
once eaten, we plant it again. takes 2 years to grow a single pinapple
meaning he just needs to leave the country every 3 months for a couple hours or days.
The experience on his 2.5 acre farm took a little to get used to, but has been an absolute great experience and eye opener. I have now spent a week on his farm and am ready to move on in the next couple days, so I want to share with you just a little of what I did. If one is afraid of insects, dogs, poisonous snakes, monkeys, small reptiles, and many other unknow species, this is not the place. Robert set up the farm in order to teach people about organic gardening. I spent my time with five other volunteers, all from the US. Four of them set up their tents in the middle of the property (they are a lot braver then me), where I set up my sleeping headquarters in the abandoned warehouse along side one other volunteer. Since it does get dark around 6pm and the suns comes up pretty early, we usual go to bed around 9pm and are awake around 6am. Everyone takes care of their own breakfast and lunch in our covered outdoor
kitchen. Once dinner time roles around, we colaborate on a meal for everyone. The day is spent working on projects around the farm. This includes feeding the 8 dogs, weeding (all by hand and lots of it), trimming, harvesting fruits and vegetables for our own consumption, creating new garden beds, cleaning, organizing, and whatever else is required from us. Most work does get done in the morning hours as the heat is too intense in the afternoon. After lunch we go back only to finish up some jobs and clean up equipment. If it's not the heat that brings us back to our covered area, then it is the massive rainfalls we experience just about every day. Mostly it will only rain for 1-3 hours, but it will come down very heavy.
The sun and weather here is nice, yet it will take some time to get used to for this white boy. I though that if I would apply enough suntan lotion on my first day that I could get a decent tan from working in the garden shirtless. Little did I know I put on the wrong suntan lotion (SPF 4). Not only was it
our lizard friend Roberto
not meant to block against the sun, it was also designed to help with speeding up the tanning process. I burnt my back soooooooo bad, that I was in quite some pain for about three days before I had small blisters form all over my back. Good thing it happened on my first day of my week stay as I would have not been able to travel at all if I had too. Instead of working in the sun, I was lucky enough to work inside for the last couple days, which meant I was cleaning toilets and cooking for people. It did not take long to be like by everyone when you are making them fresh pita and sourdough bread, banana bread, and squash gnnochi.
My culinary experience has been very eye opening. The farm is filled with so many fruits and vegetables that I have either never heard of or never seen grow before. Other then the basic flour, butter, and milk, we eat and harvest everything from our own backyard. This is only a small list of what is out there, but on a daily basis and depending on ripeness these are some of
the foods I might be eating: banana, plantane, avocado, orange, tengarine, sweet potatoe, mango, squash, lime, sweet lemons, leeche, hot peppers, tomatoes, and the list goes on. In our down time we like to experiment with some of these foods. We use the fermentation process to make pickled goods, alcohol, baked goods, sauces and many other cool things. We even made our own Rennit cheese with Robert yesterday which turned out great.
All this beautiful land is also bordering the jungle and is shared by many different animals. My feet have been eaten up by ants, spiders, and mosquitos. There are many more little insects that we share our meals with. It took a couple days to get used to but by now you are used to having things crawl around everywhere. We also saw a little diamond snake, which are poisinous. Also having eight dogs on the property, you have to assist with removing ticks and lice. On a much brighter note, you get to see some other animals in their natural habitat for the first time. Here specifically I have seen a lizard, the most colourful birds and butterflies, and many monkeys. The farm gets
visited by a group of monkey a couple times a week as they come up from the jungle for some fruit snacks. As you watch them eat and climb around, they will pick up items they can find and throw them at you from above.
There was a day this week when my back was still burnt and I was itching everwhere when I asked myself why I was doing this again exactly. The answer came to me pretty quick the next day. It was the realisation of all the amazing people I have met and will meet, and some of God's beautiful creation that I have yet to see and experience.
There are more photos below