Life in the Treetops-Part 4

More Bird, Butterfly and Monkey Business


We could spend hours on our balcony watching the life in the canopy, one that most people will never experience. Thank you Meg Lowman, the pioneer in studying forest canopies all over the world. She was the first to construct platforms and zip-lines to sail her through one of the only unexplored parts of the world – the forest canopy. She lives and works in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida and is one of our celebrity professors from New College. She made me want to visit the upper levels of the earth. Thank you Erica and Matt Hogan of Finca Bellavista for making it happen, and thank my lucky stars for the opportunity.

The last day we descend to travel on some of the extensive trails in and around the mountain. The first, a steep heart-pounder, takes us up to the edge of the waterfall that has been the backdrop to our treetop aerie. Standing atop the massive surge of water is exhilarating yet frightening. “It’s sucking me over!” I yell over the deafening roar.


“It’s too exciting for me, let’s get out of here. Too bad we can’t fly back to our roost. Like SuperMatt, or the birds.” trumpets B. We follow the trail in sinewy curves down and along the crystal clear Rio Bellavista rippling over rocks. Eden calls. Stripping off our sweaty clothes, we frolic in the cool water.

But soon it’s time to return to the groundfloor of life. This time, while walking back to Base Camp, we get two reprieves. Tico employees continuing to extend the network of trails, greet us with a friendly “Que tal? Necesitan ayuda con su equipaje?”

“Por supuesto!” For sure. We’ll take help with our luggage. They carry it all the way back to camp while we meander back through the jungle, noticing that Erica, true to her word, has already added new signs directing us back. Now that’s service! Anyone interested in more information on this unique and wondrous Shangri-la just check into for site plans, examples of already built tree houses, sample house plans, rentals, rules and regulations and more. Thank you for your comments and keep them coming. Keep posted for our new adventure.


At the end of February we’ll be setting out with World Water Corp, a branch of the non-profit Water for People (from my African adventure), to a remote area in Central America, El Sauce, Nicaragua. We will be monitoring water systems that have already been put in place to see how they’re functioning. Here we go again. More soon.

Up in a Treehouse – Part 3

pc0810982-225x300-6350946Finca Bellavista


Under a bruised black sky, excitement has turned to fear trying to stay on the trail to Base Camp for dinner. Finding a flashlit sign saying ‘River Trail’, I hesitate, “Oops. Better go back. Start again.” The flashlight illuminates the sign ‘Sky Trail’ next.

“Damn it. That goes to the zip line,” B.’s irritated. “We can’t take that.” Retrace our steps again. Then, a closed but unlocked gate looms ahead of us. It leads to the river ford. We see the lights of Base Camp, but can’t cross there, either. A storm has turned the ford into a dangerous rage. We’re getting discouraged.

I’m nervous, “maybe we should try to find our way back to the treehouse?’

“Nah, we’ll find it.” Bob snickers, “I’ll lead, you haven’t made a right turn yet.”

“Oh, come on. I’ve gotten at least one,” but he’s got the only flashlight that works. I concede and follow in relief.

We finally find our way and our host Erica apologizes, ”I’m sorry I haven’t had time to put out signs showing the way back.” They obviously don’t have many dinner guests. I reciprocate, “I should’ve kept track of where I was going. The trail was tricky and slippery, I paid more attention to my feet.”

Bob pipes in, “It was too dark to follow anything.”

We sit down to ‘comida tipica’ with Erica and Matt. The most inspiring part of the meal is the conversation. This bright young couple explains their entry into their treetop paradise this way:

Erica had wondered out loud if friends or other people might be interested in building a treehouse there, and “wouldn’t it be cool if we could build ziplines to go back and forth between people’s houses, kind of like the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi?” Finca Bellavista is now an eco-development where people can live out their dreams and their treetop fantasies in a place like no other on earth. “We like to think it’s off the ground, off the grid and out of this world.”

We agree with the first two but hope to God the third isn’t true. We still have to find our way back to Treehouse Mis Ojos. Taking our time and remembering that the signs are “on our side” on the return, we make it home safe and fall into our romantic aerie.


At dawn’s first light we awake to the booming calls of the howler monkeys marking their breakfast territories, and surprise a white rat scurrying across the outside of the screen. In the kitchen to make coffee we see what its been up to. All the candles, our only source of light, are chewed into little pieces and strewn everywhere. We hadn’t expected to be sharing the inside of our nest.


After a cursory clean up we take our breakfast on the balcony as the sun glitters diamonds, penetrating the billowing mist above the falls. The birds call good morning flying through the shocking blue iridescence of dozens of morpho butterflies. We’re startled from our reverie by something huge flying through the air. Is it a bird, a plane? No, it’s SuperMatt on his zipline. “Hey, good morning!” he yells landing on a platform nearby. “Just on my morning rounds. I see you found your way home last night.”

“It would have been a lot faster your way.”

“Will you be having any meals at Base Camp today?”

“No thanks, think we’ll finish up what we can find in the cooler.” I pipe up quickly.

B. nods, “Who would want to leave this paradise? Well just hang here  in the trees.”

Finca Bellavista-Getting There-Part 2


It’s my birthday and we’re on our way to the Treehouse with our Finca Bellavista pointer sheet in hand. Lots of instructions, directions and rules. Too many to remember. It begins:

You won’t find billboards or roadside signs that lead you to Finca Bellavista. We are not a full-service spa or a fancy hotel. You won’t find TVs in our cabinas, or electricity. What you will find is a rustic, yet comfortable retreat from the outside world to explore and enjoy on your own. We are in our infancy as a project. Though we keep our location somewhat of a secret from the outside world, we are more than happy to open our doors to you since you found us!

As per directions, we follow the coastal highway south from Dominical to the remote pueblo of Piedras Blancas and turn left at the only restaurant in town, Rancho Guiri Guiri. According to the pointer sheet, it serves the best fried chicken in the southern zone of Costa Rica, and since it’s lunchtime we decide to stop. I take the safe route and order fried chicken. B. checks out the ‘specials’ and takes a chance. “I’d like to try the tepezquintle.” This rodent-like animal has been the hunters’ favorite since homesteading days and here it is on the menu, probably illegally.

“Your horoscope this month must be telling you to take chances.” I laugh.

B. knows he’s made a mistake as soon as the cook serves us, “Whew, that smells really gamy.” And it taste that way too. He takes his medicine like a man and eats most of it. I try one bite and we chalk it up to experience.

Finca Bella Vista base camp

Back in the car we finally see the obscure sign for Finca Bellavista, follow the dirt road a few miles to the ‘base camp’ and pull into the only car parking area. There’s a community center with bathhouse, kitchen, dining area and game room surrounded by well-kept gardens and trails. We meet Erica, she shows us around and we gather our belongings for the long trek to our treehouse. Thank goodness we’re in good physical health. The trail is steep, wet, and treacherous, but the destination is worth every step. A handmade sign “Mis Ojos Treehouse”, points to a two-story wooden structure set high up among four giant rainforest trees, with just one more steep ladder-like staircase to heaven.


After showing us around and giving last minute instructions, Erica leaves us with, “dinner is served at seven back at base camp.”

She’s gone before I realize. “Oh shit. We’re gonna have to walk all the way back there.”

“And in the pitch dark!”

We’ve signed up for meals instead of cooking in the treehouse. A big mistake?


We don’t want to think about it right now. We sit on the balcony and soak in the exciting new adventure of being an integral part of the majestic jungle hundreds of feet below and above us. “We’re so lucky – or rather you are. You win stuff all the time.”

“You’re right, my son used to be the lucky one. He won almost every time he entered a contest, from dinners for two to Caribbean cruises. Guess it runs in the family.”

But luck isn’t all of it. Whether you believe in horoscopes or not, taking risks and making changes is what makes our lives rich and exciting. Last week we took surfing lessons, my low bid at a silent auction for a dog adoption group. And now here we are at Finca Bella Vista in the treetops of the Costa Rican jungle drinking coffee. In our faces, the insistent sound and sight of the waterfall intertwines with sweet and raucous birdsongs, and fluttering blue iridescent flashes of Morpho butterflies.