Walking Over my “Jungle Hill” This Morning

I love walking by the gardens of my neighbors
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica

Lots of flowers are always blooming, like this Bougainvillea
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica 

This morning a toucan flew into that top tree
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica

I got as close as I could and zoomed in with only my cell phone camera
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica
Yellow-throated Toucan
I then cropped in further at home and mainly have just a silhouette, oh well.
My 300mm lens would have done better, but always hard as they usually stay high in the trees.
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica

A view of central Atenas from above a different house than I’ve shown before (125).
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica

And another neighbor house on top of hill I don’t think I’ve shown before.
Roca Verde, Atenas, Costa Rica
Before I moved to Costa Rica, I said that I would never live in a rich gated community, so I need to be careful about using that word “never” since after 4 months of searching for a rental house I could afford that also met my needs, this is where I found it! And since most of these big mansions have “casitas” (“little houses” like mine) that they rent out or use for “mother-in-law cottages” or servants, I am certainly not alone living among the rich as a renter and 40% of the owners here are Ticos, so not just all foreigners. Plus it is the only really nice development like this within easy walking distance of Central Atenas; in fact most realtors say Roca Verde is in “Central Atenas” (loosely defined). 
With the Atenas public water system having many shutdown problems and unfulfilled promises from politicians, we are fortunate to have our own water system within Roca Verde that is almost never down, and if that is not enough, my landlord has his own private well and pump right here on our lot!  🙂  That is a bigger deal here than it may sound! I always have good water and good pressure. 
My landlord is one of the best and even though he has this property for sale, it hasn’t sold yet and that can take years here! A German man visited 2 days ago as a prospective buyer and assured me I could continue renting at the same price if he becomes my new landlord. I am not worried. My landlord, Jean-Luc, was also the developer of all of Roca Verde and with his partner in charge of the development maintenance, etc. until this year when a new homeowners’ association took over and they seem to be doing a good job so far and have even increased the security of the property. If you drive in the front gate to visit me, expect to show your ID and have your trunk inspected upon leaving and they may even call me to verify that you are really coming to see me. Interesting. 
I think I have already shared reasons for choosing the “Central Valley” as my place to live, like medical and shopping proximity, plus from here I can easily travel on my many adventures to parks and forests all over Costa Rica and further into Central America. And it will be easy to expand my travels into South America later. As “the next best place to heaven,” Costa Rica is the perfect place for me to live the final years of my life before the real heaven. ¡Perfecto!

¡Pura Vida!

14 Reasons to Live in Costa Rica

The farming town of Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica from a walk over the hill above my house.
My house is bottom center between and below the big brown & orange roof houses. Orange roof is my landlord.
The church steeple is the center of town, facing Parque Central.

Must read research article by a Dutch expat living here: 14 Reasons to live in Costa Rica

Hope you will notice that Atenas is the only town mentioned as the only one being in the top 10 places in the world to live! It also has National Geographic’s label of “Best climate in the world.” People have asked me if I ever regret my “radical decision” to move here? The answer is unequivocally “No!” I love it here and continue to slowly become a part of the place. I will have been here 8 months on the 24th of this month!

I live in the Central Valley close to the best shopping, entertainment and medical services, while I can easily travel to a wide range of nature spots in an hour or three! (6 hours to farthermost point in country) Last week I was on Pacific coast just an hour away. In September I go with birding club to the Talamanca Mountains maybe two hours away plus a tack-on adventure of my own. Then in October I go with the club again to the Caribbean coast, maybe 3 hours away, after which I plan to explore further south in the Caribbean. All these exotic vacations almost monthly with no plane fares and moderately priced hotels, meals and transportation. I love being Retired in Costa Rica! I’m “Happier than a Billionaire!” (To borrow the title of another expat’s blog and book)

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

~Andre Gide


And if you didn’t bother to go to the link above, here’s the 14 reason without his good intro:

1. Highest score on happy life years by the Happy Planet.

2. Top 10 for best places to live or retire according to International Living.

3. An amazing amount of different locations to live, within a maximum 6 hour drive of each other.

4. The huge Central Valley urban location along with hundreds of beach locations on two coasts.

5. A real democracy with many political parties.

6. NO army and the funds are spent on education.

7. A large number of the habitants are bilingual.

8. The quality lifestyle you have been used to all your life.

9. Perfect weather with many micro climates to choose from.

10. Atenas is on AARP Top 10 for best places to retire abroad.

11. #29 world ranking for Press Freedom by Reporters without Borders in 2010 (1st in Latin America).

12. #31 world ranking for Global Peace by Institute for Economics & Peace in 2011.

13. #49 world ranking for Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal in 2011.

14. Affordable healthcare and an important destination for cosmetic surgery and dentistry.

The Autopista del Sol to San Jose

Well, I splurged today and hired a private driver to drive me to San Jose for my residential paperwork appointment and to sign up for medical insurance. Part of the way we drove on the Autopista del Sol (official site), or the newest, access-controlled highway from San Jose to the Pacific Beaches. See also a Nosara Surfer’s Report on the Highway. Here’s three phone photos, then I’ll tell you about the experience in the big city.

Out our way is beautiful scenery driving up the central valley.
Further from the city is only 2 or 3 lanes, but . . .
In and near the city are 6 and 8 lanes, toll plazas, and bumper to bumper in rush hour.

I have a wonderful attorney, Jose Pablo Carter Herrera, the son of another attorney with the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, a service organization for expats living in the country. I’m still waiting for an Apostille on my proof of income which Social Security in the states refused to help me with. The embassy here is supposed to do it easily, but it didn’t happen today! The only unfriendly, unhelpful place I’ve been in Costa Rica is the U.S. Embassy. I wasn’t too surprised that they wanted me to make an appointment but they would not let me make it even though I was there standing at the guard station. The correct procedure is to do it over a certain phone number between 8 AM and 11:30 AM, no exceptions! So me and my driver wasted time there. (The embassy in The Gambia was just as haughty and difficult to work with, but you have to work with them!)

The good thing I did not expect was I got my application for health insurance started and within the next week or so I will receive a call from the doctor to schedule my physical for the insurance company. I’m covered by my Medigap Policy for the first 90 days or until March 24. My Pricose agent, Juan Colero, says I will easily have it secured by or before then. It usually takes about 5 weeks after the physical. So I wait for the doc’s call on this. Then pay a whole year’s premium at once, then after a $300 deductible, 90% of everything is paid. It costs less than my Medigap and Rx insurance in the states. But when my residency is finalized I get the even cheaper government medical service if I wish. 
Tomorrow I will dutifully call the correct embassy number during the correct hours and hopefully get an appointment fairly soon. Jose can’t file my residency application until I get this last legal document. Then it will take from 5 months to more than a year, depending on which bureaucrat is assigned my application in the Immigration Office. It is all part of the laid back life of Tico-land and I will not worry about it after I have done my part. The private insurance can go on indefinitely and I could decide I like it better than the Caja or government health plan – we will wait and see. But government medicine and a long-term Visa are the reasons I’m applying for residency.

After back around 1:00 I had lunch at a new place for me, La Trilla Restaurante. I compared their Casado con Pollo with La Carretta’s and it was very similar, though they add a piece of cheese and some black bean dip and chips. I also drank another Guanabana drink, this time con leche. Muy bien! Now back to my birds!  🙂 And my study of Spanish!

Someone asked about the inside of the apartments. During the first two weeks I linked to a photo gallery of the downstairs apartment #4. I have a smaller gallery of my upstairs apartment, since much is the same, all built-ins, granite counters in kitchen, carved doors etc. But anyway, here are the links to the Inside Apartments Galleries:

I’ll figure out how to photograph the balconies soon. They are not super grand inside, but more than adequate for me. When my boxes get here, they might get clutter or crowded.  🙂

Central Valley Day 1

Whew! Sitting in a seminar for two days was tiring, but a full day of touring was just as much so but more fun! We circled through all the neighborhoods and important places for living of San Jose then into suburbs of Rohrmoser, Escazu, Santa Anna, Heredia, Barva, and San Rafael. We saw a large house with a grand view (photo) that is now a boutique hotel plus inside a North American style suburban neighborhood home with two-car garage that was for sale. At the hotel we had tropical fruits and a short Spanish lesson. Then we had lunch at a place where the chicken is roasted over a wood fire using coffee tree wood. Nice! We had our “farewell banquet” a night early tonight and exchanged emails. And oh yes, we went to one of the largest Saturday Farmers’ Markets near Escazu in Rohrmoser and a big Walmart that had marimba players entertaining. Great! Here’s just a few of the photos from today:

The August 2014 Live In Costa Rica Tour Group of 17
Group at Hotel Posada el Quijote
Autopista from Escazu Walmart
 The multi-lane is only in the city and to airport with rest of country two-lane highways.
Marimba Entertainers at Escazu Walmart

View of Central Valley from Posada el Quijote
And oh yes . . .
Rohmorser Saturday Farmers’ Market

My Study of the Areas of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Pacific Coast Sunset by Charlie Doggett

I’ve pretty much decided that IF I move to Costa Rica, I will start with a monthly rent apartment in the center of the country while I find a rental house or apartment that I could feasibly live in the rest of my life. Always getting ahead of myself, I’ve been reading two books and lots of websites about the various sections of the country where expats live. There are pluses and minuses for each and mostly has to do with the individual person’s interests and lifestyle. Here’s my quick synopsis for now:

  1. THE CENTRAL VALLEY is where 80% of all residents live, both Tico and expats. It has the perfect weather staying around 72 degrees year around; the capital San Jose is there with all its good shopping, arts, entertainment and international airport; and it would be easier living there except that the costs are not always lower there. But the further from the big city you are the more affordable it generally is. It includes some mountain villages. 
  2. THE NORTHERN ZONE is mountainous, more rural, more affordable, and has the possibility of some great views from your house or deck. I would especially like to have a view of the Volcano Arenal like I did from my hotel near there on the Caravan.com tour. There is also Monteverde and other mountain rain forests or cloud forests that would appeal to my love of nature. Though for that I would probably like the Talmanaca Mountains south of San Jose about as much and be closer to the coast. 
  3. THE NORTHERN PACIFIC or Guanacaste is possibly the most expensive area where a lot of rich people are building mansions and it doesn’t interest me unless I got a real deal. The combination of mountains, forests and Pacific coast beaches are beautiful and otherwise appealing, though really dry in the dry season, like 4-5 months of zero rain. 
  4. THE CENTRAL PACIFIC is very appealing and closer to San Jose for shopping, etc. and has both rainforest and beautiful beaches. Jaco is the big tourist center which I would avoid, preferring around Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park rainforest. But it is getting more popular too and possibly crowded, but still closer to San Jose than the South Pacific.
  5. THE SOUTH PACIFIC seems perfect in many ways for a nature lover like me and might be my first choice, though the new coastal highway has made it more popular and the rich are buying up the land fast. It would be an area I would explore closely before a final decision. And this would be closer to Corcovado National Park and Talamanca Mountains, both of which I love. There are many waterfalls in this area, the Cinca Vintanas (5 Windows, an ocean rock formation and blowholes) all of which appeal to my photography. 
  6. THE CARIBBEAN is probably the least popular for expats other than surfers and reggae-loving young people. But it has the most beautiful tropical beaches in the country, is less expensive for housing, has jungle right up to the beach, and is a real paradise for those who live there. It is very appealing to me except for the 4-hour drive to San Jose. The closest big shopping is Limon, the Atlantic-side port, not too far. If here, I would live in the south. The north Caribbean coast has Tortuguero park where I photographed more wildlife than any other one place than maybe Corcovado. But there are no roads to Tortuguero, you have a boat if you live there! 
So you can see that if I get the financial and housing issues worked out, there will still be some tough decisions for me to make. But starting in the center and exploring for six months or a year sounds like a good way to start if I can afford it.