Like riders on the subway, we held on to the straps provided, swaying back and forth as our hired driver tried to find a smooth path over the collection of rocks and potholes some called a road, our full backpacks bouncing up and down behind us, ready to burst open like ripened seed pods with the next jarring bump. With silent glances, we told each other that it would be all right as long as we kept moving forward until, finally, we arrived at a large gate with a sign welcoming us to Finca Bellavista, a sustainable tree house community.
A bumpy ride, steep hills, the chance to perspire heavily doing almost nothing at all, wearing unflattering rubber boots everywhere should we encounter a snake — these were inconveniences we gladly accepted for the chance to do something few people get to do: live, for a while, in a treehouse.
Each of the dozen or so houses scattered through Finca Bellavista’s 600 acres of primary and secondary Costa Rican rainforest are designed and built to minimize ecological impact, so we expected few conveniences. Elegantly blending into the surrounding environment, most houses are invisible until you come upon them, as if they too had simply grown upward from the forest floor along with the fecund tangle of vines, plants and trees.
We had seen pictures of course, but were unprepared for the actuality. Walking on a stone path up the steep hillside, our volunteer guide directed our attention upward. There, ninety feet above us, encircling the trunk of a large tree, a large roundish structure hovered, UFO-like, amid the surrounding tree tops.
“Is that ours?” we asked, knowing but not entirely believing the answer.
“That’s part of it,” the guide answered. We wiped our foreheads and climbed more steps, arriving at a small house-like structure against the hillside. Inside was a gas stove, small refrigerator, dining table and a sink with running water; outside, a deck with reclining wooden chairs and an entrance to the adjacent bathroom complete with mostly open air shower.
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