August 3, 2008

Costa Rica ~ Pura Vida

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away" Unknown…………………

Where cattle and cowboys still roam the country side, where tourists, and motor homes criss-cross, where horses graze the country side, and where crocodiles lay in the waters and wild flowers grow everywhere.

This is Pura Vida……..The land of life………This is Costa Rica………

Where the only sunrise I saw for the week that I was there was shared with a bunch of howling monkeys that owned the land that we were traveling through.

The adventure continues as it has taken me to Costa Rica. I was assigned to shoot for the Escapes Group, and the images will appear in the new oversized coffee table book that will only feature the best resorts and villas in Costa Rica. Along with the book, a TV series was being produced and filmed as well. It is about traveling with a celebrity to exotic destinations like Costa Rica. On this trip, we started out flying into Liberia, Costa Rica.

We came across a bull riding tournament in the town just outside of Guanacaste Costa Rica… and driving south to Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort in Santa. Cruz Guanacaste, Costa Rica. where we fought the rain and the clouds to get some great images of the spa, pool, and zip line over the pool and golf course at Paradisus Resort.

After a long day of shooting we wrapped up at Paradisus

We then drove to the hotel called Punta Islita (
at three plus hours of driving in the rain at night where at anytime we could have driven off one of the mountains… the constant bounce of my body that wriggled in the seat trying to maintain a non-awkward position lasted the entire trip waking up or nodding off from a comatose state. It was either at 12am or 1am where our driver comes to a halt at a small river that was once was a stream, coming back to reality in the seat I saw our driver throwing rocks into the water trying to gauge the waters depths. I see Glenn in the corner of my eye as he walks along the bank and with his slow sleep-walking kind of step as he walks up to the waters edge. Feet, ankles, shins the water ends just below his knees. Roberto, our driver, says we go, it's not that deep, and we are only minutes from the gates at Punta Islita and what will be our first oasis. Our drive ends at 2am in the Nicoya Peninsula at the doors of Hotel Punta Islita. The villa……… the view and sounds I awoke to were of the birds that chirped and sang which caused me to turn over to look out my window only to focus on the colors of the sky the water and then bammmmmm I finally notice the rainbow glowing over them. Perched on the hand carved railing surrounding my very own infinity pool overlooking this huge valley and sitting high on a mountainside where only a few miles below is the beach it is encased by rocks and smaller mountains... I am transfixed and my gaze lingers which seems to have been an eternity and my thoughts and focus come back ….. ..………………. I put the coffee down and run for the camera............................

The morning started with this and ended after 12 hours of shooting then ………..

We drive to Arenal, and we are staying at the Tabac√≥n Grand Spa Thermal Resort, ( With a 5 hour drive it would be the longest and hardest drive with no time to stop .our driver hauls us there…… Arenal and its volcano wonders, its huge mass that heats and refreshes the lands that have grown at her feet… This resort is built around and on top of her... her breath it pours water though the 10 plus water pools… The rooms, the spa, the gourmet food are all top shelf…

Our ending point is no where to be found on our drive to El Silencio ( set back in the mountains, hidden by clouds, we are over 1500 feet above water ... the clouds break through the mountain tops as we speed towards nowhere. A road cuts out between two giant hills, green lush grass grows as high and as far as your eyes can see…… I notice a white horse squarely in the middle of this hillside. …………. We come to a white gate and I open the door and step out… covering my camera with a towel and a plastic bag to shelter it from rain, I walk slowly towards this horse, as I get closer I start to whistle and make sounds with my mouth…. The horse reacts rearing to a trot, trotting to a gallop, galloping until he is at full stride. I click away my camera and does its best to keep up… click, click, click, click… I hear a horn……… The illusion is over… and I have the images………We are now in Bajos Del Toro Costa Rica. The dirt roads end at the base of the lodge and scattered in the adjacent hills lies 15 or so villas……. Each set back from the other has its own jacuzzi, each has its own view of the main lodge, and the mountains that surround it. In the distance, I hear fresh water, we are in the middle of a valley, we are immersed in nature and other than momma nature there is silence. Birds, water, a slight breeze mingle with only my foot steps in the crunchy earth beneath.

We go to our villas……….. We each take in our own view in our own villa….. bright and early... waking to the sound of the rain and a golf cart, I walk to the terrace and stare. Through the clouds, trees peak, through the air I notice a guy driving a cart... he is wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. He comes to a stop at the base of the lodge, and gets out and reaches for a few baskets in the back. I turn and wander inside back into silence; I turn on the shower and turn it off. I get dressed and head out for a walk, headed on a trail I walk towards one of the mountains. I hear the golf cart again getting close to me ... I see driving towards me in the golf cart in the orange jumpsuit is Marco, the chef of the El Silencio which he tells me he was just picking veggies, flowers, and other edible herbs for today's menu. He mentions that they are fully organic and they grow almost all of the food that is served, and what is not grown here they get from local farmers…….

Waterfalls (3) nature trails unlimited, peace and quiet priceless… Here everything stops including time……. Shooting all day while the sun was fighting with the clouds who was fighting with the rain to see who would prevail… We made it to the waterfalls, we made it to the outside yoga area. We made it inside just quick enough before the powers that be brought in the rain. We set up a romance shot in the main lodge with a couple who was also guest's of the resort. Our dinner being served at 10pm, our day is over
Time to relax under the clouds and sit in my jacuzzi and listen to the silence. Goodnight……………

Villa Caletas
Set in the hills of Jaco… Perched atop several mountain tops and overlooking the pacific, the villa is recessed into this countryside. It is clearly one of Costa Rica’s best resorts. A palace that was hand built piece by piece it was hauled up overlooking the coast, and has one of the largest art collections that spans the world and for centuries only a select few were able to harness some of these works. We are here to shoot the countries only master chef’s gourmet dishes, we are working throughout the resort shooting their 5 star villas, with private infinity pools, sheltered and hidden rock walls, hundred plus year old trees, where vultures float on the wind and where privacy can't be disturbed by other guests. I find myself getting lost in one of the may areas where only a few guests go. Unnoticed, unbothered, what I found was too many subjects to shoot, too many details that can not be lost in this walk, too many ways to travel in and out of these giant rooms.

The week comes to an end… many more miles ahead is Costa Rica's Pacific coastland Papagayo…………… long days, long drives, and almost no sleep. We are at the Four Seasons in Peninsula Papagayo .

We are here showing up under the black rain clouds that have followed and beat us to every destination on this trip and today is no different. We are here to shoot the spa, their golf course, and one over-the-top spectacular 3 bedroom villas and it is 4 pm. The sun can barely be seen through the clouds, the crew is hungry, sweaty, and on 3 hours of sleep we unpack the truck with all of our gear... oh no we are not sleeping here, we are not getting whisked away to our 5 star villa over looking the pacific ocean.. we are here to work  we get boxed lunches while we are hauling our gear and our meals down the steps into the marble cut stairs, past the reception desk where guests wait to be guided to there private spa rooms for the best massages and treatments in Costa Rica..

This is just a taste of the trip.
I leave you with imagery of what lies in Costa Rica……….Steve July 2008