Archive for November, 2009

Rancho Margot, sustainable living

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 by issycf

IMG_2824 (Medium)Whilst we were in the area around Volcan Arenal, we made a visit to Rancho Margot, a working example of truly sustainable living.
The ranch was started six years ago by Juan Sostheim, an Argentinean, who had been visiting the area on holiday, but fell in love with the surrounding landscape.
He decided to buy 400 acres on the shores of Lake Arenal and has spent the last years applying old and new techniques of farming and science to create this marvellous place.

After arrival, we were taken on a tour of the farm by our guide, Jose.
We started through the gardens, with examples of much of the native flora of Costa Rica.
Then we were shown the hot water system – heated by Compost!
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There were six ‘pens’ of general garden and kitchen waste, in varying stages of decomposition.
In each pen were several metres of pipe containing water. As the compost is broken down by micro-organisms in the soil, it creates temperatures of around 40-50 degrees celcius in the middle, heating the water in the pipes which is used for the hot water in all the accomodation and kitchen. Hot enough for a nice shower, but not nearly hot enough to burn.
An even larger scale version is used to heat the pool.

The farm area consisted of organic vegatable and herb gardens as well as chicken, pig and cattle.
No pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are used. Undesirable insects are kept away from the open sided green-house by a surrounding row of Basil plants! As simple as that.
Fertilizer is the methodically re-constituted manure from the farm animals. Solid waste is seperated from liquid and then broken down by earth worms until it is rich, dark soil again.
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They also make all their own soaps, cleaning products, insect repellants and herbal medicines. All from what they grow on the ranch.

Electricity is provided by two small hydro-electric generators. One 8kW and the other 20kW.
They run off two streams flowing through the property, are quite unobtrusive, and provide electricity for a hotel of 15 or so rooms, 4 bungalows, bar, large kitchen, office, as well as the owners residences.

Gas for cooking is made by the bio-digestor: Liquid waste from the animals is collected in a large flexible tank, air is eliminated and then the liquids are broken down by micro-organisms to methane gas and further liquid waste which can then be treated through marsh and pond plants before going back into the natural system.

Besides being self sufficient, the ranch has other projects such as rescue and rehabilitation of forest animals, re-growth of rain forest, sponsorship of ranger patrols against poachers in the nearby Monteverde Cloud Forest and is a part of the program Children’s Eternal Forest.
They have a volounteer progam for individuals and groups to come and work and learn about their methods.
All in all, it was an eye opening experience, set in a magical, beautiful oasis.


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Mum’s Visit

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2009 by issycf


Two weeks ago my Mum (Bernadette, for those who need a name other than ‘Mum’) arrived at San Jose airport. James and I met her there and the three of us set out on an inland adventure of Costa Rica.

Our first stop was Volcan Arenal, one of CR’s active volcanoes! We went on a night hike to see the lava flow and it was truly amazing, seeing the orange glow of the molten rock, which travels over 200kph down the steep slope of the volcano was unforgettable and worth every second of the muddy, rainy, steep, snake ridden hike up to the viewing place. Unfortunately we didn’t get any photos of the lava ;( You’ll have to come here and see it for yourself!

IMG_2728.JPGVolcan Arenal from the town of La Fortuna

IMG_2716.JPGWaiting for lava under the small hand made shelter of the viewing spot


As if seeing an active volcano wasn’t enough, after the hike we were rewarded greatly…again, with a warm, steamy swim in the hot springs river. The muscles in our body turned to jelly as we finally relaxed in the naturally hot water which was flowing over our tired bodies, a full moon above.

The small town of La Fortuna where we were staying, positioned to the east of Volcan Arenal was built there to be a perfect viewing point for tourists, many hotels emerged and were able to raise rates due to their great position. In 2000 there was an eruption which killed three people and blew out a section of the west side of the volcano. The lava began to flow out the west side then, and all of a sudden, La Fortuna was in the wrong place.

Waterfall Hike

IMG_2646.JPGMum and James

IMG_2653.JPGCaptain and First Mate

IMG_2669.JPGIt was quite a rush, standing there so close to the powerful gush of water.


Bird Watching

My stepdad Graham is an avid bird-watcher (the feathery kind) and so mum tried to get some photos of the birds which were in the garden of our hostel but every time she went out there, the birds flew away. Soon enough, many of the other backpackers staying in the hostel would tell her when there were birds outside but still, they would fly away when she went out. In a final effort to get some shots of our feathery friends, she decided to go outside and wait for them to show up.


Mum waiting for birds

Manual Antonio National park


Our next stop was Manuel Antonio National Park on the Central Pacific coast. Lonely Planet says that if you hire a guide for $20 per day, you are almost guaranteed to see wildlife, but truth be told, you are guaranteed to see wildlife anyway, the park is literally brimming with it.



IMG_2853.JPGSloth- these creatures are incredible, they move so slowly, like they’re made of stone. Apparently it’s because of the leaves they eat which slow the metabolism.


IMG_2871.JPGOh I love these little crabs, they are so cute and feel so nice when they crawl on you!

IMG_2872.JPGCappuccino Monkeys



Big rat thingy

IMG_2891.JPGIguana again

IMG_2902.JPGBoa Constrictor


IMG_2840.JPGMe and Mum complaining about how sore our legs were!

Sadly, Mums time in Costa Rica was coming to an end, James and I were going to miss our cards buddy! We were so glad she came,  the three of us had a ball. Bon Voyage!

Ill finish here with some shots James and I took of our stay in Manuel Antonio after Mum left.

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