Nothing makes you appreciate a small group tour more than when you are suddenly thrown onto a big charter coach and are surrounded by tons of people, tiny seats, and some person speaking in a crackling microphone about a billion dull facts that you could care less about. As I looked around the packed bus, I wondered if anyone was listening to this guide or not.
With the distorted microphone noise droning on, I decided to spend my time looking out the window instead of trying to make sense out of the commentary. I was on a small group tour in Costa Rica and most of the time the 5 people in our group were in our own private little van – it was perfect for conversation and intimacy. However, for this leg of our trip we had to join a bigger tour bus in order to get to a boat that would take us to Tortuguero National Park. This was an unusual situation as normally we never had to travel by coach bus on our itinerary.
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”
That’s the quote that kept running through my head as I sat in the back seat of the big bus thinking about how thankful I was that this was just a one-time thing and we’d be back to our close little group shortly.
Watching Rural Costa Rica Landscapes Pass By
When I was a kid my family took many road trips. I remember being stuck in the back seat bored (no electronic entertainment those days). My mother would inevitably tell me to stop complaining and just look out the window and enjoy the view. I wasn’t too keen on the advice and normally would just pout for a while and bug her again. Now 40 years later I was finally taking her advice.
I stared out the grimy bus window and watched rural Costa Rica go by. As my mind slowed down from all the inner chatter, I started to notice the landscape out the window. Rows and rows of banana fields with an occasional banana packing plant were fascinating to me. Simple, colorful homes with the front door open to let the breeze blow through. More often than not you’d find a dog curled up and napping in the doorway. Hammocks were often found on the front porch. This was pura vida…the good/simple/pure life in Costa Rica; slow and simple.
However, it was the fences that caught my attention.
They weren’t the normal fences I was used to. They were made of planted trees and then connected by barbed wire. These living fences were fascinating, and also quite beautiful. Much like the rock fences you find in Malta and Ireland, Costa Rica’s living fences are like a piece of artwork, but the artist is mother nature.
I often fixate on weird things in a foreign culture – trees and fencing are two things I’m strangely fascinated by – and living fences combine them both!
Read about my Other Cultural Fixations
What is a Living Fence?
To start with, I think it’s the best darn idea in fencing I’ve ever seen! In the rural areas to mark off property lines and livestock areas, you’ll find “trees” planted along the perimeter of the fields, connected to one another by barbed wire. These aren’t big trees, instead they normally have small trunks which look somewhat like fenceposts. The trees are trimmed occasionally so they don’t get too big and sway too much in the wind which would pull the barbed wire loose.
How do you Make a Living Fence?
Basically, they make a cutting from an existing tree, stick it in the ground, and it will grow thanks to the rich soil in the area. The barbed wire is added immediately and often the tree grows around the barbed wire. It takes a year for a tree to form once you plant the branch. They mainly use a couple of different varieties of fast-growing trees in Costa Rica for these rural fences; Quick Stick (English name) and the Machete Flower tree(poro in Spanish). And yes that means that if the Machete Flower tree is used there are blooms in February and March, making these fences even more beautiful!
Good for the Environment
These fences aren’t simply beautiful, they are great for the environment too. They take less maintenance, no painting, they provide a home for more mosses and leaves, provide shade for the livestock, and decrease erosion. And they are free! As I watched fence after fence out the bus window in various stages of growth, I fell in love with them more and more. In fact, when we came across a rare standard fence and I saw people working on it painting it – it seemed to stick out like an eyesore!
Where Can you See Them in Costa Rica?
All I had to do was look out of the bus window! You will find the fences everywhere once you get out into the rural areas of Costa Rica. When we were no longer in the big bus and back in our private vehicle, we even made a few stops so I could photograph them and get a better look at them up close.
Before I knew it, we were pulling up to the docks to catch the boat to Tortuguero. I guess my mom was right, sometimes looking out the window does make the time go faster!
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I was sponsored by Club Adventures on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.