What Do Zip Lines, Yoga, The Economy in San Pablo and Tourism All Have in Common?
“Bridges,” answers Jill Ruttenberg of the Amatierra Yoga and Wellness Center near the village of San Pablo de Turrubares, “and the people here can ill afford to be cut off from working in Orotina or Turu Ba Ri Park. No buses can pass from the tiny towns on this side of the river to Orotina, and workers in Orotina going to the tour park can’t get there, either. Have the people not suffered enough, losing 5 residents in the tragic accident in October 2009? “
In a double dose quirk of fate, the floods of last November took out the temporary Bailey bridge that was put across the river to replace the suspension bridge that collapsed a year earlier, until a permanent, two lane bridge can be built. Meanwhile, a small boat takes people across the swiftly flowing river, although it cannot transport goods of any kind. This has killed the once thriving day tour business of the Turu Ba Ri Park, eliminating 110 jobs from this small community and millions of dollars of revenue for the park alone. Tourists from San Jose would frequent the thousand acre park, as well as hundreds of tourists from cruise ships each time one would dock in Puntarenas.
“Our friend, Oscar Saborio, owner of the Turu Ba Ri Adventure Park, desperately worked with us to try to convince the government to fix the bridge to save his very livelihood and life long investment, and to save the jobs of more than 110 people who worked at the park, all local ticos. We attended meetings, wrote letters, and were told there were other priorities in more touristy areas, and that they wanted to wait and make a 2-lane, solid bridge this time. Well, fortunately, now MOPT scrambles to complete another one lane Bailey Bridge by this Sunday, as the new highway will be closed for repairs. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” continues Jill.
In the meantime, this message appears on the home page of the turubari.com web site: Dear Customer: Given the confirmation of the Minister of Public Works and Transport of Costa Rica, that will not be possible to build a bridge within a short term, we feel the need to proceed with the indefinite cessation of operations of the park. We appreciate all the support over the years and hope for your understanding in this.
The “new highway” is the Highway #27, the Alta Pista del Sol Ruta Caldera toll road from Escazu to Caldera that will be closed for one month for extensive repairs between Atenas and Orotina. If the new Bailey bridge does not open when the highway closes, that means that the residents of of San Pablo and the Turrubares Canton, as well as the guests of Amatierra Yoga Retreat will have to drive 3 hours or more. The detour would be down through Puriscal, Ciudad Colon, Alejuela, then up the old Aguacate road to Atenas and then over to Orotina. The new temporary Bailey bridge would make that trek just a 20 minute drive. “The first Bailey bridge, the one that went down last November, took 3 weeks to complete, and we’re all hoping this one will be finished soon,” says Jill.
“Don’t get me wrong”, Bob says, “We love Costa Rica, our business here, and the opportunity to live in the tranquil countryside, but our clients and tourists do need to get to our boutique hotel and yoga retreat!” Remembering when they first arrived, Bob continues, “We were escaping a frustrating political scene in the U.S. in 2005 and watching people there get more and more stressed out, and wanted to offer them a refuge to rest and rejuvenate with yoga and wellness treatments. Granted, Amatierra is in an area with few North Americans and no popular tourist draw, a bit of old Costa Rica, which is exactly what we found so charming. San Pablo de Turrubares is the canton at the western edge of San Jose province, and is the poorest of the cantons. Only 5,000 people live here, 1000 in the county seat of San Pablo village. We’re really in the country, and we love that.”
Since Bob and Jill arrived 5 years ago, the Amatierra Retreat & Wellness Center has been awarded the Certificate of Sustainable Tourism by the ICT, and they have worked to help the local community with employment, and introduced some rudimentary elements of sustainability to an area used to getting by with no trash collection, and spraying “veneno” (poison) on ripening papaya fruits. “Where do I take my recycled trash?” Jill naively would ask when the Ruttenbergs first arrived. The answer would come three years later when Amatierra Foundation started a recycling program. The foundation was the dream of their daughter, and the stated charter is to “Promote Sustainable Community Development and Cultural Eco-Tourism in Costa Rica.” This all blends in well with Jill’s background and credentials as a Certified Herbalist, hence Amatierra being a Wellness Center.
Jill continues, “The good news is that people do come here even though the bridge is out, as most stay for multiple days. We manage to get them here–whole groups of people doing yoga , meditating, hiking the trails, eating amazing gourmet healthy foods, and learning about sustainable gardening. Spirits get lifted here, people transform, receive individualized health care from a professional herbalist, pamper themselves with massages, and clear out the toxic stress of their fast paced lives while the frogs and toucans sing in the trees. Nature and peace do work! The scarlet macaws just this month are flying their babies over the roof of the octagonal yoga studio, a troop of white faced monkeys are waiting patiently for the mangos to get ripe, and Amatierra’s guests remain in awe of the exquisite beauty of the land we all love. Heck, maybe it’s okay that it isn’t easy to get to Amatierra. After all, Costa Rica is for adventurers, right? But, it’s not about us; it’s about the community, and we do need the bridge.”
It seems incongruent that the number one industry in Costa Rica is Tourism, and the ICT has opted for full color posters in New York subways to bring people here, but there is not a bridge in place so that people can get to the zip line and Turu Ba Ri Adventure Park - a local Costa Rican Abuelo grocery mogul’s lifelong dream to create and manage.
“We’re hoping once there is a good bridge in place, so that buses from the cruise ships that the Turu Ba Ri Park depends on can pass , that the Park will reopen. “ Bob says, adding that the Adventure Park was their guests’ favorite place to visit. “It would help if MOPT could put up a sign or two from the new highway , or from Puriscal, so more people could find this beautiful piece of Paradise. But, most importantly, fix the bridge.”Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Hotels, Travel, Yoga Retreats