Just down the road from where we’re housesitting is a nondescript sign on the side of the highway announcing “Panacea de la Montaña” which leads onto a rutted dirt road of dubious worth. After the initial slog you arrive at a junction on a level flat. A quick glance at the road ahead informs you that this is the time for four-wheel drive for the final push up the steep grade.
The discreet sign alongside the highway and the pitch of the daunting road may be inadvertent but no one arrives at Panacea de la Montaña unintentionally. It is, in fact, an end destination of repute; a boutique yoga retreat and spa visited by individuals, groups and aficionados intent on participating in a sublime physical and spiritual experience set inside the forested canopy of the coastal mountains of Costa Rica.
And when you reach the crest near the top of the mountain there is a vista of a lush and fertile valley below and mountains in the distance all swathed in variegated hues of green. An infinity pool seems to drop into the valley so that the vast expanse spread out before you can be admired and contemplated, a hypnotic and mesmerizing view.
Once you leave the common area of the pool, patio and cocina (kitchen) and pass by the yoga pavilion you enter the more private space of the cacitas, the individual residences for the guests. The little dwellings, seemingly set down on the mountainside randomly, offer private views of spectacular scenery from the covered porches.
Trails meander around the mountaintop and slopes, spread with white rock for easy visibility and edged with larger river stones. There’s a feeling of discovery as one wanders about this little bit of paradise; every turn reveals something new such as a totally unexpected labyrinth amid the trees or benches here and there for contemplation.
And interspersed throughout the walk are signs painted by guests with meaningful bits of wisdom or river rocks decorated with pithy expressions of inspiration and insight.
Upon our arrival in Tamarindo we were introduced to the three owners of the yoga retreat by Tineke, for whom we were housesitting. Mary leads the yoga classes and Debbie, who is also a yoga instructor, acts as gourmet chef extraordinaire while Peter deals with the business side of living in nirvana as well as teaching aqua fitness classes and providing reflexology treatments. We signed up for four weeks of classes and, from our novice perspectives, were bent sideways, forwards and backwards, stretched out and relaxed within an inch of our lives. Here, amid the greenery of the coastal forest and accompanied by the twittering of birds, the flitting of multi-hued butterflies and the baleful calling of the howler monkeys, we slowly stretched and breathed to the measured and calming cadence of Mary’s expert instruction. Each class was unique and had the successful goal of making us feel refreshed both mentally and physically. One of our favorite sessions (no effort involved!) was a restorative yoga class that focused on us moving our bodies into a variety of comfortable positions fully supported by various pillows and cushions and concentrating completely on doing nothing, breathing deeply in and out and just b-e-i-n-g. And, at the end of every class, when the cymbal would chime softly, the realization would slowly creep into our minds, “But, surely that wasn’t ninety minutes already?”
And all too soon our time, not just for the day, but for Panacea de la Montaña had come to an end. But we gained, with the aid of Mary’s classes and instructional materials, the ability to continue with our practices as we decamp again for parts further south.
By Anita and Richard