Living the Tico dream in the cloudforest
Like so many young Central Americans, Blaine felt compelled to head north, to seek - if not his fame and fortune - at least a decent wage in the States. Having just turned 18, he followed in the footsteps of his uncles to New Jersey, where for some 9 years he made a very reasonable living in the carpentry trade.
He also met his wife, Katia, who hails from the same tiny community in the Talamanca Cordillera. In due course the decision was made to return home, where they could raise their children among family and friends in the fresh mountain air of Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest mountain.
Woodwork did not prove as lucrative back in Costa Rica, so Blaine looked around for other work opportunities. Trekking up Cerro Chirripó is a popular 2/3 day walk, so there were opportunities to work as a porter, it was steady money at least. However, it proved far more than that, it took him along an even more interesting path; with his excellent English and impeccable local knowledge, training as a guide was a logical next step.
However, setting up as a guide in a remote corner of Costa Rica and expecting an orderly queue to form isn’t overly realistic, but this is a couple who are passionate about their region, and patient. Which is where serendipity steps in. Last November, as I was travelling through the highlands looking for new ways to experience the central mountains of the country, I unearthed Blaine.
I know that conjures up images of me hacking through the undergrowth to make a startling discovery for you. I wish I could claim that but, in truth, this is an area where everyone not only knows everyone else, but most are related in some tenuous way: ‘my brother’, ‘my cousin’, ‘my wife’s cousin’s husband’, etc… Which is to say that once I had made it to this area and so much as opened my mouth to ask who knew their way around, I was bound to be taken to Blaine.
The day I spent with him was an undeniable high point in a trip that was in no way short on ‘wow’ moments. Perhaps all the more so as it was in many ways quite understated. Blaine is a gentle soul, softly spoken, yet he’s someone with whom it’s very easy indeed to strike an instant connection.
I’ve had plenty of great guides in my travels, and have of course enjoyed the ‘larger than life’ characters, who always have a witty crack or anecdote (doubtless rehearsed many times over). But, to me, that kind of style is out of place in the cloudforest. It’s a peaceful place which invites reflection; Blaine is, I think, the perfect companion in this environment.
While I can’t of course claim to know him in any real depth, what Blaine helped kindle in me was an instant and deep affection for the area, one which made it very hard to leave. In many ways I think that’s the best appraisal I could give any guide, anywhere.
By sharing their beautiful region, they know they are directly helping to improve the shape of the local economy. It’s two smart people, driven by a desire to improve their lives and those of their community, and to share the beautiful corner of the world that is their home. Turns out everything they needed was right where they left it after all.
If you'd like to share Blaine's company, I invite you to take a look at our Pacific Uncovered itinerary as a basis for your own tailor-made trip to Costa Rica.
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