THE CASA AT CLOUDBRIDGE
The Casa is the base for the Cloudbridge Reserve project. The house, pictured above, is on 4 hectares of partially forested land alongside the Chirripó Pacifico river on the slopes of Mount Chirripó, the highest mountain in the country. It is the last house on a dirt road up the mountain, 2.6 kilometers from the village of San Gerardo de Rivas. It is reached neither by the power grid nor by telephone lines. We welcome visitors both to the house and to the adjacent reserve. It relies on solar and micro-hydro power and water from a nearby spring. The property has several waterfalls, the biggest of which is pictured above. To the north, across the fast-running river, is a 2500 hectare private forest reserve.
The Casa is built on concrete stilts in the classic post-and-beam construction method. The walls are built by stretching paper and chicken wire between the verticals, and then layering cement on both sides. This results in a durable structure with an adobe-style external look and many quirky features inside. The windows and doors are from old demolished houses. The floors and ceilings are lustrous Costa Rican hardwoods taken from fallen trees.
To the south is private farmland and forest. To the east, 0.6 kilometers up a mountain path, is the Cloudbridge Reserve, and behind it Mt Chirripó.
Candlelight and Solar Power
The house was designed for candelight, with little candlestick shelves and alcoves in every room. While we still employ this gentle lighting, we have now installed a 500-watt photovoltaic system which offers enough power for low-voltage lights, a laptop computer, and other small appliances.
Solar System at The Casa consists of:
- 7 – solar panels
- 1 50-Amp charge controller
- 8 – deep-cycle batteries
- A small inverter, which allows limited use of 110-volt AC appliances.
A propane on-demand water heater offers hot water in the kitchen and hot showers in both The Casa and the Casita. The propane stove is a little finicky but provides for all cooking needs once it’s lit. The propane tanks have been moved into a secure storage compartment underneath the house. Along with the two hooked-up tanks, there’s a spare.
Wood-burning stove in The Casa fire for a Rainy Day Fallen wood provides limitless fuel for the woodburning stove, which warms up the kitchen nicely during the long, confining days of the rainy season. The burners on the stove serve to heat up water. Wet clothing is soon dried on the rack above the stove. The chimney runs up through the guest room, spreading warmth. Nine degrees north of the equator and 1800 meters above sea level, The Casa enjoys year-round mild temperatures.
The toilet: don’t flush the paper! Burn the Paper
The Casa’s indoor flush toilet is a pleasant luxury. It drains into a septic tank. This one, as is typical in Latin America, is low-capacity tank, which means it does not handle toilet paper very well. Paper must be placed in the little bin alongside the toilet. Along with other paper, it is burned in a tin barrel outdoors. In The Casita, the composting toilet requires minimal use of water and periodic emptying.
Below the house rushes the mighty Rio Chirripó Pacifica, and just up from the house is a small spring-fed pond. Mist-moisture feeds the surrounding vegetation. To ensure a consistent supply, we’ve installed a homemade filter in a stream up the slope south of the house. Water is fed through a hose that runs down the stream to a tank near the house. An underground hose brings water from the tank to the house. The tank is cleaned out periodically.
This system gives us near-pristine water. Because the water comes from a mountainside stream, the system can get clogged up after especially heavy rains. We keep a spare barrel of water just in case.