By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy: Griet Depypere
Griet Depypere’s life began in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium in the town of Kortrijk. Her journey to Costa Rica included adventures there and an adventure in Italy before landing in Langosta and the development of Tamarindo’s only 5-star hotel, Cala Luna.
The discovery of some special Santa Cruz land led Depypere to build the labyrinth La Senda. She and her partner Ann Vervoort, live out there now, creating special spiritual events and overseeing the farm that supplies the hotel’s restaurant.
THE Tamarindo News reached out to Deypere while traveling in Europe.
THE TAMARINDO NEWS: Can you tell us about growing up?
GRIET DEPYPERE: Kortrijk is region for textiles, the growing and processing of the linen fiber. Walking back from school I loved to pick up the fallen seed pods of the linen plant, crush them and eat the tiny, tasty flax seeds. I loved to play hide and seek in my grandfather’s flax fiber factory on weekends. During frequent family lunches, I was deeply impressed hearing the horrors, the hardship, and painful losses of World War Two. At times, my grandfather told us about World War One, so I was convinced that life was a succession of wars and was anxiously awaiting the next one. So I was grateful for the peace. My grandfather had a bicycle factory because every Belgian owned a bicycle, as we were a flat country. My favorite bicycle trips were the ones in which I wouldn’t know where I would end up. I would take off, turning one street right, one street left, one right, and one left, full of expectation and fascinated by the new neighborhoods we discovered.
At that time, it was totally safe for children to bike around for hours, no bike paths, no helmets, no rules, pure adventure. In college, I studied Slavic philology—not a very promising professional career but it did offer adventure by discovering a new culture.
I enjoyed delving into the history of the Slavic people studying their great novelists Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gorki, etc. After college I took a sabbatical year traveling around, picking oranges and Kalamatha olives in Greece or working as a dog sitter in Israel to finance my traveling. With a scholarship from the Belgian ministry of culture I went to live in Ex-Yugoslavia and that’s when my sister Els called me to come and move to Sardinia, Italy.
She and her boyfriend, Antonio Pilurzu, planned to start a gelato business and asked me if I felt like joining. Without a doubt, I packed all my belongings in a big black plastic garbage bag and went for my next adventure: the biggest gelato parlor in Italy. We started from scratch but with hard work, lots of creativity and a lot of common sense, because none of us three had any commercial experience, we created a new concept of a gelato parlor one serving fancy sundaes up to 3,000 people an evening while they could enjoy concerts from bands from all over the world. The last three years, we even had Costa Rican bands and people eating gelato and dancing the Macarena!
TTN: How did you get into the hotel business?
GD: We were ready for a new adventure, one to build our own hotel but we were sick of Italian bureaucracy and corruption. Antonio was a wind surfer and while traveling to Hawaii, learned about Costa Rica. In 1992, we arrived in Tamarindo, fell in love with it, and bought land in Langosta. We had no experience in the hotel business. But again, with a lot of hard work, creativity and common sense we created Cala Luna.
TTN: And how did you come up with the concept of La Senda?
GD: A woman working in the laundry room of Cala Luna asked me if I was interested in buying her family finca in Santa Rosa. I told her no, but she kept on insisting. So I went to look, and walked the whole periphery, and it was love at first sight. I felt a very strong pull to this land. I just loved the place. One day our homeopathic doctor Sergio Salas visited, he was also a biologist, geologist, and a dowser. He explained to me why the Guanacastecan forests had such little tree variety, and how we could help nature to restore the biodiversity and provide food all year round for wildlife. So he gave us a nursery project for native trees, and we planted thousands of trees. As a dowser, he found a vortex where I built my home. In the forest he also found two big energy centers which have an opposite charge, positive and negative.
Two years later, we built the labyrinth and he channeled the exact instructions for the design. We contacted Ronald Esquivel, a Costa Rican architect specialized in sacred geometry and labyrinth design.
A year later, we had not only the biggest labyrinth in the world, but also the only one with two centers. Instinctively, I felt I had to share this labyrinth with others. It had a profound impact on me every time I walked it so I hoped other people could benefit from it as well. We created activities for people to experience the labyrinth and called the property La Senda which means the path in Spanish. It created such a strong energy, rebalancing visitors on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. For more advanced spiritual practitioners it can mean a portal to a different dimension or different state of consciousness.
La Senda became more renowned and people asked us to organize activities here themselves, which we welcomed as long as they were in tune with our philosophy and that’s how for example we are having Sound Journeys with Jerad and Lau, Breathing work with Patricia Coester, Ocaso Music festival, Prana healing with Brenda Blake and Gita, cosmic sound with Camilo Poltroniero. But then most important is that we started our own festival during the March equinox: La Senda Music Festival.
TTN: And the farm?
GD: Eating healthy and responsible has always been very important and we wanted our Cala Luna clients to eat in a balanced way. With Federico Pilurzu, my nephew and manager of Cala Luna, we started a real farm in La Senda and grow all the vegetables and fruits we need in the hotel. We hired a young eco-agronomist two years ago for this. Right now, we have a five-acre garden providing daily super fresh vegetables and fruits to the hotel.
We have Farm to Table dinners twice a week and Hugo, Cala Luna’s chef comes and creates delicious gourmet dishes with ingredients at peak freshness. Before dinner people receive a guided tour of the vegetable garden and can learn something about how to grow organically.
TTN: Are you spiritual?
GD: Sure I am. It would be unbearable to live thinking that life is without a reason. Since I was a child the mystery of life intrigued me and ever since I have been on a quest or search to understand the meaning of our existence. And it has been a fascinating journey!