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Costa Rican ‘Mole Man’ Spends 10 Years Digging Large Underground Home by Hand

Manuel Barrantes, fondly known as ‘El Hombre Topo’ or ‘The Mole Man’, has spent the last 10 years building himself a unique underground home. The 62-year-old Costa Rican did it all by hand, using only picks and shovels for tools. He now uses the large tunnel as a residence and a museum, welcoming tourists and teaching children about archeology and geography.

The underground dwelling is located in Perez Zeledon, a canton of San José Province in Costa Rica. Popularly known as ‘Topolandia’, the unique dwelling features over 400 square meters of tunnels. The walls and corridors of the caves are adorned with a variety of hand-carved sculptures of turtles, dinosaurs and even TV characters like the Flintstones. The largest tunnel inside the house is at least 16 meters deep, with a comfortable lounge to welcome visitors.

Photo: America Economia

There are other rooms too – bedrooms with beds made of stone and  as many as nine windows for fresh air, conference rooms, wells with crystal-clear water, baths and showers. The whole area is powered by electricity. There’s even a landline telephone for communication. Also Topolandia is completely insulated – it keeps out the heat and the cold, as if by magic. Barrantes, who lives in the tunnels with his wife and daughters, said that his underground world offers protection against global warming, acid rain and calamities such as earthquakes.

Photo: America Economia

The idea for this unique home came to him during his many travels across Europe and South America. Barrantes visited a total of 18 countries as a backpacker, working as a miner and learning various digging techniques. He witnessed people living caves and caverns, protected from harsh weather, and that’s how he was inspired to create Topolandia.

Photo: Marioneta Digital

“One day, I just walked to Perez Zeledon and I thought I could do my ‘little cabin’ under the earth,” said Barrantes. When he started digging, one of his daughters cried that he was crazy, that he would be buried underground. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened. “This is my life, my work,” he said. “This is a den of alluvium, a natural ecological museum. This is almost a mansion. It’s a structure that will not collapse because it is perfectly designed to hold, and it has no concrete.”

Although his underground home is quite large, Barrantes has no plans to stop. He’s never found gold or diamonds in the past 10 years of digging, but that hasn’t put him off in the least. He wants to excavate until he cannot anymore, and he jokes that he’ll probably dig his way to China some day!

Source: El Pais