Pura Vida: A Travelogue, part the first

13 March: We careen around hairpin curves, up and up and up….until we reach the summit, and plunge headlong into the next valley. The landscape undulates like a quilt pressed in from the edges. One mountain crowds against the next. And the hillsides are covered in coffee plants. They line themselves up in stepped plantings that make me think of rice terraces in Asia. They stretch far as the eye can see, barely kept in bounds by fence-rows of palms.

The houses we pass are modest, but neat. Tucked into the side of the hill. With bougainvillea clambering over the walls and hibiscus growing wild in the yard. It is a world of green, punctuated by shots of color: magenta, fuchsia, violet, fiery orange, saffron, and crimson.

The air blowing in at the windows cools. And it carries water. I can feel it against my face. We have reached the cloud forest. In the beginning, it reminds me of a foggy morning in Franklin. But not for long…

Our driver deposits us at The Peace Lodge, our home for the next two days. It will not be long enough. Here we have our first experience with a synergy we will see over and over in Costa Rica. Artists come alongside the extraordinary natural beauty rampant in this little remnant of Eden, and craft something organic and lovely that belongs…that becomes an integral part of the place.

It is the pure life ethos of this exceptional people. “Pura vida!” It is greeting and farewell. It is bravo and well-done. But mostly, it is a way of being. A clean, vital embrace of joy, along with a conscientious care for their stewardship of paradise.

After wandering about for a while, all agog, mouth hanging open, in the bit of heaven that will pass for our lodging here, we decide to go for an explore. We meander down a trail that leads us into a jungle paradise of plunging waterfalls, lush foliage, and sumptuous blossoms. Every turn in the path is a new vista. A new intake of breath. Astonishing extravagance. And I am having a difficult time believing this is real. That I am here. Only in dreams are colors this vibrant; peace this thoroughly undiluted.

Tonight we will sleep in the cloud forest, doors thrown open to a lullaby of birdsong and cascading water.

We will awake to feed the hummingbirds. To feel the ferocity of their wings as they soar over our heads. To study the intricacy of their feathers and marvel at their beauty. We will feast on gallo pinto, plantains, fresh sweet papaya and pineapple, tamarind juice, soft cheese, agua dulce (a warm, sweet drink made from sugar cane and milk), and rich, dark Costa Rican coffee. We will keep company with butterflies, toucans, frogs, monkeys, sloths, and snakes. And we are only beginning…..