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Pura vida is Spanish for pure life. It is to Costa Ricans what 'hang loose' is to Hawaiians – an iconic expression of native cool. Pura vida. Pure life, baby.

On the eve of my departure, I thought I'd drop you a note and update you on the status of our excellent adventure.

Mijo has been in-country for a month now and is having the time of his young life. He has been traveling around staying in hostels while exploring the different regions which are topographically and biologically diverse. He first traveled from the the capitol, San Jose in the high Central Valley, southeast to the Caribbean coast where he soaked up the Afro-Caribbean culture. He liked it – almost too much. I thought we were going to blast him out of there with dynamite.

Finally, he abandoned his hammock and caught a chicken bus (I guess they call them that because chickens ride free) to La Fortuna in the region of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano. He liked that too – found a Peruvian/Chinese restaurant that he fell in love with.

After a couple of days in La Fortuna he caught a bus to Monte Verde in the Cloud Forest region. He really liked that too. He was awed by the many botanical wonders, giant trees dripping vines, bromiliads and orchids. But it wasn't until he took a guided night hike that he really got to see the wildlife: monkeys, sloths, agoutis, etc.

 Throughout his journey he has met people from all over the world. In San Jose he encountered two Chinese women chattering away with each other. He approached them and introduced himself in Mandarin. He said you should have seen the look on their faces. They were so thrilled. They told him they had had no one to talk to but each other for the several weeks they'd been there. So they had a nice long chat. He told them about his experiences in Shanghai and they gave him tips for when he next visits the Middle Kingdom. He has also met people from Australia, Germany, Mexico, Panama, The Netherlands and more.

One recent night he was sitting around drinking Aguardiente (firewater/sugarcane rum) with a Polish guy, a German, an Australian and a Dutchman. The Polish fellow quipped, “In Poland we have all these jokes that begin, 'A German, an American, an Australian, a Dutchman, a Russian and the devil walk into a bar...'.” He said all they needed was to find a Russian and the devil and the joke would be complete.

I thought we were going to have to blast him out of Monte Verde too, but finally he got on a bus for San Jose where he is going to meet me at the airport tomorrow. He booked a hostel on-line on the outskirts of San Jose but had trouble finding it. He asked a local for directions but the guy didn't know where it was. The Costa Rican fellow used his cell phone to call around until he found out where it was and called another friend to come and take Daniel there. Daniel was blown away at how friendly and helpful everyone was. It's good to know that the Costa Rican people's reputation for warmth and friendliness is well deserved.

I looked on-line for a house to rent on the Pacific coast because Daniel never made it to that region and also because we are planning a visit with kossack, Alice Olson in Playa Nosara a little later this month. I called a number for the listing I found and had a stroke of serendipity that seems most fortuitous. The owner is a transplanted Californian who told me he came to Costa Rica to visit 14 years ago and just never went back. Steve was the friendliest guy, flexible, easy-going and eager to help. We had thought we were going to have to wrestle luggage and chicken bus it to the Pacific coast. Turns out Steve is going to meet us in San Jose and drive us all the way, saving us some money but also a lot of hassle and discomfort, most likely. It's nice when the travel gods are with you.

Apparently the NSA vampire squid formerly known as the Internet has snaked its way into the remotest jungles and cloud forest hideaways. Daniel has skyped home every day. So, as it turns out, you may be stuck with me after all. I'm not entirely sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, yay! On the other hand, yikes! There's nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide. Oh well, it'll save the NSA the trouble of tracking me down on foot. This is like being on lifetime double-secret probation.


Pura vida, muchachos.


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