There is a place on earth where custard grows on trees; a fruit called olosapo. Sweet, dense, fibrous, mildly egg-like. It tastes like pastry cream.Where rivers run from turquoise to neon blue, like the Rio Celeste. A natural magic trick; a mixture of sulphur and calcium carbonate. Where 1,400 types of orchids bloom, pollinated by more than 50 species of hummingbirds. Where strawberries grow on volcanoes.
Costa Rica. Warm weather. White beaches. Banana trees that line the side of every road and hill and field. There are hundreds of varieties. A land, 25% of which consists of national parks, wildlife refuges, and natural reserves. We head to one of those.
We climb to the crater of a volcano, stare into it before the mist catches up with us, then hike down into the rainforest. Hanging bridges and waterfalls and sloths and chimpanzees. The latter engage in a food and feces fight. We do not see the humour. We flee.
We stop by a river for our breaths, then, a short walk down from the path, we slip off our clothes and into a natural hot spring. Exhale.
In the evening, chilled white wine in hand, a stroll barefoot by the sea before ceviche, some salsa and merengue. Sand in our toes the next morning.
Centenary sea turtles float lazily by the shore. Centenary wooden carts creak, laden with coconuts. A drizzle of lemon and cayenne sprinkled on top, then we have coffee. Good coffee. Costa Rican coffee.
A day spent visiting coffee farms; white flowers, red berry-like fruits, the smell of roasting beans. One coffee after another, then hunger.
On the way back, we stop by a tin shack. People here call it a soda. The cheap eatery is also our host’s kitchen and dining room. She serves us lunch from a pot on the stove. Casado: rice and black beans with cooked cabbage and plantains. Chicken for you. We sit with her son at the table. She builds a hearty plate like ours for him too and asks him about his day. The ten-year-old informs us he wants to study ecotourism.
He starts his homework while we pay his mother. Peanuts. Costa Rica means rich coast in Spanish, but the citizens of this country are not wealthy. Not that they seem to mind; she smiles wide and invites us to share coffee and slices of a white cheese on pineapple rounds under the banana tree.
Everything is delicious. Time is lazy, but not slow. The sun sets at 5:30, the same time as every day; we are near the equator.
Pura vida. The pure life. Rather, a pure way of living. The reason Costa Ricans live so long and seem to be so happy. They have no standing army, but free and universal education and basic healthcare, plenty of fruits and vegetables, 5% of the world’s biodiversity, renewable energy,
Oh, and beautiful beaches. Yes, this is a happy place.