Pura Vida

Jaguar Jungle Hostel at Drake's Bay in Costa Rica.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took one less travelled by.
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

Arriving in San Jose was a little awkward, I definitely was not moving like a turtle in its shell with my giant board bag dragging behind me and had trouble communicating with the bus drivers. Tired of traveling, I decided to head to Dominical, only a few hours bus ride away, rather than making the 10-12 hour trek all the way to Pavones. I met two German girls, Kira and Clara, at the bus station who were headed in the same direction, but traveling a bit farther south to Palmar Norte.

Exhausted, I lapsed into a restful sleep on the bus and awoke when the bus stopped for dinner. As I wolfed down a generous helping of ceviche, Kira and Clara approached me anxiously. We just learned that we are already past Dominical, Kira said. Shit, I thought.

I inquired about taking a taxi back to Dominical but it was expensive and the inefficiency of it all irked me. Another option was to continue all the way to Canoa, stay overnight, and head to Pavones from there. The bus was getting ready to leave, so I had no choice but to climb aboard and ponder what to do. It was already dark, and the thought of arriving in Canoa by myself, after dark, seemed daunting. I moved to the seat in front of Kira and Clara and asked to borrow their map, feeling very alone and vulnerable all of the sudden, wishing I could just stay with them and take a bus to Pavones in the morning.

As if on cue, Kira interrupted my thoughts and suggested that I stay with her and Clara in Palmar Norte. Relief surged over me like a warm ocean. A local Costa Rican, or tico, named Jerson, got off the bus with us and showed us the way to the hostel in town. He did his best to give me information about busing to Pavones in the morning. It sounded very complicated and likely to take the whole day.

Jerson was visiting family in Drake Bay, the same place Kira and Clara were headed, and offered them some details about transport for the next morning. Kira and Clara had heard that it was one of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica, right next to Corcovado National Park, and were taking a boat from Sierpe to a hostel situated “where the jungle meets the ocean” as described in an email that Kira read to me from a hostel correspondent. I was intrigued. Abruptly, a memory alighted to the surface of my mind – a dream I had a few nights before where I was riding on a boat and islands hued in brown and gray and gold rose up above the water. In my dream, I was in Costa Rica, and I was happy. When I woke up I reflected on the dream with contentment, but it was tinged with a touch of confusion. Isn’t Costa Rica supposed to be green? I thought, remembering the dry-looking islands.

As I replayed the dream in my mind, I became excited at the prospect of getting on the boat with Kira and Clara. I double checked the surf report and the forecast was lackluster for Pavones, at least through the end of the week. That settled it, I was going to Drake Bay. The only question seemed to be whether or not I should bother lugging my boards all the way there. Jerson said there were some waves nearby, but it was hard to glean any definitive information. I pictured meager beach break and told Kira and Clara I would try to find a place to stash the boards. You should bring them, they protested. So I did.

We took a bus to Sierpe the next morning and boarded a boat at the river. Soon we were weaving slowly through the channels of a lush jungle, surrounded by emerald mountains draped with vines, rich with sounds of parrots and monkeys.

As we emerged from the mangrove into the open ocean, the mud green river water poured into a brilliant teal sea, translucent and shimmering as the light sparkled off of the surface. Small islands of brownish gray rock jutted up through the water along the coastline, the jagged peaks glinting with golden halos of clouds and sky.

The boat accelerated, and I felt a surreal lightness come over me. As the spray sang off of the motor, I felt that I too could launch upward and outward, float above and beyond this boat, dissolve into the air – dense and rich with the sweat of this living, pulsing being of land and ocean – and be held aloft by it.

As we pulled up to the hostel, a tiny beach bordered with that same otherworldly rock, framed with palm trees that seemed to wave us into shore, I knew that I had made the right choice, not just about traveling with Kira and Clara, about everything.

We were welcomed by Suzannah, Leo, and Nicole. Suzannah grew up in the Bay Area, moved to Costa Rica in the ‘70s, bought land and built the place, raising her 6 children here, including her son, Leo. Nicole, from Germany, met Leo on a visit to Costa Rica, and returned to be with him. Part of the delicious sweetness of this place has been spending time with these three, as well as Kira, Clara, and the resident volunteers.

There are many delicious things – kayaking to the rock island with Leo and watching out for sharks while he spears fish; Suzannah’s homemade tarot bread and cinnamon roles; skinny dipping in the warm ocean after dark, floating on my back and watching the full moon move across the sky; surfing an overhead, lined up left with friendly ticos, and then by myself for hours; swimming up the river to pristine waterfalls and pools; hiking through the jungle with my surfboard, over ridges, across beaches and streams; climbing a tree and filling my rash guard with starfruit to bring back to the hostel; running out of clean water and finding a fresh green coconut on the side of the trail, cracking it open on a rock and feeling the sweet warm liquid run down my throat, through my veins and into my heart, drawing strength from it.

Not everyone takes pleasure in these things, because they are not always soft, or easy. The bug bites, sunburns, blisters, thirst, sweat, dirt, spiders and snakes add a certain roughness; but its a roughness that I seek out in my daily life, a roughness that I relish in. I rub the roughness over my skin, to exfoliate everything dead and heavy, everything that suffocates whats deep inside, the glowing consciousness that is me, raw and naked and pure.

The ticos have a saying, Pura Vida. Someone said this to me when I arrived, when I tried to convey why I decided to travel to Costa Rica by myself. Ah, he said in understanding, Pura Vida. These words are on a picture in the kitchen of the hostel, a picture constructed from butterfly wings, which seems infinitely fitting. The Pure Life. It is delicate and it is fleeting. If you close your eyes, even for a moment, you might miss it as it flutters by.

11 thoughts on “Pura Vida

  • Posted on March 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    What an amazing review! I am headed there in May and so excited 😀 I also wrote a blog post about my planned trip, feel free to check it out. Would love to connect with you and learn more about your journey! Please stay in touch 😀

    • Posted on May 21, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Kacy, I hope you’re having an awesome trip! Great blog 🙂 Feel free to reach out if you need any travel tips.

  • Posted on May 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Your blog and the photos are wonderful. James sent your website when I emailed him that Alan and I will be in San Francisco soon and wanted to see you both.
    Looks like you are having a great adventure.
    We look forward to following you as you travel.
    Love, your cousin, Susan

  • Posted on April 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Yeah…having a good life..la pura vida Áloe..uhhh..you know;life is a wave.go surfing and having fun….cuidate mucho guapa y nos vemos pronto..

    • Posted on April 14, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      😀 Surfeamos ahorita!!

  • Posted on April 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Living the life we all would like to have. Be safe and well. We all miss you on Warren st.

    • Posted on April 14, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Miss you too 🙂

  • Posted on April 6, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Love your blog and pix. But I really miss you, but am glad you are having this experience. However better you than me :-). Luv, Nana

  • Posted on April 6, 2015 at 6:47 am

    ¡Que Bueno! Keep ripping out there and don’t forget the surf pics!!!

    • Posted on April 14, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Surf has been firing…pics coming soon!

  • Posted on April 6, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Hey Savilla!

    Could you please send me the picture by email! 🙂
    I hope you enjoy your travel!


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