To Puriscal or not

While the Boston Bruins’ home game against the Toronto Blue Jays is broadcast behind me on our living room TV, I semi-recline on a lounge chair on our terrace, gazing over my kingdom from an exalted position, which I recently learned, is far less elevated than we thought, 776 m rather than 860 m.s.l. But Mildred consulted a whole bunch of satellites, therefore it must be correct. I imagine we slid down the hillside a smidgen during the last earthquake or two. But not to worry, our views are still spectacular.
Looking across the central valley of Costa Rica

The lights of Santiago de Puriscal twinkle to the left of the palm fronds. As the crow flies, that’s about 18 Km across the Central Valley, however, the driving distance is more like 3 – 5 hrs, depending on season and approach taken. Puriscal is a town we’ve tried to visit twice so far, but have yet to find. We had to abort the first try, when we attempted to cross the valley to San Pablo, but couldn’t find our way out of Escobal. Don’t ask. There is a nice soda* in the abandoned railway station in Escobal, though, serving an interesting version of ‘hamburgese’, should you be interested.

* ‘soda’ a small stand, booth, restaurant or dedicated room in a home, where Tico dishes are served. Usually for breakfast and lunch only.

In our second effort, we succeeded to make it all the way into the mountains toward Santiago de Puriscal by way of Orotina. But we didn’t reach the town proper then either. First, we drove a distance toward the Pacific on the Autostrada del Sol, which can be quite a nerve-racking affair, owing to continued construction and repair.


Then you hang a left and disappear into the hinterlands.


Across the road from the abandoned quarry above, you find this utterly charming, if slightly outdated, advertising campaign for sand, rock and cinder blocks. You know just how outdated if you consider that we have been using 8-digit phone numbers for quite a number of years now.
As we were driving ever deeper into the mountains, we crossed this, not exactly confidence inspiring, narrow and rusty bridge
and a muddy, slippery section of the road, which was still being cleared after a massive landslide.
For lunch, we stopped at a soda, the only man-made structure for miles on end. Nonetheless, amazingly, the owners were in the middle of construction work to expand into a full-service bar cum dancehall operation. One wonders, where might their future customers live? I suppose, all those hills and mountainsides, gorges and valleys, seemingly devoid of habitation, are not only teeming with wildlife but with humans as well. We did notice the occasional finka with farming activities and we passed through several hamlets, but Karaoke? That’s a stretch.
Encountering another major landslide, and before the afternoon could slip into the dark hours of the early evening, we abandoned our quest for the city of Santiago de Puriscal once again. As Francisco Vásquez de Coronado y Luján was forced to return empty-handed from his quest for the fabled city of Cíbola, we had to return to Atenas without being able to complete our quest.
Leaving these wild and beautiful mountains behind us

Anyway, I hadn’t planned on writing about never having found Puriscal, yet. Instead, I wanted to relate how beautiful and peaceful this evening is. Sitting here, sipping an Argentine Malbec and watching the lights twinkle up and down those mountains across the valley, I do feel the famous pura vida down to my bones! If I bend forward and look hard to the left, I can even see the distant lights of the town of Alajuela shimmering through the bare branches of the mighty Guanacaste tree across the street. Too much effort, though …

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