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 exulted 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, therefor 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 toward Puriscal (left of palm fronds) As the crow flies maybe 18 Km across the Central Valley, however driving distance is more like 3 – 5 hs, depending on season and approach taken
Spread out in front of me E to SW, I see the Valle Central, the central valley leading up from the Pacific ocean to our capital of San José. Naturally, I can only see a small portion of it, since hills to my right, toward the West, cut off our potential ocean view. That hillside, across a deep gorge with a murmuring creek, is studded with a few homes of the ‘Hacienda Atenas’ residential development. In the picture above, one can just see three of their street lights along the edge of the pool on the right. The short chain of lights above them, however, isn’t on our side. They illuminate a road across the valley leading up into the mountains. If you look in the lower left of the picture, a few dim lights indicate a tiny stretch of the Autopista del Sol. The highway as such can’t be seen, of course, since, at 20h, it’s been dark for over two hours. These lights indicate the position of the highway near the town of Rio Grande, and sitting in my lounger way up here, I can spot the occasional headlight flashing by. The whole scene is also softly illuminated by moonlight, which gives it some depth and enhances my beautiful panorama of twinkling lights across the valley. According to my ‘ moon phase app’, we’re enjoying a 66% increasing moon tonight, shining brightly from way overhead, 402 802.7 Km overhead, to be precise. The largest grouping of sparkle twinkles in the mountains almost directly opposite from us. That’s Puriscal, a town we’ve tried to visit twice, 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 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.
This is awesome country, beautiful and wild-ish. By that I mean, aside from the obviously man-made road and the ubiquitous overhead power-lines, it looks perfectly ‘natural’ or, at least, in a pre-industrial revolution constitution, until you happen to stumble across an abandoned quarry,
or you find something like this.
An 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.
taking through windshield
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 humans as well. We did notice the occasional finka with farming activities and we passed through several hamlets, but Karaoke? That’s a stretch. And before the afternoon could stretch into the dark hours of 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, and we returned to Atenas.

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! When 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. Almost too much effort, though …

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