As I write this I am still wincing painfully from sore leg muscles when I climb stairs and stand up from sitting as a result of my most recent adventure – climbing Mount Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest mountain. Climbing this 12,533-foot mountain up into high-altitude tropical climate was one of my two most recent adventures involving physically taxing undertakings in order to experience the raw natural beauty of Costa Rica that has gripped me and held me captive since I first arrived here. A few weeks ago, I took a Saturday to bike the Orosi Valley loop, a beautiful scenic road to the east of the greater metropolitan area (the San Jose capital and its outlying cities). It winds through lush green coffee fields, old colonial churches, follows the Reventazón river and crosses the dam, through some beautiful small towns and some breathtaking overlooks. Both experiences were physically pretty exhausting, but incredibly beautiful. And climbing Chirripó was the more difficult and culturally significant of the two.
I’m a planner and a list-maker, but I also refuse for anything to be reduced and oversimplified, so what ends up happening is that I make lots and lots of lists and plans but only end up following the ones that align with some unwritten set of inner ideals that develop in me over time and that are under constant revision. Actually, my ideals and principles aren’t unwritten – I have several lists of those as well. If you don’t like the ones I’m operating on at the moment I have others.
Last April I realized I’d be soon moving back to the States for several months, and I wouldn’t be able to do everything that I wanted to before I left. So on April 28, 2012, I wrote out “The List of Things to Do when I Return to Costa Rica”. And I forgot about it until today, November 9, 2013.
The exciting thing is, lots of the things on that list I’ve accomplished over the past few months, including getting a bank account, biking more often, and finding a good living situation closer to the office where I work. This August, I did the yearly pilgrimage to Cartago, which I created a short update about. Climbing Mount Chirripo and biking the Orosi Valley route were two of those goals.
Costa Rica touts itself as the “Switzerland of Central America” (Suiza Centroamericana) because of its lush green mountains, its emphasis on cleanliness, its neutral positioning on issues of violent conflict, and the cultural value it places on maintaining itself as a happy, ecologically diverse place to live. It’s also probably because it’s politically trendy to associate ones identity with Europe rather than indigenous roots which are far more historic and more tightly engrained with the land and geography, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is, Costa Rica has successfully preserved a good deal of its natural beauty, and it’s a beautiful place to explore, drinking in the stunning views and diverse natural habitats.