Pura Vida!

Totally fed up with the basket case to which the corrupt leadership of the Scottish National Party has reduced my country…resigned to not seeing independence in my lifetime…appalled by the whole pack and boiling of them, I thank my lucky stars we live in Costa Rica, mismanaged though it is. That purchase on a whim, all those years ago, has turned out to have been a good call, despite walking into a local water war at the start of it all.

Mark you, the Costa Rica in which we live is not that of the tourist posters, specialising as they do in lunatics in helmets and water wings rafting down fast flowing rivers, other lunatics in helmets screaming down zip lines to the horror of the local wildlife, and thin women in bikinis prancing in the ocean. None of that round here, thank goodness.

We have a National Park…..the Cangrega….

Closed, needless to say, thanks to the bug, but a super place to visit if keen on nature in general and hiking in particular, but as it is off the beaten tourist track it does not attract many visitors even when open.

That might change as it is approachable by the old main road from the capital to the coast, deserted for years in favour of the laughingly named motorway – two lanes most of the way – which replaced it, but this year there has been a publicity campaign, pointing out the tedium of the endless jams on the motorway compared with the pleasures of running through the countryside and enjoying the little cafes and wayside stalls which mark its path. Judgng by the volume of traffic in town on the weekends, it seems to be working and a friend with a cafe on the route is delighted with the uptick in custom.

This is the view that comes free with the meal…..

This is the working Costa Rica, not the tourist traps of the coast, where family farms were the backbone of the country’s economy long before United Fruit started its plantations. While ox carts hauled coffee beans over tracks that existed before the arrival of the Conquistadors to reach the Pacific coast whence they were shipped to Europe, farmers produced for the local market and this area was famed for its beans – that staple of the Central American diet.

The farmers started to exploit the lands between the capital and the coast in the early nineteenth century, and as the population grew there was felt to be a need to supply its spiritual welfare. The Roman Catholic Church, under a couple of energetic archbishops, began evangelising the rural areas, providing priests and building chapels, a process which continued into the early years of the twentieth century.

It was a community effort. Someone would donate the land, others materials or means of transport, others would give their own time to work on the project.

Given the country’s links with England, through the coffee trade and through the cultural influence of the then British empire, many churches were buit in what is known as the Victorian style….adapted to the materials and skills of the builders…and there is a cluster of these churches in this area, well worth a side trip when heading for a beach holiday, or a day trip from the capital – take a picnic and enjoy a part of old Costa Rica.

Starting from the busy town of Cuidad Colon in moments you are out into the country, wending your way to El Rodeo

Still maintained and in good order.

On to Picagres with its tower…

And Piedras Negras…

Then Llano Grande with its twin towers and metal plates

Jaris….supplanted by a modern church….and in need of TLC when I last looked…

There a a couple of other churches in that style, but more difficult to fit into a round trip…Corralar

And dear little Balsilla with all of eight benches for worshippers.

I had to discover these places for myself…the tourist guides are not interested in these monuments to faith and solidarity out on the old gravel roads….but then, the tourist guides assume that Costa Rica has no culture save that of hedonism on one hand and much trumpeted ecologism on the other, with a passing – obligatory – bow to indigenous customs and handicrafts.

A friend who is a talented artist cannot fnd a gallery to show his work because he is not

A indigenous

B a recovered drug addict living in the streets

C an abused child or

D has no art world contacts

because people buy the story, not the art.

Just as people buy the idea of ‘green’ Costa Rica, the false animal refuges, the ‘spiritual’ scams of the exploitative hippies and the ‘pura vida’ of the tourist traps.

So why did we buy ‘on a whim’? Because we had the good fortune to have stayed with a family who loved their country, loathed the tourist industry and let us loose to explore.

But that resource is not open, in general. People come on tours…see the sights…swallow the publicity and see what they expect to see, as in all countries.

So, you can come to Costa Rica…no vaccines, no tests, just an insurance in case you have health problems…but when you are there, or in any other country you visit, don’t rely on the tourist professionals…ask local people what to visit and you will get some great surprises.

Like this great group..Malpais


23 thoughts on “Pura Vida!”

  1. I have never been a fan of “package ” holidays. Nor hotels. My idea of a holiday is to rent a place and do my own shopping.Local eateries, especially those tucked away from the Golden Arches and Mermaided plastic cups are for me. I’ve made friends with locals, been invited for drinks and generally had a ton of fun.

  2. We used to take a package as thanks to Leo’s health it was always last minute but once in the hotel we were off on our own – and great fun it was!
    I still wish we had been able to take up the invitation to a horse race outside Luxor….

    1. I cannot believe that my country, heir of the Enlightenment, can submit to show trials…Alex Salmond, Craig Murray…but if it does it is no longer my land.
      Quite agree…off the beaten track is best.

  3. Tourist brochures only ever show what the majority of visitors are looking for.
    Few holiday makers wish to know the struggles of daily existence for the locals, they wish to forget their own.
    Edinburgh guides offer the usual sights and sounds, rarely mentioning the two football teams but do mention Murrayfield, revealing much about the authors and the visitors aimed at.
    In 1995 I took buses around the country seeing the real nation, some interesting and pretty, some drab and rough but giving an impression of life as it is.
    Nice to see lush Costa as I eat my last Costa banana.

    1. All too true….
      Have you written anything about your bus tour? I’d be very interested in what you found.
      So you;ve not yet been lucky with the pineapples which could make your fortune?

    1. It is a beautiful place and we are lucky to live in a quiet area with easy access to shops and a good hospital ten minutes away. Since leaving France my blood pressure has improved tremendously!

  4. This is a beautiful tribute to your adopted country. You know it well, down to the tiny basillas. Costa Rica off the beaten path. I am so happy I found you and the donkey that lived next door.

    1. It is not a paradise….needless to say…but there is so much to discover and the stories of the families whose great grandparents cleared the land to farm are well worth listening to.
      You are an inspiration to me…on days when I feel like pulling the covers over my head there you are in my mind, sorting the cat, clearing the snow, winding the warp. All power to your elbow!

  5. As a big fan of “working” locales, I’d just as soon avoid the tourist traps completely. They paint an unrealistic canvas that comes complete with loud obnoxious visitors that I can do without. Heck, I live in the midst of them as it is, definitely not interested in paying outrageous plane tickets to see more of them. Bless your original hosts for showing you the beautiful side of CR. Rather quite jealous of your good fortune these days. Most of our ‘tourists’ to Colorado have license plates with Texas on them. And because I’m trying like the devil to hold me tongue, I shan’t comment on those swarming locusts…er…visitors. Oops, was that my out loud voice again?

  6. My particular favourites are those roaming in the centre of the capital, San Jose, dressed as if auditioning for a part in Crocodile Dundee – especially when they stop for coffee in the ornate cafeteria of the Italianate National Theatre!
    I did once meet a party on the bus who had been sent out to our area by the people at their hotel to see the indigenous reserve and our litte town but normally we are off the tourist track – though that might change if people start avoiding the motorway….our ruined church, split apart by an earthquake in the nineties, is quite an attraction in itself.

  7. Came acroos your blog by an unusual route, reading ” the pusuit of love” and came across this, Qu’est-ce que c’est ce custard, qu’on fout partout?
    When looking up a translation I found you.
    I like the look of what I see so far. I share your despair at the state of Scottish politics, and a good many other topics. Totally impressed at your move to Costa Rica btw.

    Can you enlighten me on the actual meaning of the above? My French isnt up to it and all the standard translations are clearly missing the essence.

    I shall read your next update with interest,

    Best, Jeremy,

    1. I suppose we all live down various wormholes…and the Mitford custard led you to mine! I’m glad you like what you have seen so far of my ramblings and rumblings…and the comments are often better than the blog.
      Considering it is an English lad showing off – both his French and his lack of manners – I should translate it as ‘what’s all this sodding custard?’ I did pass the phrase across various French friends who unanimously said that it was not French usage!

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