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Day 8: Pura vida – Pure Life
by David Griggs -- March 3rd, 2010

Pura vida means “pure life” or “full of life” in Spanish.  Costa Ricans use it to greet and as a farewell.  And on this day, our last day in Costa Rica, we stepped outside our comfort zone, faced our fears, but in the end we were full of life! At La Selva Biological Field Station towers have been constructed for research.   And we climbed them to get a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy!

The physical infrastructure includes a 42 meter-high tower, a walkway to a second tower, 46 meters in height, and will eventually hold sensors and robotic modules.   The robotic and automated sensor technology will allow researchers to monitor, modify, and configure their experiments remotely.

On a clear day you would have a view of the chain of volcanoes to the west, and the bright blue of the Caribbean to the east, but today, the sky is overcast.  After several days of rain, the rain has stopped and we have climbed the towers to see above the canopy, every possible shade of green.  Below we hear toucans and parrots squawking.  A troop of howler monkeys can be heard from a short distance away.  Their call is distinct, a loud, guttural howl, hence their name.  They are the loudest animal in the forest and can be heard several miles away.  Male howler monkeys use their calls to defend their territory. We call to them but they are not fooled by us gringos. Our Costa Rican guide calls out and they answer back immediately!

We left La Selva after lunch on our small bus for a 1.5 hour ride back to San Jose. However, about a half mile of road was washed out by the recent rain storms so were in for a three hour tour (Gilligan’s Island?).  We drove on both paved and some unpaved roads where we jolted along trying to avoid the pot-holes.  We continued over one-lane bridges, one wooden, (none of them meeting any DOT standards!!) then straight up into the mountains, around 2,000 meters in elevation along hair-pin turns, better equipped for motorcycling than riding on a bus.  The one-lane road up the mountains was only wide enough for one vehicle so meeting cars or trucks from the opposite direction was nerve-wracking to say the least.  Two feet to the left and the drop-offs were extreme and of course, no guardrails.  Again, pushed outside our comfort zone!!  But we did make it back to San Jose for good meal, hot showers and a stiff drink or three!

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