Pura Vida Costa Rica
From San Jose airport, hurtling through the darkness in an official red taxi van, driver tells us the Japanese melodrama Oshin was popular in Costa Rica.
Arriving in the middle of the night, we see local birds carved into the wooden door of our room.
Too early breakfast introduces us to the local staple of rice and beans, along with fresh tropical fruits.
Into the hilly country, satellite dishes top corrugated metal rooftops.
Latte-skinned Rasta man no longer on the ox cart shows how pairs of coffee plants produce more berries.
Often shrouded in mist, elegant tapered peak of now sleeping Arenal volcano looms over La Fortuna.
Down five hundred steps to picturesque waterfall, wade in cool pool among fishies, then back up five hundred steps.
On the long and winding road back, birds with flashes of red or blue flit, a yellow one crawls into a nest atop a telephone pole, and vultures peel a flattened lizard off the hot asphalt.
Wobbly legs stumble into gutter, I scrape my knee like a little kid, but do not cry.
Across large artificial Lake Arenal, butch ferry woman takes us past cormorants and ibises.
Into the misty mountains of Monteverde, a flowery inn with a large mouldy rooms.
For over a kilometre, zip over the canopy like Superman; plummet head first on Tarzan swing, swallowing scream.
Through the wet, verdant cloud forest in my moo cow kiddie poncho, parade along expansive bridges among the treetops.
Hungry, hungry hummingbirds in coats of many colours whiz between sugar water dispensers.
In the dark of night with beams of light, provoke a timid tarantula, wake a torpid toucan, and intrude on a sloth going number two.
The tongue of a green viper, the tail of an armadillo, and the body of a scorpion, fluorescent purple under black light.
At a treehouse restaurant with co-travellers from around the corner and across the sea, feast on platter of local flavours, as drums, guitar, and clarinet play George Michael.
Up, up, up a hill, through the darkness and chilly rain, without the company of a scruffy random dog as earlier in the day.
Down, down, down a hill, to an unexpected butterfly garden with myriad wings — iridescent blue, intimidating owl eyes and snake heads, warning orange and black, and fearless species that drink crocodile tears.
King crocodile with his large harem hang out in a muddy river beneath a large bridge, while the defeated lay on the banks of the other side.
Out of the hill tops into the frying pan by the Pacific, where water was at a premium.
Tropical white-spotted dolphins frolic at the bow of our catamaran, octopus and colourful fishes nibble at the rocky non-coral reef, as my back unwittingly gets roasted.
Board the steamy local bus to explore Manuel Antonio, and spot agoutis browsing the forest litter, iguanas sunning themselves, and white-faced capuchin monkeys grooming each other in the trees near the busy beach.
And still in my head echoes the boisterous laugh of our irrepressible tico leader Adrie.