We were mapless.
Chucking our battered suitcases in the back of a touchy four wheeler, my Aussi friend Jess and I whizzed down the streets of Ipis, Costa Rica. The lush, humid air was so dense it felt as if it were combing through our hair.
Flashes of green bombay shoots whooshed past as I veered along the winding, crooked streets of this model-like village. Locals walked along the mossy canal waterways, disappearing into close-quartered colored houses.
It was the beginning of our love affair with South America.
We were sitting cross-legged in a small seafood shack on the corner of the street, catching glances and sometimes smiles from passerby's as we feasted on crab legs and calamari. And I realized that this was it. Wholesome living. Caught in the fear of missing out, I had forgotten that at the root of it all was something as simple as deep breaths, fresh food, human connection and, if necessary, words.
The rest of the night was a blur of faces and spanish phrases didn't understand. It was a mingling of conversation over hymnals sung in a local cathedral, followed by stops at exotic fruit stands and latin dances with men whose hips shake better than any lady I've ever seen. And then I again took the wheel. Where to? The wind would be our compass, our intuition our guide.
As the miles under our wheels increased, time was measured by thoughts rather than minutes. We ventured into the rainforest terrain. It was pitch black, but beyond our car window there seemed to be a vast unknown something — something that seemed to suggest we were cradled in the palm of some mysterious, immense natural wonder. We drove through tall vegetation and across what had to have been towering bridges. Under the guise of nightfall, the vast rainforest was untouched by the prying eyes of tourists. And at that moment I swear we were in an undiscovered ocean of foliage that was neither East nor West.
I felt a sense of possession. I wanted to lay claim on it, call it my own, without the dictates of paperwork or the convention of bills.
The road took us completely across the country in one night, to the Pacific Ocean, where we ran headlong into the waves. We breathed in salt that stung our noses and cleansed so much more than our air passages. We fell asleep in our car, to the gentle lap of water at the edge of this continent.
We had determined it would be our little secret, this place that remained hidden from a cheap brochure. This place touched by the gods — or rather, as I would believe, one God.
Rachel Lowry, The Tepui Chronicles Part I