There can be a pretty major difference between the way that we anticipate things will be and the way they actually are. For instance, as a Canadian, I had thought that travelling for six months with nothing but one large piece of luggage and a backpack each was travelling ‘light’. Little did I realize just how heavy the darn things can be as you’re lugging them across the country. And those nifty little pull out handles that allow you to glide so effortlessly through airports really don’t help much when the road is unpaved, narrow and crawling with homicidal drivers.
In all fairness, the drivers aren’t actually out to get you, they simply don’t care enough to slow down. Everyone is laying on the horns all the time.
A brief glossary of things a Tico cab driver can say with his horn:
Get out of the way!
Why are you allowed to drive you @&$^#?! (these two are pretty standard in all countries I think, but the rest are more obscure)
Go ahead pedestrian
Pedestrian, I don’t care if you’re halfway across the road, I’m going now
Get out of the way so I can pass you
Thanks for letting me pass you
Darn it, I’m passing you anyway
Hello my friend
Hello total stranger
Hello policeman, nothing to see here
Why are you walking in the middle of the road?
El perro estupdio! (stupid dog!)
Iguana crossing the road ahead
Cute photo opp. with monkeys on the road ahead
That was really scary (honking for joy)
But I digress.
We spent the first two nights of our trip in San Jose. After finally getting to the hotel after many hours of flying, all we wanted was a bite to eat and to go to sleep. The wonders of the country were totally wasted on us as we collapsed in a slightly nauseous heap. The next morning we got up early and went out to explore a bit of the city. Busing in from our hotel into downtown San Jose we walked the city core. We went to Teatro Nacional, the theatre built in the late 1890’s to attract the popular opera singers of the day. The whole place is decked out in marble and frescos and is absolutely stunning. We also visited the Jade Museum, featuring the largest collection of Pre-Columbian jade in the Americas. This was sort of our attempt at educating the kids a bit. I’m not sure how well it worked.
The next day we woke up really early to catch the 7:00 bus to Golfito, the town nearest to where we are staying. After tearing through breakfast and checkout (getting Ticos to hurry makes pulling teeth look like a pleasant pastime) we got a cab and raced through the morning business traffic to the bus station. Arriving a couple of minutes after 7:00, we were praying that the bus was late. I ran to the ticket desk and pulled out my best Spanish to buy tickets to Golfito only to be told that… the Golfito bus didn’t leave from there, that station was across town. She thought. So, we took a bus to Manual Antonio/Quepos instead.
At this point, the culture shock clicked in. In the city, everyone we ran into understood at least a little English, so in a clumsy Spanglish way, we were able to make our intentions known. As we travelled towards the Pacific however, English was proving impossible, forcing me to figure out the Spanish. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “didn’t she realize she was going to have to speak Spanish?” and the answer is yes, I did. But here’s the real problem; tourist ‘Learn to speak Spanish’ programs lulled me into a false sense of security. Yep, I blame Rosetta Stone for any problems I’m having now. Because on those programs, they speak LOUD, DISTINCT, SLOW slang-free Spanish, so I actually thought that I was speaking Spanish rather well and could understand most of what would be thrown at me. Nope.
Language barriers aside, Manual Antonio (the village, not the park, which we didn’t have time to really go into) is lovely. After a nasty arrival which involved us hauling our luggage up a non-existent road (see earlier luggage diatribe) we checked into a cabina. We spent the afternoon playing in the waves at the beach. On the way home we spotted squirrel monkeys and a white-faced capuchin monkey playing in the trees. Small green geckos crawled along the ceiling as we ate dinner.
In the morning we took a cab back to Quepos – about 5 minutes – found a bank machine to restore our dwindling cash supplies and went to the rent-a-car place where we found Marceo, a taxi driver and tour guide who was willing to take us all the way to Punta Banco. Even though he didn’t know where it was. Marceo was great, partly because he is a tour guide and so could do the LOUD, DISTINCT, SLOW Spanish that I needed. He has an eye for the local wildlife. We stopped to watch the white-nosed coatis play and later on to see a mama howler monkey and baby in the trees. He was also good at telling me which animals are particularly tasty, though it is ‘prohibido’ to eat them. The “road” to Punta Banco is newly paved in some parts, gravel in others, pot-holed in its entirety, sprinkled with tiny narrow bridges. “Llamas, ‘O Dios Mi’ Puente, (It’s called, ‘Oh My God Bridge’)” Marceo told me at one and I could understand why.
Once we got here though, I have to say that this place has exceeded all of my expectations. The bedrooms and bathroom are actual four-wall rooms, but the rest is just tile floor and ceiling – totally open. Beautiful wood furniture, small kitchen and a couple hammocks strung across it. It’s like the best camping ever. Around our cabina we have beautiful flowers and trees, including bananas, limes, coconuts, starfruit and a small, sour fruit that I’m not sure is edible now that I’ve eaten some. We walked to the tiny little store last night to buy some groceries. I asked the man behind the counter if there was a restaurant nearby. He yelled to his wife, who then prepared us dinner (about $14 USD) which they served to us on the patio while the rest of the family gathered around the TV to watch Braveheart in Spanish. Very surreal. We have a fridge, small propane stove, sink and big Rubbermade container that the bugs can’t get into in our kitchen. If you leave a scrap of food out for more than 8 seconds, a specialized team of militant ants will march in and take over. Our bathroom has a hot shower, a fact which had me almost dancing with joy.
Today we walked down to the beach and spent hours playing in the big waves. This afternoon we walked up towards the ‘official rainforest’. I should mention that siestas here are a little different than people think. In some countries, I think the siesta is a break at the hottest part of the day. Here, it is simply that for a period of time every afternoon, there will be a torrential downpour so great that the roads, yards and any unfortunate people caught in it will turn to mud. So instead, you make yourself a cup of coffee or grab a beer, stretch out in the hammock and take it easy.
I feel like I’ve become the “Island Fun Barbie” version of myself or something. I’ve already abandoned make-up; there’s just no point, it sort of slides off your face as soon as you put it on. My hair is curly and wild and today I’ve got a slightly sunburnt glow. I find myself staring at the suitcase of oh-so-sensible clothes I brought with me wondering what the heck I was thinking when I packed as I really can’t imagine wearing more than a few select sarongs, tanks and a bathing suit while I am here. I’m sure when I get into town and find a Hall I will use more of my clothing, but until then it seems that I may have dragged my impractical suitcase across the country for nothing.
I know this is long, but it felt like I should share some of our journey with you. Especially as future weeks will probably look more like “Week Two: Beach. Uh, it was warm and good. Bye for now.”
Love and all that. Come visit!