August 14, 2005

Costa Rica, part 4

Scary moments in 1986 during my semester abroad.

My second post about CR detailed a pretty scary moment, but in actuality I was too delirious to be scared. Much. One spooky moment was at the beginning of "Semana Santa," or Holy Week (which precedes Easter). Two other members of our University of Delaware group and I got on a bus bound for Playa de Coco in the Guanacaste province (some 3+ hours minimum from the capital of San José). If you've ever seen movies that include the stereotypical tourist riding on a bus in a Latin American country where there are numerous stops made and locals get aboard with live chickens and such, this fit the stereotype perfectly. Instead of just over three hours of travel time, the countless stops turned the trip into more like 5 and half hours.

And, we realized, we were dropped off some three miles from our intended destination. We were at Playa Hermosa, which doesn't sound bad (it means "Beautiful Beach," after all), but there was no place to stay there. And, it was quickly getting dark. No Daylights Savings Time in Costa Rica. It was 5:30pm and dusk was upon us.

Andre, one of my traveling companions took the ball-sy move of flagging down a local who was driving a beat up pick-up down the road. He asked for a lift to the intersection of Playa Coco, and surprisingly, the driver agreed to hoist us three gringos on the back bed. It was now pretty much pitch dark, and we could sense, if not actually see, the myriad bats flying all around us. Nice. At last we spotted a rather nice looking hotel, and it actually had space (considering how late we were in arriving at Coco). But my second traveling companion, Robert, who had the only credit card among us, refused to make use of it despite my and Andre's utter pleading -- and promises of return compensation upon our return to San José. The tight bastich! So, we continued walking into the bat-infested night ...

... until we found some "cabinas" that had some vacancies ("cabinas" meaning, literally, "cabins"). Andre and I waited while Robert (who spoke better Spanish than Andre and me put together) settled with the proprietor. When Robert came back, we headed to our, um, "room," and ... we're incredibly disappointed. The place was a complete and utter dump. The "room" was more like a cell, it was mosquito infested, and it stunk. To make matters worse, Robert paid in advance for three nights. Andre and I wanted to ring his scrawny little neck. However, we were at this time fairly exhausted, and wanted to just get some rest.

Good luck. Besides the heat and humidity, the mosquitos were eating the living s*** out of us right through our bedsheets! I'd say we were lucky to manage an hour's shut-eye that first night. Upon dawn, we headed to a "pulpería" for some breakfast (which was damn good), then to the beach -- where I merely wanted to get some sleep. I did manage a few winks, and then pondered what the hell else I could do with the day. It turned out that at Coco, the answer was "nothing much." Coco turned out to be a major dud on the fun-o-meter. (I'd later learn that Robert, and to a lesser extent, Andre, were kind of duds themselves, but this was early on in our semester, mind you.) Turns out all we did those first two days was lay on the beach and eat. And besides breakfast, there was only one real restaurant in the whole place.

What also sucked was that the place was practically devoid of babes. Not that this meant a whole lot to Robert (who, I found out later in the semester, was [is] gay), but it turned out that Coco is more of a family-oriented hangout. Nice. Just what a 20 year old wants, huh? It's like comparing Lewes Beach to Dewey Beach for you Delawareans out there. So let's see: The room sucks, the beach sucks, the babe-o-meter sucks ... why are we here? Sheesh.

After another nightmare night of fighting mosquitos, I told Robert I'd had enough. We all decided to vamoose after only two nights and two and half days. Thankfully, the bus ride back to San José from Liberia (Guanacaste province's largest city) was fairly quick (few stops b/c it was mostly at night).

One very hilarious moment from our brief Coco sojourn was at the pulpería for breakfast the second morning. Andre had suffered some "intestinal" problems that previous night (whew!) and didn't feel like eating. When the old woman who ran the joint asked him what he wanted, he replied "No tengo hambre -- tengo diarrea" ("I'm not hungry, I have diarrhea.") Robert and I buried our faces in our hands as the few Ticos eating there looked over at us, laughing. But the old woman didn't hesitate -- "I have something that'll fix you right up," she said (in Spanish, of course). According to Andre, it indeed worked!

[Mildly] scary moment one week later: I hooked up with the previously mentioned Brad (the "bus emergency door" guy) and another we-found-out-later-in-the-semester gay guy Brett for another excursion to the Pacific coast. (Yeah, I know -- what's up with the gay guys? As mentioned, there ended up being two out of the 13 of us that were gay, and one more that everyone suspected. Not that there's anything wrong with that.) We headed for Jacó, which is one of those areas that was hardly developed back then, but is now a small city. The bus ride there was better than the one to Coco, but once we were there, the humidity must've been at 200 percent. Back then, wearing shorts wasn't very socially acceptable, so we were all in jeans. Ugh. Next, we discovered that finding a vacant room was virtually impossible. One rather shady place had one double bed and one single one. Had we "known," Brad and I would have shared the double. As it was, we all just looked at one another and decided to search elsewhere.

We ended up at a nice, albeit small, cabina. The 3-day stay was nice -- good beaches, good sun, good food. Then, we had to leave. The bus "station" was a madhouse. Brad, Brett and I were some of the first in line. But when the bus pulled in, people started throwing their stuff in through the bus's windows to "reserve" a seat! As a result, us three had to stand for three hours for the ride home. Through winding mountain roads. With gaping potholes. Our legs felt like wet noodles (our arms, too -- we had to hold on, after all) upon arrival in San José.

I think I slept 14 hours that night.

Posted by Hube at August 14, 2005 09:38 AM | TrackBack

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