I was told how wonderful the beaches are in Costa Rica. I am not a beach person. I love walking coastlines, but my idea of a good coast has jagged rocks, cold wind, and cloudy, deep purple skies. Patagonia is my idea environment. I am a northern boy, I am from a land that has 250 cloudy days a year. I like to wear coats.
I know that I am an oddity amongst other travelers in the profession. The belt of the tropics that girdles the earth is where one SHOULD travel. You can sleep outside without going numb. You can strip down to the waste and comfortably lay in the shade and “do nothing other than fling monkeys at the coconuts,” as Haliburton would say. In point, you do not have to worry about freezing to death in the tropics. You do not need to carry a bag full of warm clothes. You don’t really need anything to travel in the tropics, except maybe a good brimmed hat, an iron resilience to heat and sun, and a sturdy set of walking legs. I know this, but my taste is still for the harsh environs of the far north and the far south. Cloudy skies feel like home, and make me smile.
So Mira diverts me from walking in the Costa Rica mountains, and coerces me to visit the great Costa Rican beaches. I shrug as I agree. I think I look funny on beaches, as I do not have any other clothes than my long sleeve lumber jack shirts, doubled kneed Carhartt working pants, a military issue black vest, and my leather Red Wing made hiking boots. But I do not mind looking funny.
So we head into San Jose with some friends to get a bus to the beach. Everywhere you want to travel in Costa Rica seems to take at least six hours. I can not figure it out, the country seems to be so small. But we arrived at the Coca Cola bus station in San Jose to go to the far off beach that was our destination, so we acted on advice and bought tickets to Manuel Antonio. It was on the beach we were told.
Most of the buses were full and we could not get out of San Jose until seven in the evening. Our friends were not really experienced travelers, and they were acting like gringos. We are gringos, but yelling and screaming in English in the middle of San Jose’s main bus depot is not really a good idea. Mira and I did not know what to do. We wanted our friend, who I will call Yelling Friend because he is prone to yelling in the streets, to shut up and stop yelling at people, but we did not know how to tell him without affront. So I did what I do and just walked away.
We boarded the bus and rode out to Quepos, as we figured that it would be cheaper to stay here than Manuel Antonio. We get off the bus, but two of our friends were still on the bus when it was ready to leave. I could not figure it out, the bus was stopped for a full ten minutes. It seems as if one of our friends, Sleepy Friend, did not want to wake up, and her boyfriend was trying to shake her awake. Needless to say, the bus began pulling away with them. Yelling Friend, who managed to get off the bus, began yelling. Eventually our sleepy friend woke up and somehow convinced the driver that she did not want to be carted away as his plunder. He let her off of the bus with her boyfriend, who I will call Quiet Friend, because he is quiet.
Now we were in Quepos, it was around midnight on a Friday night, drunks were in the streets and bars getting drunker on every horizon. Sleepy friend was still sleepy and did not seem to know what was going on, Quiet Friend was still trying to wake her, and Yelling Friend was yelling about finding a bar. Mira was joining in with the gang, and was having a good time. I became aware that I was walking on my own path.
Yelling Friend and Quiet Friend promptly took their t-shirts off and tied them around their heads. Now, with two bare-chested boys in defacto turbans, we set out to find a hotel to bed down in.
It was the middle of the night, the town was drunk, and we were looking like a gang of stupid gringos. No, we were a gang of stupid gringos. Though the Costa Ricans were good and drunk, the still took notice: “Look at the drunken gringos,” I could hear them say as we passed by. We were not drunk, not in the least, be we were a little stupid. Yelling Friend then began pouncing upon a large pile of street rubbish while yelling.
It was the middle of the night, and we were attracting more attention than I would have liked.
Yelling Friend dived shirtless into the fray of drunk Costa Ricans with Quiet Friend, half nude, ever at his heels. I hung back with Mira and Sleepy Friend trying to find a room . . . and a way out.
Yelling Friend and Quiet Friend were now talking to a street encrusted urchin who had a bottle of beer shoved into the front of his pants like some kind of impromptu weiner; he was trying hard to convince us to follow him, so he could show us to a “cheap hotel.” Meanwhile, Mira and Sleepy Friend were talking to an old southern USA pervert who was drunk out in front of a Chica bar and was enthusiastically giving us directions to the nearest Holiday Inn.
I split and walked around a corner to find a room for myself.
After a few steps washed away a little of my annoyance, I had a change of heart and returned. The entire group was now talking to the USA pervert in front of the Chica bar. He was still giving us directions to the Holiday Inn.
Nobody was interested in staying at the Holiday Inn, so we just stood there listening to drunk babble.
The group then moves. Shirts are still makeshift turbans, Sleepy Friend is still sleepy, Mira is just hanging out, and I am trying to find a room that would take five raunchy looking foreigners at 2AM.
I have patterns when I travel. They seem to work well. It is difficult for me to travel with a group who does not share similar patterns.
We found a guesthouse that was surprisingly open. I snapped at Yelling Friend and Quiet Friend as I told them to put their shirts back on. They do. We were still told that there were not any rooms. The guesthouse manager then pointed us down the street to more hotels. Which were all closed or full.
We walked to all- seriously all- of the cheaper hotels in Quepos, and they were full or closed for the night. We all slumped in defeat in front of the closed gate of the last hotel on the dark outskirts of town. We just look at each other through the night. Nobody was really saying anything. I was a little sore at my friends, my friends were a little sore at me.
I proposed sleeping in the woods that were very close by and seemed accessible.
Sleepy Friend was afraid of wild animals.
It was now passed 2AM.
Someone proposed just going to Manuel Antonio to search for a room. Nobody could argue.
We flagged down a taxi and rode off just as a couple of night-time lurkers and a crazed prostitute began taking notice of our disjointed state.
Manuel Antonio proved to be a little different. We found a room, but the proprietor wanted $80 for it. No way. We settled on a beg bug infested, small, dingy room near the beach for $40 (split five ways).
We were all happy to have found a room. The five of us then joked the rest of the night away. An angry bald Frenchman in tight underwear eventually appeared at our screen only window to inform us that we woke him up. We then went to sleep. I was excited to get to the beach, and annoyed Mira with whispered chatter and bad jokes until she told me to shut up.
The hotel manager proved to be a big bellied jolly man, and the next morning he, still drunk, gave us an entire pineapple, a few oranges, and a papaya for breakfast.
The fruit slightly assuaged my wounds from paying $40 for such unassuming accommodation the night before.
I once dreamed of having a group of friends to travel with.
Something tells me that I would not be able to cut it.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Heredia, Costa Rica
February 8, 2008
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