A Comedy of Errors
It has been more than two months since my return from Costa Rica and I am just now continuing to write about the experience. You might be asking yourself why this is, and with any luck some answers lie in the words to follow.
“Son of a bitch!” I scream into the sky as dusk renders San Jose monochromatic and cold on the last evening of my trip. I am standing outside the Coca Cola bus terminal with Ricky, a fellow Canadian with whom I shared my bus ride from La Fortuna. Surfboard bag slung over my shoulder I am giving voice to the frustration of having just lost the backpack that contained nearly all my possessions. Apart from the shorts and t-shirt on my person, passport and wallet in my pockets, and my surfboard, I now own nothing. On the bright side, I have less than 18 hours left in Costa Rica before my return flight to Vancouver.
This is not a country that favours surfers traveling via bus. Modern shortboards constructed of polyurethane foam with a fiberglass coating are incredibly fragile and are easily damaged by careless bus drivers or baggage boys who like to toss heavy backpacks, crates, and other exotic luggage items on top of them. My plan was to spend just three days in Tamarindo and now here I am, nine days later, trying to figure out how to get the hell out of town. The daily shuttle down the peninsula hasn’t run since the second day I arrived, I haven’t been able to walk on feet left burnt and blistered by the road and sand after my sandals were stolen, and the only way south is by the long route along the mainland. It’s not like I am entirely without options, however. I can take the 12 hour series of public buses that are cheap but sure to leave both my board and body battered and bruised, or I can spend the $45 US dollars for the 6 hour private bus to Jaco. The latter option seems the most sensible, sometimes convenience wins out over cost, but after watching my bus blaze by me at my appointed pick-up time of 11 a.m. I find myself walking back into town with all my belongings wondering if I’ll be spending yet another night in traveler’s limbo here in Tamarindo. A confused ticketing agent makes a call and arranges for the Greyline bus to wait for me at a nearby town while packing me into a small taxi, board propped atop the passenger seat spanning from front to back and sends me speeding out of town to rendezvous with my ride.
Jaco is the closest beach town to the capital city of San José and as such is a natural party destination for the weekend warriors. In all my infinite wisdom, I have arrived after dark on a Saturday night. A hostel owner briefly considers letting me sleep on a wooden bed frame with my board bag as padding when I am rescued by a woman from the neighboring guest house. It’s a tad expensive, but I’m willing to pay given that it seems quiet, comfortable, and is one of two rooms which share a common kitchenette and bath. It gets better, the other room is occupied by a young chica who isn’t there as I’m being shown the room. At 11:30 p.m. I discover by the drunken laughter and shrieking that our young chica is not alone, and that there are in fact two couples sharing the room next door. At 30 to 45 minute intervals I am introduced and re-introduced to their hysterical drunken female friend pounding on windows and the main door to our unit. Something about the first rays of light around 5:00 must have scared her off, because it was only then that I was able to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Wanting no more of the madness that is Jaco on a weekend and not impressed by the flat surf outside, I decide to hop on a morning bus to Manuel Antonio National Park. I’m staying at the nearby town of Quepos and during the check-in process at my hotel I am reminded for the first time that the Park is closed on mondays. Today is sunday. This town is not nearly interesting enough to hold my attention longer than another day. I have roughly an hour before the park closes so I throw my things in my room, catch the 20 min bus to the Park and am at the gates 15 minutes before close. Manuel Antonio offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Costa Rica and is a fantastically beautiful crescent of a beach with gorgeous water to swim in. I wouldn’t know anything about this though; my only view of the park came from few minutes I was able to persuade the park attendant to let me have for free and which I used to run in, snap a few photos of the beach, and then return to the collection of bars, restaurants, and guest houses that is the town of Manuel Antonio.
Other than a bit of red tide and a near drowning incident in Santa Theresa, the remainder of my trip passed smoothly until the bus ride which would leave me approximately $1,000 short of belongings. I am a carefree traveler when it comes to schedules and sightseeing, but am somewhat of a paranoiac when theft is a possibility. On my various bus rides I had become somewhat lax in my vigilance and didn’t keep a very close eye on my backpack where it lay in the overhead luggage rack on my last bus ride back into San José. As you already know, when I went to pull said bag out of the rack it was no longer there. It’s quite common for thieves to ride the popular tourist routes and lift entire bags out of the racks before offloading at stops just before the main bus terminal. With westerners seated all around me, I had thought my bag in a safe place, yet here I was sadly proven wrong.
For the next 24 hours I kept a mental inventory of what was lost as the items popped unbidden into my thoughts. A relatively new Palm Pilot with wireless folding keyboard, a pair of shoes, some surf gear, my camera and all the photos contained on the memory cards, a couple of hundred dollars worth of clothing, and a notebook with countless hours worth of writing and journaling from my trip. Of course, there was the bag itself. My faithful companion in Thailand and worth well over $200 on its own.
One might get the impression from this entry that I have nothing but horrible memories from this trip but after a bit of reflection I have come to realize that this has been one of my most interesting and entertaining travel adventures yet. Along with the above negative experiences came others from the opposite end of the spectrum. I met some great people, saw beautiful sights, and learned more about myself than any previous trip has taught me. All in all it would be safe to say that I came out slightly behind in material possessions but much further ahead in personal knowledge and experience.
The first thing I did after swearing into the evening? I laughed at the silliness of it all and went off to find my hostel.