We’re here. It took some doing: a car ride, Megabus, walking (while toting our luggage, much heavier than backpacking gear), the Atlanta subway, two planes, two taxis, a Costa Rican express bus, and a bumpy Jeep ride. Two days of travel. Nervous the night before: We’re doing this. I’m the planner. New country. Traveling en espanol, which is pretty rusty twelve years away from my Latin American Studies major. What am I dragging J. into?
But we did fine, and lucked out: every link was on time and the miniature guitar didn’t get smashed. The Spanish is coming back fast, the vocabulary if not the grammar. It does take practice dividing prices by 500. It’s terrifying to withdraw 10,000 colones from your debit account, but that’s only $20. On our first grocery run we wound up with a six dollar, eight ounce bag of sunflower seeds… and a bag of something called sal inglaterra that is white granules, but definitely not salt. (The beans ended up pretty tasteless after two hours of cooking in it.) Next time we’ll buy what the locals buy. We have been enjoying the delicious pan y pasteles y, of course, frutas. The $35 hotel where we ended up that first night after our midnight arrival served a morning banquet of homemade breads, jams, and tropical fruit, which was a lovely initiation for J’s first trip outside North America. He’s also a big fan of the peanut doughnuts they sell at the bus station deli.
Immediately I was amazed by the difference between this country and Nicaragua (of 2001, but I doubt these aspects have changed there)… No huelepegas – kids who sniff paint cans that they hide in tattered long sleeved shirts, to dull the hunger. No little boy with wet eyes crawling down the aisles of the bus with a shoeshine rag, rubbing it against sneakers and begging for coins. We saw one guy sleeping on the street in San José, but that’s about a dozen guys fewer than I expected.
We have not merely shunted between tourist districts, either. We walked to the Supermercado Jumbo to buy cafe and use the ATM, and took the bus that all the locals use, from San José to Puerto Viejo via the shipping port city of Limon. It was a real city bus, though tight. (Nicaraguan buses are repurposed US school buses, painted uniquely in glorious colors and named, clung to and hung out of.) We flew through traffic – driving is about as wild as elsewhere in Centroamerica – through exhaust smelling streets, ignoring stop signs and other directives that I like to think are not optional. Then the narrow highway rose over a twisty, misty mountain range, making J. slightly green, before descending to the Caribbean coast. Four and a half long hours, but it was good to see so much of the country right away.
The campo got increasingly beautiful the further we rode. By the time we reached the beachy, hippie town of Puerto Viejo, it was gorgeous coastline with colorfully painted and repainted houses all along the narrow road, and bicyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicles of all sorts weaving around each other.
Now we’re on the farm in our own little house. The low, rolling calls of howler monkeys start at five. If you didn’t know they were skinny, cute little critters in trees, you’d think from the noise that a pack of giants with bellyaches was about to close in on you. Then the birds start. Would you believe that this is actually a pleasant way to wake up?
There’s a lot more to describe, but it will have to wait for our next spell at an internet cafe. Hasta luego!