Thursday, January 17, 2008

Costa Rica 10

Early the next morning found us checked out of our hotel for the time being and on our way to the bus station again. This time in a taxi from the start. No more 53 block walks! Before we left, L reserved the same room for us when we returned in two weeks time. We had to spend our last night in San Jose, prior to catching our flight home from there.

L got us to the correct bus station for our next destination. This is no easy feat. There is no one central bus terminal in San Jose. There are myriads of small ones dotted around the city, each one having buses leaving and arriving from different places. I was never quite sure how L knew which one to go to, but he always did. Another mark of a good tour leader I guess.

Our first destination on the trip was to the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It is one of the last towns before one encounters the impenetrable jungle between there and the Panamanian border just to the south. We dutifully kept guard of our luggage and waited at the terminal for the bus to arrive. Eventually it did and we joined the line to have our luggage put in the bowels of the bus. This is the luggage compartment that is located under the bus, between the front and rear wheels. It is a horrible place to store luggage. They are deep, hard to access and very dirty places. Every time we retrieved our backpacks from one of these, they were covered with dust from the road and other stuff picked up along the way! Our packs did not stay fresh and new looking for long! Just as well. We did not want to look like backpack virgins anyway!

There was no assigned seating on this bus. This usually means that the bus is going to be second class at best. Our friend, R from Toronto, says that there are basically four classes of buses in Central America, including Mexico. First class are the ones that are air conditioned, show movies and have toilets; second class are the ones with padded seats but no conveniences; third class are the so called chicken buses and fourth class are the burnt out ones on the side of the road! And he is basically right.

Our bus turned out to be of the third class variety. No toilet and no padded seats. Just hard plastic. And it was going to be a 4.5 hour bus ride at best to our destination! We loaded up and slid our windows as far open as they would go. And we were off. Our route first wound its’ way out of San Jose and we were treated to more of the black concrete, the occasional park and lots of corners with homeless people sleeping on cardboard, if they were lucky. Eventually we left suburbia behind and starting entering the highlands that divide the country in half. Then the scenery started to change and become interesting.

Occasionally the hills would break apart and I could see the hills rolling away beside me into great valleys. Stunning scenery to say the least. Most of the time the hills were directly out my window, on the right hand side of the bus. I felt at times like I could just reach out and pluck leaves off of bushes if I wanted. Of course, I did not want. What if I stuck my hand into a bush that had a SNAKE or something on it! Shudder. More often than not, I would see little waterfalls running down the hills right beside me and splashing into the bushes before the water found its’ way onto the side of the road and rushed off to who knows where.

There were lots of rivers to be crossed also. Some were just barely more than streams, some were great wide rushing things. Great volumns of water tumbled its’ way around and over boulders. Once in a while I would actually see workers’ on the riverbeds in great earth moving machines. They had blocked the flow of the river to make it narrower so they could work. I don’t know what they were doing. Looked like they were just trying to make the river bed smoother for some reason.

So far on the this leg of the trip, we had been treated to the drivers’ choice of music blaring from the radio he kept on the dashboard. Not too bad since this one chose an American “golden oldies” station. In my mind, I sang along with most of the songs. And I sounded just like the original artist too! Of course, that would quickly change were I to start singing out loud!
About two hours in, we stopped at a little restaurant, bus stop place. We all had a chance to use the toilet, buy a Coke or something and have a cigarette or two while we waited for the bus driver to eat his lunch. All the while keeping our daypack securely in hand. Our luggage was still safely locked in the bowels of the bus. While I was casting a suspicious eye upon anybody who came within ten feet of where we were standing, L casually informed us that this was the bus stop rest area where he had his daypack stolen so many years before. At that news, I grew even more snarley towards anybody that approached us. But nothing dramatic happened and we were soon on our way again. This time with a new driver. (So why did we have to wait for the first one to eat lunch????)

I definitely preferred the first driver and his choice of music. This one immediately switched stations on the radio but did not adjust the volume. It continued to blare throughout the bus. Only now it was reggae. Have I said how much I dislike reggae? At the risk of stepping on musical toes, you can keep B Marley and all the imitators that have followed. It is just a genre of music that I do not care for. I would rather listen to elevator music! So imagine my delight of having to listen to 2.5 hours of it! L told me to get used to it. We were going to the Rasta, reggae infested Caribbean and I would be hearing plenty of it for the next few days. Great.

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