We left the house around 5:30. The bus was coming at 6:00.
Nobody was thrilled to be awake so early. It would have been way more convenient to have hired a private shuttle from La Tigra to Montezuma.
But we weren’t interested in traveling like tourists. As anyone who has traveled extensively knows, much of the magic in being in another culture is experiencing how the locals live.
So, bearing that in mind, we sat on the steps in front of the church waiting for a bus that was on a Tico time schedule.
Relishing an opportunity to snap some photos, I wasn’t much put out by the earliness of our departure or the tardiness of the driver.
We were all exhausted however. The night prior we celebrated New Year’s Eve in La Fortuna. While we weren’t drinking, we certainly weren’t in bed early.
When we got to Fortuna, we wandered around for a bit. I got distracted taking photos. The park was filled with people, families, kids, grandparents, tourists, locals, lovers, teenagers, drunks, and priests! It was an unbelievably memorable way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Around 10:00 we sat down to dine at a delicious new rooftop restaurant right on the main drag. I don’t remember it’s name. It’s above all of the trinket shops on the south-west corner across from the main entrance to the church, just down the street from Soda La Parada.
Our meal took an unbelievably long time to arrive. Like I said above, the restaurant was brand new, and I don’t think they expected to be slam packed on New Year’s Eve.
An interesting piece of culture that we witnessed while waiting for our table (and I experienced something similar during my time in Nicaragua), was how so many people were spending time with their families on New Year’s Eve. In so many places, New Year’s Eve is entirely about partying until the sunrise.
While I waited, we saw our guide from the canyoneering excursion (link to article) earlier that day. It just so happened that the client I was sitting with had a crush on this guide and was overjoyed to see him again. But what really struck us, was that at 10:00 on New Year’s Eve, this guy was out with his family drinking coffee and eating dinner. He wasn’t all geared and gussied up to party. It’s entirely possible that he did go out and party after dinner with his folks. Regardless of what could have happened, it was really great to see such strong familial ties.
Anyway, after we were seated and we sat restlessly at our table for our meals, the fireworks began and I rushed out into the street to snap some shots of them.
Following the fireworks, we had a little dessert and went home.
So, with the moon still up, we sat awaiting our bus.
About 20 minutes into our first bus ride, the most fantastic thing happened. The bus driver answered his phone (which in and of itself was rather harrowing), chatted for a minute, then pulled over.
We all looked at each other quizzically.
Seconds later, a 125cc motorcycle loaded with Pa, Ma, and a cooler came whizzing up the road and pulled up next to us. Teenage Daughter dashed up the aisle as Pa handed Driver a cell phone. Daughter gratefully accepted the phone and yelled thank yous and blew kisses out the window.
In my limited experience, such a loving act might never have occurred in the States. The driver went out of his way, “inconveniencing” many people, just to get a girl her cell phone.
We pulled into the San Ramon bus station with lots of time to spare. One of our clients decided she didn’t want her towel her anymore, and so left it on the seat next to her. When we were all queuing up for the bus, there was a hubbub. Another stranger, sensing that our client had left a valuable item behind, passed the towel forward until it reached her. Sheepishly, she took the towel, commenting that she didn’t want it and would probably just throw it away. I explained to her that people don’t just leave things they don’t want, nor do they throw away useable items; in fact there is very little that people in this industrious culture don’t have a use for.
Shortly, we boarded our bus, and were in Puntarenas in the blink of an eye. From the Puntarenas bus station to the ferry is probably about one mile. With aplomb, I strapped my pack to my back and we all set off a-walking. I figured no one would mind the sun, fresh air, and a bit of exercise on such a long day of travel.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t clarified that we wanted our clients to bring backpacks on the trip, and one client had brought a hanging bag. Within a few hundred yards, it was plain to see that walking to the ferry wasn’t in the cards for everyone. My partner hailed a cab and hopped in with two of the clients. I walked on with the third.
On our walk, I introduced him to a Pipa: chilled coconut water in a plastic bag. They are sold in the coconut too, but our particular vendor only had baggies full. We bit off the corner and sucked out the nectar. There are few things more refreshing than a chilled Pipa in the blazing hot sun. We arrived contentedly at the ferry and bought our tickets and some pastries. Suddenly time it was time to board the ferry!
We arrived in Paquera to little fanfare, though it took some doing to figure out which bus would get us to Montezuma. Amid all the confusion, we boarded the bus that we believed to be ours. It was still uncertain when we got on. See, the uniformed guy who claimed to be the driver, collected our money, opened the posterior luggage compartments, and ushered us onto the bus, though boarded, was not driving when the bus took off.
About 10 minutes up the road, the current driver stopped, got off and waved goodbye. The uniformed gentleman got into the driver’s seat and we started off again. I deduced that the first driver simply needed a ride home, but could not pay. So the uniformed driver got a little break out of the deal, and the other guy got a free ride home. I love Costa Rica.
When we arrived in Cobano, the uniformed driver, who had assured us multiple times and in various ways that our bus was heading to Montezuma, pulled over and informed us that he was in fact not going to Montezuma. Ugh. I love Costa Rica.
Most confidently, he claimed there would be another bus coming. Rather than wait to find out, we grabbed our stuff and hailed a taxi. About 30 minutes later, we arrived at our hotel in Montezuma.
We all made our way to our rooms. Our hostess informed Kim and I that we were not to leave anything out on the patio, especially food or electronics; Capuchin monkeys live on the property and will steal anything we leave out.
Naturally, Kim and I were delighted at the prospect of seeing monkeys up close and personal, especially sneaky mischievous ones!
We went about putting our stuff away and minutes later heard a clamor on the roof. This little guy peaked out from behind the tree.
A young woman from the other side of the building came quickly over.
“Ah!” She whispered in a middle-eastern accent, “You are so lucky. I was staying here in this room for three or four nights and did not see any monkeys!”
Things were looking up.
Next Time: Montezuma, Beach, Ceremony, and Monkeys!