When You Don’t Have a Clue


The plane landed at 1:30, it’s 3:00 now and I’m on a local bus to Playa del Coco. It’s the only beach town name I recognized, and the airport immigration official assured me that it’s a gorgeous beach.

Every American I spoke with on the flight is staying at a resort. They were either in a tour group, or had arranged rides, or rented a car, or took a taxi. A taxi driver quoted me $20 to town, and when I asked about a bus, he said the next was in an hour. Sensitive now to gringo-games, I asked around and found the bus stop. Five minutes later I paid my 80 cents and boarded.

An airport worker on her way home told me where to get off (in the nice sense) and where to catch a bus to the beach. $1.75 to the playa, excellent!

It’s 90 degrees and sunny. Apparently this is where they keep our sunshine sky when we’re not using it. It is fairly flat around Libería, the business capital of Costa Rica, but there are hills in the distance. Vegetation is reminiscent of Florida.

The bus is crowded. For the first 20 minutes I stood, but a seat just opened so I have 40 minutes to regroup before searching for a place to live for a few days. The sun sets around 6, and i would be nice to get settled by then.

There’s a cute baby in front of me, making all manner of adorable baby noises in Spanish. Trills and spits and baby aribas drown out a softly playing radio in the background.

Another baby just boarded and a new flurry of sounds ensued. It might have been territorial, but no fight broke out.

Earlier an old blind guy performed on harmonica and marimba. Quite popular — almost everyone gave him a few coins.

Half the bus got off at the last stop. I panicked a moment, but confirmed that we’re not there yet. A flock of young gringa travellers got on and talked about getting off at a dive shop, giving a valuable frame of reference.

We passed a billboard for a Ferreteria. I don’t want to know what it means.

— A short time later —

Confirmed the stop with the chicas, turns out they’re here for horticultural studies from the University of Wisconsin. Abby and Linda were kind enough to show me to the beach, where they wanted to shell-search.

Quite a lot of wildlife lurks at the shoreline. Large sandflea-type things burrow into holes and sea slugs with brilliant spotted shells glisten in the sun. Linda found a live sand dollar, with a carpet of tentacles on the bottom; returned to the sand the disc quickly buried itself.

The girls turn back and I spot a likely area for rooms. I won’t pay more than $19 a night! A beachside café beckons and looks pricey, but I stop for a drink and to gather intel.

The breeze is cool and gentle now. Awesome sunset predicted. And equally awesome if I can find a room before that happens.

My Spanish is pathetic, and I have bursts of word-searching for anything I anticipate saying in the next 15 minutes. Vocabulary comes quickly fueled by urgency. The toughest part at this stage of my learning is tha I can say simple things understandably. Then people rattle back their valuable answer like a machine gun. My eyes glaze over. I apologize for my poor language skills, please please speak slower. Many people seem to know English, but I prefer to struggle, and learn.

Score! El Torro Blanco — the White Bull — is near the church in the center of town, in front of the soccer field. Theoretically. And it’s not safe for a mujer (that’s me) to walk on the beach after dark.

I wasn’t sure of this total-lack-of-plan plan. Last year in Guatemala I didn’t have a clue, but I had destinations and a general idea of how to get there. This trip I have some rough notes from when I found the ticket. Costa Rica has rain forests, phenomenal naional parks, volcaos and hot springs. Fantastic beaches on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, of course. That’s the extent of planning.

But in Guatemala I stressed about finding bus stations, catching the bus, and where it would end up. When you don’t have a plan, or a clue to go with it, there’s nothing to stress about. You trust it will work out.

On a practical note, it has to. What do I need? Some food, a place to sleep, and a shower once in a while. Humans being what they are, they happily provide these things and let you know what’s available. Another note: people share information. We’re social by nature. Maybe I’m naive and/or stupid, but on the road it’s more pleasant to assume kind intents until circumstances dictate otherwise.

— A bit later —

$15 per night. Women’s dorm, no other guests, my own bathroom, a/c, clean and basic. El Torro Blanco was $40 a night, but I am such a bargain slut. Seriously, when my eyes are closed I can’t tell the difference unless it smells, and this place is muy bueno.

Now that I’ve sorted all the easy decisions, I come to a tough one: a dip in the pool  before dinner or after. It’s muggy, my back is a sweatfest from the pack (which I was advised to dump asap to avoid the big gringa signs) and the later looks lovely. But I haven’t eaten since 8am and I’m a tad peckish. Hasta luego!

— A photographic note —

I’m taking pictures, and lots of them. But I, um, forgot to bring the cord to get them out of the camera. Oopsie…  Today I will seek technical advise on making that happen.

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About ThesePartsUnknown

I write, I travel, I make art.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Costa Rica, Spanish, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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