03
Dec
08

Pawning Off Lisa on the Beaches of Manuel Antonio

Manuel AntonioA wave of pleasure melted over Lisa and I as the palm-fringed coastline of Quepos swept into view beyond the window of our bus.  But in all honesty, this was moreso because we had had the not-so-good-sense to mix a excruciatingly potent cocktail less than halfway through the three hour journey from Puntarenas and were now both slightly drunken and extremely in need of a restroom.  However, it was also true that we were perfectly delighted to be arriving, and once we had thrown ourselves out of the bus in Quepos and taken care of our business, we were finally able to slow down and count our lucky stars that we were finally here in paradise, it wasn’t raining, and we had plenty of time to soak up some tropical sunlight and sunset cocktails before having to head back to San Jose the following evening for Lisa’s flight.  Need I mention that by this stage in our journey foolish optimism had developed into a necessary self-preserving strategy, but as always turned out to be the most supreme form of self-deception as Costa Rica dropped the floor out from beneath us once again and sent us tumbling head first through its own plan.

Once again I found myself sitting on that same little shuttle through the coastal jungle from Quepos to Manuel Antonio, the bus painfully groaning up the torturous hill before arriving at the ridge.  I had made a few friends here in these parts during my week-long stay with Kevin and Willie, and so as we were passing the familiar yellow restaurant along the roadside, Lisa and I hopped out.  We went in to see Jim, whom I had called from the Quepos bus terminal, and had good-naturedly agreed to assist us in searching for a place to stay for the evening.  After a warm welcome, introductions, and quick recap of Lisa and I’s romp throughout the country, we loaded into Jim’s car and, as Lisa and I didn’t particularly have the vitality or desire to spend the rest of the afternoon searching for hotels, we found ourselves quickly settling into the first little beachside shack of a hotel that we encountered.

I had seen the place upon passing on my previous visit to Manuel Antonio, but hadn’t thought much of it – and for good reason.  Although the management was wonderfully friendly, and the location one minute from the beach was impeccable, the room was little more than a damp closet with a musty bunkbed and a spiggot in the bathroom for showering.  Nevertheless, not desiring to waste one moment, we settled into the room, agreed that we would meet Jim that evening for dinner followed by a night on the town, and then bid him adieu.  There wasn’t much reason to linger about our “inviting” accomodations and Lisa and I were ready to go out and grab life by the horns while things seemed to be going our way, so we quickly changed into our bathing suits (Lisa’s suit even more sumptuous this time than the last – clearly a souvenir from the beaches of Brazil) and headed for the beach.

Melting HorizonIt was mid-afternoon and the tide was just pulling up to its highest point as Lisa and I emerged from the path through the coastal underbrush.  The waves were poetically languid, rolling curves that crashed almost at the tree line, and being hypnotically allured towards them, we almost instantly had our sandles slipped off and were frolicking in the breakers.  Ah sweet serenity, here we were together on the beaches of paradise.  We splashed sea-foam at one another and flung ourselves mercilessly at the waves for the next two hours and commiserated as to the lack of sunshine (as it was a somewhat hazy yellow afternoon), but thought joyfully as well of tomorrow and the long hours of enviable tan-time that Manuel Antonio would show Lisa before sending her on a plane back to the States.  Around the same time that we were beginning to weary of the taste of salt-water in our mouths and the abrasion of sand against our backsides, we began to hear the first earth-shattering cracks of tropical thunder.  It appeared to be a sign, and upon recovering our sandles, Lisa and I made our way back along the short path to the hotel to get rinsed off and weather the storm.

We had intended to just spend some down-time reading and chatting until the rains petered off, but as the gentle sound of the pattering rain enveloped us, we found ourselves drifting off into a sweet slumber, snuggled up together amidst the lullaby of million crickets.  When I lethargically came too it was already dark outside and I had the nagging feeling that there was something that I was forgetting.  When the blue light of cell phone shone to life, illuminating the time – 9:15pm – I instantly realized that we were supposed to have met Jim for dinner almost two hours earlier!  I shook Lisa awake mercilessly and prodded her until she had had regained lucidity.  But after breaking the news to her, she rationalized that by this point it would do us no good to try to race to the restaurant, as almost every place in town closed its kitchens by ten in the evening, and instead I called Jim to let him know what had happened to to inform him that we would meet him a little later to head out and hit the bars.

Fortunately, once we had gotten ourselves mobilized, Lisa and I did manage to satiate our burning hungers after searching high and low for a restaurant that was still serving, and then headed out to meet Jim and his friends to kick up our heels one last time before Lisa’s return to Atlanta.  It turned out to be a first-rate night of diversion and Lisa and I found ourselves shakin’ it well into the wee hours of the night.  While we were there we even made a few friends, a few of whom, I could never have known at the time, would soon become repeat characters in the drama that is my life.  However, even in our “slightly” tipsy state, we nevertheless kept our eyes focused on the prize, which was to drag our bleary eyed selves out to the white sandy beaches of Manuel Antonio at the crack of dawn and enjoy every last moment of togetherness that we could – oh, and while getting a tan.

Pacific VistaUnbelievably, as if to put the frosting on the cake that was our week in Costa Rica together, the most unprecedented and outlandish of all the weeks surprises came right there in our last moments together.  Lathered up in sunscreen, riding on cloud nine, and making our way out to the hike through the monkey infested jungles of the Manuel Antonio National Park to the pristine beaches that awaited us on the other side, Lisa and I suddenly remembered something.  We had heard that occasionally the buses from Quepos to San Jose would tend to fill up on Sundays as the day progressed, and thinking ourselves quite prudent, we decided to see if we could buy our bus tickets for that evening before the crowds.  Although the terminal was way over in Quepos, we figured that we could get the telephone number and see about booking our ticket.  However, bad news awaited us.

A young American girl sat at a tourist stand amidst the breachfront restaurants, and, among other things, showed a sign for transport to San Jose.  We approached her to ask if she might know how we could contact the terminal in Quepos and she obligingly began to look up the number, although informing us that they probably wouldn’t take a reservation over the phone.  However, a few minutes later as she hung up the phone we were left there standing in shock.  Every bus, not only today, but for almost all of Monday was completely booked as well.  Ok, well, no need for alarm, there must certainly be other transport options.  However, it didn’t take long for us to discover that almost all of the other options jumped from the seven dollar fare of the regular bus up to almost seventy dollars for the “luxury” Interbus rates.  Whoa!  That was way out of our budget.  However, after fifteen minutes of fretting and uncertainty, we wondered if that might be the only option.

So we asked her about what times these Interbusses departed for San Jose and she made another call.  Well, time for more surprises, not only were these shuttles outlandishly expensive, but they were also all completely booked that day!  Ok, well at this point we were basically what my friends in Mexico would call chingada.  It looked like it was time for plan B… sadly though, Lisa and I didn’t usually get that far in our planning.  We thanked the sweet girl from the tourist desk for all of her help and then walked aimlessly down the boardwalk debating over what we should do.  Lisa’s flight would be leaving that evening, it was the last one of the day to Atlanta, and to change it would cost her a hundred dollars – almost the entire price of the ticket in the first place.  But there had to be another way!

Then it struck me, a stroke of brilliance!  There must be some random strangers here who were on their way back to the capital, after all, during this time of the year (the gringo low season) almost all of the tourists that were there that weekend were probably from San Jose anyway.  So I set to brainstorming on the best approach strategy and just which strangers had the most benevolent look about them.  And that’s when I spotted them, a group of young gentlemen whom we had seen the night before.  Sadly, we hadn’t been engaged in conversation with them or anything convenient like that, but after a few minutes of deliberation we agreed that without a shadow of a doubt (at least that’s what we told ourselves), they looked at least vaguely familiar.  Feeling their buenas ondas (good vibes), I decided to chance it and Lisa and I made our way over to their table at the edge of a restaurant patio.

Pacific PaletteYou can probably imagine the ensuing conversation as Lisa and I, dressed in our skimpy bathing suits (Lisa), approached them and began asking them for a three hour lift back to the city.  At first they weren’t quite receptive to the idea – shocked might be a better word for it – but for the first time in the entire week we had a marvelous stroke of good luck.  One of the guys had lived in Brazil for a time and spoke Portuguese – and so had Lisa!  That was all it took, just the one connection and we had our foot in the door (hey, I’m from Brazil too, but my Portuguese is a little rusty these days), and within a few more minutes they had agreed to transport us back to the big city.  There was only one more small catch, they were riding in a little four door compact and I suddenly remembered that I had my bike stowed with friends here in Manuel Antonio and had to get it back to San Jose with me.

As it were, due to this one confounding variable, a short while later I found myself not sitting alongside Lisa and our three new friends on the way to San Jose, but instead giving her a big hug and wishing her a bon voyage as I gift wrapped her and sent her packing with three complete Costa Rican strangers.  It crept up on me rather unexpectedly, but there I was, left standing on the roadside, alone once again, and suddenly a pang of sadness crept over me.  I wasn’t too worried about Lisa, the young gentlemen had seemed completely harmless, but I was sad to see her go, and it wasn’t quite the departure that either of us had envisioned.  Not feeling much enthusiasm to head out to the beach alone and not sure of what to do, I decided that instead I would head over to Kurt and Linda’s bungalow (my Manuel Antonio ex-pat buddies who were sheltering my bike for me) and see if perhaps they were around and could lift me out of my somber state of mind.  As I made my way in their direction, it began to completely settle in that now everyone was gone and I was indeed by myself again, but as I began to come to terms with my renewed state of solitude, I also began to feel the pulse of energy and excitement for the journey before me and found myself ready to jump headfirst into it – only this time with a painfully drawn out detour in San Jose.

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2 Responses to “Pawning Off Lisa on the Beaches of Manuel Antonio”


  1. November 23, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Hotel Papigo Royal Palace is situated in Papigo and overviews a fabulous view on the famous Astraka 2436m,and Gamila mountain 2497m,Zagoria,Greece.


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