Romantic Evenings in Puntarenas and Alluvial Memories from Monteverde

Costa Rica PinkOh sweet reprieve!  At long last Lisa and I were able to pull the nails from our skulls that the busfull of Costa Rican children had hammered into our skulls during the fifty stop, twenty hour ride (or at least thats what it felt like) from Alajuela to Puntarenas.  Clearly we had no idea what we were getting into as we had eagerly hopped onto the next bus heading Northwest after finding out that we had missed our Monteverde directo.  Lisa and I had nearly done one another the favor of slitting each other’s wrists during the ride out (did I mention that sitting in vehicles for long hours is my weak spot?) and were just so glad to be off the bus and one step closer to our next destination, way up high in the verdant Costa Rican mountains.  But as our eyes adjusted to the flat, sandy, sketchy looking streets of Puntarenas, we couldn’t help but wonder just how near to those green mountains we actually were and if perhaps we had just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Furthermore, the question of just how far awry our luck had fallen, and just what other surprises lay in wait for us during this chapter of our journey, loomed ominously before our curious minds.

Bahh!  But Lisa and I were no pessimists!  Realists? Yes.  Satyrists?  Yes.  But we were two of a kind and we were well equipped to roll with the punches and laugh at the tragic irony of our situations, then forge onward in search of some new predicament in which to place ourselves.  Fortunately for us, the next predicament lay only several paces before us.  Dropped unceremoniously on a street corner, in a rough part of town, well after recommended gringo strolling hours, we quickly began to make all kinds of new friends.  A dark-skinned, haggard and slavish character almost broke into a run to greet us upon spotting us on the far street corner.  Although he didn’t particularly look threatening, he did seem to have aquired a rather pungent smell from the streets of Puntarenas as well as a well practiced used-car-salesman quality about him.

Upon reaching us he instantly brandished a worn and greasy deck of business cards for nearby “hotels” (which were apparently arm-pits of purgatory) and then buzzed around us like a bee on honey.  We tried to dismiss the tawdry character as he desperately tried to wow us with his endless knowledge of the who’s who of the apparently complex world of Puntarenas hoteliers, but as Lisa and I cast one last knowing look at one another, we knew that it was useless.  So the three of us set off together, skipping down the yellow brick road past hookers, trannys, drunken sailors, beggars and crack addicts – and at least one thing was clearly apparent, we certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore (although perhaps it could have been Atlanta).

Bussin' ItAn hour later, after having narrowly escaped what was probably the ripest of settings for getting mugged of all of my journey through the Americas (Lisa and I lugging her rolly through the darkened streets of seedy Puntarenas), and after having visited some of the most repulsive, windowless, prison-cell barred “hotels” of Puntarenas, we finally lost our new friend and stumbled upon a rather warm and inviting guest house.  You can imagine the level of delirious hilarity that we were in as we collapsed on top of the bed in our cozy room, reeling from the day’s unusual trials and still sticky from the sultry coastal air.  Finally we got to showering, braved the streets of Punatarenas by night once more, and scurried discreetly down the street for some cheap late-night chinese food.

The following morning we were up at the crack of dawn and arrived well before the departure time (for a change) for our bus to Monteverde.  As we sat on the benches by the terminal listening to the gently lapping waves on the stretch of golden sandy beach behind us, watching children playing by the surf and the sun rising slowly on the horizon, we ruefully agreed on just how much we were going to miss Puntarenas – then broke down into ironic laughter.  When the bus arrived and we had stowed our luggage and climbed aboard, I sat somewhat anxiously dreading yet another bus ride, but reassuringly remembered that on the map it appeared that we were not entirely very far from Monteverde.  Yet to my unpleasant surprise, I discovered that our “collectivo” would in fact loop all the way around the far side of our destination, passing through other remote and indistinct Costa Rican villages before pointing for the mountains.

Now, although I do make it all sound perhaps more unpleasant than it was (which is really just the fault of my vehicular claustrophobia), I must admit that the drive through the Costa Rican countryside, under frilly, dancing canopies and over deliciously spiraling green mountains into the heavens, was in fact one of the most scenic of all Costa Rica.  However, not to disappoint us, lady destiny unleashed the showers only as we were finally reaching our destinations after our four hour journey.  Well this was most certainly convenient, here we were in a minute mountain village where almost all activities were relegated to the great outdoors, we had less than twenty-four hours to revel in the rumored natural beauty, and there was a steady, persistent deluge hovering right over us.  In just the brief moments that it took us to sprint from one side of the street to the other, were conveniently a hostel was located, we managed to become completely drenched, and after checking-in, headed for a nice hot shower.

Lisa's RainforestWhen we reconvened in our comfy bunk-beaded room overlooking the overcast street outside, Lisa and I had a dilemma to face.  We were here, our precious little hours were slipping away, and the rain showed no sign of repenting.  Finally, after Lisa had presented her pitiful plea, I put on my happy face, agreed that she undoubtedly suggested the most practical and logical plan, and we headed downstairs to catch the van to the Santa Elena Reserve.  For the next three hours, as we trudged through the rainforest, saturated through to our underwear, we both tried desperately to put on excitedly enthusiastic facades, as we squinted our eyes dramatically and stopped to pretend to listen carefully for sightings of rare cloud-jungle fauna.  Nevertheless, as I tried to keep my positive attitude, and did truly enjoy the outlandish adventure, I couldn’t help but let my little ribbons of comedic sarcasm slip through as I schlepped along in my squelching, waterlogged sneakers, once or twice prodding Lisa as to why they called it a rain forest.

However, once we were again back in the lodge, warm-showered, in dry outfits, reclining on our bunks, we did agree that we had made the right decision and had both really enjoyed our “moist” hike.  It had been even more of an adventure as we had tip-toed precariously on top of narrow logs over lakes which had formed in our path, sloshed downhill through tiny raging rivers that flowed along the trail, and had enjoyed the lush jungle  scenery, sparkling amidst the billions of tiny waterdropplets that coated the thick foliage.  We also couldn’t help but to look back at our race through the last half an hour of the hike, as we had almost literally gone at a run along the path, wondering if we would actually make it back to our transport before its scheduled departure time, and dreading being stranded in the drenched forest for another three hours until the following one would arrive.

Lisa and I were thoroughly knackered by the time that we had ventured out for a quick bite and the search for our breakfast yogurt (during which I had to put my foot down that we most certainly would not be buying plain yogurt – I’m more of a strawberry kind of guy), and retired back to our welcoming little hostel bedroom.  Now, if we thought that we had gotten up early on the other days of our journey in order to catch departing buses, none of it quite compared to the following morning, as we dawned at four-forty-five to board our outbound to the coast at five in the morning… but thankfully set sail from outside our window.  Ironically, almost exactly twenty-four hours after having left the charismatic town of Puntarenas, Lisa found ourselves once again pulling in.  This time we had a two hour layover before catching the next ride down to the central Pacific coast and hoped that that would be more than enough time to truly explore the well hidden beauty of the slightly rough-edged town.  And, as our two hours dwindled away and we found ourselves once again sitting on that same bench with the sounds of the gently lapping waves drifting on the breeze, I only hoped that the romantic image of Manuel Antonio which I had painted for Lisa over the past few days would indeed meet her expectations and that we would finally find ourselves completely relaxed and luxuriating in the lap of paradise.


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