On the road again— man I like that feeling. There is a song with the lyrics called: “White Line Fever.” I must of caught white line fever at birth. I have always liked to travel. There are worse addictions— at least you get to live out your fantasies as you spin around the earth searching for adventure and the unknown x factor.
It was a sunny day as we pulled out of San Jose en route to Golfito on the Pacific coast. I had the window seat on the right side of the bus. It’s amazing what you can see if you concentrate at looking. To me it’s a challenge to take in as many sights as I can. While the bus driver shifts to a lower gear we begin the long climb up the mountain. Right now we are in the perfect altitude for growing coffee. You can see the ripe red berries glisten against the bright green leaves superimposed against the bright blue sky and if you look backward you can still see the outskirts of San Jose. Because of Costa Rica’s diverse temperatures and climates they have some of the best mountain coffee in the World.
The bus driver shifts into another lower gear as we began to climb even steeper terrain. With my head against the window I am able to see hundreds of wild orchids imbedded in the trees —some more than a hundred feet in the air stretching out their multi-colors as if to flag the world and deliver a signal— showcasing what nature and beauty is really about. The bus driver shifts to a lower gear as we continue our mountain climb.
Hanging on the cliff the bus-driver pulls into a rest-stop restaurant overlooking a huge valley. As we step off the bus the temperature is in the lower 50’s which you don’t expect, since when we left San Jose only three or four hours a ago, it was a balmy 80 degrees. The restaurant had native brook trout on the menu. The waiter told me they were caught fresh today from one of the small mountain streams. Wild colorful birds took flight pass our window while we finished with a cup of Costa Rican Mountain Coffee.
Back on the bus we continued to climb until we reached the summit mostly straight up the mountain. After a few hours of descent we reached the fertile farming valleys outfitted with cattle, horses, gauchos, banana trees, and pineapple plantations as far as the eye could see.
Groaning to a stop after about an eight hour bus trek we arrived in downtown Golfito. If I had to describe Golfito— some said it was the end of the world made up of xpats, Europeans, misfits, thieves and characters. There were more bars in the town than houses. Everyone had a pitch. Everyone was selling real estate or had a secret gold mine. In addition to its great fishing, rain forests, and ecotourism on deserted islands– teaming with wildlife and birds, Golfito is the preferred route for the drug trade, so you can imagine what kind of characters either floated through Golfito or just landed there and became a part of the mix. Golfito borders Panama and is the most southwestern town in Costa Rica.
I made friends with a Chinese man who owned the local Chinese restaurant. He took me up river to look at a piece of real estate. Man it’s hot in Golifito in the summer months. Someone said it was at least 112 degrees today. A tico commented to me: “Your not from here are you! Do you know how I can tell? Instead of waiting under a huge shade tree for the buses like the natives do —you stand in the hot sun melting away. Take some local tico advice during the hot of the day— try to find some shade my amigo.”
After swapping stories with the misfits, natives, and touristas I started on my return trip to San Jose. At about the halfway point I stopped off at a Costa Rican mountain town and took a room for the night. Have you ever been somewhere and it didn’t just feel right? This seem to occur all at one time. A young person spun his motorcycle around in front of the hotel’s desk and then what looked liked street gang members pulled down a locked metal gate to the outside. I felt like I was being trapped. Since my room was on the second floor I was even paranoid about a fire– thinking I wouldn’t be able to get out of there. I asked for my money back and ran down to the bus station with my backpack bouncing off my back hoping to catch a bus to San Jose.
While jumping on the last bus heading to San Jose I couldn’t have felt better about leaving my hotel. I would soon be back to San Jose where I knew my way around. I couldn’t wait to check out the vegetable and fish market, head to the main post office where they make the best coffee drinks in the world and do some serious people watching at the town’s square. You can get your picture taken with a flock of pigeons and wonder who really is the pigeon.
Just beyond the town square I always have lunch at the Gran Hotel which looks like a scene from one of Hemmingway’s novels. It is the jumping off point for most eco-adventures and the place to stay in San Jose. The luncheons are to die for with fresh vegetables, salads and fish entrees. What a street scene with well dressed waiters and waitresses serving your ever wish and Landrovers pulling in and out loaded to the gills for your tico adventure trip.
East on Av 2 is the Gran Hotel, set back from the street in a paved plaza, Costa Rica’s grande dame of accommodations. In the tradition of Central American town planning, the center of a city houses a “grand hotel,” usually the oldest and most prestigious. El Gran has a small, popular casino, and its inside restaurant is quite good. But the outdoor Café Parisien – open 24 hours – is San Jose’s best place to sit and eat or have a drink while the world passes by your table. That world might include European backpackers, vendors of painted feathers, Cuban cigar sellers, ochorena players, well-dressed theater patrons, provocative prostitutes, young language-school students, lovers young and old, camera-toting tourists, government officials, shoppers, large families, beggars – and you.
The tables have white tablecloths with fresh flowers and you can smell the aroma of steaming hot coffee as the waiters and waitresses whisk by. It’s just a great place to watch Central America come alive. You can watch well dressed businessmen from Central and South America, the fully outfitted safari traveler, local ticos talking up a storm, beautiful Central American women and some xpats with their beards, scandals and colorful shirts. Here you are also at the cultural center where you might take in a museum, a flamingo guitarist, a dance troop or the latest in global sponsored singing groups. If I won the lotto I would like to take a room here and finish one of my unfinished novels. Maybe that’s all I need to hit the mother-lode. Dream on!!!
The good feeling soon left as the bus-driver told me I would have to stand up the entire trip, except for the fact, that I was on the conductor’s stool until we rolled out of town. Rolled out of town we did with gears changing as we began our climb up the steep mountainside. Everyone was in a good mood. In fact everyone was singing as the bus driver came to an abrupt stop. The conductor ran toward a small tienda and came back with several quart bottles of beer in paper bags for the journey. As we crossed the first mountain summit I had that pit-less feeling in my gut. Trying to calm myself I told myself the bus-drivers do this mountain drive every day— they are professionals there is nothing to worry about.
Roaring through the summit we headed straight down the mountain at breakneck speeds. Was it my imagination or was I smelling burning brakes? I looked over at the bus driver and saw beads of sweat rolling down his neck. He struggled to shift from fourth gear back into third gear. The gears were grinding followed by a huge popping sound. The bus started freewheeling down the mountain. The driver took the inside lane and was brushing against the branches in order to slow it down. Everyone was still singing and didn’t even seem to notice.
The bus-driver told me to lay flat on the floor. What a feeling! I am on a runaway bus without brakes and we just popped third gear— we are actually picking up speed. At this point my only real worry was if we plunged some three or four thousand feet over the side and no-one ever found us. How would my family ever know what happened? The worst fear was lodged in my brain. I couldn’t remember even one switchback or reverse mountain road on the entire trip going the other direction. Dios Mio this is the end I thought as I whipped off a few quick prayers.
Out of nowhere a small girl in a white dress reached her hand down and grabbed my hand. Then as if the miracle was already written in stone the bus miraculously roared up the only switchback on the mountain and we came to a stop in front of a restaurant. Dressed in our t-shirts and shorts we almost froze as we retrieved our luggage. Finally inside the warm restaurant I was able to give my thanks for my safety.
I looked around in the restaurant to thank the little girl dressed in white for holding my hand during eminent danger. I even found the older woman who was previously on the end bus seat and enquired about the girl in the white dress. “What you talking about mister there was no little girl dressed in white even on the bus.” Oh sure I thought while everyone was singing and drinking beer the angel flew through the open window on a bus traveling over a hundred miles an hour going down the mountain without brakes or gears and steered it to safety.
I know know miracles do happen I am here to tell about it.
QUOTE: “By the same token, if you feel some sense of delight—if you connect with what for you is inspiring, opening, relieving, relaxing—you breathe it out, you give it away, you send it out to everyone else.” —–PEMA CHODRON
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: Mothman – Alien from another world, or a being from the spiritual realm. Mothman remains one of the most paranormal of all the creatures of Cryptozoology. ——Buzzle.com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Blacknecked Cranes The most endangered of the world’s 15 cranes, the blacknecked crane is seen on an eight rupees stamp to help preserve this species.
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Keep the faith miracles do happen and when you least expect them!