Feliz Dia de la Independencia from San José! And let me tell you how glad I am to be back here.
Week 2 started off pretty normally. By the end I was pretty stressed because I had an oral presentation on Thursday and a midterm on Friday. So on Saturday, my friend Phil and I decided to take a trip to a Botanical Garden- location unknown to us at the time. And let’s just say, it was the exact opposite of what we expected but turned out to be better than what we planned.
I do not suggest anyone deliberately go out and do this. We were incredibly lucky in our experience, and it requires a very open mind.
After getting on the bus as instructed by our Tico families, we got off at the wrong stop near a multiplaza and decide to grab brunch as we figured out what to do. After helpful directions from the restaurant owner, and a realization that our intended destination is closed on the weekends, we decided to give the city of Cartago a shot and go visit Volcán Irazu. So, we walked back down to the bus stop and got on the local bus to Cartago.
After arriving in Cartago, we walked around a little lost for a bit, trying to GPS our location (i.e. actually using Google Maps and my iPhone for their advertised purposes). We finally found the bus stop to Tierra Blanca which is a town near the volcano. A good sign, if anything. But, when we asked the attendant at the pharmacy next to the bus stop what to do, she informed us that the bus was already full and that there would not be another. At a loss of ideas, we decided to walk down the road in the direction of travel and hope for a miracle.
Some 5 minutes later, we walked up to a man speaking with his wife and a person whom we assumed to be his mother, and his children running around in the house. After somewhat effectively asking for his help in Spanish, he informed us that there was another way to get to Tierra Blanca, from a bus at a small town called Llano Grande. He was kind enough to drive us to the stop (with his children in the car) and left us with some hope.
So, we’re waiting at the bus stop with nothing but the clothes on our backs, a water bottle, two cameras, and two sweaters (because it gets cold in the mountains), wondering if we should make the event a weekend trip. And again, we start googling hostels in the area, when a group of Ticos around our age (2 girls and 3 guys) walks up asking for directions to the bus stop for Tierra Blanca. They get their directions, and as they’re turning to leave, my friend goes, “Ebony, stop them and ask them if we can go with them!” And the adventure begins.
We walked with them, all the way speaking in a weird mix of gestures and Spanglish, to the bus stop that we had previously been told there were no more buses for. Great! As we’re waiting they told us all about Cartago, what they were doing, where they were going, and about a festival that night for El Día de la Independencia. In turn we told them about how long we’d be in town, where we were from, and why we were there. The wait wasn’t long, but the heat was intense, and as we boarded the bus they also suggested we stay in Cartago for the night so we could go to the festival and not be so exhausted from traveling. So, once we were situated, we made our phone calls to our respective Tico moms to let them know what was going on, and settled in for the ride.
After climbing up the rest of the mountains for the next few hours, swapping stories and telling jokes, we finally reached El Parque Nacional de Irazu. We settled in and they started opening up all of their pre-purchased snacks and dug in. We sat there a little awkwardly for about 2.5 seconds before they all looked at us like we were crazy and said, “Eat whatever you want, please!” The concept of “mi casa es su casa” is very much alive and well in Costa Rica.
An hour or two, and a typical Costa Rican downpour later, we climbed back down the mountain (it only took 45 mins-1hr in comparison), and rode the bus back down to Cartago. It took a little bit to figure out our hostel situation, but thankfully our new friends were willing to make the phone calls and help us on the negotiations. We then went to the free Percance concert (a really popular rock band in Costa Rica apparently) in the main square and had an amazing time!
A few hours later we crashed in the hostel, woke up early in the morning, and took the bus back to San José with 5 new friends on facebook, and a crazy story for all.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you successfully get lost in Costa Rica.