July 20, 2006

The Path to Montezuma
Montezuma, Costa Rica

One missed bus connection stretched an already lengthy journey out into a 15-hour travel day.

Traveling around Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula isn't an easy task. The "roads" that connect the coastal villages with one another are not traveled by public bus, rather traversed only by rugged 4×4s. Moving between coastal towns often requires an annoying jump back inland—unless forging rivers with a rental car is your thing.

My brother and I discovered an oddity when researching how to reach our desired destination (the beach town of Montezuma, less than 40km south, as the crow flies): No public bus transport connects with the strip of coastal towns at end of the peninsula (making them only accessible by ferry or taxi). Our only viable option was to take a ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya, and then immediately double back in a different ferry to reach the town just a few miles to the south.

The trip would require three or four bus connections flanking the double ferry transfer—I estimated approximately 11 hours of travel if we left town at 07:00.

We arrived in Nicoya for our first bus transfer ahead of schedule, and had well over an hour to kill. Glenn and I decided to stroll through the town's nearby park and then pick up some medication for the mild illness he'd been fighting for the past week. We arrived back at the terminal with what I thought was just about enough time to spare, when (after waiting and eventually asking around) it turned out we had missed our bus. It probably arrived early, and tore out of the terminal before we got back. It was nine in the morning, and the next bus wasn't due until one o'clock in the afternoon.

We explored alternate routes, but every bus that could be used departed in the late afternoon. We sat on the uncomfortable wooden bench and waited.

Several Hours Later

The one o'clock bus pulled into the station just after noon, and departed at 12:40—twenty minutes early. Glenn and I frowned at each other, no wonder we had missed our connection.

Clouds of the Gulf of Nicoya

We chugged along the road in our hot, steamy transport, until we found ourselves idling at the shore of a very large body of water. I took note of the sky as we waited, it had a lot of character this particular evening.

We were aboard the ferry, just departing for Puntarenas, when I took note of the time. I couldn't believe it: The 5:00 ferry was departing at 4:40—what's the deal with these people, I thought. Then, as quickly as I had complained aloud in Glenn's direction, it hit me: What if the time on my watch is wrong?

I pulled my camera out and checked it against the time-stamp—crap—my pocket watch was exactly twenty minutes slow. Somewhere along the morning's journey I had inadvertently pulled the little pin used to set the time, thus stopping the clock until it was depressed again (some twenty minutes later). Oops!

We managed to catch an earlier, unscheduled ferry departure shortly after arriving in Puntarenas (saving us nearly two hours of transit time), followed by an expensive bus headed south. It was well after dark, the typical inexpensive bus transport had already ended for the day, and the pricey, 1st class bus was our only option.

After transferring to a smaller bus in Cóbano, we zoomed down a rough dirt road towards the coast, arriving in Montezuma more than 15 hours after departing Sámara. Tonight is Glenn's first night under a mosquito net.

From the quick glance I had of the town tonight, I would describe Montezuma as a tiny, gringo outpost in the jungle. The village seems to be only a quarter of the size of Sámara, but dense with several hotels and restaurant/bars. I wonder what the place will look like in the morning light.

Although today's journey was fraught with delay, and unnecessarily lengthy (given the short distance), it did give me the opportunity to read one of the books that I had Glenn bring down from Oregon. I completely tore through Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild, finishing it (from cover to cover) before we were even halfway through the day's journey. It was definitely a good read, and surely makes my own travels seem less radical by comparison.

I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life.
- Leo Tolstoy

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