Thursday, December 3, 2009

My night in sketch-town. This nowhere near does it justice.

In Granada, Nicaragua, I ran into a couple of dutch boys I had met in Antigua. They were driving to San Juan del Sur within the hour, and then the next day on to San Jose, Costa Rica. I was so sick of travelling alone, that I went with them. And catching a ride is so much easier than messing with multiple buses when crossing the border.

Now, I had intended to write a whole post dedicated to the positives of lone travelling. For now, suffice it to say that is is incredibly empowering. I feel so exhilerated and strong and amazing when I am travelling alone, conquering the world alone. In a country that speaks a language I am not that skilled in. In a dangerous country. Far, far from my comfort zone. Not to imply that this is a walk in the park, the opposite in fact. I feel strong because travelling alone is hard. It strikes at my primary weakness, loneliness. I feel strong because I feel weak. I feel brave because I feel scared. I feel that after this trip, I will be able to do anything. Because I travelled alone. I climbed a volcano alone. I manoeuvred through foreign lands alone. With the patience and help of the local people, of course.

Nevertheless, travelling alone is exhausting. I have to be so vigilant. All the time. I have to do all the thinking, make all the decisions. Figure out every detail. I don´t get any help with that. And I was sick of it. I wanted a companion in travel, and I wanted it immediately. I thought Kriss would have departed by the time I got to San Jose, so I went with the dutch boys. Well, turns out Kriss didn´t leave when I expected. So the dutch boys dropped me off on CA 1 where I caught a bus to Puntarenas. A small peninsula town really just used as the point to catch a ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula. Or, for me, as a point where I could catch a bus the next morning to Santa Elena, instead of going all the way to San Jose just to turn around again.

The problem with traveling on local buses is that I know the name of the place where I´m going, but I have no idea what it looks like, so I don´t have any clue when I´ve gotten there. I always have to be asking the person sitting next to me on the bus where we are, or if they know when I need to get off to get to Basilica Guadalupe or something. Sometimes that doesn´t work so well, like in Puntarenas, where I expected the bus to drop me off at the bus terminal. Which it didn´t. And there were no road signs. And no one recognized the name of my hostel. Or recognized anything on my little map. And it was getting dark. But what I think I am learning about Costa Ricans is that they are really friendly, and will take care of a wandering traveler. 2 people helped me to a random hotel around the corner from the bus station. It is absolutely the sketchiest place I´ve ever stayed a night. But it was just a night.

What do I do with myself in a sketchy town? I finish internet cafe-ing and dinner (ceviche, and a cocacola in a glass bottle for dessert) early, and spend the night in my tiny hotel room. Which miraculously has HBO. And I watch 1 episode of Friends (one I´d never seen before, I didn´t think those existed anymore), 1 episode of Skins, 1 episode of Mad Men, take a shower, hide my valuables, and booby trap the room should someone try to enter during the night (I guess I never recovered from that one time drunken men tried to enter my room in Kenya). I watched an episode of Frasier this morning. Can I tell you how much I love Frasier? When I worked at Sephora for that year at home, I would come home from my shift every night and watch 2 episodes of Frasier. What a comforting show for me. I was glad it showed up through the wires in my hotel room in Costa Rica.

Woke up at 5, caught the first bus to Santa Elena, and I love it here. It´s back up in the mountains, and I´ve got to say, mountains are really what I´m responding to on this trip, I can´t get enough of them. It was a longer bus ride than expected, the last 35 km took a long time as that´s when we hit the slopes, in a large bus, not always with pavement beneath us. The views were spectacular. I met this Italian lady on the bus.

Against all odds, I´ve been pretty content the last two days. And today especially. I immediately felt comfortable in Santa Elena, which is nesteld alongside Monteverde, a reserve and cloud forest (love the term cloud forest, those words conjure great images). Enjoyed some local food, and then off to tour a biodynamic, organic coffee farm which is part of a fair-trade co-op. The farm was BEAUTIFUL, the farm was soooo nice (and a demonstrative member of Farms against Arms, love it). His family has been practicing biodynamic, organic farming for generations, and apparently it´s pretty common around here.

What is biodynamic farming you ask (I´ll assume you know organic by now)? It´s when you take into account the placement in the moon cycle when you plant, harvest, water, cut crops. And you´re extra caring and nurturing of the soil. Fantastic.

I was so enamored with this place, this farmer, and the little coffee trees and beans-berries, that I asked the farmer if I could come back tomorrow and help him farm for a day. But I guess there isn´t much to do on the farm just now. I was pretty disappointed. I feel at the moment that I could easily stay here and work on such a farm for a good long while.

I think I will stay a week. And take walks through the cloud forest and other surrounding forest every day. I have a cold, which sucks, but hopefully it will pass quickly and not distract me too much from this place.

It´s days like today which reminds me why I´m doing this. Even alone.


Anonymous said...

Laura: no locals WILL EVER KNOW WHERE THE HOSTEL IS. They don't use it. Give up asking. If the guidebook has directions, follow those, if you bump into another traveler or just talk to one who has stayed there, they may be able to give you some landmarks.

Also: no one will ever know where anything on your map is. They know the place in real space, not looking at a map (just like you, they probably don't know a lot of street names or addresses in their own home towns). Write down the name of your destination on an index card pretty big to show people (of course, not everyone is literate or spelling it like you are), try to imitate the local pronunciation, and smile. A lot.

On buses: sit as near the driver as possible and try to be friendly. If you make friends with the driver (or if there is a conductor), you are 100X more likely to have them take an interest in you and getting you where you need to be. If your smile and attention is not enough, get them a snack if there is a break, or slip them a tip.

And you working on a farm? Sorry sister, can't picture that. Enjoy the cloud forests--sounds enchanting.

Anonymous said...

BTW--I don't say that to be know-it-ally; from my observation, most of the frustrations of travel are based on unmet expectations (like, for example, being understood, bumping into people who know where they are going, or expecting continental breakfasts thrown at you). Traveling with no expectations (and truthfully, just about everything else in life), is much more pleasant. So when you EXPECT to have to walk 3 miles back where you wanted to be dropped, and expect that you will have a hard time finding the hostel and should probably start searching a good 3 hours before the sun goes down, and when you expect that your bus will break down more than once and that a 50 km journey will take all day, you aren't disappointed if all that stuff happens, and you are much happier if any of that turns out easier, which it probably will.

Rebecca said...

Cloud forest! That sounds magical. And you are so totally my hero for doing this alone. Amazing.

As for your cold, if you can get some (and if it's safe to drink? Not being much of a traveler, I don't know the rules), take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a BIG glass of water every morning. Tastes GROSS, but seriously nips a cold/sore throat in the bud.