“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” -Louise Erdrich
That evening, I had to return from the beach to Mystique Soul. Malcolm had a grim look on his face. I can hear his voice now with his raspy British accent. He paused…
“Did ya enjoy me wine?” I felt ashamed.
“I didn’t drink any of the wine, I’m sorry Malcolm that was Rosie.”
“Well I don’t allow thieves onboard so she’ll ‘ave to go in Panama… she tells me you might be going too. Is it true?” My heart was sinking in my chest. Whether or not I was ready to make that call, with the level of discomfort I was feeling it looks like the decision was made.
“Sorry Malcolm, I’ve been considering it. I’m not sure. These last few days have just been kind of crazy.”
“Well you know it will be better when she’s gone! That evil woman.
“Yes, I know.” That much was surely true. “I don’t know, I’ll have to keep thinking about it. I’m sorry.” He really seemed crushed. It was terrible. When he confronted Rosie about the wine, she just screamed and yelled and slammed the door to put herself away in her room.
That night we didn’t eat together, and still fatigued from a day of laying around incapacitated with sickness, I went to sleep early.
And I slept in late. When I got up everyone was bustling around. Malcolm successfully installed the fresh water maker. It’s a shame, because there are many things about that boat that are not ready, but I see Malcolm actively trying and working to fix these problems. Still, the ARC schedule keeps us moving, and as always with boats, new problems arise constantly. If you let the maintenance fall behind like he has then it can be very hard to catch back up. So now we have fresh water, but the autopilot and windlass are still broken. We will be leaving Chichimi Key today. Malcolm had wanted to stay for four days, but mostly due to Rosie, we will be leaving for Panama today. We’ll be hand steering through the night with the autopilot still broken.
I said I was feeling better, I tried to help with the work but found I was feeling weak. I cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs and onions but then only ate a little. Malcolm chastised me, saying I was sick because I hadn’t been eating. I got slightly mad about it and let him know that everything I ate yesterday I puked back up. Malcolm was clearly upset with me, considering to abandon him. It wasn’t long and I became sick, eventually I puked the eggs back up. I didn’t tell them. Rosie was already concerned about me, saying I need a hospital. At midday, we hoisted the anchor and left, planning to arrive in morning.
As we sailed, (with the motor) I was still so tired. Watching the hot, hazy coast of Panama’s jungle mountains slip passed and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I passed in and out of sleep as the afternoon went on. This heat. This tropical, humid, breezeless, 95 degrees crushing, sickening heat. Malcolm steered as he sweated like a pig, with a look of despair in his sad eyes. All we could do today is think in silence. This poor man, he’s not a bad guy. I thought maybe the problem was that he worked his whole life away. He worked for Exxon Mobile, Shell, BP… the evils of the world… on oil rigs and in places like Chad or Venezuela living in little camps where they feed you, do your laundry, etc. You can’t leave the camps, he told me, due to the crime ridden cities their located in. Or perhaps he was too worried to. He lived for 40 years a life that gave him little chance to explore life. Without even realizing it he’s done it all in pursuit of the mighty dollar. He has a hell of a lot of dollars now. He has his dream, sail the world, explore- and I truly hope he succeeds… But he has cancer. He spent his life doing what he was told and now his chance to live is slipping away. He’s trying, but without a lifetime of experience, well…. All I know is that this day he looked sad. He was somber, quiet and very sad. And it was sad, and I was sad for him. This is his life that I can leave, but he cannot leave. My life is happy. I think I realized I need to live my own life. Maybe hitchhiking on other people’s sailboats isn’t such a good idea. I’ve wanted to do it for 5 years but I realize Tahiti still remains out of reach.
That night when my watch came I felt horrible. I had diarrhea all through the night. I became seasick since I already felt weak. I was also tired and steering through my closed eyes. It was pure suffering and I puked over the side of the boat. I’d have to lash the wheel and use the toilet, I’d feel less sick and I’d try to drink water to stay hydrated, but then the sickness would return and I’d puke again. Allesandro realized at some point what was happening with me and told me to stop steering. I still finished my scheduled watches though.
Morning finally came and we were at the Panama Canal. There were many tanker ships there, I counted 26 floating around outside the entrance to the channel and out to the horizon. “I thought there’d be more…” Malcolm said. What’s wrong with you, you bumbling oaf, I just counted 26 and can’t even see the rest, I thought viciously. Still feeling horrible and I was ready to get off this boat, but I acted excited/happy to be in this dreadful port. There it was, the city of Colon, Panama. It was two dozen giant cranes thrusting to the grey morning sky. It was industry drenched in smog. We motored towards it, but changed course at some point. Then I saw where we were going- Shelter Bay Marina. A sickening feeling when I saw it. My thoughts were calculating. It was on the other side of the canal from Colon and very far away. It was basically an island. It would be a hard place to leave from.
Rosie had told me that Malcolm was planning to not stop in Panama City, so basically if I left this port with him I’d be going to the Galapagos. Malcolm hadn’t mentioned that to me. That means we’d have to resupply for the Pacific crossing here? So far from the city? In my head I think my mind was made up now. I’m not going to the Pacific. I’ll miss the Galapagos, the Marquesas, Tahiti. That’s fine. I could find another boat to go with in Panama… but I don’t think I will. I’m almost sick of travelling, or at least of sailing with people, I need to find a job. Maybe work for two months back in the states and then fly to Australia? I feel the desert calling me. I’d like to go to New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment, somewhere not so hot. Maybe I can finish out the ski season in Taos. I’ll have to hitchhike there first though, do like my heroes and explore Central America. That means I’ll have to leave him here in Shelter Bay. But hmm… one problem… I’m still sick. We’ll be here for four days, I can recover, use the internet, make a plan… then I’ll go.
These are the things I was thinking when we pulled into Shelter Bay. The royal palm trees grew wild out of the deeply green jungle as we entered the marina, military men marched in practice down a dirt road. As usual, Malcolm had to scream and yell, confused about his fenders and dock lines, to make a fiasco about coming into the fuel dock. Walking onshore in the oppressive morning heat and I felt sick as ever. Walking was like in a dream where movement and sight are unnecessarily difficult. I tried to walk it off. Malcolm was in a very foul mood, seeming also very depressed, so I tried to walk around avoiding him. Rosie walked with me, insulting and badmouthing him. To stress me out more, I learned that they had no wifi. Well you could pay for it and Malcolm wasn’t going to. That’s when I told Rosie I had given Malcolm 600$
“What?!” she was confused as to why.
“Well, it’s a ‘bond’. He’ll give it back to me double unless I ditch him before Australia, in which case I lose it. However, I was supposed to give him 300 in St. Lucia, 300 in Panama but I lent him the other 300 and didn’t ask for it back… wish I had now.”
“Well, you ask him for your money back!” she told me. “And he’s not paying you?” she wondered angrily.
“No, none of these sailing jobs seem to pay these days… at least not the ones I found. He’s covering my food.”
“I can’t believe he took 600$ from you, he’s got piles of money that greedy son of a bitch… Men…” She said. Rosie advised I get out of here, I told her I was going to. She also advised me, “you shouldn’t work without pay.” Maybe she’s got a point. “We can leave together,” she said, “but first let’s get you to the hospital, I’ll take you there.”
I took a cold shower, washing off the overwhelming heat. Back on the ship and things began to stress me out. I had no internet. Malcolm seemed to be making all kinds of plans for chores to do which would conflict with my plans. He was full of problems which needed solving and unfortunately I had lost interest in his problems. I felt sick and weak. Going to the doctors would cost 25-50 dollars in Panama, I just have to pay that, and that’s all. I can go to the doctor here (unlike in the US.) Not bad, but also I need a 25$ taxi ride to get to town, and then 25$ back. I wont have any time to use the internet, let alone deal with Malcolms problems. I became stressed. There’s nothing the doctor can do for me. I think I just need to diet properly and rest to fix this. They’ll need stool samples if it’s a parasite and I’ll have to wait a few days. I don’t have a few days. I can’t be spending my money to go to town and back. Why. Why come back here? There’s no wifi, if I’m leaving, I’m leaving. I told Allesandro,
“Allesandro, I’m stressed. I’m sick of Malcolm, fuck this, I’m stressed. I need to leave. I need to not be here- anymore. I think I’m going to leave.” He told me not to do that. My mind was full of thoughts, I was confused, disorganized and disoriented. I’ve travelled sick before like this, I’m not afraid.
I walked off the boat and told Rosie I’m going to have to leave, right now. “If I buy this taxi I’m not coming back.” I don’t want to sit here frustrated and mad, it’s actually impossible for me to do that. I realized for the next three days… if I wanted to get to Taos, New Mexico in time to finish the ski season, and get there by hitchhiking through Central America… I need to get working on that! Taking time to deal with more of Malcolm’s problems? I have my own problems to attend to. I realized I need freedom. Freedom and suffering is better than comfortable slavery to me. I’ll cross the Pacific in 5 years with my father. “Rosie, I’m out of here, right now, I’m not going to the doctors. I’ll do that some other time.” She was a bit shocked,
“Okay well I still want to come with you to Colon.”
So I went and packed my things. Malcolm showed up onboard. We needed to move the boat off the fuel dock now and to our slip. “Malcolm, I need to talk to you. I need to leave. I’m sorry but I have to go.” I said it with a little fear. I’m getting better and better at saying goodbye as time goes on. He didn’t really understand but he said,
“Well, it’s not a surprise to me! I knew you were thinking about leaving.” But maybe he said that because it was a surprise. Because he thought I’d give him another chance. At least be here a few more days. It was pretty brutal of me to not give him another chance, and if I had there was a good possibility things would have been better. But how can I do this when I don’t want to anymore, and maybe I never really wanted to badly enough. I asked him abruptly if I could have my money back, saying I knew that wasn’t the agreement. I knew he didn’t have the cash anyway. “That wasn’t the agreement!,” he yelled.
I packed my things and finished but then the boat started moving with me still under there, headed to our slip. I’d dock the boat one more time. I stole his toilet paper, with my diarrhea I’ll be needing this!
I stood on deck, I jumped to the dock, I maneuvered all the lines as usual. I had learned a lot in the last few months sailing. Then I gave Allesandro a hug. We exchanged contact information. I gave Malcolm a smile and shook his hand, said it was a privilege. He looked confused and had nothing to say. Then I shouldered my pack and it was real. I stepped off the boat. Malcolm came off too and said,
“Wait lad, let me talk to you for a second.” He pulled me aside. “This is a golden opportunity you’re turning down here. I just want to make sure you know what you’re doing.” You don’t have to leave you can stay. Are you sure?” I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I needed to be in a place where I could shine, and that place was not here on Mystique Soul.
“I’m sorry Malcolm, my hearts just not in it.” I said
“Okay,” he said, “I understand.” And he looked crestfallen. With that and a wave goodbye, I walked down to the dock away from them. It was final, and this began a one way journey. My mind was made up, I didn’t care about the path I was losing and the things which weren’t meant for me. I walked with conviction to where Rosie was waiting for me by the taxi. And honestly, while I walked, I felt giddy. I always feel giddy when leaving. I said goodbye to my friend Stephano who worked for the ARC, and told him I was spontaneously abandoning ship. He was surprised and wished me well. We shook hands. Everyone around there knew me, and I knew that for them I will have very mysteriously vanished. My friends who I talked to in San Blas will know what happened. I stepped into the cab.
Rosie was with me. She talked Spanish to the cab driver and I talked Spanish too. Broken and madly while she cackled with laughter and I understood the conversation. She loved this. She love that I was abandoning him. I pretended to be happy and excited, and while I was giddy, I was also sick, confused, and full of guilt. I was also on a long, rough road through the Panamanian jungle and knew a lot of mystery lay ahead of me. But she was laughing with the cab driver, flirting with him and telling him how I was leaving this horrible man. And she was leaving too, sooner rather than later it looked like. She knew when she got back to the boat he’d be furious with her and blame her for me leaving. She didn’t care, she was joyful. I was still confused, but trying to feel numb to my sympathetic pains for Malcolm and his lot. And my guilt. The sad evening he would have tonight with Allesandro onboard. It was all I could do to feel numb. I laughed too, a half real, fake laugh. I looked at the tree ferns and banana trees, decadent vines and rainforest flowers among the untamed bush. Another new life was starting for me and there was no looking back.
It was a 45 minute ride to the city of Colon. In Panama, they use US dollars and the taxi was 25 but all I had were 20s. He can’t make change, I would soon learn that you need exact change for most things in Central America. So we ran into the restaurant we were dropped off at and Rosie rapidly ordered some food. Sopa de Carne, beef soup, for my bad stomach. We paid so we could get change, “Tienes cambio para el taxi?” The soup was only 1$ from each of us, we sat down and they brought us agua which Rosie told me not to drink. It was a massive bowl of soup, gargantuan chunks of beef, with mixed vegetables, with mysterious things. Served with hot rice. We feasted, but halfway through, like with all my recent meals… mi malo estomago… I had to stop eating feeling sick. Rosie did too, it was enormous portions for 1$. I think she had been feeling sick too, just not as bad as me. But the change they gave us were Panamanian 50 cent coins, large and shining silver.
Rosie stood up abruptly, time to go! Out the door, into the street. I followed her charged energy as she raced along. There were clothes on display at a store which impressed us, price tags of 1, 2 and 3$. “So cheap!” she exclaimed, and suggested we buy some and bring them elsewhere to sell. The city we marched through was hauntingly beautiful, completely run down and disheveled, the old Spanish architecture was crumbling and laced with growing vines. The streets were dirty and full of people. The smells were delicious or sickening or sewage. Memories floated back to me of Malcolm. That life was over and gone, I’m here now. “Where will you go?” the cab driver had asked.
“Primero… voy a la aeropuerto.” I would go to the airport in Panama City. I can sleep there for free on the ground probably, they might have wifi, I can figure it out from there.
Rosie didn’t know what she was doing but she was doing it at top speed. We decided to find internet so I could make a wifi call to my mom and let her know what was happening. I did, but maybe it wasn’t the best because now she’d just worry. It was an exciting time. We bought a bag of clementines from a vendor for one dollar, I packed them away. Now I have food. Very suddenly there was a bus, the driver asked where I was going. Panama City, the airport. Rosie had been asking bus directions for me and had scribbled down directions on a piece of paper which I cautiously placed in my wallet. I’d have to take two busses. I boarded the bus, I hugged and kissed Rosie. “Buenas Suerte mi amor, mucho mucho cuidado! Adios!” Adios. And so abruptly she was gone. I was crammed against a window under my backpack, and I watched the filthy slums of Colon pass by. Soon all I saw was tropical greenery, or tall unmanageable grass by the highway and swamplands. Small green mountains and hills rising from the marshes, this place looked like a tough, buggy, humid, dank, hot and vicious place to live.
I had a long time to think and I was enjoying myself. I felt free and finally, finally alone again. Adventure lay ahead wherever I’d go. I could go to Ecuador and go south, or I could go to Costa Rica and go north. I could go straight to Australia. Without warning, the city surrounded the bus. We moved through trafficked highways and white concrete of buildings. Then I saw Panama City, an array of dozens of gleaming skyscrapers. Bigger than Miami, smaller than New York, one prominent building was a glassy twisted helix. I thought it appeared surprisingly modern, clean and beautiful… wealthy… though most of the people of Panama live in the dirt. End of the line in a bus terminal, I have no choice but to get off the bus.
In the terminal they had wifi, hooray! But no public benches to speak of so I sat on the ground and was quickly told by the police to get up. I found where the bus would come for the aeropuerto in a few hours. Then I went and found a food court where I could sit at a table. There was a girl at a nearby table, our eyes met. I’m strange, who am I? she wondered. She came and sat down with me. “Oh, hi. No hablo espanol.” That’s okay. Soy de la Estados Unidos. She wanted to help, she was curious.
“Donde va?” she giggled.
“Yo no se… yo pienso… voy a Costa Rica? Estoy viajando.” We tried to communicate but it was pretty hard. Rosie had given me a little Spanish dictionary.
“Tu es solo?”
“Ohh wow…” I looked up one word at a time to try to explain myself but she laughed at me every time I went to page through it. Then we took out our phones and pulled up google translate to get some hilariously broken sentences across. Her friend came to sit with us.
“Tu nessisitas un espousa?” (Do you need a wife?) her friend asked… We laughed. They were both attractive, about my age, but I was shy and wouldn’t give them much of an answer. As Rosie would describe it, the people here are warm.
“Estoy hitchhiking… yo no se hitchhiking…” I stuck out my thumb to make the gesture. I couldn’t find any proper translation for the phrase, in Spanish they generally say, “Busco un ride.” (I am searching for a ride). But eventually I made it clear to them I was planning to hitchhike, I think by now I had decided I want to hitchhike/take bus rides north through Central America and make it back to the USA. Go to New Mexico and find a job in some remote area for two months. Then go to Australia to find a job there. They told me I was crazy and were a little confused about my plan to sleep in the airport. Her friend put some sentences into the translator and told me there was a bus to Costa Rica leaving this terminal. I asked where it was and they said they would show me. We walked together. I greeted the rather bitter young lady at the ticket booth as always with, “Buenas tardes… no hablo Espagnol.” I asked, “Que hora es la bus a San Jose, Costa Rica?”
“…Y, en San Jose… que hora?”
“Tres en la tarde manana.”
“Cuarenta” 40$, it takes care of a place to sleep tonight and then I’ll be in Costa Rica. A 16 hour ride. Perfect. I needed to go to the ATM to take out money, and I thanked the two girls so much. They wished me luck and we had a heartfelt goodbye.
I bought the ticket and then sat down on benches for a few hours to relax and use the wifi. It was nice, but they wouldn’t allow people to lay down or slouch too comfortably on the bench seats. Panama is strict like that! I saw a map on the wall, Panama is bigger than I thought. At some point I wandered away out into the night where I went to a convenience store to buy some food for the bus ride. I looked to the distant city lights of skyscrapers. At 11 I boarded the bus. Second to the back with two seats to myself, super comfortable with a huge window. The ride left and drove through the lights, then soon the night highway. I watched peacefully. Hours passed. I was tired from the exhausting day and the adrenaline had made me feel not sick. Now with it worn off I realized I had eaten very little today and still wasn’t hungry. If anything I felt sick. The passing lights of the highway flashed out the window bright enough that I needed to cover my eyes to sleep. It happened gradually, but the highway became very rough. It became bad enough that I soon felt like I was inside one of those cans of coins an owner shakes aggressively at a bad dog. This must’ve been a very bad dog because they just won’t stop shaking it! It went on like that all night riding through the rough and untamed countryside.
After sleepless hours of being shaken to pieces the diarrhea and nausea had come back in full force. My toilet paper was below the bus in my backpack, and there wasn’t any in the bathroom. I wiped on pages of my notebook. I would sleep bits and squirm, and wake up in worse pain and puke. It felt like I was inside a vacuum. All through the night and many times the bus was boarded by armed guards who lazily searched it.
Morning came and I felt wretched, dirty and disheveled. It was 6:30AM, the bus stopped and everyone had to get off. Time to pass through customs. I took my backpack into a concrete room where everyone put their luggage in the center and stood around the edges. Then a man began a role call, calling the bus passenger’s names and when he would someone from the crowd would announce, “aqui,” or “presente”. He never called me though… Dogs sniffed the luggage and then we were allowed to go. To go stand in a huge complicated line after putting my backpack back on the bus which subsequently drove off. Hmm… everyone else had too so… but I was a bit concerned about that. The hot rising sun was right in my eyes and I had no water but was horribly dehydrated from the diarrhea and puking. A lady cut me in line. What’s wrong with you, you’d rather be second to last then –last? Does it really make that much of a difference? I felt ragged and hilariously bad and for some reason asked God to send an angel. And he did. A slender, good looking man with blonde hair, a tan face and small spectacles. But huh. I recognized him. Distinctly, from where? Our eyes met. “Do I know you?” I said in regular English.
“Yes, I recognize you,” he said. I had seen this guy dancing, somewhat drunk on the beach in Santa Marta (Colombia) and had given him a high five. He was part of the ARC race. He introduced himself, his name was Michael and he was from Switzerland. He had sailed across the Atlantic as crew and had finished his ride in Panama, now he was planning to take a bus journey as far as Mexico City before returning home. When I told him about my sickness, he gave me his bottle of water. I couldn’t thank him enough for it, promptly drinking it all. “You saved my life.” We stood in line together and talked, and the talking made the line go fast.
“Maybe your sick partly because your soul has been in a bad place on that boat.” He told me. Customs checked me out and gave me the stamp. Now I had to walk over to Costa Rica and pass through their customs. As I walked through the strange, run down town, I felt much better. I could even say I felt happy. Happy for meeting Michael, I stood with him again on the Costa Rica side where I found my bus, and having left all my money on the bus, he paid 25 cents for me to use the public bathrooms. He was a kind person and we exchanged emails to possibly meet in the town of La Fortuna.
Michael was going on another bus once we got to San Jose, he’d go four more hours of riding directly to La Fortuna. He offered me to come with him, but I told him I might have to stay in San Jose to recover from this. I finally got back to my comfy bus seat. It was a new day. I didn’t feel sick anymore and the road was in much better condition now. I looked out the window and was happy to be here. The countryside was beautiful with flowering trees I had never seen before, colors on the roadside, views over palm plantations and vast expanses of rainforest. There were mountains here. Then I was lulled to sleep.
When I woke up the bus was still carrying on. It went so far and I saw so much pass by. I saw high mountains, I saw small towns, I saw the Pacific Ocean with a rugged coastline of huge rocks, long stretches of pristine beaches and islands. At one point we stopped at a restaurant where I used another bathroom. The bathroom sanitation in Central America tends to be appalling compared to the USA, and you usually have to pay someone. IF you can find a public bathroom. It’s probably more common to just use the side of the highway, which is often where the garbage piles up, or to pee alongside the city streets. I wandered around outside the restaurant through the searing, scorching, blazing heat. Then I returned to the bus for more long driving. “I never want to get off this bus I thought.” I thought of Rosie, that drama queen, “Never… never…”
I watched the ever-changing scenery of Costa Rica, and as we passed the tallest mountains in the area of Cerro Chirripo, I was sad I could not explore. I knew this trip I’d be moving. I’d see what I could and I’d miss a lot. The landscape became drier. It was vast, there were mountains, there was pasture. The highway climbed and dropped away in cliffs to provide amazing views. It looked like California, it looked like America, this was just much farther south than the America I knew. Then finally, the city. A modern, normal city with billboards and sunshine. There were dry pine trees mixed with orange flowering trees in the highway medians. We were in San Jose, there were soon sky scrapers. The bus eventually pulled into a bus station, and I was ready though I felt weak. I sat in a lonely chair at the back of the bus station, free again and with my pack, and I called my mom on the wifi to let her know I made it here. Then I walked into the streets.
San Jose is a beautiful city, located in a vast area beneath green mountains rolling on the horizons. It’s tropical here, but due to the elevation, it’s cool tropical. Chilly nights, longsleeve weather all the time, but 75 degrees during the days. The air is fresh. The sun was low and I wandered around looking for a hotel room. I found one that didn’t have wifi, need to keep looking. I asked lots of directions which didn’t really help. I walked far and in circles and then became stressed out as darkness was approaching. I went back to the bus station to try and call on the internet for help but it had stopped working. As I searched further and allowed myself to become stressed, I asked God again for help and it came. Broken Spanish directions in a bakery and a young boy left with me, to guide me down the streets to his aunts house. She rents apartments. I was introduced, and she could give me a room for 20$ a night. I got two nights and walked away with her around the block to the apartment building. She gave me the tour, we had to open four locked doors before I was in my room. The door outside was metal bars, and all the houses have metal bars in front of them. It didn’t appear like a high crime neighborhood, but this is something which seems customary in Central America. Iron gates of metal bars in front of all the houses, sometimes ornate, everywhere you go you see this. The room was perfect.
In the morning, I stayed in bed and relaxed. I used the internet. I caught up on some writing. I stood in the kitchen barefoot and talked on the phone in the sunlight which filtered through the doorway to a small concrete courtyard in the back. Laundry was hanging and it smelled like laundry, I washed my clothes and hung them up. The apartment was clean and pleasant. I walked outside to run little errands like buying some food.
The city sidewalks of wild and uneven concrete were studded with trees I’ve never seen before, elegantly decorated with puffs of deep crimson flowers. I made it downtown and explored, the market area was bustling, the area with the banks and skyscrapers was modern. There were still the occasional piles of rotting garbage in the streets, and people waiting near them for the bus covering their noses with handkerchiefs. This city has culture, and to live a normal life here in an apartment just like mine could be a lovely life. I felt lazy and slow moving all day and I just relaxed for a change. It was a nice day. In the evening I went to a beautiful restaurant and had chicken soup. A normal, chain convenience store I stopped in for snacks really put 7/11 to shame. They had a fantastic selection of all different kinds of things, like gorgeous flaky pastries, and homemade pizza. Many different kinds of yogurt for cheap, in Central America they have this really nice drinkable yogurt everywhere. That night I stayed up late, mostly planning for the hitchhiking trip.
Today I decided to buy another night at the apartment. It was nice to rest and do my work. I decided the route I wanted to take, destination Taos, New Mexico. Or maybe Alamogordo. It was still very far to the north. People told me it would be dangerous, to hitchhike and travel through Central America and Mexico, but it seemed I would have to find out for myself. I was excited for it. Today I sent out job applications, one to Montana as a backup plan for the summer. One to a place called Arkaroola in Australia as my plan A. One to Taos with an email, do you need any help for March and April? February would be dedicated to getting there, in May I’d go to Australia. The apartment was great, there was hot water in the shower, except that when I tried to turn the shower off it would give me an electrical shock if I wasn’t careful. That night I had tomato soup instead of chicken and it didn’t agree with me, causing violent diarrhea. That made me worry, guess I’m still sick. I had been feeling fine. Oh well, tomorrow I’m plunging off.
I woke up at about dawn and got moving. I packed my bag and left the little room in the spacious, hardwood apartment. I unlocked and locked the clanky, heavy doors one last time. After I returned the keys, I walked to the downtown, free again. I looked for a bus I had heard about, for 5$ it would take me to the national park ontop of Volcan Irazu. I had seen photos of it in some pamphlet, a grey black volcano summit with a bright green crater lake to gaze into. Some people helped me find the bus with my broken Spanish direction-asking, I first took the city bus far to the bustling city center. There, the bus for Volcan Irazu magically appeared for me. On this bus, in comfy seats, I watched San Jose all around me. I loved seeing the pine trees, a variety completely new to me. The bus soon found a town, and finally, left it for a country road. It turned corners as it climbed and soon I saw rolling green hills drenched in sunlight, patched intricately with farming plots. The long road meandered through them as it climbed higher. The view gradually became better. I saw bright orange nasturtium flowers which grew in long hedges never having to overwinter. They carried on endlessly as the sides of the road flew past the bus. There were dark green and twisted evergreen trees which occasionaly dotted the farms and made small forests. Soon the view looked out to the town far in the valley below, and the mountains on the other side of the valley could be seen. Clouds began to gather and clung here and there to the mountains. The bus went higher and higher until at a much higher altitude we put the town below the level of the clouds.
We arrived at a national park tollbooth near the top of this volcano and we had to get off the bus. It cost me 15$! Oh, well they didn’t tell me about this. When I got to the park, hiking on a little paved trail toward the crater’s rim, I felt weak and sick under my heavy pack. I decided to put the pack down in some bushes and hike free, however, I was a little puzzled when I got to the overlook and you could not see into the green crater lake. Where is that thing? It’s down there, this position just won’t let me see into the crater in any way. There was a fence I had been told not to cross, blocking me from the edge, and there were signs. Hmm… but it seems I have to cross the fence to see the green lake. I walked and in the distance, saw a trail. Aha, over there. But no, when I got to that area the fence continued putting itself in the way of the faint trail which traveled out along the crater rim. Signs said, ‘peligroso, no passe.’ Hmm… I went and climbed some hills but could only get so far up before they became cliffs. Still couldn’t see this green lake, could only see the opposite crater walls near the top of the volcano. What to do… I can’t cross the fence in plain view of all these people… but I have to see the green lake, I didn’t pay 20$ today to not see the green lake! Aha, up yonder, I see another overlook much higher up. I have to walk the road to get to it.
To get back to my pack in the bushes, instead of hiking the fence-side trail back, I would just walk directly across this large, lava rock field. When I got there I sat down in fatigue. Oh, what am I doing today? I thought as I laid there… yes- having fun. Pack back on and I hiked the road up. It winded through forests with huge green and purple leaves of a totally unfamiliar and exotic plant dangling down. I left my pack among the pine trees and continued up. Before long I made the top where people had gathered. I looked off. Hmm… still no green lake. This was the tallest point around. It’s like, this overlook isn’t even trying to see into that crater, the photo I saw must’ve been an ariel view. But I can see, right down there, just over there beyond this damn stupid fence there’s a little mount along the opposite crater edge and from there you’ll obviously be able to look into the crater perfectly. And from this lofty vantge looking down a grey gravel slope, I see a little trail going over to it.
This is stupid, why can’t I go over there? What am I supposed to do? Well I came to see the green lake. *Sigh*, guess I’ll have to go over there. I made the decision, wandered a little out of the way, but while ignoring the gasping people, I jumped through the wooden fence and plunged down the gravel slope. Hah, sorry, nothing I can do about it, must go see the lake! I made quick time down to the bottom of the hill and now the people were little specks. I figured soon I’d be hidden by the distance. The view had suddenly gone from mediocre to astounding! I was thrilled by this scenery and landscape, really snapping photos now. I travelled down the rim and soon could see actually into the crater. Surprising to still not see this legendary lake. I climbed the little mount. The top revealed the scene at once. The entire crater bottom in all its glory, completely dry. Well. There’s no lake. Guess it’s the dry season and the thing dried up. Still whether or not the lake was there I don’t think you would have seen it from those overlooks, you couldn’t see into this crater at all from them. I was a bit surprised from the view, but happy and fascinated by it all the same. It was worth breaking the rules to see this.
On the hike back, however, I saw a man in a yellow shirt climbing down the hill I came down. Oh, see, looks like there’s other people out here breaking the rules too, I dumbly thought. He was whistling loudly, oh maybe he’s coming after me I finally realized. Hmm… Crap, well I guess I’ll find out. He was very far away and small, I couldn’t make out his face, just his yellow shirt. But then I decided, hey, instead of going back that way, why don’t I head over there… back towards that volcanic field I had walked across at the beginning of this adventure. Yes, I’ll go this way, why not. The man whistled harder but he was still very far. So I walked a little quickly. Then by the angle of the hill, voom, suddenly he was hidden from my sight. I kept going at a pretty extremely fast pace now. I thought about it, I’m starting this ‘dangerous’ trip hitchhiking through Central America. If some random man, possibly from the drug cartel, is whistling at me and beckoning me over to him… should I go over to him? No, probably not. Yes! As a rule, I will not be doing that. I don’t need to get robbed. So I hopped a fence, got back to that same volcanic field I had hiked lazily across earlier, and ran across it this time. Really just for fun I couldn’t help myself. I was feeling much better, not sick at all! I got an idea, change all my clothes. First hike to my backpack up the road. ‘Let’s see what happens’ I thought as I walked.
On the road a car was coming I could tell, and I jumped off the side into the bushes. The car passed. Soon I made it to my backpack and retreated into the bushes to change. The ‘breaking the rules’ me had been wearing a fun colored orange, yellow and blue bathing suit with a blue and purple striped tank top. The ‘new’ me was wearing long green cargo shorts, a subdued blue longsleeve, a sun hat, reflective aviator shades, and an enormous green backpack. Perfect! Wasn’t me! I wandered around like that, back towards where I’d wait for the bus to depart at 12:30.
I made friends with someone who was disappointed about the stupid national park and felt ripped off. I told him by drawing in the sand and laughing in broken Spanish what I had done! He said he tried to do the same thing in a different area. Then in front of the visitors center, we saw this raccoon –like creature I had never seen before. I learned later it’s called a coati. It was a small beast of a thing, wolverine-like and had no fear of us. I photographed it a bit, and followed it at a distance as it walked over to some picnic tables where people were sitting. I was trying to get a good photograph of it. Then it casually jumps up onto a picnic table where two girls were sitting eating lunch. The thing totally goes to town, tearing apart their cheese and beginning to eat. The girls were shocked and stunned. It came to me to at heroically, so I stepped forward and whacked the creature with my arm off the picnic table! He tried to bite me! Then we stood facing off and it let go the cheese. I got my photograph nicely, and it slumped off, slowly and still with no fear. The girls kind of thanked me, they mostly didn’t seem to notice. Okay well, I felt good. A day charged with adrenaline! I had to pay even 5 more dollars for the bus ride back, what a giant rip off. However…I escaped! I had made the most of my 25$ trip and decided that’s it! No more national parks for me! I should have learned that lesson about myself long ago.
The bus ride down was more beautiful than ever, the clouds having built up now to dance above the land. Soon I was in the heart of San Jose again, and I walked into a humble little grocery store where the people laughed at/ with me. A mysterious traveler in their land and they practiced their English on me. I bought more drinkable yogurt and a mango for dinner. Then I was off- next mission- get out of this city and begin my quest. I was feeling very happy, sickness gone, and I walked the bustling streets. The city commons had statues around modern buildings and millions of pigeons. What a cool city this is, I love it here. I walked through towards the distant mountains of Baulio Carillo. It was a long walk.
After some hours of walking, I had crossed the city and made it to the traffic filled highway leaving town. I walked under the beating sun for a while and began trying to hitchhike. It seemed pretty futile as the traffic would have a hard time stopping. I kept walking and stood in front of a pull off for a while. I tried a few different spots, and after the better part of an hour had passed, I was still having fun. Finally, a large truck stopped and picked me up.
Hitchhike #1, and the driver was a spunky, energetic, even child-like man who wanted badly to talk to me. Pero, no hablo espanol! But I’d have to hablo, this guy wanted to hear my story. I told him, “Hoy, estoy campanando. Quiero va a la montanas a ya,” I pointed to the mountains of Braulio Carillo. “Manana, voy a La Fortuna.”
“Ahh…Fortuna,” he said. “Muy lindo a ya.” Then he yelled, “LA FORTUNA!” he would yell that periodically when our simple conversation would settle down.
“Quiero va a Estados Unidos, con ‘busco un ride,’ y la autobus.”
“Hmm…” he thought about it. “No Estados Unidos… Primero tu va a La Fortuna… LA FORTUNA!” one step at a time he was telling me.
“Si, a La Fortuna. Tu es mi primero hitchhike!”
“Tue es campando? Tu se el lyon?”
“Lyon?” I wondered.
“Rawwr!” he beared his teeth and made cat scratches.
Ohh, lions. “Tu tienes lyons aqui? En los montanas?”
“Si… mucho cuidado.”
Los montanas es grande, we drove up into them. He told me he had been driving these roads as a trucker for quienze anos. I was starting to be amazed with myself that I could speak so much, but he would forget no hablo espanol and go off… I’d have to tell him, lo siento, no comprende. Entiendo un poquito, pero no mucho. An American song came on the radio as we drove higher and higher into the cloud drenched grey of the steep mountain rainforest. He knew the song well and told me to sing along to it as we winded precariously past the lush overgrowth of mossy tree ferns. I sang,
“I’ve… had… the time of my life! And I owe it all to YOUUUU…!” I outstretched my arms to him joyfully. We both laughed, he found it cool that I was able to sing the English lyrics. He was full of laughter. We crossed the mountains. On the opposite slopes I saw areas where camping on the hillsides looked possible. I asked him to drop me off here and he did. He wished me luck, I shouldered my pack and nearly fell as I stepped down the huge drop of the 18 wheeler truck. “Adios mi amigo!”
Now I was on my own. I saw some rugged looking pasture, probably fields for cattle grazing painstakingly cleared from the mounding hills of rainforest. I had to cut over to them and hike a bit, but it looked like I could camp over there. I crossed thick growth, stalks of grass which clung to me, a machete would have been good, pushing through was extremely difficult. I saw insects, I hoped for no snakes. Finally I popped out into the open pasture but crossing that was walking on soft ground which sunk in. I had to cross a marshy area and got my shoes wet, very frustrating and hard. Then I climbed a hill. At the top I had to navigate over a barbed wire fence and made it to a slightly more hospitable area. I had a view looking to the east, the city of San Jose was long gone behind the mountains to the west. It was a different climate here, while there it was dry, cool, Mediterranean… here it was hot, swampy, humid. Looking out I saw just emerald green trees all the wayto the flat eastern horizon, unbroken by civilization. The deep grey clouds came down to nearly touch the treetops, as though it was the hot swamp breath exuding from this lowland jungle. I knew this wasn’t the nicest looking place to camp, but this is Costa Rica. Estoy aqui! What can I do?
I saw the beautiful tree in a flat place near the top of the hill. It stood alone and behind it the rainforest began. That tree, the tree of life, I’ll shelter under that. Approaching it, its bark was gnarled and twisted, its trunk was huge with vine-like roots. Looking up to its canopy and I realized it had about 5 different kinds of leaves. Other plants grew in harmony with it, vines which wrapped it had merged together. Ferns sprouted from its moss cloaked trunk, and its extended branches were decorated with bromeliads. What a tree of life this is! I setup camp beneath it.
As I unpacked my camp, I noticed all the little horrors. These spiders were everywhere, some were blood red with long spindly legs and a body of jutting spikes. Some were fiery golden with one spike protruding from their stomach. Beetles with long beaks landed on me. Eee. Who knows what’s poisonous around here. I left my phone sitting on the ground, and suddenly when I looked at it, ants. It was completely covered in red ants. Why, I don’t know, but I brushed them off. It wasn’t long, and I was continuing to putter and setup camp, suddenly they were biting me. I looked down, my lower leg was covered where five second before there had been nothing, my shoe was filled- with fire ants. Ahh! Get em off me! I had to take the shoe off and abandon it, it was a lost cause. Now I had become more tense and wary as I navigated the camp. Bzzz, the locust flies by, through this land of little horrors. Sitting ontop of my bivvy sack was my protective zone, no bugs, if I see one it dies. I had to kill some spiders. I ate a can of corn mixed with oatmeal as the sun went low and the horrible gnats came out. They bit me incessantly, but at least they weren’t mosquitoes with that new Zika virus. Finally I closed myself in my bivvy sack behind my bug netting. I slept fairly well (fairly badly) throughout the night, waking up to only the occasional ant biting my leg. It rained on me but the dense tree of life sheltered me completely. I thanked God that my prayers were answered; I did not have to leave my bug shelter, I did not have diarrhea.
What a morning. I had to wake up to Costa Rica. The gnats bit me as I set down camp. Then the fire ants were climbing my feet, ready for the new day. The horror… I took my rainfly off my pack. It was completely covered with more ants than I’ve ever seen in my life. No. What could I expect? So I went to work. I used my tarp spread out over the massive tree roots. I piled my stuff on it, then one by one, took every disheveled item out of my pack and shook the ants off. I hopped around as I did this, bouncing from tree root to rock to try and avoid them climbing me. They bit my fingers, they bit my face, they were in my hair. It took me over an hour of the wet post-dawn early morning to clear them out. Some people say, I’m having a bad morning, no… THIS is a bad morning! At the very moment I was finally ready to put my pack on, I did and hiked off.
I crossed the barbed wire getting sliced, I walked down the hill and across the marsh. I bushwhacked back to the tormented road. Back again, I walked facing traffic. I was happy, damn it! Ants were still biting me occasionally, but it was okay. I made it to a restaurant type area with ‘sodas’ which are little restaurants. They are cheap… but I was cheaper. My budget is so far blown. I looked longingly at the unhealthy food which would possibly cause diarrhea. But I hadn’t felt sick since I had gazed into that crater at Volcan Irazu. I filled my water bottles but kept walking to the road junction. It was many hours and through many town before I’d arrive in Fortuna. I stuck out my thumb. Someone would have to be a fool to pick me up this wretched morning. I’d need an angel. I’d need countless angels if I was going to make it home flying on their wings. Still, I think I was having more fun than sailing with Malcolm. I stood there, thumb raised with conviction feeling the crushing distance ahead of me. I’d rather be doing this. At least I’m free.
A kind man stopped. He lived in the area. He could take me twenty miles or so. I was getting better at Spanish phrases to explain myself when hitchhiking. “Estoy viajando, a Estados Unidos, es muy lejos” (I am travelling very far) “Es muy bonito aqui,” (it’s very beautiful here) “Me gusta mucho Costa Rica, la comida (the food) es muy bueno!” The man was impressed with my journey. He wanted to introduce me to his American friend so when we arrived in his town he took me to the old guy’s house. I met the American man and his wife, having an excellent time speaking some English. Actually it had been five days since Panama, that was the last time I had spoken English to anyone. It felt awkward as I talked! The crass Costa Rican transplant man said, “So you’re from BAH-STAHN huh?!” mocking me like they all do.
It was a great experience and the kind man drove me back to the town center where I could find another ride. As I took my backpack from his car, I noticed a trail of ants I left on the seat… it was a rundown small neighborhood and I was warned of crime. Crime is everywhere, travelling is ‘dangerous’ says the non-traveller. I understand it is. I’m going to keep doing it. One of the very first cars to pass stopped to pick me up. “Donde va?” I asked. “La Fortuna!” Perfecto! We were off, my Spanish constantly improving as I rode. Hitchhike #3. On this ride, I learned the Spanish word for pee, orinar, because he was constantly stopping to pee unashamed on the side of the highway. He asked the English word for orinar, “Pee!” I told him. He laughed. “P?” “Si…haha… es just pee!” I guess urinate would be the proper word but I didn’t think of that at the time.
Onward we travelled through the damp countryside. There were mountains and jungles, little villages, trees I’ve never seen before with colorful bark and foliage. The verdant, cloud soaked land was beautiful, but the man told me where I’d be going in Northern Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province was seco (dry). ‘No me gusta seco, me gusta aqui. Me gusta la juvio (rain), es mas bonito aqui. En Guanacaste, el viento (wind) es horrible.”
“Me gusta seco.” I said. “Es mayor para mi campando.” I had fun with little sentence but over time they made me exhausted. He told me about a hostel I could stay at for 5$ or 8$ for a private room. I realized to pay 8$ for a night that was NOT like last night was worth every penny. I decided here in Central America, whenever I can, I’ll just stay in the hostels.
The kind man dropped me off in La Fortuna after a beautiful ride. This town was at the foot of a huge volcano, Volcan Arenal. I’ve seen pictures of this place and it’s been on my list to visit since I was 16 years old. For beginning early today, it was still before 10AM! I got the most perfect little room with a balcony view looking right at Arenal. Today, she was obscured by the clouds.
After I settled in I went to go enjoy this place. I gave in and got a huge, fantastic meal at one of the sodas and it didn’t make me sick. I felt fine and appreciated my health, attributing it to the resting in San Jose and the diet of chicken soup, fruit and yogurt. After that I took off and explored the cloudy town. I walked the road out of town out towards Arenal. I walked far with no pack. It rained on me a warm hard rain, but it felt good and was beautiful. I walked very far today and saw many things. There were a couple hiking trails in the national park, probably with crowds, rules and costs money. I did not need that. I just need to walk and experience the area. I saw birds of all different colors. Yellow ones with long tails flitting everywhere. Bright red ones, green ones. I saw a special variety of hummingbird, huge with black and white stripes staring me right in the face. I saw some trails into the forest, I was reminded of the rainforest in Dominica. There were more animals here though. I chased two birds that were completely unfamiliar, the size of peacocks and colored like them too. I followed them through the bush. I talked to people, I asked directions, then I climbed a small mountain on the roads. The view was fabulous, but to get an even better view I forked off under barbed wire and hiked up some cow pastures. Arenal greeted me in all her glory as the clouds burned off. I saw toucans playing in a tree. Yes, check that off my life list. I saw parrots flying. Living here would be magical that’s for sure, but I don’t think such a wet place suits me. Definitely though, Costa Rica is worth a visit or two.
I hitchhiked back, ride #4 with an American man who told me I was very adventurous and living what most people can only dream. But he asked me if I went to the waterfall, I said no, and he was shocked because he picked me up right near it. He said I have to go, but I asked how much it costs and it was 14 dollars so I just kind of laughed to myself. Unfortunately I’ve seen enough waterfalls for this trip and my budget is gone. What I saw hiking in those cow pasture hills was more beautiful than the tourists get to see anyway, I knew that and it was free. That was really Costa Rica. I told him I was ready to go back to the USA, get a job and a normal life again. I’d have to get there first though, and it was just so dauntingly far away. That night I finished my leftovers and slept in comfort after a long and invigorating day.
I woke up early. I shouldered my pack and walked out into the world. It would be a glorious day. First though, I had to grocery shop and walk out into a little park to eat some breakfast. I felt a little sad and glum today, as I sat in the sunshine. Life was hard. I walked the same way as yesterday, towards Arenal. Hitchhike #5 picked me up and drove me a little ways, I watched as the volcano changed position. I hiked the winding highway through the deep rainforest. There were passionflowers on vines blooming in the canopy. I saw a dead three toed sloth in the road, so, not as good as seeing a live one but better than not seeing one at all! I hiked in more cow pastures once I made it to where the climbing road broke through the overgrowth to open views. Eventually, I rode with hitchhike #6, a lovely young couple from Denmark. The man drove fast and crazy down the winding road. We followed a large lake. There, the volcano again, and again, moving so fast. In a car it becomes impossible to photograph. I was dropped off in the quiet town of Neuveau Arenal. It was on a hilltop, a lovely place. I laid on a bench at a bus stop for some time. Then I hiked down the hill.
I was picked up by ride #7. This man was just going 5 miles down the road… he lived here. He offered me to smoke some marijuana and I accepted. He gave me some chocolate. He was an American and told me he had done the same trip I was planning, hitchhiking, only headed south from the states. That was 30 years ago, looks like he made it Costa Rica and never left. Giving me a knowing smile, he wished me luck and dropped me off. My pack was suddenly not heavy anymore, and I decided, hey, enough of this hitchhiking, let’s hike! So I walked the road. I walked and walked for hours.
The road climbed and soon became fantastically beautiful. It followed high above the shore of Lake Arenal with sweeping views out to the green landscape. By now all trace of the mornings sadness were gone, I was in love with this lonely countryside smelling of flowers. I made it to a farming town where the hills were patched with farms. I hiked up through them to be treated to all their amazing and peaceful vistas. The volcano was distant now and its triangular form stood boldly at the head of the huge lake. One house for sale on top of the grass hills, looking out over all the scene through huge glass windows beckoned me to stay forever. Up there I threw my arms to the sky with joy as I walked the lonely, traffic-less roads through the country. I was thankful for my health and this gorgeous day. I kept hiking to where I took lunch at the side of a pond.
The pond was quiet with snowy egrets in the trees. I lay in the grass and took my shirt off to dry the sweat. But then some guy was just standing there on the road near me. Hmm… what’s he up to there? Why must he stand there and disturb my peace? I didn’t mind though, I ignored him as I lay shirtless. As I packed up and began to leave, a bus pulled up for him. I hopped on spontaneously, and it brought me to a large clean town. Yes, I was in Guanacaste now and it definitely looked drier, no longer the jungle, more like the America I’m used to. I took some money out of the bank, Costa Rica Colones are beautiful dollars, with sloths and rainforests on some, dolphins and fish on others. They accept US dollars here too though, they seem to accept US dollars everywhere.
It was in this town I gave in and got a huge ice cream. Sitting there using the wifi, talking to my brother on the phone, I changed my plans. Jimmy had some vacation time and I suggested we take a hike somewhere in the southwest together when I arrived. I told him to pick a place, maybe the Grand Canyon, wherever he wanted to go. Then he realized it, yes. The Pacific Crest Trail! Where else would he want to go? So which section. We both chose the same one without even needing discussion- Section F, Walker Pass to Tehatchapi Pass. So it was tentatively decided, we’d hike for five days at the end of February on the PCT. I also saw a post on Facebook from my friend Sarah in Death Valley. She said Panamint Springs was hiring if anyone was interested. Well if I’m coming to California now instead of New Mexico, maybe they’d let me work there for just March and April. I might feel bad to go there, a place I love so much, for such a short time, I was planning to find a job I don’t care about so much! But I messaged Sarah about it, explaining my crazy plans a little bit. I also had received emails back from Taos New Mexico, Montana, and Australia. Looks like I’ll probably find a job waiting for me somewhere out there. It was many hours in that ice cream shop, but in the afternoon I put my pack back on and left.
I hiked out of the town and began my hitchhiking quest again. But no one picked me up! I walked a long, long way, cars were passing seldomly, and none were stopping! It was a beautiful place, through farms patching hillsides and dusty forests of dry flowery trees. It seemed like a wealthy place, I thought maybe that was why no one was stopping. Nice cars which don’t stop. In the dangerous crime towns I got rides immediately, in the ‘nice’ towns nobody picked me up. Ha! I find my life is full of opposites like that, what’s good to many people is bad to me. Eventually a bus was driving by and by hailing it, it stopped in the middle of the road for me. (Hitchhiking a bus…) The bus drove and drove, I saw spacious pasture and two massive volcanoes to the north. The land bridge that is Central America was created by these volcanoes, they run in a chain north, through Mexico, and in fact you can follow the volcano chain all the way to Alaska. America is the eastern side of something known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, volcanoes which encircle the Pacific Ocean. This volcano was knowns as Rincon de Vieja and I would watch it for the rest of the day.
We arrived in a town as the sun was low. I needed to get to a larger nearby city called Liberia. The bus there wasn’t for many hours, I’d just go back to trying to hitchhike. A taxi was pestering me, I told him I was going to Liberia. He said he’d take me there for two dollars… Wow, that’s really really cheap, okay! I got in the taxi but then was questioning him again as he was pulling up a map for me. Is this really dos dollares? Oh, he thought I was going to the library. “No, no, Liber-ia… Li-beria? Yo no se. La ciudad… ahh, adios…” I walked off.
Then I walked by some people who looked real rough, laughing and tripped out at the edge of a park. Ah crap, the lady is walking up to me. She looked pretty deranged, she introduced herself. She was loopy and smiling big. She asked where I was going, I told her, I was trying to find the highway. She decided to take my hand and lead me there. She was a little waif of a thing, with bugged out eyes and snarled hair. She was trying to speak a little English, but she couldn’t speak hardly at all, I don’t think she could speak Spanish either in her condition… She was really nice though, said I could stay with her if I wanted. But as I preferred, on my quest, she showed me to the highway and it actually was pretty helpful because I was lost. Then she asked for money and I happily gave her some. We hugged and said goodbye. I was picked up immediately by a friendly local man who was just a bit older than me but was a doctor. He spoke English. He was great, going to see his father in a little town called Bagaces. He took me to Bagaces for tonight… hitchhike #8.
I was let off by some highway construction which was the town of Bagaces as far as I could tell. The sun was setting, time for campando. I walked down the shoulder of the road, entered the vast and vacant prairie in the sunset at a hole in the barbed wire fence. It looked like the African Savanna, dry grass sweeping in the light, warm breeze. I walked into it, there were horses grazing. It was dry. It was free! Off in the distance, but huge enough to feel present, was the Volcan Rincon de Vieja. Windblown clouds clung to the summit. It was dry. Oh me gusta Guanacaste, me gusto seco. I walked far away from the highway and found a flat spot out on the plains. I could see in all directions to the scraggy trees and patches of forest which dotted the golden scene. The sun became a red orb on the horizon silhouetting the horses. There didn’t seem to be any… ants… Oh there’s one! Ah it’s okay. Some gnats, but not such a bother.
Tonight will be my last night in Costa Rica. Tomorrow I will struggle forwards, and keep pressing north. I’ll take it one step at a time. Next is Nicaragua, and to me, it is a place of mysteries.