Costa Rica :: Part 6

This story is being told as a series. Here’s a link to Part 1

Part 6

The next day we boarded the bus for the first time, meeting our bus driver for the week. On the paperwork his name was Jesús, but he preferred to be called Chucho.

Chucho would be responsible for everything related to the bus, including guarding our belongings when we were absent, and rotating our seating each day. I noticed that at each stop, Chucho would wait outside by the bus, talking with other bus drivers, parking attendants, security or wait staff. Friendly and outgoing with all of them, he was shy and quiet with us. Ciro told us that Chucho had lived in the US for a while, driving an 18-wheeler for a living, but had come back to Costa Rica… to find a wife. He laughed as he said it, so that we weren’t sure if it was a joke or not.

Among the tour group, we wondered how he could have lived and worked in the US, how hard a life it must have been, when he seemed to speak so little English.

Impressions as we headed east: Bars on the windows in San Jose. Schoolyards that looked like prisons, with high fences capped with barbed wire (“to keep out vandals”). A bright yellow building that looked like a castle, but which Ciro explained had once been a prison and was now a children’s hospital.

As we drove high up into coffee country, I noticed the small, sometimes ramshackle houses — corrugated metal roofs, crates and boxes; the same materials that had struck me in transit from the airport — each one with one or more sometimes ramshackle dogs gathered behind the fences.

We headed to Poas Volcano and the Escalonia Cloud Forest. It took me slow, stupid moments to realize — more by smell than by reason alone — that the cloud that was obscuring our view of the crater was actually a cloud of hot billowing smoke from the volcano itself. While we waited for a chance to get a clear picture, I bonded with a mother-daughter pair from California.

It was a strange sensation, peering from the lookout point into the crater of an active volcano. One part of my mind was fascinated by the experience and thinks nothing of the potential danger: after all, hundreds of tourists have done this very thing. Another part of my mind realized vaguely this is how tragic travel stories end up on the news.

From there I hiked up the steep, narrow, dark trail to Botas lagoon, stopping to catch my breath in the thin air and to reapply copious amounts of mosquito repellent. I would not normally give such things more than a passing thought, but I had read the travel advisories all too carefully: in peaceful Costa Rica it was the mosquitoes, carrying any number of deadly blood-borne diseases, which were most likely to kill me.

Copyright © 2010

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~ by lorakceel on May 3, 2010.

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