It started out as an innocent trip to a national park.
In Costa Rica, traveling is tough. There are public busses that go to popular places, but when it comes to seeing the country, you really need a car.
That’s why my fellow teacher Colin and I were a little disheartened when we learned it was this difficult to travel around. We don’t have a car. We have to rely on public transportation. The busses are cheap which is good, but the taxis are expensive if you want to get somewhere interesting. This is no good! So what other options are there?
We started the day early, at 7:15. Our goal was to go to Santa Rosa, a national park, and explore. It would’ve been nice to take some pictures of animals or go for a hike, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
The bus dropped us off outside the entrance but the problem is there’s a 3 mile walk right after that in order to enter. Like I said, it’s tough getting around in Costa Rica. Luckily, five minutes after we were dropped off, a pickup truck came by and let us ride in the back. How lucky could we get? We were about to find out. But first…
The park was closed.
We got to the entrance, all excited to see what it had to offer us. The ranger tried to sell us a map which we politely declined. He then went on to tell us that the only trail worth seeing is closed due to flooding. It’s only open for three months of the year. So what the hell did we do there? Nothing. We left.
The original pickup truck driver took us back to the main road. He told us about another section of the park we could visit called Murciélagos but it was far, and I mean far. There was also another national park in the other direction, Rincón De La Vieja. Colin and I knew about that second park but we had that planned for another time. We were here to see Santa Rosa! So we set off down the Panamerican Highway towards Murciélagos. Our plan at that point was to catch the same bus we took out here and then maybe, just maybe, we could try hitchhiking.
The bus never came.
Our thumbs were out and we were desperate.
No one stopped for us! It was pathetic! The first time I stuck my thumb out was exhilarating. I was pleading for a ride with a gesture. And then I got turned down. Not once, not twice, but about thirty times. Heartbreak ensued. As we approached the next bus stop, we were defeated. I was by myself on the side of the road with my thumb out while Colin was trying to figure out where we were. My thumb might as well have been up my ass.
How the hell are you supposed to travel in Costa Rica?
We decided it was best to turn back. It was over. We were done. We had nothing left. Our heads hung low, we started off in the direction we came, hoping to find a bus that would stop for us. Embarrassed, we held our thumbs out. Maybe, just maybe, someone would pull over for us. We could at least try to get to Rincón De La Vieja, right? It was still early!
And then a truck pulled over. An eighteen-wheeler!! “Is he stopping? Is he? For us? Yes! He’s stopping!” We ran so fast to meet our new driver! A door swung open on the passenger side and we climbed up.
“Vamos a Rincón De La Vieja!”
Our new driver, who was very kind, was driving from Nicaragua to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. A six hour drive, it was a little lonely for him. He was happy to let us in.
Three hours after we started our journey, we were en route to a different national park.
We talked about so many things in the truck! We taught him a little English and talked about the beauty of Costa Rica. He asked us where we’re from. Colin told him Canada and I told him the USA, “Estados Unidos”. His face twitched when I told him that, but we kept talking. We talked about the beauty of Canada and then some other things. But the eventual topic came up, and I knew it would.
I put my hand on my forehead, laughed, called Trump “muy loco” and then called him an asshole, which our driver had no problem understanding. He laughed and said something about a wall in Spanish. I joked and said Canada will build a wall to keep the Americans out if Trump becomes president. That got a laugh. It was a good ride.
(sorry for the ugly finger but it’s the only one I have of him!)
He dropped us off next to the road to the national park. We were elated, trying to figure out how we just hitchhiked. But as we were trying to enjoy the moment, our driver called us back. It wasn’t the right road! There was another one which would have brought us even closer.
What a nice guy. He really went out of his way to help us, all for free.
We finally got dropped off at the right spot and we said our goodbyes. Laughing, Colin and I wondered if we could do it again. Why? Because we still had 20 kilometers (13.5 miles) to the entrance. Rincón De La Vieja is far!!!
Colin and I would hitchhike two more times that day. We would get to see a beautiful national park on a volcano in the middle of a rainforest. We would get free coffee, and we’d bargain with a hotel owner to get a bus ride home and use the hotel pool while waiting.
Stay tuned for Part 2.