Despite getting very little sleep, I was up early, ready to figure out what to do with the day. San Jose was a transition city, the central location to catch a bus to your next destination. I navigated to the bus for Puerto Jimenez by myself, despite the hostel worker looking concerned while showing me the map. What is the chance muggers are both awake at 7am and around during my ten minute walk? I decided it was very minimal. I was also a little annoyed that the super nice girl that had helped me book the rafting trip was now pushing a private “tourist” bus on me in the $60 range when the normal $14 bus was one of the nicest I’ve ever been on.
Not knowing Spanish was a little tough. But playing charades helped. I successfully asked directions when the guy pointed to a bus and said “verde” and I knew what he meant! So, snaps for me. And I bought the ticket by just saying “Puerto Jimenez” in a spanishy way. But then my bus seat partner sat down and tried to have a whole conversation. It soon became clear that he knew about as much English as I knew Spanish. He had a six page printout of English phrases that did very little to heighten our communication, but did succeed in freaking me out. He first pointed to the phrase “I am going to my mother’s house.” Why that was one of a dozen phrases the pamphlet decided was important, I can not begin to know. But, you know, that sounds nice, I guess I’m happy for you. Until he points to the phrase “Will you come with me?” Now I’m confused. You want me to come to your mother’s house? You want me to meet your mother? Or just come to your house? Whyyyy? 7.5 hours later the conversation had barely evolved. We laughed at the small child being obnoxious as hell in the seat in front of me (he thought it was adorable, I pretended to laugh as the kid threw food in every direction) and then he tried to invite me dancing downtown (I think – who knows what he said – maybe it was “you’re so screwed if you think you can survive without knowing even basic Spanish”). He got off a few stops before me, thank god. Hopefully I’ll have a quieter/english speaking/non-existent bus mate on the way back.
It may have been a long ride with a weird companion, but there were gorgeous views of the countryside at every turn – and the price could not be beat. Alas, pictures from buses are never the greatest, but I hope they capture some of the landscape.
The bus arrived on time (around 4pm) at Puerto Jimenez. I avoided the cab drivers by pretending to know what I was doing. This mostly involved sticking to the one paved road. I quickly bee-lined for the first sign promising wifi, coffee, and smoothies. I had made a reservation at the “only” place available in town – except glancing at the map, it clearly wasn’t really in town. With a smoothie in hand and wifi, I looked up the directions to see if they had a pick-up service and it miraculously said they would come by THIS CAFÉ every day at 5pm. Serendipity. Works every time. Until 5:30pm had come around and they still weren’t there. I tried to ask the staff but they had reassuringly never heard of the place. I walked down the road to the tourist office where I found English speakers who thankfully started making phone calls and for $10 I got a taxi ride up two back roads to Bello Horizonte Yoga Jungle Hostel.
It was…rustic. First off, what kind of name is that? My horrible Spanish translated it as beautiful horizontal yoga, which doesn’t bring the greatest image to mind – hopefully I just mis-translated and it’s actually the best name ever. But I don’t have my hopes up. The lodging is incredibly simple. A roof, bamboo supports, planks for the floor, bunk beds with mosquito nets. This simplicity was nice in many ways: the people staying there came together to talk and hang out and did not sequester themselves away in a room. You got to fall asleep and wake up immersed in the sounds of the jungle – howler monkeys barked nearby, insects chirped, and birds joined in chorus at dawn. But the $14 price was a little steep for such limited amenities and the location was 3km from town and for some reason the owner seemed weird about giving rides very often. Also, online it said they had wifi and were willing to help you make reservations for Corcovado. But the wifi was shaky at best and the owner sort of threw his hands up at dealing with getting into the park. Overall, this place makes me feel like I’m really immersed in Costa Rica, but there’s too many distractions to fully enjoy it yet.