15. – 19. November
I had made my way south to the Osa peninsula. I was going to Bahía Drake, or Drake bay, where I would do my main Costa Rica activities. I would spend three days doing the PADI Open Water Scuba Diving certificate, and then I would hike into Corcovado national park, a park renowned for it’s thriving, biodiverse wildlife. I had big hopes for otherworldly experiences under the ocean surface (no sharks included), and my fingers had been crossed for a long time to see a puma in the jungle. I therefore uncomplainingly spent a day riding busses, and waking up at 4:00 the following morning to go to Sierpe where boats go to Bahía Drake only twice a day. The remote beach location is mainly for tourists who wish to explore the national park. The boat there took an hour, first winding through a river where crocodiles lazed on the river bank, then out on the open sea where salt water splashed into the boat. In the bay we had to wade the final two metres from the boat to the shore. Our captain jumped into the sea and held the boat steady against the waves, letting us know when we could climb down the small ladder from the boat. You become extremely aware of what fragile an art balance is when you are wading knee deep in water with a all your possessions strapped to your back. Thankfully I made it to (relatively) dry land without submerging anything but my flip-flops. When I found the hostel I was the only one there.
My first day was a quiet day, one for moving slowly and collecting energy. I went to the beach with my camera to look around. I went to the dive centre to ask about my course tomorrow. I handed my clothes in to get laundered. I spent way too much money on a tuna meal, caught fresh that very day, which I ate in stillness while reading Jonathan Safran Foer. There were some other tourists on the island, but in my hostel it was only me. I had a big room for six all to myself. It felt nice, to spread out. To know I’d be here for a few days, to not have to pack up again the next day. I sat in my bed and wrote and watched youtube and gave myself a total time-out.
When I woke the next morning it was raining hard. I had intended a walk to a beach before my diving course began, but immediately put it out of my mind. There was no way I was going out in that rain. The rain kept raining down, it rained for days. It rained energetically, vigorously and continuously for days. It rained so much the diving course was cancelled. It rained so much my shorts got soaked by running 30 metres to the grocery store (I only had a rain coat). It rained so much that on my third morning we woke up to a power shortage. A tree had fallen over the power lines. Even then the rain kept coming, so much water that the river took the truck down when they tried bringing it over on the roads to fix the electricity. The boats didn’t go between Sierpe and Drake for two full days, there were too many waves. It rained so hard that tourists who had gone for a day trip to Corcovado, only equipped with a small bottle of water, a packed lunch, wearing only shorts, a t-shirt and perhaps a raincoat got trapped at the ranger station for days, and had to eat only bananas found in the trees around them.
The hostel had filled up a little bit. I was still alone in my room, but in addition to myself was now four other girls and a Costa Rican guy: Elias, who was meant to be my guide for the Corcovado tour. The first dark night we lit candles and drank wine and we all became friends. We weren’t sure what to do, we knew that we could not leave. I was waiting for my tour to Corcovado, one of the girls, Teresa from Portugal, was living in San José and was just here for the weekend, and the other girls (Celine from Belgium, Pia from Germany and Zarah from México) wanted to snorkel or hike. We all waited for the rain to cease, but even when the rain stopped it just came back again right away. I went to run one day, when it had been dry for almost an hour. The rain returned in full force only 2 kilometres away from the hostel, and by then I might as well just accept I’d be wet through and through. Mostly we sat staring at the tops of the trees at the balcony, listening to the drumming of the rain that was beginning to sound like white noise.
The electricity came back the day my Corcovado tour was supposed to have begun, but we had heard the day before that the station was closed. The other girls declared that they were leaving on the first boat, and after some debate I decided I would go with them. I had fallen out with Elias, and I knew that I would not enjoy a minute of the tour with only him and me. He was too Costa Rican, I was too Scandinavian – maybe it was that. But he had this way of saying things, of looking at me, of always being close that left me uncomfortable and frustrated. He threw around him words like corazón and cariña; he had said Costa Ricans were affectionate, and I had said Scandinavians are not. Whatever his intentions, they completely clashed with mine. Another of the guides and I spent a few hours talking at the bar the night before, and when we returned to the hostel him and Elias looked at each other with competition in their eyes. They were silently hostile, they ignored each other, and they pulled me to the side and told me contradiction things. Maybe they spoke the truth as they saw it, maybe they both straight out lied. But neither seemed to get that I was totally uninterested in them both. It was a strange situation and I still feel incredulous today that this really happened. When the other girls declared their departure I gave up all intentions of getting any adventure out of the peninsula, and decided that I did not wish to stay here – alone – with any of these two men. We packed our backpacks and went as a group down to the beach to wait for the boats. Slowly other tourists trickled down to the beach too, and I wondered if any tourists at all were staying on the island. As the boat took us out of sight of the small bay around a small islet I overheard two Germans behind me talk about a second storm heading straight for the bay.
A moral afterthought
This part of my trip was a week where I had massive plans. I had prepared for days to do my diving certificate, already I had paid and completed my theoretical course online. I had left my Canadian friends up in the north to do this, and I had sacrificed volcano hikes in favour of Corcovado. In the end this turned out to cost me a lot of time and money for very little adventure. In fact, the last few days were perhaps some of the strangest I’ve had, with these men competing for my attention when I didn’t want to be attentive to either of them. So this experience became, more than anything, a lesson; that life will never go exactly as planned, even when you’re taking a break from your life, which is often the intention of travelling; that a positive attitude is an extremely valuable thing to nurture, with the time and money spent on these days if is easy to become frustrated and pessimistic, so it’s important to look for the unexpected blessings like the new friends gained. I spent the rest of my stay in Costa Rica with these girls, and in two weeks Celine is coming from Belgium to spend a weekend at my family’s cabin in the mountains. That is something to be grateful for.