Planes, buses, or automobiles – those are the choices to get down to Puerto Jimenez. The bus is cheap, but it takes most of the day and I hear you’ll need a kidney transplant after arrival. Of course, you can drive the same roads in the comfort of your own four-wheel drive vehicle, but I’m not going on vacation to chauffer my wife around, make a wrong turn and end up in Columbia running drugs to make amends for running over a druglord’s puppy, even though he shouldn’t have been running around the middle of the road in a blinding rainstorm. So I ponied up the $75 or so for a 45-minute on a Twin Otter prop plane.
I guess getting a taxi pick up from a place called Casa 69 in Barrio California on a Saturday morning is more difficult than it sounds, so the owner recruited a friend/vendor who happened to be hanging out to give us a ride over to the Pavas Airport for our flight to Puerto Jimenez. He didn’t speak any English, but the car looked like it may have had enough legs to make the trip so I hopped in and saw it as an opportunity to practice my Spanish. Here is what the translated conversation probably sounded like to each of us:
Driver: Are you going to the beach? [So far, so good.]
Sid: Yes. [I’ve got the Si and No down pretty well.] [Technically, we weren’t exactly going to the beach, but I just got excited that I recognized the word “playa”.]
Driver: Are the turkeys put up in the trees?
Sid: Sorry, I only have a moment to speak Spanish to tiny people.
Sid: Do you return to cry at the oranges at Casa 69?
Driver: No, I have a job on the street when it rains.
Sid: Do you live in the airport terminal?
Driver: Yes, my children attend dances at 3 pm.
Sid: We have never eaten children.
After about 20 minutes of this engaging cross-cultural dialogue, we arrived at the small airport and checked in. We were flying one of the larger airlines (19 passengers), so we were allowed 25 pounds of luggage per person (inclusive of one checked bag and one small carry-on). We’re simple folk so this wasn’t as difficult as it sounds, but at check-in we were informed that they wouldn’t have room for luggage so we would need to carry on just what we needed until they could deliver the rest the next day. No problem – we just stashed our toiletries, a swimsuit, and an extra shirt in our hillbilly trash bag and were ready to go. We also had to weigh-in for the flight, which I assured the Mrs. was strictly so we’d know whom to eat first in case of a crash. She didn’t find it as funny as I did.
Some minor turbulence, but not enough to stop the Mrs. from ever speaking to me again, and after a quick shot down the Pacific coast soon we were descending for a landing. Where we were landing was a little less clear, but I assured the Mrs. that the pilot had likely been there before and could find the airport. Luckily I was right, and after a couple unexpected air show stunts he set the plane down on the gravel airstrip next to a cemetery. We hopped off the plane near the terminal (a chain link fence with a small sign) and found the Land Rover for the property at which we were staying.
The forty-five minute drive to the lodge helped confirm that I made the right choice to fly as we dodged sinkholes, potholes, rocks, trees, motorcycles, bicycles, small children, small animals, more potholes and lost rabbis. We also made it though several creek crossings under the expert guidance of our driver Frank, who makes the trek several times daily and is able to point out wildlife while doing so. After arriving, it’s another five minutes up the driveway and finally you arrive at Bosque del Cabo. As soon as we made it up the steps of the lodge, we were greeting with some pineapple drinks, relieved of our Hefty bag, and offered some lunch menus.
Costa Rica has two well-known national dishes – rice and beans, and beans and rice. Casado is a lunchtime dish with rice and beans, a side of meat, salad and fried plantains. I assimilate very well and ordered the casado while the Mrs. jumped on the curry chicken sandwich. As we both cleaned our plates, Carlos came by to welcome us, give us the lowdown on meals, teach us the Costa Rican national anthem, review the trail map with us and then show us to our cabina – La Palma.
The cabin rocked. But the trails called to us like a coconut cream pie, so we unpacked our Hefty bag, grabbed the trail map and raced to the trailhead. The race ended after about 25 feet when we realized that the humidity was about 180% and we would surely perish if we kept up that pace. I’m getting all hot and sweaty just thinking about it, so I’ll continue later. Really.