Today the rains began. I’m on the bus and the rain is pouring down in torrents. The wipers slash back and forth, and Carlos the driver peers into the distance. This morning early, the clouds were down in the Gulf of Nicoya, and as the morning went on, they climbed the slope, till the rain finally hit La Calandria Field Station at noon. I was speaking to Vicktorino, the host, and he said that the rains were late this year. He shrugged and said that with global warming, the rain was less predictable and heavier now. I asked how long it would rain, and he said “till November.”
Carlos swerves to the side of the narrow gravel road to let a car splash past. We’re driving toward the Pacific, but to get there, we have to drive to the end and around the Gulf of Nicoya. I always enjoy this drive, though it’s a little bit gripping with the steep cliffs and narrow road. Normally, the views are magnificent, but today I see only rain streaming down the window. Several students have been getting bus sick on the short rides, so on this one, I pass out CVSamine (generic Dramamine) and several take it. Parshall and I give up our seats up front and move toward the back of the bus, so sickness-prone students can move up. This seems to work well.
We start a pool to guess when the rain will stop. I pick 1:45 – hoping it is a local rain, but at 1:46 I’m out of the pool. Carlos turns tight to the right, causing a wave of water to slosh off the roof and down the left side of the bus. On short rides, the students are attentive and watching and talking. Today, with the rain, most are sitting deep in their seats with ear buds on. Isabelle and Will are sharing music. Ryan looks out the window and rides with his headphone half on, so he can listen to music and still hear anything that happens in the bus. Dan is sitting beside me, looking out the window and eating the Costa Rican equivalent of Cheetos. Many doze as best they can. I pass out a bag of individually packaged crackers Parshall and I bought earlier.
It’s about a 1000-foot hike up the hill from the La Calandria field station to the bus. Earlier Victorino put our bags in his van to keep them dry and drove them up the hill to the bus while we walked up. The van tail gate popped open, dropping bags out behind the van in the rain and mud. Tim later tells the story of walking up the hill last and coming across the bags. He started picking the small bags up in his arms under his tiny umbrella, until he came to a large one, too large to carry. So, he just sat in the rain and shielded them as best he could, waiting for Victorino to return. His feet, socks, and shoes are soaked for the six-hour drive.
Carlos pulls the bus to the side, and a motorcycle passes. Everyone got fairly soaked loading the bags in the bus and themselves on the bus. Jackson is sitting across from me, his 6 foot 4 inch frame crammed into the tiny seat. He’s drenched and cold, and looks sadly into his daypack as he finds his sweatshirt is wet too.
After some hours on the gravel road, we make it to Costa Rica’s paved highway. It’s about as wide as a two-lane road in the US, and has “relaxed” rules for who drives where. One by one, people are out of the pool as the drive goes on past 2:45…3:00 and the rain falls on. We stop for a short “bio-break” with drinks, and snacks. We spy the same bus and tourists that were at the zip lining this morning back in the cloud forest. It is, indeed, a small world, and Costa Rica is a small country. Some students see a scarlet macaw, but I miss it. We board the bus and Carlos pulls away. I notice that all the bus drivers seem to know and respect each other across the country. There’s always a friendly wave to be given, or chat if they’re stopped.
The final time guess comes and goes, and Daniel has won our contest. It is still raining. An emergency stop for the bathroom... Carlos drives on, and soon turns off the highway. I see the sign Ostional 31km or about 20 miles. Though it’s close, that will take us about an hour and a half on these roads. The bus slides sideways in the mud. We drive over many rivers and fjord one, and I notice that most are bone dry at this, the end of the dry season. With the rain, Mark comments that we’ve seen the last dust we’ll see till November.
stomps on the brakes and creeps around a giant rain-filled pothole. Night falls much earlier here near the
equator, about 6:00. Our latitude is
only about 10 degrees. The washboard
road shakes the bus and our bladders unmercifully. Students were trying to sleep, but the
shaking is so violent that all are wakened. We’re
driving very slowly. Though we’re out of
the mountains and in farm land and pastureland, the road is very curvy
with steep grades leading down to and back up from each river crossing. Each bridge seems to have a huge bump up onto
it, and precipitous drop off the far side back onto the gravel road.
Carlos takes these much slower than walking speed. The rest of the road is a myriad of pot holes, washboards, and erosion.
We come to one bridge so narrow, the students look at each other, waiting first for Carlos to stop and back away, and then when he doesn't, they listen for the scraping sound of the bus against the steel of the bridge. Carlos drives through, the bus unscathed and Carlos unphased. Isabelle looks at me and says “Carlos is awesome.” She's right. It’s dark, and the rain pours down.
tires spin as Carlos coaxes the bus up a muddy hill.
Parshall looks back at me and gives a thumbs up, which I return. We’re both loving this. The payback for this difficult trip is to be
at Ostional Beach, which is unique and famous as THE best turtle nesting
habitat in the world. The students and we are very lucky indeed to have the opportunity to see this special place. Not many do. We hope to see
signs of turtle nesting, and if we’re very lucky, we might even see a turtle. Unfortunately, this trip is scheduled at the wrong phase of the moon, so it's not a prime turtle watching time. Lights near
the beach are banned, because they confuse the turtles. Mark says this is the most remote part of the
Pacific Coast in Costa Rica.
The clock approaches 7pm – we’ve been on the road about 6 ½ hours. The students are exhausted - everyone needs the bathroom. We’re all beat up, cramped, our backs hurt, and we're tired of being jostled and shook on the bus. Finally, I see the OSTIONAL sign, and soon after Carlos turns into the hotel, but more on that tomorrow. For now, the rains have come.