Monday, October 20, 2008

Stuck in transit

Last Friday I left San Jose at 3:30 pm for Tamarindo. I was expecting to arrive there six hours later; however, after living in Costa Rica for three months I know that six hours can easily turn into seven depending on unexpected stops or traffic. Pura vida, right? (By the way, "pura vida" is a saying in CR, but it's really more like an attitude/way of life). So, three hours into the bus ride when we were stopped in traffic, I wasn't too concerned.

After 30 minutes of listening to my ipod and ignoring the fact that we hadn't moved, I began to notice the growing restlessness of the other passengers. Due to the many ambulances that had passed us (driving on the wrong side of the road) we knew that there was an accident, but we didn't know where it was or why it was taking so long to clear the road. In fact, nobody seemed to know what was going on, but everyone had something to say about it. Some people said that the equipment to move the cars involved in the accident had broken down. Others explained that the same portion of the highway was closed the night before due to rain, and all the traffic had to turn around and go back to San Jose. Many feared this would happen again, and they weren't happy about it.

For the first hour or so, I was really frustrated and impatient, but finally I just started laughing when I realized how ridiculous the situation was. For as far as I could see, there was a line of cars, all turned off, with people wandering around on the dark two lane highway somewhere in the mountains between San Jose and Liberia. On top of that, some of the other passengers decided to start walking to their final destination, which was obviously a terrible idea. I had never seen anything like this before.

Being the only gringa on the bus, I quickly made friends with the ticos and laughed with them as they bad mouthed their own country (I heard "only in Costa Rica" many times). After being stuck in the same spot for nearly two hours, the bus driver decided to get everyone back on the bus and drive on the wrong side of the road for about a kilometer to reach the closest restaurant. At this point, I had accepted the fact that I would arrive in Tamarindo considerably later than expected.

While killing some time at the restaurant, we heard the road was still closed due to the fact that the people who worked for the morgue never came to pick up the two dead bodies from the crash scene. Well, at least that was the rumor, who knows if this is actually true. Regardless, with this news we were hopeful that we would reach Tamarindo before sunrise.

I was in line for a beer at the restaurant, when the bus driver frantically tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that the road was open and we had to get on the bus immediately. I soon realized that every vehicle that had stopped at the restaurant was trying to get back on the highway, creating a traffic jam spanning both lanes. Then, surprise, surprise cars started coming from the opposite direction so we had to back up to let them through before we could cross to the other lane.

We spent another hour in bad traffic, but at least we were moving. I arrived in Tamarindo after 1 am, nearly ten hours after I left San Jose. Up to this point, this is the best example I have of the crazy things that happen in CR. Pura vida.

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