Costa RicaCosta Rica

The Long and Bumpy Road

Destination: Drake Bay

Because of yesterday's spider bite and consequent Benadryl stupor, I forgot to double check my flight information. Apparently, (when I got on the boat headed to the wrong airport) it slipped my mind that I was flying out of nearby Drake Bay.

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There had been a misunderstanding about my flight schedule with the staff -- and in reluctance to leave my new friends at Aguila de Osa and my antihistamine induced grogginess, I had overlooked a crucial detail concerning my itinerary.

This left me stuck waiting for my plane at the Sierpe airport instead of where I needed to be: back in Drake Bay. In order to get to Puerto Jimenez, I would need to take the bus leaving at 1:00 p.m. -- and it was only 10:15 a.m.

Locals claimed that the bus from Palmar Sur takes between four and five hours to reach the other side of the peninsula, in addition to the three hours that I would have to wait to even leave. I was red-faced and infuriated with myself for wasting the day.

After a half an hour of wallowing in self pity by the side of the road, a middle-aged woman and her daughter strolled by selling lottery tickets. They asked why I was so distraught, and I pathetically explained what had happened. Even though I did not buy a lottery ticket, the woman felt sorry for me and called a few of her taxi driver friends.

Astonishingly, one of them already had plans to travel to Puerto Jimenez just a few hours later. He dropped everything to leave earlier than he had anticipated, just to help out a stranger that he had not even met. Unprecedented acts of kindness like this one are commonplace in Costa Rica -- and one of the reasons why I adore this country.

Such good fortune put me in Puerto Jimenez a mere two hours later, about 15 minutes before my flight would have landed. The ride was much longer and bumpier than it would have been on an airplane, but I chalked it up to the unpredictability of traveling -- and tried to look at the experience as an exercise in improvisation.

After thanking the taxi driver, I introduced myself to the owners of Iguana Lodge, which is located just ten minutes outside of the town center. Modern rooms overlook the beach, and are decorated with beautiful flower murals reminiscent of Georgia O'Keefe. Playa Preciosa's grayish sands stretch as far as the eye can see, and its turquoise water beckoned me for a swim.

As tempting as the beach was, I instead took advantage of the sunny afternoon to bike into town. During the rainy season, afternoon weather is unpredictable. Since all of our activities were booked in the morning, this could be my only chance to take photographs in sunlight rather than pouring rain. I rode about 25 minutes into the center of Puerto Jimenez, where everything was closed because today was a Sunday.

The town's ambiance was friendly and laid-back. Brightly painted buildings lined the streets, and a dramatic dock pointed toward a large cluster of boats anchored in the harbor. Either Puerto Jimenez's residents are extremely friendly or I looked very lost, because nearly everyone smiled, waved, or asked if I needed directions as I passed by.

A local introduced me to the two clans of scarlet macaws in the area, informally named based on where they commonly roost: the 'soccer field flock', and the 'gas station flock'. Even by day eight of my journey, I still could not get used to these beautiful birds nonchalantly flying around, as if they were merely everyday pigeons. With every encounter, I had to stop and stare in adoration. As I watched them play, the sun set by the dock. A rainbow had formed over the water, and some kayakers were paddling toward it -- creating an unforgettable memory of Puerto Jimenez.

The Long and Bumpy Road in Pictures

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