Scripta manent, verba volant  












What am I doing here?



You wake up at sunrise, and it's already late.

You realise everybody is awake long before you. The city is bustling with thousands of buses, packed and puffing, taxis honking and people already transpiring, commuting, getting busy with unbelievably hard jobs, without a hat.

As soon as you step out of your hotel, you understand why the city is so alive that early.
The heat is unbearable. The sooner you start off, the better.

You desperately look for a decent coffee (which invariably you will not find) before another full day that typically starts with a ride in a worn out, colourful bus that looks exactly the same as all the other ones.
You doze in it's uncomfortable seat for many a long hours while the driver burns traffic lights with a smile and accelerates exactly when pedestrians try to cross, or worse, just before the sharp turn over the canyon , negotiates his way through people and livestock with his honk and gestures meaningfully to any driver that even remotely thinks of overtaking his diablo of a bus, all this under the never ending sound of loud cumbia until you get off, while somebody throws to you, or rather to your head, your dusty rucksack stacked on the top of the bus, amongst other dirty luggage and animals.

No one else gets off. Is this a bad sign?


Under the blinding sun but still half awake, you watch the bus slowly disappear, it's cacophony slowly go silent, and you ask yourself:

What am I doing here?

Is this the place you read about? That friends told you had oh! so much fun visiting not so long ago?

Reason -or survival need- prevails over your anger and you get busy looking for a decent room, WITH ventana, a window in gringo language.
Which you find in the end, but there will be no hot water, the door will have already been broken in and the windows will have no mosquito net. If you get windows überhaupt, and not just the net.

You explore your new destination, while people look at you as if you were the new cowboy in town. You realise how wrong your guide was about this "charming, off the beaten track little village", but it's too late. You ARE the weakest link but cannot leave, the stranger in this forgotten pueblo-by-the-sea. This is your own western movie and it's up to you to decide how things will happen, you tell yourself. Nice, ain't it?
Unless it turns into Omen III, of course.

Being the offspring of a western, cartesian and over-insured civilisation, you try to discover your whereabouts, as well as the bus timetables (ha!), the boat schedules (¡wah-ha-ha!) and transport to the nearest airport.
But ¡caramba! there is no nearest airport and the last boat left at 07.00.
Someone shows vaguely to you the bus-stop but you have a hunch they are not sure at all. You ask cuando pasa tomorrows' first diablo and "early in the morning" is the most reasonable answer you get.

What am I doing here?


You spend the last drops of energy walking to the nearest cleanest bar available, for a shed and the first Imperial of the day. With a slice of lemon ¡por favor!
At noon you are already tired. Everyone is hiding from the sun, animals included, and if you want to be pragmatic, there were more than just one Imperial.
Still, you gather your forces, rent a bike and head off to the nearest beach, the scenic one with the funny name all the guides write about.

But being fit in this latitude bears another meaning. To start with, you never start your adventure at noon. Or the bike ride becomes a survival race for the gringo you are. For example, you soon realise you somehow drank all your water in the first hundred meters. The heat is unbearable. Your fancy (mauve, blue, orange) Gatorade drinks -latino version- are long before consumed and your small "I love NY" hat does not protect your boiling head enough, neither does your Piz Buin 4.

When you finally get there, the beach is splendid, only it's not a PC screensaver, this is the real thing, the palm trees are there but the water is muddy and too warm. You can't remember if SHARK fins are a local specialty in this area and the surf can break your bones like carrots in seconds, you have no idea where the current can bring you or what the heck you are stepping on. Oh yes, you forgot: this is the rain season, the water is trouble.That I-must-go-there photo in your guide must have been taken during the dry season...

You rest under a palm tree and enjoy the silence, the beauty. You feel strange, being that far from All, your family, your kids. You miss them and at the same time you feel closer to them. You took this trip for exactly this reason, to feel closer to them, but you have long before given up trying to make this sound reasonable to them, propably because it does not sound reasonable to you either. You know exactly who you miss, but totally ignore who misses you. Diagnose: lonely travellers' disease.

But with time panic recedes... The sound of the waves lulls you away to a déjà-vu that you wish would never end...Slowly you feel you were born here in a previous life...

...Later on, much later on the sun gets more orange. Less blinding.

You set off exploring further again, this time on foot, and soon realise you were wrong, it still is very warm and you can't find your way back, you never found that "you can't miss it" spot where the path turns, where the hut lies and the river crosses, the Spanish in the first pages of your guide being of no great help when you last asked for the camino.
But in the meantime, you bump into one more of those fantastic beaches. Then an old lady with her grandchild that takes you in charge and following them you reach yet another perfect spot for your pictures. Totally unknown to your book, or di Caprio and his gang.


Actually, you were not lost, you were just waiting for the bright side of your day to happen.

The people you just met feed you and bid you farewell, and off you go. With yet another unforgettable memory and a rather heavy stomach.


Get back on foot? Then bike?

You make it to the beach exhausted. You definitely are not fit enough to bike back to your village. Not even if you had the strongest espresso you have been dreaming of since the airport bar. You are propably dehydrated and your head feels empty. Then you spot this sign.

The boat taxi man is not there, but they know someone who knows someone and, after meeting practically the whole population of the beach, a fisherman agrees to ferry you back, as well as your bike and your empty bottles. God -and the fabulous people- are kind to you once again.


Back to your hotel.
A shower and a shave and off you are again. In your last clean T-shirt.

As was the case in the morning, there is nothing to do in the village at sunset time. Just some jovenes playing billiard in a dark saloon. So you just wander around and make photos, lots of them.
It's now dusk and the shades in the corners start making you feel uncomfortable. But you are lost, again, and you must find the courage to ask those shades the way back to your hotel, without showing them you are afraid, or your watch for that matter.

Evening comes and you find yourself at the beach bar, de nuevo. The barman seems to recognise you this time. He gives you one of those enigmatic, conspiratory smiles that worry you a bit. It seems natural that you sit at the bar,to be closer to the other travellers, propably the only guys you have something in common with in this remote place, but what exactly is this something? And mainly, do you REALLY look as defeated as they do? If not, why this sympathetic smile?

You look at the people around you. Some are watching the TV playing non-stop brazilian soap, beauties and handsomes in neat clothes that seem even more unreal than usual. Others, most of them are silent. Some appear to have simply forgotten to leave, and in your guts you feel this urangst, you fear this could happen to you as well: Get stuck here forever. Like it propably happened to this old American with the emptiest gaze you can remember, sipping drinks since morning, with a sad face and a "Vietnam veteran" hat.

What am I doing here?

After the second Imperial, you spot this forgotten deckchair on the sand beach under the palm tree. And you decide, this is definitely The perfect place to end your day.

You ask for more beer that you down like water, until you try to get up and visit what looks like a toilet. But water it was not. Is the sand moving under your feet, or have you been watching the waves a bit too long?



You order more fried platanos and beer and gradually everything starts to spin, becomes fuzzy AND meaningful. The wind through the palm leaves. The moon that at times comes through the clouds. The lightning on the other peninsula, tomorrows' destination. The soft breeze that lets you at last be without sweating. And the young beautiful waitress picking your empty bottles.
At precisely this moment you hear this song coming from the bar and it suddenly all sticks together, makes sense.You came here for this moment: The palm leaves, the clouds, the moon, the breeze and the song...

Y las estrellas son resplandescientes...

At last , you know what you are doing here!


But it's late and you must get up early next morning and catch this bus to next town.
Or rather, you should get up early manana.

Because, come to think of it, you have not the faintest idea when or where the bus leaves. And anyhow, you wake up earlier every day. Must be this heat...
So, can this wait another cerveza?

¡Claro que sí!


October 2007, at Golfito