Thursday, February 22, 2007

K&K - Sunday

This trip began on a Sunday morning at about 6 o’clock. The group included the two Gringas (us), Katie’s Tico Mom, Dad and Sister, along with extended family and friends. In total, there were 11 people getting ready for an adventure. We went into this knowing no more than the name of the place we were going and we barely even knew that. Tortuguero was the destination, but time and transportation was unknown to us because of our inability to understand Spanish. We quickly learned the universal language of “smile and nod.”

The trip began in the back roads of Sabanilla and quickly extended into the winding mountainous roads. We passed through the longest tunnel of Costa Rica… well the only tunnel in Costa Rica. Most of the scenery during our drive was farmland, rainforest and banana plantations. In a matter of seconds, the nicely paved roads were transformed into a bumpy roller coaster ride of rocks and dirt. We thought the bumpy roads were a signal that we were almost there, but little did we know this ride was to be 45 minutes.

We finally arrived at what seemed to be our destination; a large shack constructed for the cars of those who come to Tortuguero. We looked around and realized there was nothing but cows, grass and stray animals. We thought to ourselves, “where are we and what are we doing?” It didn’t bother us that we didn’t know where we were going; we were simply in it for the adventure.

Katie’s family led us through the grass about a hundred meters to a boat sitting in a shallow canal. We asked no questions; we simply got in the boat and sat down not having a clue where it was taking us. The man on the boat started driving the boat with a long wooden stick while another was up ahead pulling wooden logs out of the water. We continuously got stuck because of the low water level. At times we got stuck so bad that all the men aboard had to get off and help push us through the shallow waters.

What seemed like another shallow area of the canal was actually a stop for all of us. We struck ground and then the driver of the boat turned around and yelled “Venga Todos.” Now, if you don’t know Spanish, this is a command for everyone to come and follow the driver. Well we did just that but had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! The diver proceeded to lead us through a valley of tall grass and mud. About ten minutes into the hike, we began to question our trust in this boat guide. He simply told us to come, and so we did, but we had no idea where or why. Also, we left our bags back on the boat like they told us to and we began to regret that decision.
At last we turned a corner and were pleasantly surprised to see our boat waiting for us! How it got there… we have no idea! We climbed back on the boat and began to enjoy our surroundings. The small canal turned into a heavy flowing river surrounded by jungle and wildlife which then took us straight to our final destination of Tortuguero.

When we landed at shore, the first experience we encountered was a group of locals dressing a 4 foot Tarpin. As we continued on our journey, curiously following our Tico family, we became filled with excitement with our surroundings. Small dirt paths, no cars, small stores and friendly people made our day exceptional. Katie’s family led us to the beach just about 400 yards from the river. They set their belongings down there while we went to explore the area. We walked up and down the little town discovering all it had to offer. Along the way, we met several people from the area who we attempted to have a conversation with in Spanish. They were some of the most successful Spanish conversations we have had since we got here! One of the men we met made jewelry for a living and so we bought two necklaces and a bracelet from him…I think we made his week. One of the other men we met gave us advice about what restaurant to have lunch at because we were starving!

Lunch was wonderful! It was very “American” but absolutely delicious. We ate right beside the river surrounded by lush plants and beautiful flowers. After lunch, we made our way back to the beach in order to accompany the rest of the group with their lunch. They chose a local soda that made typical Tico meals.

Once they were done with lunch we all went to a park near the river. In the park there was a dock where we could jump in the water and swim. We all took a dip in the cool water and some of us took turns jumping off the dock. This is where we really began to feel connected to the family. Lots of laughs and chistes (jokes) filled the air as we played in the water. We didn’t understand them and they didn’t understand us, but the universal language of fun is all the same.

Close to four O’clock we slowly made our way over to the place where the boat dropped us off. The boat was there waiting for us, but this time it was very full of visitors and locals wanting to make their way to the mainland as well. The only way to get to any other city or place in Costa Rica was to take some kind of boat like the one we were on, so it was no surprise to us that the boat was quite full.