Just spent ourselves four days or so sequestered on a Caribbean island learning the limitations of a downpour as entertainment (2 days), tramping through muddy rainforest to spot a vibrantly red poisonous frog, watching the flickering of hummingbird tongues (clear) and gecko tongues (vaccuum nozzle-shaped). Then we set out for San José, Costa Rica this morning with every intention of catching a direct bus from Chaguinola, a town that we took a 6:30 a.m. motorboat and a taxi to get to.
We made the bus – the bus did not make San José. We traipsed through customs at the Panamá / Costa Rica border, at a crossing point known for being hassle-free. A slightly worried man hopped on the bus to give us all some guidance on the Panamanian side (You have to get down off the bus! Don’t fill that form out yet!) and appeared on the other side of the border with more news, after we’d walked across the river that separates the two countries there on a beautiful bridge with wooden planks laid to each side of a railroad track.
“Don’t get angry!” announced our slightly worried helper, “but there’s a little problem. The road is flooded – Don’t worry! The bus can drive through! But the water is up to here – ” 4 feet maybe? “and your bags under the bus… might get wet.” So some people bothered to get upset, and we went to get our entry stamps into Costa Rica and then chased after our bus down a paved street flanked by pale brown flood waters. The bus was stopped a little ways before the muddy water crossed the road, and it could drive across, we should bring our bags inside with us, it could not cross, we could not get our money back, then we could, we had to wait we had to walk across there were boats there was another flooded spot there were no boats and we were crazy to look for them and we definitely, definitely could not use the bathroom on the bus. We walked across, and the water never went up over our knees, only high enough that I needed to cradle my guitar horizontal. Michelle had scraped her knees by now, and we’d both somehow forgotten things on the bus we’d left behind. We kept walking, past more drowned houses, wading people, loyal paddling dogs, and all the water that same light brown.
Then where the flood had broken its way through the road instead of simply crossing over it : a torrent was pulsing through a river-sized chunk taken out of the pavement, with the rounded stumps of asphalt overhanging the water a little ways. It was a busy spot, with people waiting and watching, a group of little kids sitting around on the street, a few cars stopping and negotiating their way back, and anything that could be called a boat criss-crossing the calmer water just upriver from the ex-thoroughfare. The popular choice was a little boat with seats and a motor, so we went across with a guy whose thin-walled but boat-shaped tub had neither. We all balanced, though, and he and his friend rowed, and yelled “taxi!” in between explaining that this flooding is not a yearly event, oh no, it happens every 3 months.
On the other side we could wait for the bus that would drive straight to San José and might arrive at that flood/border in three hours, or we could take the bus that was leaving for Limón in a couple minutes and then take another bus to San José, and it started to rain again. We did not wait. By 8 p.m., we had a place to sleep with an unexpected heated shower to get the mud off our ankles, and had made it to a restaurant that had everything we could imagine wanting : fresh squeezed orange juice, gallo pinto, platanos, black beans, and music videos of 80s hits playing simultaneously with the strains of karaoke from the bar area.