At the Tambor Airport I was greeted by Ronnie, a short balding Tico man in his late 30’s to early 40’s of slightly cuddly proportions. He was to be my taxi driver from Tambor to Cabuya and was sent by my host and neighbours Jeff and Tara. I was supposed to arrive at 14:45 and didn’t end up arriving until 16:45. With the sun starting to slink low in the sky we commenced the 30klm drive to my final destination of Cabuya. I was surprised at just how familiar the drive to Montezuma was, about 22klms from the airport passing through the main town of Cobano. It felt like only a couple of weeks ago I was driving this road with my guide on my last trip here. It was like a strange sense of Déjà vu.
I was silent for most of the trip after Ronnie and I had exhausted our knowledge of each other’s language. As Ronnie made numerous calls on his mobile while navigating the dirt roads, I lost myself in the scenery. My rose coloured glasses were most definitely on and everything looked so beautiful in its own unique and special way. Even the ugliness is beautiful if you have rose coloured glasses on. The small shack like houses with rusty tin roofs, animals and barefoot children in the yards, people casually walking along the road sides in their thongs and paddocks fenced with barb wire and living trees as posts.
The smells changing every couple of kilometres; from fresh flora, to sewage, to fermenting mango, to someones cooking wafting through the air. My mind was split between the present and wondering about my destination which was getting closer by the second. As we finally came up to Montezuma I was awash with the memories of my last trip and thought about how cool it was to be here again so soon. The sun had slunk even lower in the sky now and there was a beautiful glow over the tropical surrounds and ocean.
Driving through Montezuma and winding our way down the dirt road towards Cabuya, I find myself asking if I have done the right thing? Have I chosen the right place? Will I really like the people I meet? I eagerly take in the surroundings of my new town and try my hardest not to be too judgemental about what I see. Once we finally pulled up at my new home, I could feel my resistance still sitting heavy on my mind. It didn’t take long after meeting Jeff my new neighbour and sharing a few birthday beers for my resistance to fade and trust that I was exactly where I needed to be, no question about it.
During my first week here in Cabuya, I was in a sweet euphoria induced by the fact that I had finally done it, I had made it. It was this and the knowledge that I didn’t have to live in the real world again for another three months. My first week floated by slowly, allowing me to fall victim to the feeling of “I have all the time in the world” mindset. I have been here for four and a half weeks and I realise I haven’t got all the time in the world and I haven’t achieved a quarter of what I set out to do. I feel the guilt rising up in me occasionally because I haven’t done that much writing other than the work I am actually being paid to do.
Then I realise that I have been doing what I set out to do, I have been learning at the “Costa Rican Universidad de Vida”. I can look back now and see that I perhaps wasn’t supposed to get too deep and heavy with my work until I could see clearly and the rose coloured glasses were off. During my first trip to Costa Rica last year, I was blessed to have a wonderful tour guide and friend who was able to take me all over the country and show me the tourist trails. He also showed me behind the scenes and gave me a very colourful account of his life and the people around him. This was a party holiday for me and yes I got to see a lot and learn a lot but I also had a lot of fun so my filters were not always clear.
This time, I feel a bit like I am living in my very own Costa Rican Summer Bay (Home & Away), only a lot more dangerous. Yes, this sleepy little fishing village at the far tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is a potentially very dangerous village as is every village, town or city here in Costa Rica. This is a town where everyone is forced to accept the dark side of human nature due to the widespread desperation. Every human being has needs and wants, and good people do bad things in order to fulfil a need. Sadly a lot of the youth (and not so youthful) here in Cabuya and neighbouring Montezuma have a need and that need is for drugs and alcohol.
The tourists come here every summer in their flocks, spending lots of money and employing the locals. Tourism and fishing is the regions bread and butter with a bit of farming thrown in. I am often reminded of the story “The grasshopper who sang all summer” when I am talking with the locals. Once the tourist disperse after the summer, life returns to a slower and quieter pace here in the Nicoya Peninsula. The prices however remain high for the tourists which makes it increasingly difficult for the locals to support their families once the work dries up.
Despite some prices being very low most items at the supermarket I have found to be of equal if not greater value than in Australia at times. For instance a packet of cigarettes will cost you anywhere from ₵700 – ₵1500 ($1.50 – $3.00USD) per packet and beer at the supermarket sells for around ₵540 – ₵900 each ($1.10 – $1.80 USD) and strangely enough glass bottles are cheaper than can. However if you would like to feed your family healthy meals, other than beans and rice, it can get very expensive in deed.
Here in Cabuya the population is just over two hundred with about three quarters of that population being men. The closest town to meet girls is a 7klm dirt road to Montezuma where all the action and partying happens with the tourists. With an hourly pay rate in this region of only ₵1200 Colones and ₵800 in the cities ($1.50 – $2.50USD per hour) and a beer costing around ₵1000 (or ₵1500 in San Jose) each at the bar, there isn’t any money left for taxis after a night out. Sadly drink driving or more appropriately drink riding is all too common in villages like Cabuya and Montezuma.
Most people here have a motor bike because the dirt roads get so bad anything other than a 4 WD vehicle would be wrecked in no time. Push bikes are also a must have and all the children seem to have one but not much else as far as toys go. It is not an uncommon sight to see a family of four; Mum, Dad and the two kids taking the family motor bike out for a cruise, not a helmet in site. Children as young as one year old sit up proudly at the front of the motorcycle holding on tight loving every second of the ride. It’s little wonder there is a certain thrill seeking attitude throughout the Costa Rican culture.
Almost everyone I have spoken with has been in hospital at least once as a result of a massive accident on either a pushbike or motorbike. Perhaps the Costa Ricans are similar to cats only they seem to have more than nine lives here.
Until next time love and joy,