In Liberia, we were the only foreigners to take the bus from the airport to the city. The air was dry and hot and swallows darted through the air. A bird that resembled a crow but with a fanned tail sang the sounds of car alarms and other birds. We’d later find out they were everywhere and we’d never know what its real song sounded like, only the mimicking they did.
The landscape was not lush the way we’d expected—dried stalks of grass, all yellow, and dusty. We only had a glimpse of the city (a Papa John’s, a TCBY) before we took another bus from the Pulmitan station, which we’d seen from Terminal Liberia, the buildings being so low. Before we took our San Jose bus, there were chicks being sold on the street, hundreds in three big cages outside one store on the sidewalk near the station. I managed to order a casado—rice, beans, a meat and potato mixture, chicken, salad, a tortilla. The lady who handed me my food tried to teach me how to say, to go, but my ear and my tongue weren’t in sync. Funnily enough, it was probably the fastest meal I was given in Costa Rica.
The bus ride was long and there was a surprisingly large amount of roadwork being done, leading to occasional delays. I’d heard about Costa Rica’s bumpy roads before but found they weren’t too bad at all. In San Jose, on St. Patrick’s Day, we found groups of drunken older white men outside casinos, the occasional glitter shamrock on a girl’s cheek. Our room at Casa Del Parque was in a converted garage with tons of street noise and curtains but no door. The hostel itself was in a beautiful house near the park but there were very few places to eat nearby and we found that many places in Costa Rica shut down relatively early.
We took a 6am bus the next morning to the Caribbean coast, passing mountains and jungles, banana plantations by Puerto Limon. In Cahuita, we had a cabina all to ourselves with a blue & white tiled bathroom that drained outdoors, letting in the bugs in the evening. There were howler monkeys in the tree and just down the road, Playa Negra, a gorgeous black sand beach with very few shells and no litter. Crashing waves that bowled you over in the warm water. We’d eaten lunch at another soda, those ubiquitous casual food stands, and tried a cas agua fresca for the first time, a tangy fruit juice drink made from cas, also known as sour guava.
We made our way to the Cahuita National Park rather late, not realizing how strict they were about their closing times. In the hour we were there, though, we saw a capuchin monkey up close as well as a raccoon that meandered past. Little crabs skittering away into their sand holes and leaf cutter ants everywhere. At the point where you cross a little creek, we saw a trio of jewel-toned birds, yellow, blue, and green, as well as a blue heron and a white egret. We decided to take a longer hike through the park the next day.