If you go looking for a culture shock, you'll most likely find one. I fell into the rhythm of a foreign heart beat for which my own is learning a different tempo. I wanted to stay off the beaten path and go trek about Costa Rica as the locals do. But for some reason I hadn't quite pictured it like this while daydreaming beyond the pages of my travel book. But like most things, I learn best on the most difficult paths.
Traveling any distance on public transportation in Costa Rica is grueling, despite the gospel words of the guide book. They pack the buses; forget about sitting, there isn't even any standing room to spare. And just when you think that - not even - one more chicken could fit, the bus driver stops at a random spot and lets five more people on. It can be exhausting wedged in the isle of a hot and sweaty bus for several hours. And the roads are BAD. They consist mainly of potholes--paved or not. After all that effort to get somewhere, my travel companion and I don't know how to distinguish our intended stop. To gain any kind of distance is a full day's affair. I am relieved in the absence of time constraints. There are expensive alternatives.
The stress of navigation is eventually rewarded. There's something exotic and irreplaceable about waking up to the sound of howler monkeys at 5 am. I have tasted the best Dorado fish in tomato and caper sauce while being hypnotized by the waves of the Pacific Ocean in nothing other than perfect temperature. Breakfast and lunches are accompanied by Magpie birds, cats, Iguanas, monkeys, squirrels, and/or Hermit crabs. No where else have I enjoyed a hilltop dinner in a restaurant where the clouds do not discriminate between indoors and out.
The scenery comes with a price, though it may not be monetary. Fortunately each place has its own style of seduction, something that entices us to stay--if only to recuperate for the next travel day and study some Spanish.