Perils of Polly: On a mission to see coati and toucans

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2011

Editor's note: Polly Crawford was a reporter and associate editor of The Peninsula Clarion from 1985-1988, when she wrote "Perils of Polly." She also wrote a series of "Peril" columns in 1998 about her Australian adventures. Her perils continue in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Photo Submitted
Photo Submitted
Polly Crawford on bridge in the jungle.

Maralee and I sat holding our breaths, looking out the open window of a pub in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, in the dark, willing and wishing a giant frog to hop itself to safety. Cars zoomed by, oblivious of the life they almost crushed.

For about 10 minutes the frog evaded death, and by now the entire pub was rooting for the frog. A car would pass, and afterward, there it was, stupidly happy in the rain. But alas, its luck could hold out no longer. I cringed and gasped, along with most everyone else in the pub, as the tire of a car bore down on the frog. This time when the spray and lights settled, there was no more frog. Even its remains seemed to have been washed away as if it had never existed.

The drama ended, and Maralee and I went back to our cabana for our last night in La Fortuna.

The rain had fizzled to a drizzle by morning, and we headed to the jungle walk--iron bridges and walkways through the treetops. Again, we were on a mission to see coati and toucans. We didn't expect to see macaws in this area. That would have to come later.

We saw lots of exotic plants, great jungle scenery, but no animals. We finally headed back to San Jose. The plan was that she would see me to a hostel where I'd spend the night and then get a bus the next morning for Nicaragua. She'd catch a bus back to her host's house.

The cabbie had a hard time finding the hostel, and dumped us out a ways from it, and Maralee and I, using limited Spanish, had to find our way. For some reason, he seemed to want to get out of that neighborhood in a hurry. Finally, we found the plain, heavy locked door of the hostel. We knocked and were swiftly brought in, and the door locked again. They seemed to have such strict security, I was reluctant to let Maralee go get on the bus, but she assured me the stop was right down the street, and the bus came frequently. That was the last I saw of her, but emails told me she made it safely home.

After that experience, I wanted to make sure I got a good cab to the bus station. The hostel keeper nodded his head vigorously, that all would be fine.

I had a room to myself, and slept soundly, heading clumsily down the stairs in the morning with my two carryons. I explained once again in English that I needed the bus to the Nicaragua border, and he explained it to the cabbie. The cabbie dropped me off at a nice bus station, but when I went to buy a ticket, the agent frowned. "No, no, no." Then he pointed. I gathered that he said I was at the wrong station, and I needed to head that way. He was very curt, and didn't want to slow down so I could understand. When I asked if I needed a cab, he shook his head.

Once again, the rain had started. I headed the direction he pointed. I walked and walked, dragging the suitcases over cracks, mud, curbs, and holes. Sweat mingled with the rain dripping down my head. I was getting tired and frustrated. I stopped people. "Donde esta..?" Most were in a hurry and just pointed. Some shrugged their shoulders. Either they didn't understand me, or didn't know where the bus station was. By now I was as wet from within as I was from without. Finally, after I had walked about nine blocks, continuing in the direction people would point, one old woman took a look at me and told me to follow her. I started seeing buses. Shop front after shop front seemed to be different bus stations. She pointed to a specific shop front and I breathed a sigh of relief and expressed extreme gratitude for her kindness. And, the bus had not left yet! Yippee! I bought a ticket, sat down, and waited like everyone else, finally out of the rain.

The bus station itself was entertainment. Costa Ricans of all ages and sizes waited patiently, until an old lady dressed in an exotic costume walked in with a dressed-up dog--some kind of Chihuahua/terrier mix. She began singing, really off key and hard to listen to, and made her dog sit, roll over, and speak--the normal things most dogs do. What happened next amazed me! She went around with an open bag and collected money. What amazed me more was that people actually gave her money! I might have paid her to quit!

Once on the bus, I discovered that bus passengers are just a captured audience for vendors to walk up and down selling their wares. Items were cheap, so I bought a couple of things for my granddaughters.

The ride to the border took several hours, but finally, we were all dumped out of the bus. This is when I realized that between me and the Nicaraguan border was a mile of no-man's land. I looked at the sky. The intense sun was beating down. I looked at the ground. Recent rain had turned the "road" into mud. I took a deep breath and began.

Check back next week for another installment of "Perils of Polly."

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