Costa Rica 2014: A close call at sea

Friday morning I took one final walk through the butterfly gardens, had a delicious breakfast of gallo pinto con huevo, and bade my farewells to Pauline and Josh. I was off to Monteverde!

The 8:00 bus was more or less on time, and the trip back to Paquera, where I would catch the ferry back to Puntarenas, seemed easier the second time around. Soon I was in line to buy my ticket for the 11:00 ferry, which was just pulling into dock. Within a few minutes, passengers came streaming out, followed by motorcycles, cars, trucks, and even semis!

On board, I chose a spot toward the back so that I could watch the Nicoya Peninsula recede into the distance. Although I hadn’t done a lot while I was there, the Mariposario B&B in Montezuma had been the perfect place to rest and recharge, and I was grateful for my time there.

The first twenty minutes of the voyage across the Gulf of Nicoya were completely uneventful; I worked on my latest blog entry as the ferry puttered along, looking up periodically to enjoy the view.

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After a short while, though, I realized that the view was growing increasingly dark, and it looked as though rain was threatening to the east. Setting my iPad down for a second, I turned to see what was going on to the north and was confronted with this image:

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Others started noticing, as well, and soon most everyone on the ship was crowded around the railings to witness the tornadic waterspout that was forming uncomfortably close to us. As the spout grew, throwing off smaller shoots, we could actually see the water moving through the funnel. Within minutes, admiration turned to unease, as it appeared that the funnel was moving towards us.

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The couple next to me was filming it, as well, and at one point the man said to his wife, “I sure hope that thing doesn’t come much closer, or shit’s gonna hit the fan for sure.” “What would happen if it came within close range of the ferry?” I asked. “Oh, that thing would flip this thing over like a toy,” he said, laughing. Noticing that the blood had drained out of my face upon hearing those words, he looked around and said, “But today’s not a good day to die, see? We’ll be okay – I think.” As his wife laughed along with him, it hit me that this was a little scarier than I had originally realized. Capsizing in the Gulf of Nicoya was one of the few scary scenarios I had NOT contemplated thus far. It couldn’t really happen, could it?

Thankfully, I didn’t have to think about that too much longer. About 10 minutes after it had formed, the waterspout and the smaller funnels that surrounded it dissipated back into the storm system, dumping a steady rain on us but not threatening our safety.

I have never been so glad to be on land as I was when we docked in blowing rain in Puntarenas half an hour later! Before getting off the ferry, the couple I had continued chatting with for the second half of the trip introduced me to a couple of guys from Tennessee who were also headed to Monteverde: Austin and Alexis. Exchanging pleasantries as we tried not to slide down the slippery stairs, we agreed to split a cab to the bus station 3 miles across town. We ended up being travel buddies for the rest of the day, talking and laughing for the rest of what would end up being a 10 hour trip from Montezuma to Monteverde. Although I’ve been perfectly fine with traveling by myself during this trip, striking up these sorts of friendships has been nice, too, especially on days like these, when I could really use a little company and a good laugh. Arriving in Monteverde at 6:00, we set out to find our respective hostels, which ended up being pretty close together, and exchanged email addresses to contact each other about activities we might want to do together. It sounds like Saturday we’ll do a canopy (zip lining) tour together. I’ll let them do the bungee jumping alone, though – I think I’ll have had enough adrenaline pumping this weekend already without throwing myself off of a cliff. 😉

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