Even harder than arrival is departure. The reluctance of leaving a place of joyful memories is always balanced with the reality of an airline schedule. And so, it was very early in the morning, around 3:30 a.m. that we all assembled and waited for the bus to take us the three and a half hours to San Jose airport. Like most musicians, there is a delay with Costa Ricans when it comes to deadlines. The rule is that everything is doubled. So if one is to meet one say in an hour, it really is two hours. So for us, the need to leave by 4 a.m., despite assurances that the bus would be there by 4 a.m. meant waiting past the time the bus should have arrived. Some of our group got restless as we sat around in the dark. A group of monkeys woke up and began calling out in the jungle. Around 4 a.m. a nice modern coach pulled up to the Karahe. We all smiled as we assumed we were heading back to San Jose in style. That ended as the coach pulled away. A security guard, who helped us gather our bags, came up to me. “Your bus is ten minutes away,” he said. Which meant it was 20 minutes away. And about 20 minutes late, the bus rolled in. A young man, got out of the bus and looked at us, looked at our luggage and looked at us. The bus was about the size of the one that met us at the airport, short with a luggage rack on top and six cylinders in its engine. Feeling our airport time starting to slip, I started to help move luggage and get the bus packed. Any musician worth his or her weight in salt knows how to shove more luggage and equipment into almost impossible nooks and crannies. So it was that I was able to get most of carry on into the back of the bus and behind some seats. As the driver loaded more luggage on the roof rack, I got everyone on board the bus.
The driver seemed pretty nonchalant or perhaps ignorant of the time our plane departed. I tried my best Spanish to let him know that we had to hurry. “Andale, senor,” I said. “Con prisa, con prisa!” He looked at me and said, “me no prisa.” “Great,” I thought. “Me no tip you.”
We left the Karahe about 4:40 a.m. Our driver rolled into Quepo and stopped at a depot, where he procured some rope to lash the luggage to the rack. We all sat in silence and I could feel the time ticking by. Soon we were back on the road, the bus laboring intensely as we climbed up the steep hills and mountains on our way to San Jose. Everyone slumbered as the bus slowly made its way back past Playa Jaco, past the crocodile bridge, past the El Jardin rest stop. A road sign read, “San Jose, 106 km” and I felt that we would be there around 7 when the driver decided to pull the bus up to a stop. “Banos, coffee, food, stretch,” he said. As he came to open the door to the bus, I said, “Senor, our plane leaves soon, we cannot banos.” “Okay”, he said. “Me banos.” And so he went in to do his business and sauntered back out onto the bus.
Brian and I had been in many a tight spot before with making it to airports. Like the snow storm traffic jam heading to Rome airport and our limo driver abandoned Brian and I on the side of the highway for 10 minutes to relieve himself. Or when the train to Amsterdam reversed and headed back to Groningen because of track repairs, making us miss our flight. It’s one thing when you are on your own, but having a crew with you and your own family to boot made it a bit tough to tolerate. But there was nothing to do but go with the flow, think calm thoughts and hope that all would turn out well at the airport.
Eventually, ”the little bus that could” made it to the airport about 90 minutes prior to flight time. I got off the bus and grabbed two Skycaps to bring the biggest carts they had. On this I had everyone load their luggage and we headed into the terminal. I did hand the driver a tip as I felt that had he done his best in spite of everything. That seemed to brighten his day. “Thank you,” he said. “Mucho Gusto,” I said. Once inside the terminal we headed to pay our “departure tax,” which is an odd custom that I guess countries practice and is usually buried in the price of an airline ticket. But here in Costa Rica, you pay it at a counter. Then you need to fill out an immigration form all over again, very much like the one you brought in. And then you head to your airline counter and only then. Happily everyone made it through and arrived at the gate with plenty of time. I checked the stroller as I had no wish to have it take another trip on its own.
We got on board the plane and the pilot introduced himself. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am afraid there has been a mechanical failure and so we will have to stay an extra day in Costa Rica,” he said. “Ah, just kidding, we’re going back home.”
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