It was a day of travel pain. I was hungover and I was sick. My rucksack felt like it had been packed with sand and my legs wobbled as I started what promised to be a long day. I was on the move again – Panama to Costa Rica. It was all booked, tickets paid for. I had to go. And so I did. I got on the water taxi. I got off the water taxi. I got on the bus. I got off the bus. I got to the border. I crossed the border. I got on another bus. I got off that other bus. I was functioning on autopilot, wishing with every moment for the journey to end.
Arriving at Rockin’ J’s: A hammock hostel in Puerto Viejo
Eventually, after nearly eight hours, I arrived at my hostel. I should have been relieved, but I’d landed in party central. Rockin’ J’s. A hammock hostel in Puerto Viejo. Courtesy of the deeply freezing bus to Panama and the girl with the Plague in Bocas del Toro, I’d developed my own strain of her illness, which included a seventy-year-old-man-style hacking cough. My ‘room’ at Rockin’ J’s consisted of a 5 foot by 2 foot wrap of mesh hammock located 2 foot from the next hammock. No walls, no bed, just swinging.
Fine if you are crashing at 3am after a night of fun. Not so if every cough sends you on a 180 degree swing one way. Then the other. After a small doze and a dose of motion sickness, enough was enough. I upgraded to a one man (or in my case one wo-man) tent. Don’t snigger, but it really did feel like a slice of luxury. I said don’t snigger! Walls. Only me in there. I could cough to heart’s delight. It was 4pm, I’d travelled since 7am, I needed rest – a small disco nap – if I was to take on the hostel party. But every time I tried to sleep, I coughed myself awake. I knew I needed assistance so I hot-footed it to the pharmacist.
I didn’t need to explain my ailment as I nearly delivered a lung onto the counter as I entered. The kind lady I was pinning my hopes on for treatment looked at me, consulted her potions, considered me again. I’m sure she looked both ways before pulling a dark bottle from an unseen location. She looked at me again. A full up and down. Sizing me up. She looked at the potion. ‘For you – only one time a day’ she cautioned in her best English. Ok, I promised, exchanging cash for potion. I got outside and took my daily swig (look, a 5ml medicine spoon wasn’t close to hand). Back in my tent I looked at the bottle. There was a picture of a witch doctor on the front (true!) and no explanation as to the medicinal contents of the bottle other than one instruction, which I read in my best Spanish. No more than three times per day. Ahhh, that’s more like it, I coughed. And took another swig. It was 4.30pm when I finally ay down for a short nap.
11:30am. Next day. I woke up. I’d missed everything. Screaming party next to my tent. Bonfire on the beach. Bongo drums. Post beach screaming party next to my tent. I did not hear a single thing. What was in the medicine man’s bottle? I didn’t care, it was doing the trick. I took some more. I managed to remain conscious for the rest of the following day which I spent hooning around Puerto Viejo on a golf cart with two travel friends. That night, wine by the litre box (yes, box – I said don’t snigger) and a few more glugs of medicine man, we took the golf cart for a spin into town. Now, I’m not too sure on the legalities of drink-medicine driving a golf buggy in Costa Rica, but regardless of the law, I am confident it is a foolish thing to nearly swing the buggy through the front window of the police station. In my defence, I hadn’t driven in a while, the buggy had an unfamiliar turn on it…and I had half a bottle of medicine man in me. Fortunately I managed to right the buggy in time while the policemen looked on in (I’m hoping bemused) wonder. My passengers got over the screams and we headed back to the hostel. My time in Puerto Viejo was short, and probably for the best – I can imagine people get hooked to the goodness the medicine man offers.
Rockin’ Js was a great hostel, I’m just sad I didn’t get to enjoy it to full effect. But that didn’t matter, because my fun in Costa Rica hadn’t even begun. My next stop (after seeing off the rest of my illness in one of Central America’s uninspiring capitals, San Jose), was Santa Teresa. A place I intended to go for two days but nearly ended up staying two weeks – thanks to those pesky, bloody German girls who I met once again!
You’ll find the next instalment of my First Time Around the World here: Santa Teresa Beach Life in Costa Rica.