Good Directions (editor’s letter)
by: Sid Evans
We were on the way to paradise, but there was a problem. The rutted dirt road had ceased to be anything resembling a road, and now it was disappearing into a river. This was on Costa Rica’s Osa peninsula, a remote region not known for its highway system, though somewhere around here were beautiful secluded beaches, clifftop bungalows, and pina coladas- or so it said in the guidebook. I got out and waded into the fast-flowing river, which was about 18 inches deep, certainly too much for the Montero Junior we’d rented in San Jose. It was one of those pivotal vacation moments when things either work out or they don’t. We had taken a wrong turn more than two hours earlier, and now we had to backtrack, banging over a half dozen Costa Rican “bridges” (two skinny planks over a ditch). I noticed that my girlfriend, Susan, was not laughing.
By nightfall, we’d been driving for ten hours, and hadn’t seen asphalt for miles. It had started to rain. Slowly it was dawning on me that our bumpy road to paradise was going to end with a night in the Montero, which wasn’t what I’d envisioned when I said, “Let’s just rent a car and wing it.” Defeated, I was looking for a place to pull over when a toothless old Costa Rican man appeared out of nowhere in the headlights. He came up to my window, stuck his head in, and said “Hey!” sharply enough that we both jumped- but he was just joking around, perhaps trying out his English. I said one word, “Ho-tel?” and he pointed down the road and nodded, still chuckling to himself. About a mile farther on, we saw a sign for one of the places mentioned in the guidebook. The gravel-road entrance was dark- closed, it appeared, for the rainy season.
We followed the long driveway anyhow, to what looked like a tin shed with one light on. I walked up with some trepidation, but it turned out to be a kitchen, and there was this American guy about my age grilling fish and vegetables and making some dessert that involved a lot of bananas. “Hey there!” he said. “My name’s Phil.” I said, “It’s very, very good to be here, Phil.” Ten minutes later we were drinking pina coladas in a thatched-roof hut and listening to howler monkeys go nuts in the trees overhead. Susan was smiling again. After dinner, Phil showed us to our bungalow, which was perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. He said, “Wait till you see the waterfall.” For the first time all day, it felt good to be lost.