The bus stops here – or maybe not

Abbotsford News editor Andy Holota recalls a memorable attempt to take a bus in Costa Rica.

Recent letters on the local bus service, and its apparent shortcomings caused me to recall a tale that might put our system in another perspective.

I harken back to a trip my newly wedded wife and I took to Costa Rica, many miles ago.

Now, I don’t do buses – at least not on this continent. I prefer a big personal space bubble. It gets compressed only when necessary, such as on a jet airliner. Not much option there if you want to travel.

And when you get where you’re going, renting vehicles sometimes doesn’t make financial sense, as my frugal wife is quick to remind me.

Hence, there are times when I have to do buses.

And we did, in a surprisingly contemporary coach to Cahuita, a small village on the east coast of Costa Rica.

It was an untrammelled spot on the edge of a national jungle reserve. The town is like most out-flung Costa Rican communities – much in the way of tin, but not much tinsel. Just the way a place ought to be if you want to experience the real culture of the country.

After a few days, we decided to explore down the coast, to a little town called Manzanillo.

There was a bus going there, leaving from a spot just a few blocks down from where we were staying.

So, with a good degree of confidence based on the previous experience, we walked over to the bus stop the next morning at about 5:30, in plenty of time to catch the 6 a.m. bus.

Six o’clock went by – with no bus.

So did 6:15.

As did 6:30.

Costa Rican buses definitely do not run on time, I decided.

There weren’t many locals on the street, but we did manage to chat with one of the few, and asked the obvious question, in my pidgin English and my wife’s serviceable Spanish:

“Does the bus to Manzanillo come here at six o’clock?”


Satisfied we had not misunderstood the meagre local instructions, we continued to wait.

Seven o’clock passed.

At 7:30, we asked another local, “Is this where you get the bus to Manzanillo?”


We put our packs down and waited some more.

No bus.

At 8 a.m., the little local corner store with the warm Cokes and the cheap rum opened its doors across the street.

We queried the clerk: “Does the bus to Manzanillo stop over there?”


“Does it come on Tuesdays?”


“Does it usually arrive at 6?”


“But it hasn’t come yet.”

An agreeable nod and a shrug.

OK then. Back out to the bus stop.

Utterly confused and frustrated, we approached one more passerby, and went through the same round of questions, except this time, we wisely added one more.

“Will the bus come here today?”


“Why not?”

“Because the bridge to Manzanillo is washed out. The bus cannot go there.”


“Why isn’t there a sign at the bus stop telling people that?”

“Everyone knows.”

“So how do people get to Manzanillo?”

“They walk.”

We shouldered our packs, and managed to grab a ride in the back of a truck heading in the right direction. At the washed-out bridge we joined all the other walking villagers.

Quite pleasant actually. Much better than a bus.