Waiting for the Puntarenas Ferry
The ferry is late. In a line of dust the cars await its arrival. They will
not be loaded in the order they have arrived. I must eventually go and stand in a sweaty lineup at a shack which will open when the ferry comes in. I have time so I set up at the edge of the parking lot. There is a group of some sort of nuns. They seem an island unto themselves - clean, animated and somehow pure in their spotless habits.
Waiting for the Puntarenas
Ferry, Costa Rica
After a while the ferry shudders into the pier. Boys scamper on slippery rocks and tie the vessel to shaky wooden bollards. While I wait for my ticket a man comes down the line and bribes the man ahead of me. Nobody complains. A bus arrives. People leave the bus and get into the same lineup as the car people. In a cloud of dust and smoke the bus turns around and takes on the pedestrians who now surge up the ramp from the ferry. I get my ticket and return to my car and edge forward slowly. The traffic directors bang loudly on your roof when they want you to stop. Passengers in cars must get out and line up with the others. It takes a long time to load the ferry, and it lists with the uneven weight.
Trucks bulging with papaya, mangoes and plantain groan up the creaking, loose-boarded ramp. There are trucks laden with beef carcasses, and trucks crowded with beef on the hoof - trucks with cement and other building materials, and a truck right out of the forest with big straight teak.
There are red-eyed and dusty workers from the fields - daily commutes - domestic help from the ranchos and tourist hotels - home to their families for the weekend, women with babies; miscellaneous ninyos, ancient grandmothers between canes, spitting grandfathers talking about the old ferry and how much better it was, a caballero with horse, sweaty truck drivers and their riders in shorts, white shirted, men with valises; a white-clad ambulanceman, a black-clad funeralman. A man swings a cage with a talkative green parrot. A man has a big grey iguana that watches people from a flimsy box.
The ferry is full. A shirtless man with foaming armpits blasts his ghetto blaster. Itís getting dark. I canít see the captain; he is up in the dark of his wheelhouse. He has a young woman in the wheelhouse - I can hear her giggles. It sounds like he is spanking her. Her feet and legs come out the window. The ferry lights go out and the ferry seems to be off course.
We near the end of the crossing. Our searchlight finds the ghost-hulk of another ferry, rusted and dark, straddling the harbour. The captain now seems to be up and around. Ghostly, yellow lights catch details of the shore. Lovers stroll on the battlements and lightless bicycles glide and stop. People wait in the shadows. The smell is fish, bone meal, and the sweet burn of sugar cane. Pelicans ride in the churning night-water. Just as I was wondering why I chose them, my gaggle of nuns is let off first. I rumble off with the others - some go one way, some the other - we all dissipate into the dark town.