I've been looking forward to this for ages. Also terrified. But mostly looking forward. As we sit down, the terror aspect rises and at one point threatens to overwhelm because I briefly feel sick, but that is very temporary. Mostly I'm just very excited. Helen has the same dilemma, though perhaps less excitement.
When we arrive there's about 3 other people waiting. 4 or 5 planes arrive, each of them decanting groups of old women with large cameras into the room. A few more other departees turn up, but we don't know where people are going because there are 4 or 5 departures all within half hour. Ours is meant to be first, but at around 1140 a member of crew carries a cat in a box to a plane, then someone else calls the lone woman sat over the way. Seems she's got a private ride?
By 1150 two grumpy old well dressed men are queueing up, for god's sake, at the little desk, looking every bit as impatient and "don't you know who I am?" as someone waiting for BA to Geneva or whatever. Then, just before 1200 a woman says "Tortuguero!". The German couple who'd taken loads of photos earlier step forward, get ticked off the list, and go through the door. "You must be Helen and Darren?" says the clipboard wielder to us, and away we go. There are only 4 of us on the plane today. Fantastic.
All 4 of us stop to take photos of each other. The only people we're delaying are ourselves, after all. The plane only holds 14 people and the Germans take seats at the rear, so Helen and I go past them and sit nearer the front. There's single seats on the left and duals on the right; Helen sits immediately behind the pilots on the right, and I immediately behind her. This is going to be FANTASTIC.
I'm right under the wing, not that it matters. There are two flight crew, and they make the announcements you'd expect: turn off all electronics, put your seat belts on, thanks for flying Sansa, etc etc. There's power sockets at the seats and an in-flight magazine, albeit from a different airline. Legroom is tight, but it seems churlish to complain.
I'm starting to worry the weather in Tortuguero will be cloudy, and what that means for the landing - as well as our time there.
"Left? Or right? No, not Tortuguero - tell me what you think of this girl on Tinder"
Oh, it's very green now. But where's the coast?
There! There's the coast! That's the Caribbean sea. "Ladies and Gentlemen, 4 minutes until landing". No mention of doors to manual and cross check.
Civilisation! Presumably that's Tortuguero village.
That ain't a big air strip.
It's a huge beach. Like tens, maybe hundreds of kilometres. For all we know it might reach all the way down to Panama, but we're not going that far. Helen reckons there's at least one bar on this beach, so we walk along looking for it. There is no bar, only lots of coconut palms, hammocks, and frontage of various lodgings. So we cut back in, and suddenly we're in the jungle.
Somewhat less suddenly, we're then at the entrance to the protected bit, the Tortuguero national park. Oh, that's not what we wanted. So we pull a right, and walk past a delicious and incredible smelling cocoa tour place and, oh, there's a wild monkey in the tree just there if you're interested like.
Now there are coconut water salesmen, and tour guides, and a massage spa, and some restaurants and bars and a hardware store. Still nowhere tempts us in until the Buddha Cafe, a mere two doors from our B&B. At least we've got our bearings now.
It isn't a terrible place to grab a beer. It's an amazing place to grab a beer. I don't even like water or hot countries and I'm still hyper and giddy with childish joy about everything we've just done and seen (that was a WILD MONKEY just back there! And that's a boat delivering wholesale beer to the shops, and there's a wardrobe on the front!). We order food - a savoury crepe, and unexpectedly large "medium" pizza arrive. They are delicious.
And now, finally, with some liquids and calories in her system, Helen can debrief me on what she made of the plane ride.
Turns out she loved it. And hated it. Simultaneously and in equal measure. She thought she was going to die, she thought it was the best thing ever, she thought she'd have to make her own way back when we leave because she's never doing it again, she can't wait to get back on. Her body and brain had opposing reactions at the same moments; we decide to call it a "flight or flight response".
We pay the guy at the till, who takes a remarkably long time to tally up so few items given it seems to be his only job, but perhaps we're just not quite living life at the local speed quite yet. Then we hit the supermarket and buy nearly all of their beer - a whole 6 cans! - plus some softies, and fill up a corner of the fridge.