“Lets go on an adventure” I recall me saying. In the middle of New Years night, we started packing our backpacks, thrilled by adrenalin, stupidity and some liquor still running in our system.

We’ve waited till sunrise to catch the first bus on our way to the unknown. When the jungle started howling, we knew it was time to go. Shocked by the prices when we bought our first bus ticket. This was never going to take us to the places we’ve wanted to meet with only 50 dollars each in our pocket. We were young, wild and free and so we lived like it. We jumped off at the end stop and started drawing places on our paper. ‘La Fortuna’ would have been the place we wanted to reach. Three artless girls holding their thumbs up beside the roads. ‘We only get in the cars if we all agree it feels safe, deal?’ and so we started hitchhiking throughout Costa Rica.

With no fear, but only excitement we’ve hitchhiked more than 250 kilometers in more than 10 different cars. I’ve never sat in the back of a jeep before. It doesn’t take much to memorize the warm and soft wind that blew through my hair – the smell off nature – the miraculous views and the rage of adventure. I even still remember the dog that was sitting next to me. We were happy, stoked and dancing the roads in between while singing ‘girls just wanna have fun’. Oh yes, that were happy days. Just wandering around the streets while living to the fullest.

We had made it to our gray, unloved destination. We started looking for an alternative place to stay since we screwed up our meeting with a friend of ours. Just knowing that she was somewhere in an orange building was honestly looking for a needle in a haystack. The only place we could stay was a dirty shanty for 7 dollars a night each. Even that was too much for us and the next morning we tried to make a run for it. Regardless, before we knew it we got tangled up by the police. I felt timid and a badass at the same time. But no big deal, we paid our 21 dollars and took off.

Having a walk over ‘La Fortuna’ is walking through an outdoor Walhalla. ’Go to Monteverde and see the most beautiful tropicals in life. Go wild water rafting. Ride a horse throughout the jungle. Have a dive in the most stunning waterfalls. Drive a quad. Climb a volcano. Have a bath in a hot water spring.’

We couldn’t resist the urge of doing something, so we chose to do the cheapest activity they had: A canopy tour in combination with a bath in a hot water spring for 30 dollars each. Everybody who is accountable enough would have known that this was the stupidest thing to do. With only a few dollars left we decided that it would be smart to make some money. In front of an ATM we started drawing again on our paper ‘No temenos dinero’ // ‘we don’t have money’. We started begging and gathered 20 dollars. Selfish, greedy bastards.

The police drove by whom we just saw two hours ago and they were knocking their heads disdainful. I felt deeply ashamed and so we quickly took off.

The moment we left the grey town, we winded up in the Forrest of Avatar. I had never seen so much green in my entire life. The Forrest was singing and showed me bright colors. The canopy tour was letting my soul dance and it was a chance to spread my imaginal wings. It was magnificent, not just the tour but the feeling it came along with.

In the meantime, we got well along with our local tour guide. He was shocked by our story and proposed us his garage as a sleeping place. He even wanted to show us the volcano nearby at night when you can see the lava glow.

After two hours of playing and relaxing in the hot water spring, we decided to go with our tour guide. He did show us the volcano, which wasn’t worth going because of the many tourists who blocked your sight. After that, we had some Platanos Maduros // fried bananas as dinner with also his roommate and we had a great time. Later he became more aggressive and quite persuasive that we should try his cocaine. The vibe changed rapidly. But strangely he took off for a party and we got to sleep.

I was scared and I didn’t trust him anymore. Suddenly it hit me. There were three girls in his coach-house, not even knowing where at a strange men’s house in Central America. We decided to sleep in shifts – not to mention, with a big kitchen knife below our pillows. It’s insane what fear can do with you.

We did fell all in sleep, but not long after we all woke up by a strange incident. A car that almost crashed the garage and then drove off again. That was it, we were going to leave immediately. We began walking early in the morning in the rising and hot sun between a big area of banana fields. Pretty soon we saw a big banner of a waterfall, only a few kilometers away. Entry: 20 dollars something. ‘Damn, I really want to see a waterfall. Where can you see one better than in Costa Rica?’ Yes, we all agreed so we decided that the stream would let us to the waterfall itself. If we just walk in the stream, we finally end up in the waterfall right? We definitely knew how to reason back then. Well, mission failed. Of course. It took us only 5 minutes before one of us hurt herself and we all got afraid of snakes, spiders and other reptiles who rather see us dead. So we called it off and walked back to the road again.  Again we saw some officers and ask them where the nearest ‘free’ waterfalls are. It was only a matter of a small walk before I’ve jumped in deep and small waterfalls by swinging in it like Tarzan’s Jane. My life was literally depending on an old rope and the right timing.

It was just midday, but we needed to head back home before it was getting dark. The place where we followed our Spanish classes. We started looking for people again who were making their way towards Tamarindo. We got lucky and one couple drove us almost all the way, but karma was making a quick turn and we got stuck between Liberia and Nicoya. It was already dark and there was no one around us. We were dropped in the middle of nowhere, only 30 kilometers away from home.

We’ve waited for a really long time. It felt like hours and we almost gave up hope. What to do now? There is no car coming at all. Then there was a taxi transporter driving by. We jumped off the ground, shouting and waving around with our paper ‘Tamarindo’. They stopped, thank god. Finally, someone who can bring us home. ‘We don’t have money’, I confirm. They didn’t need our money they said, they were making their way back to the office anyway. We were all relieved and extremely tired of an engrossing couple of days, that we didn’t even care if they felt safe to us or not. I remember the double entendre ‘We are so lucky with this cab, now we are almost home. Yes, but we are not home yet’

I wasn’t paying attention to the road because I was sitting with my back towards the drivers. Suddenly my friend who was sitting the opposite of me noticed that we were driving offroad. That couldn’t be right, it’s only one long road home. I even joked that they maybe need to deal some drugs. We were quiet – anxious and curious. What are they going to do?

They stopped the car and at the same time my breathing did as well. They both got out and opened the door. I still recall the sound of a large door that slides open. I still remember the sight of  two dark faces in the darkness and a farm field surrounded by jungle Forrest. I still hear my father’s voice over and over again in my head, who tells me never to hitchhike or to leave with strangers.

‘Get out!’

It took me a while to really understand what was going on. Is this it? Am I going to be raped – shot in the head and then rot away in the jungle? Am I dreaming, is this a film? What’s going on? Scared to death that this would be the last breath that I would have.

‘No. I’m not getting out’ I said.

I would have been the first because I was the closest to the entrance. I was holding myself tight and we all started yelling and club their hands away from me. I struggled so hard that I even broke my flipflops. I was sure of the fact that they were going to rape us, one by one. And I knew that there was a point coming that I needed to get out of the car. I started thinking about getting away from them. Solutions about playing the game and then kill them. Or stealing the car. The weirdest and awful things I started to think off. Again, its insane how your survival instinct works.

They changed the game. They started to chat with each other while we were trying to get away. Then they came back. ‘Tranquillo chicas, solo queremos dinero’ // ‘Chill out babe’s, we just want your money’.

I got furious and started demonstrate in my lack Spanish. ‘Are you facking crazy?! You just want money, yeah right. Good luck with it, because we don’t have money and you should have known that. Facking moron. Go look in my backpack, you will find nothing!’

One of the guys was nervously looking in my backpack and started yelling to his mate that I had nothing. That guy obviously didn’t like my attitude and started threatening us with his gun. ‘Get out now and give me your stuff.’

We all got out of the cab and left all our stuff. The moment we got out the car we started laying on the ground. It felt safer in a way.

Not long after they throw some of our stuff on the ground and drove away. The bright headlights were shining in our eyes and as soon as we could we ran behind some trees. That also felt more safe in a way.

That was it. We were left with nothing. I did find my climbing shoes on the ground somewhere and put them on.

We were traumatized and really not knowing what to do. We didn’t know where we were or how far we were remote from home. We didn’t trust the place or other cars or people.

We decided to walk home, in the verge of the road. Every time we saw a car we agreed to hide in the verge so that nobody could see us. We kept on walking and walking, but the road took ages and didn’t seem to end.

Again there was a car coming and we hid, but unluckily one of us jumped wrong and injured herself badly. That was enough for her and she tried to hold on the first car she saw with success. I was skeptical and I didn’t want to get in the car. But we did.

It was a nice local couple who didn’t seem to be surprised by the story we just told. ‘This happens all the time here.’

They dropped us by the police where we could do our story. ‘Subscribe the men please.’ We couldn’t describe them because we didn’t have a good look at their faces. ‘One is tall, the other is chubby, they’re both dark skinned.’ Yes, that wasn’t good enough and they couldn’t help us anymore unless we would have a drink with them.

From one situation we landed into another. We just wanted to go home. Nevermind, we were happy that we were safe and well and we left the station.

 It still feels so unreal, like I just make it all up. Like I wrote a film script. But its true, very real. These things can happen and they can be way worse. 

Unfortunately, I can’t back up my story with amazing pictures as they got lost in the incident. But I’m sure, you can imagine.

It has always been my favorite and at the same time my most awful weekend in my life. It stopped me from being who I am. I was changed into someone who was being afraid of people, buses, taxis, harmful adventures or even travels  in general – my greatest love.

But now, 6 years later I’m back. Stronger than ever – not afraid anymore and open for life. Yes, I’m finally back and open for the most unpredictable adventures which will color my life in also unpredictable ways.

THIS IS LIVING THE TRAVEL.

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Photography & content:
Live the travel / Silke Peulen

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