Our first week in Costa Rica is now behind us. We left the high elevations in the midst of the mountains for the beaches on the Pacific coast. Well, that's a lie. Even the flat lands here have a mountain or two. Around Monteverde, it's the Cordillera de Tilaran range that pushes up the moist air from the Caribbean and allows the trees to capture it.
As we looked out the window from our treehouse, ahead of us lay the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Nicoya, with usually blue skies. Through the side windows and those behind us (it's a treehouse - lots of windows in every direction) we usually saw either the mist of the cloud forest, or the rain of the rainforest. Either way, it's a moist jungle up there on the Continental Divide.
Speed bumps in Costa Rica are ubiquitous. I looked up 'ubiquitous'. it means 'everywhere'. Or, in Spanish, "ayee carumba - not another one!!" I think they put them down to keep the nefarious Vehicle Suspension Inspectors Union ("Los Suspenditos") in business. Here, speed bumps are referred to as "los muertos" - the dead ones. I'm not certain if the dead one is the lump on the road that you drive over or the lumps formed simultaneously on your spine, head & tushie when you drive over one at a speed in excess of a tortoise.
Most of the speed bumps aren't marked. Most of them are actually created by nature, and made up the majority of the 'road' we travelled for the first 18 km. as we headed down, down, down from the mountains to the coast and the Pan-American Highway that makes up the 'main' north-south highway in Costa Rica.
Roads in Costa Rica rarely have names so following directions here can be tricky. For example, here are the directions for the first kilometre in order to get to the 'road' that goes down the mountain from Monteverde (I am not making this up) on our drive to our next destination in Manuel Antonio:
1. Go to the bottom of the hill where the pavement ends. Keep left on the unpaved road to the VERY BOTTOM of the hill. You'll see "Bon Apetit" restaurant on your right. (Pretty good food). Go left.
2. After 25m. go right until you get back to pavement by the soccer field and Sabor Tico restaurant. Vitosi Pharmacy will be in front of you. Go right and down the hill on the unpaved road to the yellow building (it used to be green but it's yellow now) and go right again.
3. Casa Tranquille will be right in front of you. At the triangle go 200m and the pavement will end. (What pavement? I thought we were still on the unpaved road!!). Continue on the unpaved road. A gas station will be on your left. etc. etc. etc.
You always have the option to stop and ask anyone you pass who is either walking up or down on the side of the road (usually at a faster pace than you can drive).
People here are very friendly and most of them enjoy speaking Spanglish with you. We often start out with something like "Hola! Buenos Tardes!" (Hello and Good Afternoon!). They then speak for about 30 seconds in rapid fire Spanish. And we respond with our usual bewildered look while trying to remember how to say "No hable Espanol". Which draws a bewildered look in response because, frankly, we just were hable-ing Espanol 30 seconds earlier when we greeted them in the first place! Although, if they think about it hard enough, they'll remember that it's still only 9 o'clock in the morning so not only don't we speak Spanish well but we also can't tell the time.
Eventually, we reached the coast and three things happened simultaneously.
1. It got very very hot and humid.
2. The rocks & bumps in the road turned into pavement.
3. There was actual traffic. Not a ton (like in San Jose) but certainly way way more than we'd seen since leaving San Jose.
Driving in Costa Rica has consisted of two very different experiences. You'd need to pay a lot of money and go on the rides at Disneyworld over and over and over to get anything like the roller coaster experience of the rocks and bumps that serve as the majority of the roads we've travelled. Hours and hours of enjoyment.
Wherever there is pavement, there is an assortment of obstacles placed in your way at various times that make the drive more like a game of mini-golf, although I have yet to see the big clown's mouth that we are supposed to aim for. I presume that is ahead of us somewhere.
There are no shoulders on the road so if you need to stop you just stop. In the middle of the road. Vehicles behind either follow suit or, more likely, play what I like to call "Pretend". Pretend has 2 parts. First, you pretend that driving on the left side of the road is the way things work here and, second, you pretend that the (motorcycle, dog, 3 sisters walking abreast, BHB - big honking bus, whatever) that is actually occupying the left lane doesn't exist. And that is how you get around the thing that has stopped in the road in front of you.
The next game is what I like to call "Clint Eastwood". There is nothing quite like coming up on a tractor toodling down the Pan-American highway at a stately 2 km/hr with a line-up of buses, cars, and other farm vehicles tagging along behind waiting their turn (sometimes) to play "are you feeling lucky" when passing on the outside of a blind curve. The rules of Clint Eastwood are simply - you must only pass on the outside of a blind curve.
Our first stop of the day was in Tarcoles to see something else (besides "Pretend" and "Clint Eastwood") that can kill you in Costa Rica. Namely, the BHC's (big honking crocodiles that are almost as big as BHB's).
BHC's crowd the river and it's banks underneath the long bridge spanning Rio Tarcoles. The caimans we saw in Cano Negro are served for desayunos (breakfast) to these BHC's. My wife gave me the 'come hither' look as we walked on the bridge to check them out. I made sure there were at least 2 people standing between me and her at all times.
Our next stop was for a visit with Miguel & Colleen's nephew Will and his Tico girlfriend Elena (it's actually Helena but the H is silent when she says it). Will moved here 7 years ago. Or 8 years go. Time kind of loses meaning down here and he really can't remember. He is a boat broker, repairman, and tour operator who works out of his office and the marina in Herradera. Pronounced Herradera. Will & Silent H Elena live in Jaco - pronounced Hacko - but the H is not silent. Spanish is confusing.
Elena is taking a test later this week to qualify as a translator. When they first met, she spoke little English. She is from Guanacaste, which is 3 hours away (over mountains I'm guessing) and told us she enjoys going home for visits as 35 members of her family live on the same block and every time she visits somebody else is pregnant.
Jaco is about 5 minutes from Herradera and we had a nice lunch with them and visit to their home and their two very well trained doberman pinschers before making the first and only wrong turn today. At the end of Will & Elena's driveway. In order to get back to the highway headed to Manuel Antonio. Oh well.
In fact, the 30 seconds or so that it took us to realize we'd made a wrong turn at the end of the driveway (when we hit a dead end) turned out to be fortuitous. Everything happens for a reason, right? Had we not been 30 seconds slower, Debbie & Colleen wouldn't have spotted the brilliant parrot flying across the road about a kilometre later and we wouldn't have had a clue that there was a bunch of trees filled with parrots for us to stop and gawk at for the next 20 minutes.
We continued our drive south to our destination for the next 3 days - Manuel Antonio. The Falls Resort where we are staying is set literally adjacent to the road..... and literally inside the forest. Our 2-plex cabin we are sharing with Colleen & Miguel is about as tropical a place as we could imagine. It is as far different here as it could be from our treehouse condo in Monteverde but in the most important way it is identical. Namely, the flora and fauna that surrounds us.
There is a sloth living in the tree over top of our cabin. Agouti's scurrying around the underbrush. There is a BHI (Big Honking Iguana) and there are assorted other lizards that you need to navigate on the pathways back to the main area.
And there is a pool. A delicious pool. A wonderful, refreshing, let me re-hydrate after a 7 hour journey and I can't stop schvitzing like crazy in this heat & humidity pool. I think we're gonna be okay here.
P.S. Happy Birthday Mom!