Thursday, June 11, 2009

Costa Rica 2009: Rules of the Road

We arrived at San Jose International Airport by 9:00 p.m. yesterday evening. Fortunately, I had the foresight to reserve transport to the Hotel La Rosa de America. The Hotel La Rosa is a lovely little establishment in Alajuela. Located within a 20 km zone that National Geographic claims is the “best climate to live,”  this is a great place to begin and close a Costa Rican adventure.

After a short night sleep and breakfast of fruit and banana bread, Tamy and I were off. This is our sixth trip to Costa Rica and in the past we have hired transport to and from eco-lodges throughout the country. This time we decided to rent a car and go it alone. Although my Spanish is limited to about 100 words (mas o menos) and the present tense, I figured that I could navigate the roads and get us somewhere... safely. 

We left the Hotel La Rosa by 10:00 a.m. due South on Hwy 3. I only know that we were on Hwy 3 because that’s what the map said, as there are virtually no road signs once you leave the San Jose area. Thankfully, I decided to spend an extra $10/day on “helpful Hannah” (GPS navigator), she kept me on the road shouting out “veer left” or “veer right” at critical moments. 

For the most part, our journey to the Hacienda Baru was uneventful. I say “for the most part” because there was one little issue. While the drive to Quepos (about 2.5 hours) was smooth sailing,  once you make it there, the road is no more. This is where the “unroad” begins. Living in Minnesota, I know a thing or two about potholes, however, our worst pavement issues don’t even come close to the “unroad.” The “unroad” is a unpaved conglomerate of dirt, stones, and potholes. The road is under perpetual reconstruction, traverses no fewer than eight one lane “bridges” (that’s one lane for bidirectional traffic), and apparently has no rules. Actually, there are two rules... 

Rule 1: Don’t break down, as there is nowhere to get help. 
Rule 2: Drive on any side of the road at any time.

This last “rule” was the most peculiar to me. Cars would pass me on the left, pass me on the right, and even drive towards incoming traffic. I’m sure that sounds like great fun to the anarchist in each of us, but driving to avoid ginormous potholes in favor of big ones in a vehicle that pitches and yaws at a speed of 15 km/h is fun for only about five or ten minutes.  In our case, this road... the unroad to Hacienda Baru is a 90 minute drive from Quepos. 

After what seemed like an unrelenting beating, we arrived at Baru,... Now that I am here, there is no doubt that this place is definitely worth the “torture.”

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