Thursday, July 3, 2014

Costa Rica Recap: Day 12

Transfer day, moving from Monte Verde to Arenal. We headed out a little after 8:00, planning to have breakfast before getting on the road. The soda where we'd planned to eat was closed and the kids couldn't agree on any soda in town so we decided to get on the road and catch breakfast in the next town, 10 or 15 km away. We were caught by surprise when a few km out of town all traffic cane to a halt. We could see road construction equipment at work a ways ahead but couldn't tell what was happening. A lady from the next car came back and let us know that the construction was to continue until 9:40... We passed the word asking when another car pulled up behind us.

We waited out the hour until the road reopened. When we were able to continue through, we realized that the heavy rains of the last few days had caused the hillsides to slough away, causing 5 or 6 mudslides that each covered part the small mountain road. The construction crews had scraped one lane clear through each of the slides... And then if course they opened the road to two way traffic and let the drivers jostle past each other in the narrow spaces.

road falling off the side of the mountain

a nice wide spot with room for cars to pass each other!

We made it down through the landslides and tried to stop for breakfast in the next town as planned, but nothing was open. By the time we found a soda it was closer to lunch than breakfast. But we had a tasty lunch while watching the World Cup soccer match between Costa Rica and Italy. It was so fun. The restaurant was packed with people watching the game. Everything basically just stopped while the game was on. The soda was right off a main highway, but there was no traffic. In the bar were delivery drivers who had paused their routes, moms and kids, a police officer, all kinds of people who had dropped everything to stop and watch the game. There's no event in the US to compare. The sense of comradery is incredible and so fun. The whole restaurant cheered or groaned together when watching the action. And when Costa Rica finally scored a goal, the soda exploded in celebration. People jumped to their feet and screamed in joy. Men hugged each other and danced in the aisles. It was all so exciting! We were jumping and cheering with everyone else. It was disappointing to have to leave without seeing the end of the game, but we needed to be on our way.

We tuned in to the game in the radio as we drove. It was hard to follow the action with the over-excited announcers speaking so fast. (I can understand quite a lot of Spanish, but it's a lot harder at high speed!) But we followed enough to know when time ran down and Costa Rica was the winner! They had beat Italy which was a huge upset! Cars around us were honking their horns. A little old lady ran out of her house waving a huge Costa Rica flag at the passing drivers in celebration. We could see people in sodas jumping up and down and dancing. A school had obviously been watching together because everyone was racing wildly around the schoolyard waving flags and waving overhead Costa Rica hats and t-shirts that they had whipped off. We honked and waved and cheered with everyone else.

It's a countrywide celebration that still continues. Hours later we're passing through very rural areas and also in small cities and everyone is celebrating. People are waving flags from cars and homes and cheering with anyone who drives past. It's a lot of fun!

We took a route through the back-country instead of taking the highway because Aaron wanted to see some of the towns along that route. He had a great time driving this road and commented that it was "freaking awesome for fun off-road driving." It was very bumpy and steep with lots of tiny bridges and tight curves. 4-wheel drive needed to make it through. Honestly, if you're going to do any exploring the country on your own, you need 4wd... And if you're not going to go out and do some exploring, don't bother getting a car, just take taxis and turismo buses.

Random t-rex statue alongside the road for some reason...

Along this route were lots of places where rains have sloughed off in small landslides, taking trees and bushes with it. Bridges are tiny and narrow, barely enough for one car. One in particular was nothing but rickety wooden planks that looked like it would collapse from a harsh look. Seriously, it didn't look like it was even nailed together - it looked like someone had just laid a few planks down and called it a day. I was nervous but Aaron drove right over with no qualms and it was just fine.

As we drove along one road next to the river we could see that the river was obviously swollen and running high. We eventually came to a bridge where an old man on a horse was standing guard. He told us that the bridge ahead was washed out and we would have to go back and take another route. We were fine with that; I mean, what else can you do when the bridge is unsafe? Just because it LOOKED intact from where we were didn't mean I was going to disbelieve the man warning us.

The man in a pickup truck ahead of us apparently did not take the news as well. He suddenly slammed his truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. He whipped back and around so fast that his rear wheels were literally inches from falling off the riverbank before he stomped on the brakes. His wheels sank into the mud and spun wildly, throwing clumps of mud into the river as the bank crumbled away beneath him. He finally got traction and lurched forward away from the river, then raced away. Aaron and I and the old man just watched the whole thing, mouths hanging open in astonishment at this little performance. Once he was gone, the old guy just kind of shook his head and then waved at us as we turned around much more sedately.

Following the alternate route given by the old guy, we easily find our way out to the highway and end the off-road adventuring for now. We're driving over several rivers - in Costa Rica it seems you cross a river every 5 minutes or so - and many of those are also swollen. Then we start seeing flooding in the fields next to the roads. Finally the water is up to and across the road and we have to drive through the river flowing over the road for a time. Quite a few houses flooded out.

water creeping higher on the road

and over the road

until we were basically just driving in the river
Stop signs are more of a suggestion than a reality for many Ticos.

Arrive Arenal. Beautiful area. Tons of flowers. So overcast that we actually can't see the huge Arenal volcano, even though we're right below it. Our hotel turned out to be about 20 km outside of town... long ways. Halfway is paved, the rest is Costa Rica standard rubble rumble. The room we reserved turned out to be it's own little cabin with a big bedroom - 2 queens 1 twin, kitchen, huge bathroom modern plumbing and giant shower. Very nice.

We drove out looking for dinner and couldn't find anything close, eventually drive all the way back to Fortuna. Since we are there, we go find a place call Soda Viquez which recommended by several of Aaron's Costa Rica connections. Definitely worth the effort of finding it - food and service were incredible.

Costa Rica lemonade (and Costa Rican lemons) are green like limes but taste like lemon
On the way back, missed a turn and drive through the jungle in the dark for a quite while before finding our way back to the room. Kind of a fun adventure on the crazy jungle roads in the dark. Luckily, we knew where we had missed the turn and actually knew where we were and basically how to get back, or it would have been more frightening than fun!

Kids early to bed, Aaron and I spent a while washing clothes for the next couple of days and hanging then you to dry overnight... we're out of clean clothes and weren't able to find a launderia today.

Finally to bed... Finally a comfy bed!!

No comments: