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Costa Rica Trip Report

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Or was it all just a bad dream????

Robbed: The trouble started in Monteverde. I was doing my daily good deed donating some maps to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest gift shop to benefit their project while my rental car was parked at the Bajo del Tigre trailhead. I spent about twenty minutes chatting and checking out Willow Zuchowski’s new green house for native plants.

When I returned to the car my key wouldn’t work in the door and I realized the locks had been forced with a screwdriver. I’ve traveled in Costa Rica for fifteen years and knew better than to leave anything in the car so it took me a while to figure out why anyone would break in.

I was carrying my GPS in the front pocket of my pants and it was gone. The pants were loose fitting and the GPS had slipped out while I was sitting in the hotel lobby that morning. It must have slipped out on the seat of the car and twenty minutes was long enough for someone to notice it, jimmy the doors and grab it. Apparently it’s true that at least some good deeds don’t go unpunished.

Thrify Car Rental was great. They had a new Dihatsu Terios with working locks ready for me the next morning. Fifteen minutes of paperwork including the documentation to have VISA cardmember services pay for the damage to the locks and I was on my way again.

Speed Traps: The first stop was on the Pan American highway near Limonal. It was a pure shakedown. I saw the reading on the speed gun as the officer walked up and had apparently been going 63 kph in a 60 zone. As we chatted and he suggested maybe we could just take care of it he was subtly triggering the radar at oncoming traffic while holding the gun under his arm.

I insisted that I was only going about 60 and he swung the gun around to show me the reading of 79 that he’d just gotten off of a passing truck. I said I didn’t think that was my speed, but he should write me a ticket. With no bribe forthcoming he sent me on my way with a warning.

Ten minutes later after crossing the Tempisque bridge I was amazed when another officer stepped out from the shade of a tree and waved me over again. Of course having just been pulled over I was driving extremely cautiously, cars and trucks were backed up behind me and had been passing like crazy.

The officer informed me that even though the sign 50 meters back read “Velocidad Maxima 80 kph” I was approaching an intersection and the speed limit was 40. He wasn’t interested in a bribe and was getting ready to write a ticket despite my protests that apparently no one knew the limit there because obviously everyone passing by was traveling much faster. I mumbled something like what a lousy trip, and he asked why. When I showed him the police report for the robbery he decided not to make my day any worse and let me off with another warning.

Run Down: I’d had about enough adventures with the car, so I was walking around Tamarindo. In front of the centro commercial a car was backing out of a parking space when the driver’s foot slipped or he decided that oncoming traffic was too close; in any case the car lunged forward and the bumper caught me in the side of the knee.

The sidewalk was sandy and I had just enough time to get some weight off my foot so my feet flew out from under me. If my foot had been firmly anchored I’d probably still be in surgery to reconstruct the ligaments. As it was I ended up with a skinned shin and a couple of scrapes.

The Runs: I always drink the water and I’ve eaten everywhere from the four star French restaurant in the Camino Real to a wood stove campesino kitchen miles from the nearest road and never had a significant health issue.

Until now. Eating soda crackers and handfuls of Imodium while never venturing farther than two minutes from a toilet is no way to enjoy Arenal but it was the best I could do for the first couple of days. By the middle of day three I’d recovered, but gotten myself into another predicament that made me wonder if I might have been better off hanging out by the bathroom.

The Lockout: Normally Sue and I travel by bicycle in Costa Rica so the ritual of clearing everything out of the car and locking up at every stop isn’t exactly second nature. Of course I waited until I was in the middle of nowhere before I carefully secured and checked every door with the keys still hanging in the ignition.

I figured it would be a minimum of a couple of hours and a hundred bucks or so to get a tow truck or the police to drive out to Arenal Springs from Fortuna to get me back in the car, but fortunately one of the services they provide at the concierge desk is an ex car thief.

He was a well dressed gentleman, probably in management but the way he slipped the weather stripping off at the base of the window, reached a piece of specially shaped electrical wire inside the door panel and tripped the lock belied his past on the streets.

This time I was very grateful my car was broken into, but it was clear that you can’t count on door locks for more than about a thirty second delay if you are foolish enough to leave anything of value in your car.

The Rain Delay: I always enjoy Costa Rica and between the traumas managed a swim under a new waterfall, a hike to Lago Cerro Chato for the first time and a few other enjoyable asides, but this time I was more than ready to be home.

The plane was delayed an hour and a half arriving from Houston due to storms over Texas which guaranteed a late departure and missing my connecting flight to Denver. Of course all the other Houston flights had been messed up as well and there were about fifty people already on standby by the time we landed…

Hope the December trip turns out better…

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