The excitement of vacationing in Costa Rica reached its crescendo when we landed in San Jose. We had researched, packed, and reviewed our Spanish. We were ready for the first day!
First stop: customs. A word of advice: when asked the reason of the visit, it is best to not be facetious with the agent. Either it was a language barrier or he did not have a sense of humor. My answer to his question: “To set up a Tanning salon.”
Second stop: rental car pick up. We were advised to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. The rental car process took some time. Nonetheless, by 2:30, we were almost ready to leave. We needed lunch. There was a restaurant next to the rental place, so ate lunch – a very, very, very long lunch. (Costa Ricans don’t seem to believe in fast food.) Despite this delay, I felt we would have no problem arriving before darkness set in.
Third stop: Hacienda Encartada at Lake Arenal. Mapquest indicated it would take two and a half hours to drive there.
Incidentally, I have been driving for a few years – my first car being a ’65 Chevy Bel Aire sedan. It easily sat 6 teenagers, and more if the trunk was utilized when we went to the drive-in. I thought I had seen everything. Silly me.
As we left San Jose, I noticed the highway was not like the Interstates at home. There were three lanes: always two lanes uphill and one lane downhill. Along the sides of the road vendors sold fresh food, and cars would quickly brake and stop and purchase a snack or dinner. I also noticed that sharp turns around mountains on roads with no guard rails were a greater deterrent to speeding than police cars in the medians. I started to believe Mapquest incorrectly estimated the drive time.
As a result of the slower speed, our excitement started to fad. Spectacular views greeted us around every bend; nevertheless, sitting on a plane and then in a car became monotonous. However, about two hours into our journey, the trip got a little more interesting. The paved road suddenly ended. No warning. Just dirt! Only, the GPS said I was on the highway. In addition, this dirt highway would reduce to one lane for bridges over the numerous rivers. I knew Mapquest incorrectly estimated the drive time.
In spite of these obstacles, I confidently reassured the family we would arrive before dark. After all, we only had another hour or more to go, and it was only about 4:45 p.m. Did you know that the sun sets between 5:00 and 6:00 o’clock year round in Costa Rica? Me either. As a result, we had to search for a dirt driveway in complete darkness. Plus, Costa Rica does not have street names or addresses. If you want to mail a letter, you address it: Jose Amigo, 400 meters west of the church and 150 meters south of the Best Western, Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Luckily for us, my daughter’s super hero power is night vision. She kept telling me to turn, but I could not see any path. Finally, I trusted her. We drove a kilometer on a muddy, pot-holed cow path to a house on the side of a mountain.
We cooked some food we bought at a super market, which was really the size of a 7-11 store. Then, we hit the sack.
Daylight awoke us to a spectacular view of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano.
With this adventure in mind, I think of the first day for the freshmen. Filled with excitement, they plan the routes to their classes, what they will wear, and pack their school supplies. Next, they sit in classroom after classroom, hearing similar rules, different procedures, and becoming bored. Once in a while, some teachers take away the asphalt and make the students sit up and take notice. Or, lunch rolls around with discussions of classes and teachers (or cute girls and cute boys). Of course, when the day ends, darkness arrives in the form of “nap time.” At least I always need one at the end of Day 1.
- Comparing Freshman Year to Visiting Costa Rica (thefreshmanexperience.com)
- Arenal Volcano Sighting (jencrt.wordpress.com)