Q for quite an adventure 

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Three enthusiastic friends, a rental car, 12 days and a whole new country to explore… What could possibly go wrong? Fast forward 600 kilometers, and we now know that a road trip in Costa Rica (or CR for cool kids) during the rainy season is a risky adventure. We have gambled and lost, facing some epic consequences but we mostly won a priceless realization: by surviving this road trip together, we know that our friendship can resist anything! But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? 

We welcomed our friend S. at the airport in Liberia and picked up our rental car, keen to hit the road. We somehow had a very romantic projection of the rainy season. What? We cannot be the only ones who imagined puddles splashing around as we are driving through, right?! Our first stop was La Fortuna where we found a decent hostel. We sat down around a meal to discuss our program for the next 12 days and luckily, we all wanted to see as many places as possible, go on a few hikes and spot some wildlife. Our first hike to Cerro Chato was beautiful and pretty easy, even though it was steep. M decided to run up (#^*£!|¥!! Show off) while S and I took it easy. The view on the Arenal volcano was rewarding when we reached the top! The lagoon had a beautiful green color and would the path have been less slippery, we would have considered going down for a dip. Instead we sat down, chilling while M (this guy again #]^{*}*}£!) literally ran down and back up again. What a show off! Our walk down turned into a challenging journey, trying to stay on our two feet. The rain took us by surprise and before we knew it, we were experiencing the rainy season in all its splendor. Within a minute, we were soaked, laughing and hoping that none of us would fall, kissing the muddy floor. After an hour of a heavy downpour, it stopped. We kept walking down at a small pace as our path had become a giant mud slide. We were all chatty and happy when M pushed me back and I heard him shriek. Right in front of us was a beautiful but scary snake; it was only passing by but the panic was so strong, I took a step back, almost losing my balance. Luckily S stopped me from falling on my butt (again) and I miraculously remained onto my two feet! 

The next day was bright and shiny (yeah) and we drove to Santa Elena. This was supposed to be less touristy than Monteverde and we were very keen to avoid the tourist mass. However the weather in Santa Elena didn’t play along and it rained for a whole day straight, literally washing our (at least mine) hiking plan away. We waited patiently for a sunny break but it never came. The rain only slowed down so we drove to Monteverde, hoping that the rain would have in the meantime stopped. One can dream, right? Unfortunately Petrus decided differently and with a 20$ entrance fee, I refused to hike in the heavy rain. My two companions, proud owners of a student ID, were offered a 50% discount and set off to hike the park trails while I treated myself to a hot chocolate, a brownie and a date with hummingbirds. I was very grateful to be alone because I was feeling very homesick and needed some time on my own. But hey nothing that a what’s app session with your best friends, Spotify, a hot chocolate and a brownie can’t fix. M and S were not really impressed by the park and I guess once you have seen a cloud forest, you have seen them all. 

Our drive to Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast, where we would overnight, went well. We were excited to start our drive down along the ocean road as we were promised dirt roads, river crossings and adventures. What’s not to love about this?! M, my copilot and I had a lot of time to debate about left and right turns (apparently it’s all about interpretation) while driving to Samara. The dirt roads were challenging and I loved it. It was good fun to drive our 4-wheel car onto that road while being surrounded by astonishing landscapes… until the first river crossing. My heart dropped. It was the biggest river I had ever contemplated crossing. Yes, ok, also the first one. My heart started to race when we realized that there was no way for us to tell how deep the river Crucivallejo was. We looked at each other, anxious and worried but not wanting to be the first one to say out loud that turning around would be a better idea. We had noticed a man sleeping on his tractor up the road so we decided to seek the guidance of a local. He was pretty convinced that we could easily cross the river. It was only (ONLY?!) 60 cm deep. Our confidence was shaken and as much as we wanted to trust this helpful man, we were ready to run tail between our legs back to some more civilized roads. He laughed with his friends, clearly not understanding our hesitation and offered to cross the river with his tractor before us. Ah bless him! We followed him back to the river and still unsure, we looked at him, driving through the river. M and S were not ready to cross but while they were debating, I pressed the gas pedal hard. I had solely and spontaneously (hoping I wouldn’t regret it) decided that we could make it. I was so relieved when we reached the other side, my hands shaking from the adrenalin rush. My two companions looked baffled, barely believing we had crossed our first river and we started to shout all at once with excitement. 

We were still feeling the adrenaline rush when we arrived in Samara and since we were feeling quite cocky from this experience (what to say), we decided to keep driving to reach Mal Pais before nightfall. One local advised us against it, warning us about river crossings and dirt roads. Come on, man, this was the kind of thrill we were after. After all we had tamed Crucivallejo. Nothing could stop us… (We thought). Another local told us that we should drive the coastal road as it was extremely beautiful and assured us that we would be just fine. Say no more! We jumped back in our car and happily left the main road to follow the narrow dirt road that would take us to Mal Pais. We crossed 5 more rivers and 20 kilometers before arriving in Mal Pais, one final river was ‘flowing’ in our way. We drove the dirt road, the sun going down much faster than we would have liked it and suddenly I had to stand on my brake. Where the road was supposed to be was a river instead. We were shocked as we didn’t expect it to be so far out. By now there was no way for us to find the road on the other side and M couldn’t walk in the river to find out how deep it was as the current was too strong. We had to accept it: we were stuck between two rivers for the night. 

I was somehow ok with the fact that we couldn’t cross the river, there is no adventure without adventure but I started to panic when my companions mentioned that we should knock on the door of the only house around us. I blame it on the too many horror movies I have watched over the years and the thought of Wolf Creek didn’t help me to relax. I was so terrified, I refused to leave the locked car, feeling virtually safe and I couldn’t bring myself to sleep in the tent that this (welcoming) family was willing to set up for us. You might be laughing but at the time, I felt spooked. It was dark (oh urban lights how I missed you) and a storm was lurking. I couldn’t stop thinking of what this man (who by the way totally looked like a serial killer) could do to us. We would disappear without anybody ever knowing where we were. There was some camping equipment that was laying on the floor and my mind wandered. Was it from the previous backpackers he killed before feeding them to his pigs? Oh yeah, I never hated my fertile imagination that much than during that terrifying night. The fear and the pig screams (do they ever sleep?!) kept me awake most of the night and I was relieved to be alive and see the first lights of the day. 

Of course, as soon as the sun came up, I realized how silly my thoughts had been and how irrational I must have sounded so I promised myself to stop watching horror movies. The camping equipment I had spotted during the night was actually some random kids’ toys and the farmer didn’t quite look like a serial killer but like a generous welcoming one. He even drove with us to the river to make sure we were successfully crossing the river. It was incredible to see the difference between the night before: the river had dramatically decreased. It was still tricky to cross as I had to drive straight across and then 30 meters in the water to the left. Without the help of this man, it would have been difficult to know what to do. We covered the last 20 km rather quickly and decided to go to Montezuma instead for a comforting breakfast and a quick hike to a waterfall before heading to the ferry to Puntarenas. The ferry ride was relaxing and we were lucky enough to have sun and blue skies. Adios Nicoya peninsula!

We still have 6 days to explore CR so let’s make those count and possibly in a less dramatic manner! Next stop: Manuel Antonio National Park!





Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!

2 thoughts on “Q for quite an adventure 

  1. Pingback: S for smile, you are in heaven!  | FrenchieGoneExploring

  2. Pingback: U like unreal: we are in Panama! | FrenchieGoneExploring

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