I just switched the engines off as the last of Escape Velocity’s dock lines were being snugged. It’s been one hundred sixteen days, seven and a half hours, one thousand three hundred eight-two nautical miles and I’d rather not think about the number of gallons of diesel since that 3-month-old T-ball fitting snapped sending our entire sailing rig to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and we began the odyssey that became known as the Slow Motion Rescue. We’re here in Marina Pez Vela, Quepos, waiting for the shipping container that, with any luck at all, will hold everything needed to return our beloved home back into a sailboat.
It’s raining. It’s our 24th wedding anniversary. The next one will be celebrated in the South Pacific, and that’s a promise.
At this point in the movie all you attentive Escapees will be waiting for the well known phrase, “the dead pig has floated by.” However this time it looked a lot like a pelican who, if not dead, was doing a extremely slow Australian crawl while staring blankly up at me. Trapped between Escape Velocity and Catnip it’s eyes seemed to follow me where ever I went. Safe to say it’s not a good omen. It’s time to go.
We’d left the dink in the water overnight, something we rarely do but we had an early date to check out with the port captain and of course there had been the bottomless margaritas the night before on Georgia J with Kim and Sharon, our mooring mates, adhering to our tradition of a last supper before leaving, which lasted long past cruisers midnight, eight pm. Earlier that day we’d painted Escape Velocity on the clubhouse Wall of Infamy at TierraMar and even snuck in a Formula 1 race on Banana Bay’s wide screen.
The good news was we wouldn’t be traveling far that day, just across the bay to Puerto Jimenez. The anchorage is tricky with spots that are very deep and spots that are very shallow right beside each other with an eight foot tide thrown in just for fun. Not a skipper’s dream. We managed, but we decided to go deep after being warned that where we were would shoal too much.
I haven’t mentioned how wonderful having an “anchor down” button is and re-anchoring isn’t the chore it once was. Well, let’s just say it’s changed my life and leave it at that.
So as I was saying, tomorrow’s crew call was for false dawn for a quick getaway because we had to make the 60 miles to Drake Bay before nightfall. The starboard engine got the call for the thirteen-hour passage around the Osa Peninsula which contains Corcovado National Park. We can get more RPM out of this engine but it likes to overheat and its alternator cooked a start battery getting us here from the Galapagos. Our taciturn Hungarian mechanic wasn’t sure if he’d fixed the thing as it was more of a laying-on-of-hands kind of thing than any real repair.
It takes a long time to get out of Golfo Dulce and Marce, not used to bouncing around, immediately started looking a little green. It’s always lumpy getting out of these bays but I think it was the curse of the Dragon Lady (DL) or maybe that pelican. I hate to admit it but the DL won. She got us thrown out of Gofito but not Costa Rica, defying the US Embassy, International treaty, her new boss, logic, or any shred of common decency. We just worked around her with a tremendous amount of help from Scott at Marina Pez Vela, apparently their lawyer, our insurance company and a port captain that doesn’t have his head buried deep up his butt. The DL must go! That said we are not out of the woods yet and we will be revisiting our status monthly with Caldera/Puntarenas Customs. We’ve spent 95% of our time and energy dealing with Golfito Customs and it’s time we got back to the job at hand as evidenced by a panicked email from our rigger in Florida this morning saying he’s waiting for answers to questions that we thought we’d answered weeks ago.
I gotta go so let’s give Jimenez a B with a tricky anchorage, good pizza, dirt roads; and Drake Bay a C. It’s raining, with a wide open and rolly anchorage, but wait, there’s more. Eagle eye Marce spotted a panga approaching shore not far from us, suddenly turn right and disappear without a trace. Not at all obvious but could this be the famous Agujitas River? We decided not to flog the Volvos two days in a row, stay put and explore another jungle river.
With much trepidation we approached the spot where Marce saw that panga disappear and with a hard right around a rock formation a whole new world was revealed. That moment of discovery is what I live for. Dozens of colorful pangas and kayaks lined the banks with Eco lodges and pergolas everywhere. The scene was set for wonder and amazement. We followed four kayakers up the magical river with the outboard raised up to the we-don’t-have-a-spare-propeller setting, under a foot bridge, around rocks and bends with a canopy of trees seemingly hundreds of feet above, until the river was no wider than Catnip.
The current was quite strong while funneling through the rock-faced narrows. I managed to turn Catnip around and turned off the motor to drift all the way back to the lodges where we tied up the dink for a spot of hiking and spotted spider monkeys playing in the treetops always at a discrete distance.
Ok, so we never made it into town but I say give me a jungle river every time. That rates an A plus in my book and even rivals the Indian River in Dominica.
Friday morning we touched base with Scott in Quepos and we were all still confused about whether we had to pull up stakes and get up there right away. We told him that the Customs people in Puntarenas took our old expiring permit when they gave us the new one and he asked if we still have a copy of it. Of course we do, and we scanned and emailed it right away. Scott said he and the attorney would appeal to the port captain for a ruling on where our new permit allows us to be. We told him we aren’t comfortable doing the long motor in a hurry, and we had precious little time left.
Jack and I stayed on the boat, waiting and doing odd jobs. About 10:30 we got a text from Scott. “Take your time. The port captain is ok with everything.” He asked us to give him an ETA when we could, and we wrote back asking if he thought we were pushing it if we didn’t leave until Monday and took a few days to get there. We’d like to get the anchor down each day before the squalls start, and we don’t want to run the engines for more than a few hours a day.
Just before 2:00 we got an email from the attorney. She talked to the port captain and he said he has no problem with our schedule. We have an extension of the permit and we are legal in Costa Rica. What’s more, he asked that the marina monitor our progress “in case of any situation.”
Wow! That’s the first time since we arrived in Costa Rica that an official showed concern for our safety and well-being. I nearly cried with relief. We still have yet another deadline and another appeal to go through, and we don’t think we have enough time now to book any travel off the boat, but at least we can move forward with the repair plans, and when we get to the marina in Quepos they can start on the fiberglass and welding and all the other little repairs while we wait for the rig shipment.
We are amazed at the contrast between the Customs office in Puntarenas and the one here in Golfito. Had we known from the beginning that Golfito operates as a rogue branch we would never have come here. And that’s a shame because this bay is so protected and calm and we know for the rest of our northward journey in Costa Rica we won’t enjoy these conditions again.
It was 2pm and we still had the rental car. We picked up Sharon, leaving Kim aboard Georgia J to wrestle with a broken head, and drove up the mountain behind Golfito.
Then, like all practical cruisers everywhere who find themselves with a vehicle at their disposal, we went shopping to buy all the heavy and bulky stuff that’s hard to schlepp home on foot and so easy to toss in the trunk of a car.
We capped the day off with celebratory painkillers aboard Escape Velocity, and once again the hours flew by in the company of Sharon and Kim, as we laughed the night away.
Our man Diego from the Solid Car Rental company delivered a Rav 4 to us on Thursday morning. He explained that on a one-day rental we only get 150 km and when I told him we were driving to Caldera he said the additional miles would be more expensive than if we take the car for two days because then we get unlimited miles.
Ok, I said, and also requested the full insurance, which we know to do now that we don’t have our own car insurance to cover any mishaps. Nope, full insurance is only available when you rent the car for three days. But in three days we might be in Panama and we only need the car for one day to drive 200 miles and back. Why is this so complicated? In the end we took it for two days and we’ll take our chances on the insurance.
It was after 9:00 by the time we got on the road. We figured 200 miles should take us about 4-1/2 hours but by 2pm we were still slogging north on the two-lane Pan American highway, often stuck behind trucks on winding roads with rare opportunities to pass. We wanted to visit the park with the stone spheres that was closed when we drove by two weeks ago but we were afraid to take the time. The Customs office closes at four and we absolutely have to get there. Tick tock.
Somewhere between Uvita and Dominical the rental car stalled. We had run out of gas, despite the gauge reading 1/4 tank. We rolled to a stop right by a fruit stand, and the vendor called up his buddy who came right over, picked up Jack and Kim, took them to the gas station for a tiny little jerry jug of fuel, and within a half hour we were gassed up and on our way again. Tick tock.
We exited at Caldera and entered the big shipping port. At the main gate we asked the guard for “Aduana” but it took many tries before he understood what we were asking. He spoke with someone on the radio, then directed us to drive forward and something something something park. We found a parking lot and a building that looked promising but no “Aduana” sign. I jumped out and with the others fanning out in all directions I asked the only person I saw if he knew where Aduana was. It’s not here, he said, it’s in Puntarenas. He said to continue driving toward Puntarenas and when we see the hospital on the left make a U-turn and Customs will be on our right. I admit I was skeptical. While Kim looked for someone else to ask, I called Scott in Quepos. Tick tock.
“We’re in Caldera,” I said, “and we can’t find Customs.”
He told me to stay put and he’d call right back.
Jack and Sharon got the car and drove around to the parking lot entrance while I waited for a callback. In a few minutes Scott was back with confirmation. The customs office is in Puntarenas.
“Head toward Puntarenas and when you pass the hospital on your left, make a U-turn and Customs will be on your right.”
Call me crazy but wouldn’t street names and addresses be easier? Tick tock.
Twenty minutes later we parked at the Customs office and waited while Jack presented his passport and signed in, then we all marched into the office. We asked for the man Scott and the marina attorney had briefed on our situation, introduced ourselves and handed him Jack’s declaration about our dismasting and the repairs we need, the letter from the rigger detailing the repairs we need and how long it will take, the letter from the marina about the repairs we need and how long it will take and our almost-expired permit. He smiled and nodded and gave every indication that he was expecting us, took our paperwork and said he was giving it to the boss.
As we waited we asked him about places to eat and made general Spanglish chitchat. As the time ticked by I asked if the boss was granting us a mechanical extension.
“You’ll have to write down the repairs you need and how long it will take.”
My face froze. I pulled out another copy of the letters and tried to point to the parts that explained the repairs we need and how long it will take. He didn’t look at them, but said “Don’t you understand me?”
“Don’t you understand me?” I asked, and I pointed at the relevant paragraphs again and pushed the letters across the desk to him. “We have done that. That’s what these are.”
He looked puzzled, then picked up the papers and held them three inches from his eyes. Holy crap, I thought, he can’t see!
“It’s in Spanish?” he asked.
“Si,” I said, “en Español.”
We stared at each other for a few seconds as my heart sank, then he went back into the office and Jack and I moved over to sit with Sharon and Kim in the waiting area. The four of us speculated about what was happening and Jack and I tried to keep calm.
Finally, minutes before closing time a woman came out and motioned to us. She was holding our passports and boat registration and other papers and smiling. She explained in Spanish that we have an extension and pointed to the expiration date. September 23rd. One month. I gasped.
“But it’s not enough time!” I said. “Our parts haven’t even shipped yet!”
She obviously didn’t understand my English outburst, and I pointed to the part of the letter that said in Spanish that we have no mast and can’t go to sea. Jack pulled out his phone and tried to show her photos of Escape Velocity. We went back and forth a little until it became clear that she didn’t understand the condition of our sailboat, then she explained that before the expiration of this new permit we need to come back and apply for another extension and she will personally go to the boat and see for herself if it still needs repairs. This from a woman who doesn’t seem to understand what a mast is and why it might be important to a sailboat.
We understood that this was as much as we were going to get, but we also realized it was a lot. More than that, she was friendly and smiled. We no longer have to make a beeline for Panama, but it isn’t clear what our next step needs to be. We thanked her, packed up our papers and piled back into the car to look for food. We were all starving and road buzzed and needed to digest what just happened. Kim and I pored over the new permit looking for any stipulation of where the boat has to be and found none. I called Scott who asked us to send him a copy as soon as we could. Since all the government offices were closed for the day I promised to scan and email it when we got back to the boat so he’d have it first thing in the morning.
In the meantime, we learned that Scott and our surveyor Mike McCook had appealed to the insurance company on our behalf and they agreed to cover the cost of the marina when we get there. That’s huge because the marina costs more per month than our cruising budget. The big question remains, do we still need to be at the marina in Quepos by midnight Saturday night in order to comply with the new permit?
We ate lunch and started the long ride back to Golfito, but as promised we stopped at Automercado, the deluxe supermarket that has foods we can’t get in Golfito. The four of us shopped like kids in a candy store, Sharon and I systematically aisle by aisle, with Jack and Kim running back and forth looking for their favorites or hard-to-find items.
Having Sharon and Kim along on this trek, while probably not so much fun for them, was wonderful for us. For sixteen straight hours the conversation never faltered and being able to laugh and share stories proved the old adage that a sorrow shared is half a trouble, a joy shared is a joy that’s doubled. We later referred to Thursday as “bonding day” for our friendship.
The drive home seemed endless and we finally rolled up to Tierra Mar around eleven. I scanned the new permit and sent it off to Scott and we dropped into bed, exhausted, feeling a partial victory but still not knowing if we’d have to drop our mooring in the morning.
After we got straight with immigration it was time to once again begin our full frontal assault on the dragon lady at the Customs Office. Bruce, a local yacht services agent, has taken us on as a special project because everything we’ve been going through represents the sum total of the various challenges he faces every day for the yachts he represents. He maintains this one person has singlehandedly tossed Golfito to the bottom of the heap of cruising grounds in Costa Rica despite the perfect anchorage and beautiful natural setting.
And there she is, Ms. Concepcion Lopez, Ms. I-Don’t-Care-If-You-Die-A-Watery-Death. We had followed the instructions given to us by Conchita’s boss through our contact at the US Embassy and got a letter from the marina that will be doing the repairs with details on schedule and timing. We, or rather Bruce, presented the dragon lady with that letter, the letter from our rigger which we had previous given to her along with the original declaration from Jack about our dismasting and the need to have safe harbor until the work can begin. She barely looked at them before saying no. Bruce, exasperated by this time, demanded to talk to the boss and the two of them raced out of the office in a huff. Jack and I sat in the waiting area for about half and hour, stunned and dejected.
When they came back it was obvious that Bruce hadn’t made any headway with the boss lady, our last hope. Bruce kept trying to get Conchita to give us a list of the documents that would qualify us for an extension but she was unmoved and refused to budge. It was obvious at that point that she really didn’t care what happened to us, she just wanted to screw us. At this point, I burst into tears and Jack started hurling invective her way, while I kicked him and told him he was making it worse. “How could it get worse?” he asked and I had to agree it couldn’t.
Bruce tried to think of some other strategies while I called Scott, our contact at the marina in Quepos. When I told him our luck had run out and we would have to leave on Friday for Panama he told me to sit tight while he spoke with the marina attorney. Bruce drove us back to Escape Velocity and on the way he decided to have Robert the Hungarian mechanic write a letter saying that he would be doing repairs, on the assumption that a local Golfito contractor might hold more sway with Conchita than someone 130 miles away. We went home with the plan to touch base later.
Scott called and told us that he and the attorney spoke with Customs in Caldera, the other end of the country and the jurisdiction the marina is in. They recommended we drive up there on Thursday, present our letters and request an extension for repairs. If it’s granted we’ll have to get Escape Velocity 130 miles to the marina before midnight Saturday night when our permit expires.
“But we can’t afford your marina!” we reminded him.
“I know,” he said. “I’m working on that.”
We promised to get to Caldera as early as possible and Jack called the car rental office to book a vehicle. With nothing else to do until Thursday I made an onion and herb dip, a corn and black bean salad and baked a batch of brownies and we dinghied ashore to the weekly pot luck dinner at Tierra Mar for some company and distraction.
We were the usual group, Tim the owner, Lisa and Sylvie, who are filling in for Katie while she’s vacationing, and a couple from the San Francisco Bay Area who came in a week ago and were on the mooring beside us. As always we regaled the crew with our latest tales of woe — we’re not always full of cheer lately — and during the course of conversation we invited Sharon and Kim from Georgia J to join us on our trek to Caldera. They didn’t need much arm twisting when we tempted them with a visit to the fabulous AutoMercado, a real supermarket.
So that’s the plan. Road trip to Caldera, a day in a car for one last ray of hope as the clock ticks down.
The day started early but we didn’t have to wait long at the bus stop across from the cemetery. I don’t know…bad omen? It was a Ciudad Neilly bus so we had to change buses to get to the border. Why would we return to the scene of Marce’s now famous face plant at the Jerusalem Mall? To cross the border into Panama of course, which if everything goes smoothly, would leave us poised to cross back a few hours later and have Costa Rica Immigration stamp our passports for another ninety days. It’s the only way to extend our tourist visas.
The Jerusalem Mall, by the way, is a mall in the sense that venders borrowed the adjacent vender’s wall, as erecting three walls is cheaper than four, and more and more venders were added until before long, without rhyme or reason, you’ve got a mall…sort of.
We weren’t really sure of the procedure for checking out, checking in, then checking out, and checking in from the Panama side, even though we asked several people what to expect. We’ve found that in Costa Rica it’s really difficult to get a definitive clear answer to any question. I wonder if it has something to do with having no addresses?
So, as I was saying, we had to fill out Costa Rican exit forms, which it turns out are surprisingly small but with a font size apparently used in microfiche. Seriously? This stuff is tiny.
We tried to be inconspicuous knowing that we’d be coming back through here in a couple of hours so when the guy behind the bullet proof glass said first you have to pay the exit tax, well, we didn’t want to say where the hell is that, we just inconspicuously backed up and promptly went the wrong way. In true Escape Velocity tradition we threw ourselves on the kindness of strangers and a guy who was waiting in the queue, as it turns out, for the auto-teller machine and not an exit tax machine at all, said oh you pay that in the van. In the van? Oh, I’d noticed two girls out front of Immigration playing what I thought was chess in an old clapped out van with its side doors open, but at closer inspection it turned out to be two girls in a clapped out old van with the side doors open collecting $8 US exit tax for the authorities at Costa Rican Immigration.
Back at the guy behind the bullet proof glass who kept calling Marce Maria, necessitating a noodge from yours truly so she’d answer the man, we handed over our passports, exit forms and tax receipts. Kachunk, kachunk, we were officially out.
Now for the tricky stuff. A few hot dusty blocks in the general direction of Panama you’ll find Panamanian Immigration with pretty much the same bored guy behind the same bullet proof glass except now we have to prove that we are worthy of a temporary visa to Panama and more importantly can support ourselves while there and have an airline ticket to fly out. Marce hacked an old e-ticket, changed the origin and dates and presto changeo, a ticket out of here. But would they verify? It was looking good until a gust of wind blew our paperwork through the slot in the window onto his lap. He looked up and said is this your proof of funds? Why, yes officer it is. And is that in colones or dollars? Dollars, officer, it is in dollars. Then he told me to take off my hat and sunglasses. Oh no, there goes my carefully planned disguise! I’m a different man without a hat and cheaters. Remember we’ve got to come right back through here today and it wouldn’t be good for him to say, hey, wait a minute don’t I know you? In seconds he aimed a tiny webcam at me and clicked. Then kachunk kachunk with the stamp and we were officially in. Welcome to Panama. We hadn’t expected to be photographed but other than our likenesses lurking in their computer, I think that went well. We seem to be getting better at this.
The best thing I can say about our stay waiting on the border is that no one fell.
The euphoria of pulling off the first half of our capper rapidly began to fade when it dawned on us that now we were legally separated from our home and our disguises have been blown. Oh yeah, the photograph thingy too.
We may have been a tad premature but the more we realized that we really had to get back into Costa Rica, we really had to get back to Costa Rica. This time my plan would be to start out without my hat or my sunglasses which would give me that squinty look. Perfect! Well, we were even more inconspicuous this time, which seemed to be working even though we left another set of identical photos just like the set we left an hour and a half ago, but apparently they don’t have that CSI photo matching machine, so it was kachunk kachunk good bye Panama and we were officially out.
Now for our good friends at Costa Rican Immigration.
I’m sorry, I really can’t remember much about getting back into Costa Rica except he asked where are you going in Costa Rica and we said Golfito. Pause, huh…Golfito. Kachunk kachunk and we were officially in again. Almost disappointing. I mean we had some interesting stories memorized for the occasion but inconspicuous was our watchword for the day so we backed up and left inconspicuously. Other than another biblical downpour on the twisty blacktop road back to EV, not much had changed except we both have a stamp in our passports that says ninety days more in Costa Rica.
Today is my birthday; I am 63. I’m thinking hard about it this year because Robin Williams was exactly my age and he’s gone, and my cousin Jamie is exactly my age and she’s very ill and struggling to survive. I’m thinking of death once in a while now, and I never did before. I guess it comes with the territory.
Jack and I planned for such a long time for this life, saving money, learning, preparing financially and mentally. Looking back though, I wish we had gone sooner, and it’s not like we didn’t hear that often. We had the usual excuses — we couldn’t afford it, was the most common one — but really in retrospect the advice we read from successful younger cruisers was smart: go now, go small. The older you get the more comforts you require as a basic minimum and it all costs money. If you start out younger you can go in a more basic, and therefore less expensive, boat, RV, whatever.
About a month ago as we were leaving happy hour at Banana Bay we saw two touring bikes parked in the breezeway, thoroughly loaded and obviously on a long journey. We met their owners, a young honeymooning couple from Spain who had pedaled across the US from New York to Oregon, then south to Costa Rica. They were on their way to Brazil and beyond, and talking with them started the wheels turning in my head. A cross-country bike ride has been a dream of mine for many years but it looks like that line on the bucket list is going to remain unticked. Or maybe not. None of us really knows what’s around the corner.
Last year I couldn’t have imagined that I would be spending my birthday on a mooring in Golfito, Costa Rica. “We live a strange life,” I say to Jack periodically, and I said it again yesterday on the bus back from Paso Canoas, the Panamanain border town we’d gone to to check out of and back into the country to renew our tourist visas. Turns out you can plan all you want, but you still have to roll with the punches.
If I believe anything, I believe that every place you go, every encounter you have you are exchanging electrons with your environment, so that you and the place or the people are a little bit changed for your having been there. I’m grateful for all my new electrons and I hope the ones I’ve shared bring positive energy to the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met. And I vow to remain open to whatever new experiences life brings us.
The sun is up. Time for some birthday yoga. Carpe diem.
Our first inclination is to make nice, especially when confronted with petty bureaucrats in whatever number of world one finds oneself. It’s been surprisingly effective over the years. A sincere smile — that’s the hardest thing to fake — a joke or two, at least an attempt at being organized, and never ever get mad. But I’ve had it with these effing jerks in Golfito, Costa Rica. I’m not willing to make nice. Not any more. I might even get mad. I’m really pissed. It’s despicable turning away a disabled vessel seeking refuge and repair, it’s illegal, it’s shameful. I mean they signed the damn treaty which takes precedence over any local laws or customs and clearly states that all assistance is to be rendered and sufficient time is to be allowed to effect repairs but here we sit just a few days from getting kicked out of the country which we’ve been fighting for nearly three months instead of working on an extremely difficult refit of Escape Velocity. Insane!
With our imminent departure as a backdrop we planned a last ditch effort to see if our embassy could or would help us with the authorities at Golfito Customs. In the meantime Marce had followed up on a new source for EV’s house batteries which came up dead after our 1200-mile motor passage after our dismasting on the way to the Marquesas. It turns out that there is an EZGO golf cart dealer in San Jose and yes they do have a mountain of Trojan T-105s. All we have to do is rent a car, drive six hours and pay double the US price. What a steal. We had the last battery deal fall through because the truck driver delivered our batteries to someone on the Nicaragua border so I thought we should probably jump on these.
So what we have here is a classic two-fer…grab six batteries, pack them into the trunk, and beg our embassy to intercede on our behalf. What could go wrong? On the way up to San Jose we realized we were going to have another surreal no-addresses-in-Costa Rica moment. We weren’t disappointed. Our man at EZGO responded with the address: “from the Marriott, go 300 meters east and one kilometer south and if you don’t already have a room you should stay at my friend’s B&B which is right off the highway.” Sounds good.
It was quite dark by the time we pulled up to Laurie Gould-Blizzard’s Cariari B&B nestled in a beautiful Spanish flavored hacienda. Marce was still feeling the effects of her most recent ankletwisting faceplant so she hobbled up the curved staircase past the showbiz photos and memorabilia mounted on the wall to an early bed and I had the pleasure of Ms. Laurie to myself. It was strictly Borsht Belt in the jungle, well, in San Jose anyway.
Fifteen years in Costa Rica and she knows everyone and with a personality that can’t be denied she mapped out a plan of action for tomorrow. Of course she has people in the embassy. She made me a sandwich and sent me off to bed feeling a little better about life.
We came down the staircase in the morning, past the head shots and summer stock reviews on the wall, to a whirling Rolodex and rapid fire phone calls. The woman is the original energizer bunny but with a Selma Diamond voice. It took a few calls but eventually she found someone who actually called the Dragon Lady in Golfito Customs and soon we had a list of things that she’s going to need from us and there’s no need to go to the Embassy. Wow! All this while feeding us the first bagels we’ve had in a year.
Next, with Laurie’s directions, we found the EZGO golf cart office and they loaded the batteries into the rental. Other than the cost it was easy peasy.
This left us free for an afternoon of dream walking the crazy huge MultiPlaza Mall which only proved that a badly sprained ankle is no impediment to proper shopping. Not buying, mind you, just shopping.
We loved Laurie and the Cariari B&B so much that we stayed another night and took Laurie to dinner. She made us feel better about our situation and we left full of hope that we can fix our Customs problem.
We planned to take the circuitous mountain ridge route back towards Golfito, hitting all the hot spots along the way. Most of the parks were closed for Mother’s Day which they are celebrating a day early. It seems they really like three day weekends here and well, you know, Mom won’t mind. Spectacular scenic mountain views awaited us at every turn.
We wound our way down from 11,300 feet to the little surf town of Dominical and had lunch at a funky little shack called Cafe Ensuenos where they take their smoothies very seriously. Blackberry!
While sipping our cold icy smoothies we checked Wikipedia to find that we’d just traversed Cerro de la Muerte, the mountain of death, one of the world’s most dangerous roads. The rest of the afternoon was a “hey look at that!” kind of drive until we hit traffic at a standstill.
It’s not surprising that there are a lot of accidents in Costa Rica. On the way up to San Jose we were held up for an hour in the mountains with a semi that went over the edge head first down into the trees. This “accident” turned out to be a police road block that we’d been stuck at before. They’re very curious about what they might find in your glove box. Why they all have M16s slung over their shoulders I don’t know but when I saw the guy in front of us get out and show the police the contents of his trunk I suddenly remembered what was in ours. Six whomping big-butt batteries just like the kind they sell over the border in Panama. If you wanted to set up somebody to look like smugglers you couldn’t do a better job.
I told Marce to start hunting for the receipt but then again that looks like you’re trying to hide the dop…something. This is going to require something better than kindergarten Spanish. The little guy with the big black assault weapon motioned for me to pop open the trunk. Default sincere smile displayed, two jokes, and then Marce remembered the word for sailboat-Golfito. He looked me up and down with an incredulous stare that chilled my soul, gave it a 30 second pause to ponder, and said vamos. So Escapees, apparently I don’t even look suspicious any more.