Borscht Belt in the Jungle

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.

Ah…the benefits of aging.


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4 Responses to Borscht Belt in the Jungle

  1. Dave Kent

    Bet it’s been a long time since you’ve seen that many guitars in one place.

  2. Jan

    Glad that battery source worked out for you! I hope the Dragon Lady comes through for you too.

    • Jan, thanks again for thinking outside the box for us and for the link. As you can see, it lead to a significant side benefit. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

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