Puravidaville – Journey To The Promised Land Part 2
Where this Tico Time Zone story began and left you good readers in last month’s Howler, my long-awaited journey to Puravidaville was finally underway. I had just landed in Costa Rica for the first time, along with three adventurous buddies from Rhode Island. It was September 1993, and a bit rainy, to say the least. After making our way through customs and immigration, we haggled for a $100 ride from the airport to Jacó in a minibus.
The four of us Rhody rookies — only one of whom spoke broken Spanish — figured we were all set and could just sit back, take it easy and enjoy the ride. Not so fast, my friends! We had entered the Tico Time Zone, where things are not as we may be accustomed to, nor does logic rule the day.
Soon after leaving San José, we managed to convey to the bus driver a request to stop for a few “Rhode sodas” to quench our thirst. It was during this quick pit stop that we figured out the 132 exchange rate. Yes, that’s right: 13,200 colones were worth $100. We were stoked at how far a dollar could go!
Back on the highway, our orientation to Costa Rican road conditions proceeded in high gear. We quickly learned that “treacherous” is the default mode for any and all areas in the line of travel. We could barely take sips of our beverages as the driver began to bob and weave his way around buses, trucks and pedestrians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So much for sitting back and enjoying the ride.
As we each started getting that not-socomfy feeling, chatter broke out among us about how to slow this guy down. No desire to surf was worth our utter terror during this first experience as captive passengers of a Costa Rican driver! Just when it seemed OK to breathe calmly, as our driver downshifted behind two gas tankers, he decided to go for it instead. To our horror, he started passing a fully loaded gas tanker up a hill and in the breakdown lane! Paralysis stifled our screams, and it became a flashback of our emergency lightning storm landing at San José airport merely a few hours earlier.
It was time to hold on tight and start praying again. The sudden off-ramp turn our driver took at an unmarked exit to Jacó was when the first wave of relief passed over us in Costa Rica. Proceeding now on a two-lane road presumably meant he would have to slow down and drive “normally.”
That lasted about 10 minutes, until we hit the spiral dead road to Orotina. It’s a switchback nightmare, where taxi drivers can see the turns ahead and actually pass other cars on the curves.
Yes, on the curves! (Years later, having gone native, I demonstrated this same maneuver to unsuspecting tourists who trusted me as their driver on an airport run.)
To kick up our anxiety levels a notch, it started to rain and all we could smell was brake fluid. Despite not knowing for sure whether ours was the source vehicle, it was very unnerving. We had to do something to slow down this maniac behind the wheel, so we called for a bathroom time-out.
He pulled over at a cool little overlook and we formed a huddle to come up with a strategy. Other than bribing our driver, which we were not convinced would work, none of us could think of a solution. T
That was when the good Lord finally stepped in. This time, the act of God was in our favor. Another driver pulled up and informed us that there had been a derrumbe (landslide), leaving only one lane open for navigating the remaining twists and turns ahead of us.
It was the ultimate reprieve. After eking our way down this death road, we hit the beach road. Thankfully, it was also in terrible shape, with craters massive enough to force even our own Mario Andretti to a crawl. An hour or so later, we arrived unscathed at Jacó, our promised land.
We unpacked at Rancho Colinas, said goodbye to “Mario” and headed to the beach for a quick sunset surf. Paddling out to our beach break debut in Puravidaville, we already knew that all the turbulence and turmoil of getting there was worth it. A quarter-century later, the adventure I became hooked on that first day in the TTZ continues.
The twists and turns that brought me here have endured and endeared me all the more.