In the river in Tico Time Zone: My latest TTZ adventure occurred this past Christmas Eve. I was with my new partner, Ben, in Lagarto Beach, a local fishing town about halfway down the Nicoya Peninsula, famous for fresh snapper and cambute (conch). While watching the beautiful sunset, we spotted a local fishing boat come in with the catch of the day — snapper galore. We picked out a few choice fish and headed to the bar for a cold one.

We started taking on water and
I heard the muffler burbling in the river.

Once we got our Silvers, a local kid named Harold came up and we got to talking about cambute. I had only tried it once and really wanted to prepare some for Christmas dinner. Harold said his neighbors has caught some fresh cambute that day and he would take us to their house to get one for dinner. Ben is always game for anything, so we told Harold, “Let’s do it” and headed out for what we thought was a quick ride to get the goods. Little did we know it was to be a full-blown rescue mission taking us into Christmas Day.

Anyone who’s been south of Playa Negra knows that the dirt roads can be sketchy to drive on, especially when you are off the beaten path. Well, within 10 minutes, we were headed down a winding, twisting off-road course and it was getting dark to boot. Harold instructed Ben to take a left into the riverbed, and that was when I started getting nervous. Ben was practicing his all-Spanish listening and talking skills, and I realized too late that when Harold said, “Zig,” Ben zagged instead … off course and into some soft sand. The Pathfinder started sinking immediately, and things were about to get more interesting.

Other TTZ Tico Time Zone Articles

Fiesta Time
Blustery Season of Barrels and Bulls
Journey to the Promised Land Part 1
Journey to the Promised Land Part 2
Simple Life Seems Less Easy Now
“Loco”motion Adventures in Costa Rica Part1
“Loco” motion Adventure in Costa Rica Part 2

Ben decided to slam into reverse, causing us to sink even deeper and skid to the left. We started taking on water and I heard the muffler burbling in the river. We jumped out of the vehicle, only to see it half submerged in the sand.

Harold reassured us the way any Tico would in a situation like this: “No problema, lo sacamos pronto,” which means, “Don’t panic, we’ll get it out lickety-split.” I knew we were in for a long night.

Harold went off seeking a rescue crew, while I proceeded to dig out the back tires with my hands. I had to hold my breath and go around the muffler and excavate in the flowing river water. It was tricky, to say the least.  To Harold’s credit, he did return with a truck and some rope.  We attached the rope and tried to give it a pull, but only ended up spinning the wheels. On the second try, the rope snapped and left us just as deep in trouble.

News had spread throughout the neighborhood and a bunch of locals and kids came down to witness the gringos’ ordeal. It was a classic Tico Time Zone situation. We struggled for another hour or so, only to break the rope all over again … even with a bunch of guys pushing from the front.

By this time, Ben had lost interest and wanted to go home, take a shower and hit the party at the beach. He proposed leaving the vehicle running all night and coming back in the morning. I felt bad about still wanting the damn cambute and told Ben I refused to leave the car. He responded by wishing me good luck and jumping into our buddies’ truck. So bye-bye, Ben.

Now I was just as determined not to give up, and figured there must be a backhoe or tractor in the barrio. So I asked Harold and he finally agreed — at, like, 11 p.m. — to take me to the local tractor guy. We got there, woke up the tractor guy and I told him he was our only hope. He was reluctant, even when I offered money. So I suggested he might rather come down now than have us come back to summon him on Christmas Day! He finally agreed. Again, word had spread further and our rescuer ended up bringing his whole family down to the river alongside the tractor to see what the tonto gringos had gotten themselves into.

Thank God, he had a chain. It still took an hour of maneuvering, but we finally managed to pull out the Pathfinder … still running and good to go! So I headed back down to the beach for the local party at Marbella. When I pulled up with the car, Ben started freaking out with amazement and laughter. He was stoked and learned the lesson of “tingo perseverance.” Now, anytime we find ourselves in a new jam, we say, “Nobody panic” and start the process of figuring out a Tico Time Zone solution.