It was actually a crazy weekend. Warning: long blog entry ahead. Much longer than my usual entries.
I went out to Jacó Beach with one of my co-workers. Jacó itself is a pretty popular beach town, but it has a reputation as a kind of dirty place. While walking around, you get offered weed/coke regularly. Dealers probably offered to sell me drugs at least 5 times in two days — and I was going out of my way to avoid them. But it’s actually a fun town in my opinion. It’s popular largely because it’s only about 2 hours from San José, which is where the main airport is — Most tourists don’t want to drive like 5 hours over crappy roads to a beach. Also, Jacó has some cool places to hang out and the food I had there was pretty good. I recommend the Taco Bar if you’re ever there. And Tabacon was fun to play pool. And if you’re into the hooker scene, I was told that Beatle Bar is the place to be — I never went though as hookers aren’t my thing.
Anyway, Friday night was fine. We went out to sushi with my co-worker Sebastian, another co-worker named Thiago and his wife Maggie. They’re all nice and the sushi was pretty good, so that was fun. We didn’t do much else Friday night — little did I know that Saturday was going to be kind of crazy.
So Saturday morning I wake up and we go up to a community called Los Sueños. It’s like this private housing development with a golf course, hotel, restaurants, marina, etc. It would be pretty average in terms of luxuriousness in a place like California, but it’s very nice for Costa Rica. Anyway, I wanted to see it and potentially take some pictures for a website, but it turned out that was going to take way too long. It’s a big place and I didn’t want to waste 3-4 hours walking around. So we left Los Sueños and drove about an hour south to Manuel Antonio, which is one of the most visited areas in Costa Rica. It has a great beach and the town borders the Manuel Antonio National Park. I’m about to close (well, me and a small group of people) on an investment rental property in Manuel Antonio, so I stopped by to take some pictures, drop off some sheets and also just to see it furnished — I’d only seen the unit when it was empty. It looks great and I’m excited to be a future part-owner of it.
After stopping at the condo, Sebastian and I were going to drive down to the Manuel Antonio beach. It’s only like a five minute drive from the condo, so no big deal. Then, as we’re driving, Sebastian suddenly says “turn right here, there’s a great beach right down the road!”. He’s a surfer/bodyboarder and he spent a few years of his life living on the Costa Rican beaches looking for good spots, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. We drive down a small dirt/rock road and a few minutes later, we arrive at what seems like a great spot to hang out. It’s a much less crowded beach than Manuel Antonio, yet it looks like it’s pretty nice — it’s known as Playitas in case you’re ever around Manuel Antonio. I was definitely excited to get in the water and lay out in the sun for a bit. The one problem is the parking situation. I’ve sketched it out masterfully in Paint:
So the black lines are the road leading out to the beach and the red squares represent cars. The blue represents the water. It isn’t really drawn to scale, the water was actually not that close. There wasn’t any more room to park along the road, so people were parked just at the edge of the treeline on either side of the road exit. I was going to pull around as I’ve indicated in the black arrows to park. One problem. My car (a Mitsubishi Montero Sport) was not a fan of the sand. As I learned, it’s actually quite easy to get a car stuck in sand, especially a non-four wheel drive vehicle. I got stuck around where the black dot is. And when I say I got stuck, I mean it. At first the wheels were just spinning. Then as we tried to get the car out, it just got worse. Even though we tried to put wood and other stuff under the tires to help with traction, the car just wasn’t moving. I started to get a sick feeling that we were going to be there for AWHILE. Like at least a few hours.
After our first or second attempt at getting the car moving, I picked up my phone to call someone I know in Manuel Antonio to see if she knew how to get a tow truck. Phone didn’t work. Great. That meant I was going to have to find a phone or walk like 20 minutes up a rocky road to get back out to the main area. We tried a third time to get the car out, but that was it. At that point the rear tires were really dug in deep and there was no way that we would have ever gotten the car out without help. At this point, I heard some AMAZING words from an American guy who spotted our problem: “I think I know a guy with a 4×4 and a tow rope, let me go see if he’s around.” In my head, I was like PLEASE let this guy be here, I really don’t want to be stranded on the beach for hours trying to get towing help.
Five long minutes later, I see the guy walking back and a Toyota 4Runner behind him. I was beyond excited to see that car. I really can’t even describe how good a feeling it was. So this American guy named Martin gets out and he has a tow rope — plus his car is a big 4Runner with oversized tires. He hooks up the rope, I get into the car and he starts to try to pull my car back up onto the road. The first tug is a fail. The second tug is a fail too. So he gets out and he’s like “just so you know, I’m going to pull you kind of hard this time, okay?” I’m like “sure” but I’m just thinking “please work, please work, please work”. And lo-and-behold, on the third try he guns it and I slowly roll out of the small ditch that the rear tires had managed to dig for themselves. AMAZING feeling to get out of that and get the car rolling. I offered to take the guy out to lunch, but he said no, so I just thanked him a number of times and we were back on our way. At that point I was completely covered in sand from all of the digging and also pushing behind the car when Sebastian was at the wheel (rear tires throw up a lot of sand), so I was just in the mood to get back to the hotel, shower and sit by the pool. I didn’t want to see another beach that day.
So that was the first crazy thing. Then we went back to the hotel, went out to eat, played a bunch of pool (I won $10 in the pool session, yesssss), went to watch the UFC at Los Amigos (bar in Jacó), etc. Fun night, although that Anderson Silva fight was bullshit. I’m glad I didn’t pay for PPV on that card because I would have been pissed with a main event like that. Anyway, I got up early, Sebastian came over from his hotel (he stayed in “downtown” Jacó, I stayed just a bit outside of it) and we spent a little bit of time by the pool, then decided to go home. The plan was to make it back for the end of the early NFL games, which end around 2 PM local time (for another week, then it’s 3 PM).
The next crazy thing which, admittedly, is not really crazy, is that we got pulled over doing 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. I guess we were going 48 in a 36 for those in the states — or thereabouts those numbers. I’m not really sure why the speed limit is so absurdly low on the main road from the beach to San José, but I was speeding, so I guess I deserved to get pulled over. So yea, I get pulled over by a traffic cop. I only have my Georgia driver’s license with me. I know that I’m supposed to have my passport too, but I don’t have it because I actually gave it to someone else last week to get my Costa Rican driver’s license. Great timing, right? Anyway, he starts going on and on about this is a major problem and how he can seize the car, etc, etc. Of course, what he’s really looking for is a little, uhm…. societal lubricant? Also known as a bribe. Traffic cops don’t actually want to give you a ticket or do any of the stuff they threaten. They just want a little cash and to let you on your way. So eventually we reach an agreement with the guy and we get out of there. But that isn’t the end of the story.
The road from the city to the beach is, at some points, extremely hilly. You essentially have to cross a mountain range to get back and forth. There’s this area called “El Aguacate” (which, oddly enough, translates to “The Avocado” — go figure) which is basically just a super windy mountain road with enormous drop-offs and not too much room to pull over. You DON’T want to break down there. Especially because there’s little to no cell phone reception there. You could also be hit by a truck screaming around a corner — and believe me, some of the truckers in Costa Rica are borderline insane on that road. So we’re going up the hill and my car is struggling. There was a major problem with the transmission because it was having trouble shifting gears and it was really jerky whenever it did manage to shift. So I took it really easy and tried to avoid having the car shift gears at all. Thank god we made it over The Avocado.
But even after we got over that, we still had like 30-40 minutes until we were home. And now we were on a real highway. Just before I was about to get off the main highway to get onto another highway, the car shook for a second, then just kind of shuddered and died. I hit the gas. Nothing. I was just like “shit, this is NOT good.” Meanwhile we have cars screaming by us and there are people on the right trying to get onto the highway. I’m trying to avoid rear-ending someone while also avoiding hitting the brakes too much to the point where I’ll get stuck on the road and have to push the car off the road (you don’t want to be doing that in this spot, trust me). I barely managed to coast onto the shoulder and stop the car. The engine was smoking. We popped the hood, but it wasn’t like we had any idea what to look for. There was definitely something leaking out the bottom of the car, but I’m not sure what it was. Our best guess was transmission fluid, but who knows.
So here I am on the side of the road with a car that won’t move. I guess I could have been in El Aguacate, so it definitely could have been worse. I also could have gotten stuck in the middle of the road, which would have obviously sucked and it would have been extremely dangerous. I can’t even describe how unsafe I would feel if I had to push my car on that road … or even just wait around with it. Anyway, I managed to get ahold of some people and we got the car towed to the office. According to my cell phone logs, I first called someone at around 12:30 and we were back at the office at 2:00, so it wasn’t like we were on the side of the road for that long — although it definitely seemed like a long time.
So yea, that was my crazy weekend. Now I’m probably going to go looking for a better car for going out to the beach. I don’t think I received good advice on cars when I first got here — everyone said to get really cheap cars because you don’t want to be a target to be robbed. They also said that the roads will destroy a nice car and it’ll depreciate really quickly. Both of those points are correct, but they don’t tell the whole story. The problem is that cheap cars suck on those hills! It’s great to be avoid being a target and be financially responsible, but I’m not so sure you can accomplish both of those objectives and regularly go on beach trips. You need to spend more to get a strong car that’s newer and is able to handle big steep hills. Obviously I’m not going to go crazy and get a Range Rover Sport or something, but I really feel like my non-4×4 Montero Sport just isn’t cutting it for beach trips. It didn’t feel good on the trip to Puntarenas either and it has trouble passing cars while going uphill — which is a major annoyance when someone in front of you is crawling at like 15 mph up a long hill. I know, I know — I managed to get pulled over for speeding in it. But that was on a flat road, not a steep uphill. Anyway, I’d like to get something with more power and strength to get over the hills. Maybe a 4Runner, Pilot or Prado will be a better option for me. We’ll see, I plan on looking this week.
Hope you enjoyed the story — have a pleasant week!