ONE NIGHT IN A CAR IN COSTA RICA
Stuck in the mud… our trip to Montezuma in Costa Rica
In the beginning of November BoB, Lars and Liane were looking forward to welcoming a visitor from Germany. It was Guido, Liane’s brother, who wanted to spend a two week holiday in this beautiful country. Of course, we wanted to spoil him during this time with a lot of adventures and Costa Rica was perfect for our plan.
To be more flexible, Guido had already organised a rental car in Germany, a four-wheel drive, because he found a good deal.
After a very long 30 hour trip from Hamburg in Germany to San José in Costa Rica, Liane’s brother was happy to finally arrive. On the first day we visited San José and showed Guido a bit around. We wanted to spend a relaxed day after his long travel. One day later Lars and Guido picked up our car at the Europcar rental office near the airport and we all were excited what car it will be. Liane was waiting for the two on the finca, preparing the backpacks for the trip.
The two arrived with a white, very new Toyota RAV4. The car looked so cool that we all couldn’t wait to start the engine
When everything was packed, we said goodbye to everybody on the finca and made our way to Montezuma in Costa Rica, a beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula.
The first few hundred kilometres were very relaxed. The streets were perfect and the landscape was beautiful. Then, at some point, our navigation system wanted us to leave the paved road. We all thought “Why not, we have a four-wheel drive . . . it’s made for these roads”. So we kept going and going and going. Slowly we left civilisation and drove higher and higher into the mountains. The road became rougher and narrower and suddenly there was even a tree lying on the road.
But over motivated as we were, we didn’t think about why there is a tree lying around and why nobody else has put it away already!? Maybe because no normal person would use this road!!??
But we four thought “That’s cool, that’s adventure . . let’s get out and pull the tree away!”. So we did and drove further. Of course, the tree was not the only barrier. We had to cross two small waterfalls and the rocks on the road became so big that we had to put the biggest to the side of the road. We were afraid that they could damage the underbody of the car. Then we reached the top of the mountain range and from there we had an amazing view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. . . somewhere above the clouds.
It was so nice and there, in the middle of nowhere, was a small house with a horse standing at the fence. This fact motivated us even more that we are safe and that we should go further. And for a short while the road became even better.
But then the road became worse again. Lars was driving and suddenly there was a steep part going down which was very muddy with deep ruts. We all hoped that we don’t get stuck cause we wouldn’t be able to get the car out. But what happened? Of course, the car startet to slip and we ended up in a rut. Luckily it wasn’t too deep so that, with a lot of power, we got out again and drove a bit further.
Dusk was already about to start and we had to make a decision: ‘do we try to go further or do we turn around?’. The next part of the road didn’t look much better so that we didn’t want to risk too much. After making this decision, we had another problem. . . how to turn around the car? The road was very narrow, with the wall of the mountain on one side and the mountain slope on the other side, which was some hundred of metres deep. Furthermore there was this problem with the deep ruts.
Then we remembered the small house with the horse. Maybe the guy who lives there can give us a spade or a lath to fill up the ruts so that we can reverse to a better spot. Lars and Liane decided to walk back to the house and BoB and Guido should look after the car.
The time passed and Liane and Lars walked and walked and walked. Meanwhile it was dark and we had to use our camping lamp. The road seemed endless and after every corner we expected to see the house but there was nothing, just darkness. When we saw the first eyes of animals reflecting in the darkness Lars realised, that we made a mistake. “Why did we give the pepper spray to Guido and BoB? They are much safer in the car than we both are, here, in the middle of the forest.”
We knew that there are jaguars in the area and this fact didn’t make us feel very comfortable. Liane asked Lars if he can carry a stick, so that we have something to use when an animals attacks us. We knew that this stick wouldn’t help a lot but our minds felt better
After almost one hour of walking trough the darkness we finally saw light shining through the window of the house. We knocked on the door and a woman looked out of the window. With hands and feet and with our dictionary we tried to expalin the situation and that we would need a spade. Then the woman talked to somebody inside, but we didn’t understand anything. We weren’t sure, if she understood our problem, but then her husband came out, already carrying a spade on his shoulders. He asked how far the car is from here and I said ‘around 50 minutes’. He hoped it was closer but he decided to come with us. So we walked back all the way and we tried to explain to him what the situation was and that we have to turn the car, so that we can drive back the same way we came.
We came closer to the spot were the car was, but suddenly the light of the car headlights showed into our direction, which confused us a lot. Then Guido told us, that he and BoB couldn’t sit and wait. Somehow they could turn the car around and drive back. However, just a few metres further they came to the steep and clammy part where Lars already slipped in with the car. With a lot of power Guido and BoB tried to get to the top, but it was too muddy and steep and the car slided down the hill like a toy. And for the second time we were stuck in the same rut. But this time we could do what we wanted. The car didn’t move.
Lars, Guido and the farmer tried to free the tires from the mud but nothing helped. We put rocks and branches under the tires but also this didn’t help. After a while the farmer had a closer look under the car and he saw that the underbody was lying on the ground and the tires had no contact with the ground. The three guys started to free the whole underbody from the mud. As the ground was a clammy but hard loamy soil, it was hard to move the soil. It took forever until there was space again between the car and the ground.
Guido then pressed the accelerator pedal down and drove up the hill like crazy. But he made it and we all couldn’t believe it. We also could hardly believe that there was hardly any demage on the car.
We all drove to the farmers house and then the farmer explained to us that this road can be easily used during summer time, but during the rain season it’s too wet and muddy. We should have known that before!!!
As we didn’t want to go back the whole way at night, we asked the farmer if it’s okay to sleep in the car in front of his house. He said ‘yes’ and so we ‘prepared’ our ‘beds’ for the night.
Guido slept in the front seats and Liane and Lars were on the back seats. Although it was a big car, it was very uncomfortable. But after this adventure everybody was just happy to be out of the mud. We put up our mosquito net above our heads so that we could leave the windows open and everybody tried to get at least a bit of sleep.
BoB was sitting outside the whole night to protect the car and us from animals.
As soon as the sun rose, we were all awake. We started the engine and drove the same way back that we used the day before. And when we passed the parts with the big rocks, the waterfalls and the tree, we couldn’t believe how stupid we were that we didn’t turn around much earlier. Probably we all were too enthusiastic.
Okay, if you want to rent a car in Costa Rica, there are a couple of things to consider. The most important thing is to rent a four wheel drive. Actually, it doesn’t matter in which country in Central or South America you are, everywhere the streets can be super muddy, rocky, and steep. Also, it is normally cheaper when you rent the car in advance in your home country.
Before you get your car, make sure you know some local regulations (how fast can I drive etc.) and have always money close to you because of the toll fees. Also, drive carefully! If you have a big truck in front of you on a small street, don’t try to overtake! Some people in these countries buy their licence and never had driving lessons or tests. They drive like crazy and very often without light at night (we were told that they want to save fuel ;). But overall we can say, that driving in Costa Rica is safe and of course, it is good to be so flexible if you want to see as much as possible in a short time. Within two weeks you can explore almost whole Costa Rica.