Tyres and Teeth

A garage in Costa Rica

I could not celebrate Costa Rica week here on Taraji Blue withour re-sharing this blog post. First written and shared back in May 2011 it’s a tale of pure stupidity, naivety and sheer determination… and it is one of my favourites…

Well I never knew there was any such place where one could have their tyres repaired and their teeth whitened in Costa Rica – less so did I ever imagine we’d end up there! This is a tale of jeopardy, bad luck and pure stupidity.

Lets start with the stupidity….in one of the most remote places in Costa Rica,  30k from the nearest village, we parked our car for three nights whilst we took a boat to Tortuguero and promptly but accidentally left the lights on. On our return the battery was inevitably dead. Thus followed 2 hours of phone calls and negotiation with local farm workers and coach drivers to procure the necessary battery, spanner and jump leads.  We tried the jump leads first, but the battery was too dead to respond, we so watched as the last tourists departed the car park and drove off into the distance. In very broken Spanish, and using a free Daily Mail Spanish guide, we half explained our predicament to locals with lots of pointing, arm waving, noise mimickery and gesticulation. This, and the charms of a local woman, persuaded one begrudged boyfriend to return to his boat and lend us his battery to trick the car into starting. With lots of pouting and huffing, we got the battery started, showering praise, money and thanks on the locals who helped.

Now for the bad luck…Almost three hours later we were well on our way, daring not to stop, switch the engine off or use air con for fear of draining the charging battery. We bounced along the dust track, eager to make up up lost time with a long journey ahead. Not having the required tools to tighten the battery bolts to the car, every bounce, bump and necessary serve lurched my heart back into my mouth in fear of the battery bouncing loose of its connections, rendering us back to square one.

After a brief pause to lift the bonnet and check the battery was ok, we continued on our way and made it 2.5 hours later to the town of Guapiles. We were feeling much better in ourselves, and had started to enjoy the attention from the locals who, for the last half hour, had been running alongside the vehicle, shouting and waving. We’d assumed this was curiosity and waved back, smiling. It was not until we pulled up at the lights in Guapiles that a local shouted to us in English that we had a puncture. I cannot repeat what language I bestowed on our car, but suffice to say it was far from complimentary. We were quite literally now at the end of the road and as far as we could go without switching the engine off. We turned around and made our way back to the many garages lining the road between Guapiles and Cariari, opting, in our haze, to choose one that specialised in tyres and dentistry! Having little option, and enjoying the quirkiness of the situation, we pulled in, dragged out our Daily Mail Spanish Language guide from the glove box and tried to explain our predicament. Within two minutes the car was ramped, and in another 5, the tyre fixed and replaced – all for the bargain price of ¬£1.00. It did make me wonder whether their dentistry was of an equivalent price range and quality and I was almost tempted to try the whitening. Alas, time was of the essence and we’d lost about 4 hours by this point and faced the danger of travelling on mountainous roads in the pitch black – a big no, no. So onwards we pressed…

Into jeopardy i.e right into rush hour in San Jose. 1 hour spent in traffic, going no-where with nothing to do but helplessly watch the sun descend behind the mountainous horizon. We were now approximately 5 hours behind schedule and facing the prospect of driving toward Arenal Volcano in the dead of night.

Escaping the traffic, we eventually headed onto the Pan American highway and put our foot down, eager to make up the miles. This is easier said than done because we faced two new obstacles…..a rapidly emptying petrol tank and locals wandering the roads with no illumination what so ever. I felt like a blind man trying to dodge bullets.  I quickly turned the sat nav’s attention to local petrol stations, all of which seemed to be on the opposite side of an impassable road, or taking us way off track. We therefore settled for one in a local town off Highway 1, which the sat nav said was 1.7k away. This is where and how my respect for sat nav’s ended. It either recognised the day we’d had and wanted to inject some false hope into a futile situation or it downright lied to add fuel to the fire. 40 minutes later, with the engine coughing on sand, we were high in the hills surrounding Highway 1, on roads with perilous turns, severe drops and no signage, facing local drivers who were using the roads as a rally track with no regard for lost, angry and defeated tourists. It was the type of road we’d avoid in the daytime, never mind at 7pm at night. We had little option than to keep going, pulses racing, tears forming and hope sinking to new levels.

We eventually made it into a town and were directed round and round one way systems looking for a petrol station that did not seem to exist. At this point the sat nav proudly announced we’d arrived at our destination – it’d sent us to a bus station!  Dejected and patience at an all time low, we asked the locals for help, and were sent bouncing and stuttering into the next village where, to our immense relief we found a petrol station which was open. We were now at least 6 hours behind schedule and had taken a significant de-tour off track to get to the petrol station.

We did eventually reach our destination late that night, but were many hours later than expected and shattered and weakened from the journey. Thankfully, the owner of the accommodation had waited up for us and would honour our late arrival with a cold beer and soft bed.

It’s a day and a journey we can now look back on and laugh at. We can also learn from it, but will hopefully never have to repeat it!

Additional adventures from our time in Costa Rica are available in our Costa Rican travel blog. We also have an online Costa Rican photo gallery.

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