As Erica and I stepped off of the jetway and onto solid ground, the first wave of nausea subsided. By the time we were shuttled to the rental car company (only five minutes from the terminal), the rumblings in my stomach were long gone and replaced by anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. Day one in Costa Rica was just getting under way.
We left Poas Rent-A-Car at around 7:30AM in a 2WD Peugeot 206 instead of the 4WD Daihatsu Bego that we had reserved. As a result of slight miscommunication, I was now driving a manual 5-speed about the size of a thimble. Have I mentioned that many of the roads in Costa Rica can be less than ideal to navigate if you’re not an expert at driving a stick (e.g. extremely steep grades, hairpin turns, non-existent guard rails, potholes the size of Poas Crater, motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic, bumper to bumper traffic in the major cities, etc.)?! That being said, most of the roads connecting the main tourist areas are constantly being improved and it is fairly easy to find your way around this magnificent, little country. As you’ve probably guessed, I was a nervous wreck as I pulled out of the rental car parking lot and into the morning rush hour traffic. On our way out of Alajuela, I stalled the toy car probably a half-dozen times and almost rolled backwards into two city buses.
We were on the road for only about 15 minutes before the busy cityscape was replaced by small dairy farms and massive coffee plantations that looked like a patchwork quilt on the rolling landscape. We quickly ascended out of the Central Valley on a two lane road that meanders back and forth through the verdant countryside. The hustle and bustle of San Jose and Alajuela was shrinking in the rearview mirror. Women and children walked along the side of the road, enjoying each other’s company and the fresh air. We passed tiny, laid back communities that consisted of not much more than a school, a store, and the local soda (a small restaurant with a typical Costa Rican menu and affordable prices). After a near sleepless night, we were on our way to get some good ol’ fashioned Costa Rican caffeine.