The smells of perfectly seasoned Gallo Pinto, tiny monkeys, juicy coconuts, overpriced groceries, and salt-coated humidity hit my mind’s nose before I stepped out of the airport. We had arrived, and we had survived. First step of international travel with baby complete, and I didn’t even look like a frazzled sleep-deprived lunatic, not entirely.
We snaked through the peace of cake, stamp-and-go, immigration line, and found our luggage carousel. Miraculously, our heaping pile of luggage made it, complete with three unbroken and un-stolen surfboards.
We put some minutes on an old smart phone, because Heaven forbid we should spend a moment unconnected from ‘digi-world,’ and we really needed a GPS. Apparently Costa Rica has an aversion to road signs, and road names, and I’m ‘old school map’ inept.
We were escorted to our car rental shuttle and our luggage was loaded by a super-human, super-friendly, driver who was able to fit our two months supply of stuff into the available nooks and crannies of the van; and we were off!
Life was good, traveling was easy, and nothing could go wrong…. And then, the car rental debacle of 2014 occurred. We entered the car rental office with the “Beware of car rental scams” warning, from my cousin’s Costa-Rican-Expert wife, quietly echoing in the back of my mind. The jovial staff were happy to quickly compile the necessary paperwork and signatures, and would answer, “Yes, yes, yes, sure, sure, sure,” to every question.
Me: “Where is your bathroom?”
Them: “Yes, yes, yes, sure, sure, sure.”
All was going well, a little too well. Then, they asked the question, ‘how will you be insuring your two rentals?’
Me: “Well sir, if you look right here, on my handy rental agreement confirmation email, we’ve already purchased the $100 liability insurance for each vehicle.”
The Annoying Guy: (With infuriating smirk) “No, no, no, ma’am, you need much more protection than that for the vehicles.”
The gist was, we would need “much more,” insurance if we wanted to avoid purchasing the vehicles, if they received so much as a nasty glance from an oncoming vehicle.
The Annoying Guy: “We can offer you a very fair and thorough insurance package. $100 each day for full-insurance.”
Me (and my ultra-annoyed father): “What?! $100 per day to insurance the cars?!”
The Annoying Guy: “No, no, no, $100 per car, per day.”
Us: (On the floor, floored by this absurdity) “No f-ing way are we paying you $2,000 to insure these cars for ten days, we’d rather walk the trip.”
But, we had a baby, and a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff. A bus? We have a baby, and a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff.
As we fumed outside the office, trying the figure out what we were going to do, a kind fellow traveler, obviously well traveled and well versed in the ways of the ‘scam laden Costa Rican car rental agencies,’ quietly gave us the golden nugget travel tip that our credit card company would cover any damage done to the vehicles. The gist, the exhorbinantly scammy insurance offered by The Annoying Guy was unnecessary. My father’s ears perked up, but his need to ‘hear it straight from the horse’s mouth,’ (or the credit card rep’s mouth,) caused him to spend an hour, (and half of our cell phone minutes,) calling various branches of his credit card company, until he was 175% certain that our tushies were covered, in the event of our vehicle’s tushy being tapped.
After much effort, some expletives, and a few tears (from the baby…and myself,) he received his confirmation, marched back into the rental office, and triumphantly turned down their scam-surance.
After preventing them from gutting us of all our cash-ola before the trip even began, we were on our way.
After a whopping ten minutes of driving (we had about 180 minutes to go,) we made our first stop, a huge box store of course. Purchases? Beer, wine, coffee, and fabric softener (that was supposed to be laundry detergent; it had a picture of a clean clothed happy baby on the front, and there were bubbles!) Yes, there were stores in the Timbuktu of Costa Rica we were traveling to, but the tales of large and looming price tags frightened us. After painstakingly preventing the car rental agency from emptying out pocket book, we had no desire to break the bank in our pursuit of a light caffeine and/or alcohol buzz.
We wiggled our way through the lush Costa Rican countryside, eyes peeled for monkeys, or other brag worthy tropical creatures. Hudson hung in there for about an hour and an half before he was thoroughly fed up with being strapped into his cushioned seat.
We pulled up to a bridge that had a gaggle of tourists excitingly pointing over the edge; this has to be good, perfect timing Hudson. We parked the cars, removed the wailing baby, and walked the quarter of a mile back to the excited pointers. I looked down and immediately wished my baby, hanging on my hip, was securely fastened onto my chest with the Ergs-a-Baby; there were about 40 human eating crocodiles lounging on the sandy river banks below us. They were humongous, and likely hungry. The guardrail only went up to my waist; we weren’t in the paranoid, highly regulated, United States of ‘Oh Be Careful’ anymore. My grip on Hudson immediately tightened to the point of discomfort, and I stared in awe at these powerful creatures. A local, let us in on the fact that other locals, regularly lowered chickens down on a rope for the awaiting chompers, to ensure they’re never tempted to roam away.
I’m fairly sure I saw the croc that gobbled up Captain Hook. After staring in terrified fascination for half an hour we made the tedious walk back to the cars, eyes peeled for any crocs that dared wander away from their murky flowing home.
Next stop Dominical? Yes, after about 15 pee stops. My bladder was never the same after it shared its’ space with a baby.
Pulling into Dominical allowed us to finally feel like “we had arrived,” we were officially on vacation. We bee-lined it to the beach, and the awaiting sunset, and stepped into Eden. The long glistening beach was glowing with the bright pink light the sunset was projecting. The warm waves also glowed pink as we dipped our bodies into pure ‘yes.’ The sunset didn’t take my breath away, it gave me my breath back.
‘I would like to float in this cotton-candy water forever, please’; well, at least until my grumbling belly pulled me out and over to the beachside cantina. You can only go so long on tiny bags of nuts, power bars, and mystery food scraps found in baby’s car seat.
After stuffing our faces full of fish, mashed up carbs, and a margarita, or two, we moseyed back to our ‘cabina’ and fell into a deep real sleep, with the sounds of vacation reverberating around us.