Driving through the country is not a postcard. Most of the roads are unmarked and they all lead to San Jose. The problem is that no roads lead out of San Jose. Even if you try to leave on the street through which you entered, it will become a one way road (No hay paso) and the road running parallel to it turns out not be parallel after all.
San Jose itself has all of the drawbacks and almost none of the charms that other cities poses. The streets are narrow and unnamed. The pedestrians swarm across the roadways, or worse, walk along the edge of the road either due to lack of sidewalks or lack of desire to utilize them.
This is also true on the larger Routes through the country. A typical larger route, Ruta 27 for example, has 2 lanes divided by a yellow line. The yellow line marks the center of the roadway. It no in way means that each direction gets half of said road. It means that if you want to pass someone this is how far to one side of the car in front of you need to get to see if you can cut them off or if you will risk a head-on collision. From what I can tell, risking a head-on collision is just part of a normal day. There are slow lanes on the uphill sections of roads. These are to be considered good opportunities to pass on the right.
There are bus stops on all the major roads. People gather at these shelters to wait for the buses which crisscross the country or to sell fruit, or car parts, or pirated DVDs. People think nothing of walking along the edges of the roadway (which vary from about 3 feet wide to 6 feet wide). They walk their dogs, push their strollers, or watch their small children pick up rocks from the edge of the road.
The speed limit on large roads is 80kph maximo (about 50mph) and 40kph minimo (about 20mph). The fines for speeding can be as high as $500US. At least that’s what I’ve hear; I have no intention of testing this information. Effectively this means a trip that would take about an hour in the US takes about 1.5 to 2 hours in Costa Rica. Luckily, the scenery is amazing (except in San Jose).
It also seems to be mandatory that at least one in every 40 cars must be burning oil and on every road there must be no fewer than 5 turismos (tourist buses or vans) for every 100 cars. These must say TURISMO in funky writing reminiscent of the 1970s.
Have I mention the vacas (cows)? The hillsides are dotted with them. The cows here have perfected the art of the vertical ascent. They stand in defiance of gravity at impossible angles serenely gazing on the tufts of lush green grass. The chickens have not yet mastered this feat. They peck and run along the edges of every road. So far, none have attempted to end their lives under the wheels of the car, but I fear that it is just a matter of time.
Parking the car back at the rental house is no less of a challenge. The house is near the bottom of
Once that’s accomplished, we’re home. Alas, the house is a topic for another entry.
(Oh, and don’t worry. Photos will follow once we get better internet here.)