A Turtles Pace, Part I
“Can you drive us for a school field trip to see the turtles?” ” Sure, that would be great, we’ll make a family day of it”
That’s how it began, a simple conversation between father and child. In Costa Rica nothing is ever simple. You see the turtles have seasons here, there is a season when they lay their eggs, and a season when the eggs hatch. We were hoping to catch the season of hatching. The plan, a school caravan of 5 cars heading south to Ostional to watch turtles. The reality, the drive was the adventure.
Upon loading up at the school we embarked on our journey, our minivan full sans one seat. Remember this is not the Godfrey van of Alaska, the V8 4X4 with 20 inches of clearance. Nay, this is the 4 cylinder rear wheel drive Hyundai with 2 inches of clearance. Great for running loads of kids around town, not so great for jungle treks.
We knew we had to pass through Avellenas, which is a bit of a pot holed dirt road, a slow but steady road with one way bridges and pot holes big enough to swallow a Yugo. A bumpy 30 minute trip, but passable, even for the G-van. However, we did not know it would get much trickier once we got past Avellenas. The roads quickly became muddier, slippier, pot holier, and simply not fun. I was very happy that I had got the G-van washed the day prior. Things got worse when 20 minutes past Avellenas Luka, a student, informed our lead driver of a “short cut”. I thought we were already on the short cut. One swift left turn and we were driving on what would barely pass for an ATV trail back in AK. It was one of those trails where the grass grows in the middle of the dirt road, and there are grooves on either side. Onward we pressed, me dodging trenches, gorges and boulders. Tracy holding her breath and saying “this isn’t right, this isn’t right!”. She was right. Just then the 4X4 truck in front of us plowed across the river dividing the road and scurried up the muddy slope on the other side. It reminded me of a Chevy truck commercial shot in slow motion with a giant V8 dually. However, I told myself we could do it. Shoot his front tires only disappeared for a couple of seconds, and he didn’t look like he was sinking. I hit the gas hard, not intending to lay off until we were safely up the slope 80 feet away. I stayed on the gas through spray of the river that engulfed our van,through the rise of steam smoldering us and through the screaming kids and praying wife. I even stayed on it when I felt the wheels gently lift from the bottom of the riverbed just for a second there on the opposite bank.
Alas, with a little spinning we made it up the other side, and I think I let a breath out that I had been holding. No big deal. However, just a 100 yards up the trail we ran into a mud bog that would cause Big Foot the monster truck to pause in his tracks. The red tail lights in front of us glared on, and I knew we had met our match. It was time to turn around. A feat which resulted in me dislocating my brand new front plate, and back bumper during my 16 point turn. Joy, for a 3 month old car. With much maneuvering we were able to turn around and found the better “road”. It was about 30% better. But at least it had bridges, though they were all single lane. And its potholes were about smaller, but could still hide a full-grown gator.
Eventually, after a half-dozen one way bridges, hundreds of muddy water filled jaw jarring pot holes and what seemed like 10 hours we arrived at Ostional, eager to see the thousands upon thousands of turtles. The journey was long, treacherous, dangerous, muddy, painful and stressful. When I finally put the car into park, I felt the muscles in my shoulders and back release, having been fully tensed for the last two hours. I have been on many 18 hour drives that offered 1/10th the excitement and stress, and much more pavement, but the payoff was promising, little baby turtles.
To be continued………