It is my first trip and I’ve decided to attempt to visit some friends of friends, Steve Kathy, whom I had never met but from the emails we’ve exchanged I can tell they’re good people.

They have a house way in the south of Costa Rica almost to the Panama border in a place called Zancudo (that translates to mosquito, hmmmm). I’m in Jaco, which is on the Pacific coast in about the middle of the country if you look at a map.

A river crossing on a ferry Costa Rica

Now, C.R. is not a very big country. It’s about the size of West Virginia and Zancudo looks to me like it would be about a 4 hour drive, even calculating for the dirt roads. Kathy had sent me a detailed, hand drawn, map of how to get to their place, which included a river crossing on a ferry.

Didn’t look too hard to me. Well, after I had traveled more than 4 hours down the road, and was no where near Zancudo and realize I need to look more closely at the map. So I reach in my back pocket only to discover that I had left it my hotel room!
Me with my waitress where I had lunch on the way to Zancudo

The good news is I had rented a cell phone with the car (which I’ve done every trip since then because I’ve found they come in real handy). I called the number I had for them and they weren’t home but whoever answered the phone found someone who speaks English to talk to me.

Small world, turns out it’s the son of my neighbor across the street from John’s house (but I didn’t live there then so I didn’t know).

Anyway, the guy say’s turn here turn there you’ll go up a hill down the hill go slow down the hill otherwise you’ll miss the left you have to take near the bottom of the hill.

The left takes you to the ferry. Well… there’s a bunch of up the hills down the hills and a couple of them have a left near the bottom.
My friends Steve and Kathy’s store and gas station in Zancudo

But I come to a left that has a structure (I found out later it was the bar/restaurant Kathy had mentioned in her map but I had forgotten that little detail, furthermore, what the Costa Ricans call “home” can look like an abandoned building like this one) but this left looked more well traveled than the others so I figured I’d give it a shot. Whoopee!! About 10 minutes later I came to the ferry!

Now then, remember, this is C.R., the country that is just pulling itself out of the 3rd world, so I watch it make the crossing with some other cars on it to make sure it won’t sink. Then I realize that the guy who gave me the directions didn’t say where to go from the other side of the river.

It’s good he didn’t because if he had I probably would have said nuts on it because it was such a series of turns that even after I arrived at their place I wasn’t sure I could get back to the river.

Then it hit me that since the guy hadn’t said where to go from the other side, I’m standing there and probably looking like a stupid lost Gringo because this Tico comes up to me and starts talking.

Since this is my first trip my Spanish is almost zero, it’s about noon, and this guy is so shit faced drunk he practically knocks me over with his breath.

But he keeps saying “Zancudo” and I finally figure out he wants a ride to Zancudo. I’m saved!

I load him into the car, put it on the ferry, and we’re off! A series of left’s and rights later we come to a “T” intersection and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a couple of cops there indicating I should stop. Now mind you, we’re out in the middle of nowhere on rough dirt roads and I haven’t passed another car so what the hell are these cops doing?

It turns out that it’s “Semana Santa” (Saints Week, coincides with Easter Week) and it’s illegal to have booze in the car or something, never did quite figure it out. Anyway, they want to see my passport and all I have with me is a copy of it (which is legally accepted in the country now but wasn’t then).

Well, after awhile I guess they got frustrated trying to explain whatever they were trying to explain to this stupid Gringo who is obviously not intoxicated and they didn’t seem to be concerned that the passenger was, so they asked me where I was going. I said Zancudo.

They said turn right. The drunk said go straight. I turned right, which turned out to be a short cut (they were both correct) but it took me to a rickety looking wood bridge that I wasn’t sure would hold the car plus wasn’t sure I could keep the wheels on the 2 wood rails (not much in the middle and nothing on the sides).

But since I’d made it that far and didn’t get hauled off for not having my passport and had the good fortune of meeting someone to guide me to Zancudo I figured luck was with me and went for it. Made it! As a matter of fact it gave me such confidence I re-crossed it on my way back out of there later. Besides, I didn’t want to risk trying a new way out because I didn’t have the drunk to guide me.
$15 per night (did not include the girl)

So we got to Zancudo, I bought my guide a 6 pack (he was happy), found Steve and Kathy, had a great time, a good dinner at the only restaurant in town (if you could call it a “town”) and slept in the local cheap hotel ($15/night, which is another story for later).
Part One of the “Costa Rica On The Cusp” Series

By Gary Davis Please Recommend This!

See The Introduction to The “Costa Rica on The Cusp” Series Here