This is part two of a three-part story of our experience in Costa Rica during Tropical Storm Nate. You should probably start over at part one to get the whole dealio.
We left off with us on the ferry head towards Puntarenas thinking we’d be safely home within a few hours.
After a 70-minute ferry ride, we arrived at gray Puntarenas. There were a few cruise boats anchored in the harbor and I couldn’t help but feel terrible for any person on those boats who thought they were in for a magical cruise to Costa Rica and instead were greeted by a tropical storm and a disgusting gray harbor. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Costa Rica, Puntarenas is like the Newark of Costa Rica. AKA it pretty much sucks. I know, I know, Newark is looking better these days. That’s not the point.
Anyway, back on the topic of Costa Rica during Tropical Storm Nate. We hopped back in our car with Thomas driving, me in the passenger’s seat, and my dad chilling in the back and made our getaway from Puntarenas. We planned on taking our normal route home and taking route 27 (the big highway) all the way back to San Jose. When we entered route 27 it was clear that something wasn’t right. This highway is usually full of cars. Instead, it was completely empty. As in, I could have gotten out of the car and walked down the road. That’s how empty it was.
We made it almost to a town called Orotina and then we hit complete standstill traffic. After waiting for about 15 minutes and not moving at all we took out our phones and started doing some research. It turned out that the road was completely blocked up ahead due to a landslide.
Luckily we were in a spot in which we were able to turn around. We drove into the town of Orotina and reassessed our situation. There were plenty of alternative routes, we just had to find one which worked for us. We decided to head from Orotina on route 3 towards San Jose. We could potentially take this route the whole back into the city, but if possible we could also cut back on to route 27 if we passed the blocked area.
Turing onto route 3 was when we first started to realize the magnitude of what was going on. We drove slow and luckily I had Waze on my phone.
Waze was great because not only is it wonderful for directions but people can also mark when there are things blocking the road. Thanks to Waze I was able to give Thomas plenty of warning before we would come upon fallen trees. If they had not already been marked, I marked them on Waze to help out other people driving the same route. No, this isn’t sponsored by them. I’m just fangirling.
During our drive on route 3, we saw downed telephone wires, fallen trees, landslides, and flooding. It was scary, but we drove for about 45 minutes before we were unable to make it any further. We reached an area of the road which was blocked off by caution tape and men in construction hate. We were the second car in line at the blocked road, meaning they had either literally just decided to block off this road or everyone else had turned around.
There was a road crew with two large dump trucks that were driving in and out of the blocked area with full loads of dirt and routes. We decided to wait it out in this spot and see if the road would eventually open up. The road crew seemed optimistic that they would get it cleared, we had plenty of snacks, and really we didn’t have any other options at this point.
It was 2pm when we decided to sit in our car and wait out the road clearing. Slowly cars starting building up behind us. Many people got out of their cars to hang out outside and check out the local bar next to us. We pretty much stayed in the car except for a few bathroom breaks and buying a few more snacks at the small store.
We sat in the same spot and watched the road crew continue to come in and out of the blocked area until exactly 5pm. At 5pm the road crew announced that they were not cleared for overtime so they were all going home. Yeap, welcome to Costa Rica guys! You have hundreds of people stranded, but overtime wasn’t approved. Yeay! It was at this point everyone had a collective look of pure confusion. Now what?
A confused traveler approached our car asking what to do. I felt so bad because it was then that I realized that although I was stranded, we were at least familiar with this country. There were hundreds of travelers out there who were also stranded in Costa Rica during Tropical Storm Nate who had no idea what to do.
We decided to turn back and head into Orotina and regroup from there. As we began our drive back a nice man in a pickup truck told us that too many large trucks had built up and the road was completely blocked. We would have to take a different route back to Orotina and to follow him.
I have no idea where we went. Even looking now at a map I can’t figure it out, but we somehow ended up in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods I’ve ever seen in Costa Rica. I’m sorry, I was too stressed at that point to think to take pictures of the pretty area.
We made it back into Orotina and started asking at hotels if they had any space for three people. Everything was booked out because everyone was in the same situation as us. It was the most action little Orotina has probably ever seen. It was then that we resolved ourselves to our fate of spending the night in the car.
We stopped at a grocery store and bought some sandwich stuff for dinner and tried to figure out where we would spend the night.
A friend then called us with another route which appeared to be open. It was a last-ditch effort, we were all exhausted, and it was starting to get dark out, but we knew we had to try it.
Stay tuned for part three of our story of Costa Rica during Tropical Storm Nate coming out next Wednesday which involves, sleeping in cars, late night drives to Puntarenas, flight problems, and what was waiting for us when we finally got home.
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