Welcome to part three, the final part, of our crazy adventure to get back to San Jose after Tropical Storm Nate. If you haven’t read the rest of the series you can start over at part one here.
We left off with us finding out about another possibly open route to San Jose.
As I said before, it was now dark outside. The road to this possible route was not well lit and curvy. It was scary in spots, but we drove slow and after about 25 minutes we made it to where this new route started. There were about ten cars in front of us, but the line was moving which we thought was a promising sign. Instead, when we eventually got to the front we realized there was a police officer directing people to turn on a side street to go back to where we had come from. Ughhh!
By this point, we were defeated. Getting back to San Jose after Tropical Storm Nate was becoming a real challenge. We knew we weren’t going to make it home that night and there weren’t any available hotels in the area. We tried to accept our fate of spending the night in the car and drove back to the main highway to spend the night on a lit street with a bunch of large trucks/ truckers who were also stranded.
My dad fell asleep quickly, after all, he had the entire back seat. Thomas and I tried to get comfortable in the front, but it wasn’t working. There was no way we were going to get much sleep.
After about an hour of us shifting in the front seats Thomas said, “Maybe we should just drive back to Puntarenas and find a hotel.” It would be a forty minute drive, but we decided it was worth it.
I started looking at Booking.com for available hotels. There were several options, but when I tried to call each place there was no answer. It was about 9:15pm at this point and most places had already shut down their front desk.
We decided to just drive anyway and see what we could find. Luckily Thomas also texted a friend who started calling places for us as I helped Thomas navigate and my dad snored in the back seat.
When we arrived in Puntarenas we tried four different hotels without luck. Everything was closed. As we started making our way out of Puntarenas with me about to cry and Thomas trying to keep it together from driving in circles all day, our friend called and said she found a place that was open and had a room for us. They would be waiting for us to arrive.
We were so relieved and thankful. We arrived at the hotel a few minutes later and were greeted by a nice guy who said, “It’s not a room we usually rent out because it is pretty basic, but it has enough beds for all of you. I hope it’s OK.” I would have been happy to sleep on a floor at this point, but instead, he brought us to a large minimal room with four beds. It was everything we needed right then and we were beyond thankful.
Before Thomas and I went to sleep I said, “I hope we get home tomorrow because dad’s flight is the next day.” Thomas answered, “It’s not looking good.”
After a night of deep sleep I woke up and checked my emails. I had a recent email saying my dad’s flight had been rescheduled for two days later. What a relief that was. At least if we didn’t make it home he wasn’t going to miss his flight.
We got some breakfast and tried to reevaluate our plans. It was then that our friend who found us the hotel called to say she found a route that was going to be opening within an hour.
We rushed to pack our stuff and left the hotel after thanking the workers at the hotel profusely for helping us out in a time of extreme need. We then drove back to Orotina, the hub of all stranded people, and began to make our way along the supposedly open route.
At this point, we had all learned not to trust anything. With each backup, we thought, “OK this is it. We are going to need to turn around. We are never going to make it back to San Jose after Tropical Storm Nate” but we didn’t turn around. We just kept driving and it was absolutely beautiful out.
After about three hours we saw the exit signs for San Jose. I don’t think we’ve ever been so happy to be almost home.
“I wonder what is waiting for us there. I hope our house didn’t flood and the trees stayed standing.” Thomas said as we turned on to our exit.
Ten minutes later we arrived home. The house wasn’t flooded, the trees were still standing, and a few hours later we were blessed with a beautiful sunset sky. Life was good.
We were the lucky ones though. Unfortunately, many people in the Costa Rica did not fare so well after the storm. Houses were lost. Families got stranded for weeks.
I wanted to share this story with you all to make you aware that sometimes things happen while traveling which you don’t expect. We learned from this experience to always have our phones charged (if you rent a car with Adobe using our 10% discount most cars have a USB input for your charger), always have a reliable GPS (we like Waze), and to always have minutes on your phone so you can get online. If your phone is unlocked for international use you can sign up for a prepaid Kolbi account at the airport and you can buy a top-up card at any mini market or grocery store throughout the country.
After our challenges of getting back to San Jose after Tropical Storm Nate, we realize the importance of knowing what to do during a natural disaster in Costa Rica, we have written a complete post dedicated to the topic. It will be coming out next Wednesday.
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