We needed a vacation from our vacation.
We had bungee jumped off a tram into a mountainous green valley. We had partied in the ocean under a thousand fireworks on Jacó Beach for New Years. We had gone white water rafting through through rapids in Central America. And we had topped it off by rappelling down waterfalls.
Our vacation had been intense. We were all exhausted, and Mike was probably borderline dying. Yes. We needed a break. And that’s why we were excited to head to Manuel Antonio, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. It would be nice to take a break from our adventurous activities and just relax somewhere nice for a few days.
However, we didn’t anticipate the adventure we would have getting to our “Vacation from our Vacation”. It looked like a simple drive on Google Maps, but it proved to be anything but. All of our journeys between destinations had seemed to take us down harrowing roads along winding mountains, but this one was the most treacherous yet. The higher we ascended into the mountains, the more hazardous the drive became. As we reached the top of the mountain, the solid road had deteriorated into a single lane dirt path. If we encountered any oncoming traffic, there would be no room for us to pass each other without driving off the edge of a cliff.
Mike was still sick, so Omnia had been driving, and doing a good job. But she was horrified at the very real possibility that we may go off a cliff on these questionable mountain roads. We decided that if we did die, they would have to make a movie about our vacation, and we began debating which actors would play each of us in our movie.
As we continued to try and distract ourselves, the road became thinner and curvier. Eventually we came upon a very steep climb that Omnia did not feel secure trying to drive up. Mike was becoming semi-functional at this point, and as he tried to switch places with Omnia, Brian and I jumped out of the back of the car, fully prepared to watch it go rolling backwards off the edge of the cliff.
It didn’t, however. Soon we were continuing down the road. As we got higher and higher into the mountains, we got more nervous. We were at level with the clouds now. They floated peacefully alongside us beyond the edge of the cliffs. And then they consumed us, obscuring us in a deep and dangerous fog. We lost cell reception and then our google maps stopped working. There was only one long road, so we didn’t have to worry too much about losing our directions. But if we got stuck on this mountain or had some sort of accident, there would be no way to get help. We hadn’t seen any sign of civilization on this empty mountain in hours.
It was gradually getting dark too. On all our other trips, we had lucked out and managed to get to our destination before sunset. But this time, it didn’t look like we would make it. Even in daylight, this route was much more treacherous than any other road we had taken. We had to get off this mountain before dusk.
The clouds turned very dark and ominous. Mist began to settle all around us. Mike was worried that it might start to rain. If this dirt road turned into mud, the car could easily get stuck up here. Even if it didn’t get stuck, these roads were too dangerous to navigate in the dark if they became mud. It would be very easy to lose traction and go careening off the side of a cliff. Plus at any time, if another car came down the road towards us on this single lane path, there would be nothing we could do to pass each other. And we still had no cell phone reception.
This continued for hours. The winding mountain road seemed endless. There were almost no signs of life up here. Mike was doing a good job navigating us through the deadly winding roads, but it was pitch black and terrifying. Our nerves were on edge.
Slowly, oh so slowly, the clouds seemed to rise higher and higher above us. We were still lost in the mountains, but we were no longer at such dizzying peaks. The beautiful but terrifying mountain views were happening less often. Gradually more trees began to appear, and slowly the mountainous cliffs were replaced with jungle. The road was still mostly empty, but it began to grow wider. Our phones started to get more consistent reception now. If there was an emergency, we wouldn’t be completely helpless. We had been very lucky that it didn’t start raining while we were up there.
It took a long time, but the mountains were completely replaced by jungle. Our Google Maps were working again and our destination seemed within reach. We were all so stressed out that all we cared about was being safe in our hotel in Manuel Antonio. But man, that jungle seemed to last forever. Soon the jungles slowly started to clear, and the roads became straight and solid. The trees slowly began to part. Even when we were finally out of the jungle, none of us wanted to breathe until we were finally at our destination.
We all celebrated when Mike finally drove us to the parking lot of our hotel, hours later. Despite being sick, Mike had done an amazing job getting us safely through those mountains. Without him, we would probably still be stuck there. We all gave him big hugs once we got out of the car.
Brian and I checked into the hotel. There was a terrifyingly shrewd Chinese woman who was running the hotel. She spoke fluent Spanish and English, and would occasionally stop speaking with us to yell at one of her employees.
I have never felt as relieved as I did when we checked into that hotel. We promised ourselves that we would no longer blindly follow Google Maps. It had a tendency to find the “shortest” route, but wouldn’t account for how slow and dangerous the mountain roads were. We wouldn’t make that mistake again….
Mike was still sick and he needed to rest after that stressful excursion, so we let him relax in the room. Omnia, Brian, and I went to explore the town a bit. We could hear the beach, but couldn’t quite find it. We walked through a large dark field when Brian suddenly yelled out with a start. A couple of wild horses had just run past us in the dark and we had no idea they had even been there. Ah, Costa Rica.
We didn’t have to spend a long time exploring. We quickly found a great restaurant with amazing food. Brian made friends with people instantly. This town had an awesome atmosphere. As we sat down at the outdoor area of the restaurant enjoying our dinner, we could hear the sound of ocean waves crashing against the shore. I knew the beach was close, but it was too dark to find it. I couldn’t wait to explore this place in the daylight.