The Long Roads Back

My stomach was a knot of nerves as we disembarked from the plane in San Jose.

I had positive vibes about the house we hadn’t seen and the car we hadn’t driven and the school we almost blindly chose for Camille. My nagging worry came from the concern that things in Costa Rica might have changed. That in two short years the place that was at once so comfortable but immeasurably different from home would be utterly unrecognizable. Perhaps it would somehow be more exotic and difficult than when we last visited. Or what if it had morphed into a suburban mirror of our Savannah existence?

My fears evaporated as we walked out of the airport into the familiar scene of taxi drivers, tour operators and opportunity-makers shouting and waving signs in the warm afternoon air. Throughout the long drive to the Pacific Coast, I recognized landmark after landmark, happily growing in confidence that the landscape hadn’t developed at an uncomfortable pace. As an added bonus, the cows still walk the highway, blissfully unaware that any minute they could be turned into roadside hamburguesas.


On our first few jaunts around Nosara, we giddily relied on “Samantha” the beaming voice of our GPS, freshly updated with over 58,000 Costa Rican points of interest. She was nothing short of a life saver on our last visit as the concept of street addresses hasn’t made its way to Costa Rica. Many of the roads don’t have names and the vast majority of the houses don’t have numbers. Our home lies in a planned development and has a lot identifier; but no one really recognizes that when we describe the house. They want landmarks.

You always start with the main road, Highway 160. In our area, it’s mostly gravel and dirt, loosely compacted into a dusty thoroughfare of bandana-shrouded motorcyclists and four wheel drives with the occasional semi-truck or passenger bus thrown in for a dash of danger and excitement. Our street is an easterly turn halfway up what the gringos call Washboard Hill. There are no signs for Washboard Hill. It’s a small section of the highway, yet everyone somehow knows what this means. Then, we’re 300 meters past the cell tower. More often than not, we just say Las Huacas and get a knowing nod. That’s how we give directions.

Over the last few days, we’ve been venturing out without Samantha’s help. We’ve quickly learned the two ways to get to Camille’s school and the two ways to get to “town,” a loose collection of restaurants, a grocery store, post office and air strip.

Despite only a handful of trips to Nosara during our initial visit I still remember the routes to Playa Pelada and Playa Guiones (two of our favorite beaches), and Marlin Bill’s restaurant, home to a single glorious tap of Libertas golden ale.


We even made our way back up the coast to our old stomping grounds, the fairy-tale, secluded beach of Tree Tops. We discovered that Ginger still knows how to cross a river like a pro.

Ah, the road to Ostional is so much fun! #Nosara #costarica #temporaryticos #puravida

A video posted by Lee Heidel (@nonaesthetic) on

So far, the car is a perfect fit. A Suburu Forester from the early 2000s, it has been immaculately maintained. We survived three trips to La Bomba (the gas station) for a fill up, new air in the tires and new wiper blades (limpiaparabrisas). The car and its all-wheel drive are a necessity, especially as we get deeper into the rainy green season.

We’re looking forward to many more road trips and the surprises that can only come from getting out of our comfort zones.

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