The Secret Way Around San Jose

1. Trip from Airport to Puerto Viejo
This is what the five hour trip looks like, from the airport in San Jose to the Caribbean coast.

01 copyDriving from the west side of San Jose – Heredia, Alejuala or the airport – to the East side, towards route 32 and the Caribbean, can be a nightmare! If you take the pista (the highway), traffic can keep you sitting for hours. Then you’ll have to go smack through the middle of the city, which involves more traffic jams and a great potential for getting lost. Instead, you can take the road through La Uruca and Cinco Esquinas (Five Corners). I get lost regularly, on that one. Getting across the city to the airport was always a point of stress on my many trips to San Jose……. until recently.
2. North Road across San Jose
The crooked black line is the way. The wide pink line to San Jose is the pista.

Now I am happy to say, I know the secret way out of San Jose. A friend showed me once. I bumbled through it the second time on my own. And have pleasantly cruised through at least five times, since. I love this delightful mountain drive through the countryside. I’m not stressed at all, any more, about coming to San Jose. Nevertheless, it is still a secret because I cannot reveal it to you. I can show you what it looks like, here on the map. I can show you all kinds of photos. But with all the twists and turns, ups and downs, and one way streets with no detour signs, there is no way I can explain it. If you want to take this way out of San Jose to the Caribbean. I’ll have to show you myself.

3. On the San Isidro Road

7. Tomatoe Man8. Mountainside Farm

The other day I made this drive, after a pleasant respite, with my friend, Gina, in San Jose de los Montañas. It’s a mountainside of charming little towns, nestled several thousand feet above the city. I’ll take you along, through my photos. Float your cursor over the photos for the captions.

4. Drive through many towns.....5. ......and villages.

6.House in the Village
The driving was good, with well paved, two lane roads that wind up and down the hills, in and out of towns, through farmland and fields with colorful flowers and foliage everywhere. Gina and I were chatting and enjoying the scenery, having a great time. I was pleased that we’d left her Uncle Richard’s house early enough to make it home before dark. It’s an hour drive across the hills above San Jose and then another four hours on route 32 to Limon and finally, down the coast to Puerto Viejo. My delight in our scheduling was short lived, however, due to goats.

9. Stop for photos       Well, not exactly due to goats. It wasn’t their fault. But it wasn’t mine, or even Gina’s fault either. She happens to have an implusive, spontaneous – and yes – even impetuous nature. And me, well I have been accused of the same, but really, I am quite down to earth and reasonable. Except of course when I get around Gina and my “say yes to everything” enthusiasm kicks in.
“Want to go to San Carlos and meet some real cowboys? Let’s not go home yet. Let’s go out and take a sail on the Pacific! Or how about if we stop at the nudist hotel on the way back?” Gina’s just is full of ideas. Fortunately for me and my agreeable nature, her bark is far stronger than her bite. As I dozed off, she drove right by the nudist hotel without even waking me. She did not drive by the goats.
Actually, I stopped to take a picture of one. Gina got out of the car, too. “I’ll just be a minute, I want to ask about the goats,” she said.
10. Goat Lady's House11. Gina and Margarita 13. Irresistible!  “She wants to ask about the goats,” I thought. “What does that mean?” I wandered off to take more photos and later found Gina inside, with the goat mistress. They were animatedly speaking in Spanish. I was invited in and soon found myself out in the back pasture with the sweetest little “kids.” This is a nice paseo,” I thought, “but we need to get going.” Then I realized the conversation was serious.

12. Kids
They took us over to see the daddy goat. Then they showed Gina some other pretty cabras (goats) she could choose from. I took her aside, “Gina what are you doing? Are you crazy? (Silly question!) Where are you going to put them? You have a rental car.”Dad
“Don’t worry, Lisa. I’ll work it all out.” She tried to assure me.
“Gina, you are not prepared for this. Goats are a lot of work. These babies are only one or two weeks old. How are we going to get them home? They’re going to shit in the car and make a mess.” I was not assured. “Gina, don’t do this!” I pleaded. But it was out of my control.
While the goat lady, Margarita and her grandson, Roger went over all the important care and feeding information, I distracted myself by taking photos. “Surely,” I thought, “she’ll come to her senses.”

16. Roger and kid17. Dog on the roof

Instead of being distracted, I became disconcerted. “First goats,” I thought. What’s next?”18

Next was goat’s milk. They insisted on having me try some. It was delicious. I knew how healthy goat’s milk is. I began to warm up to the idea – just a bit. Then Gina decided she wanted to sell goat’s milk. I’d buy it. And the family was very sweet. Margarita was quite a character. She spoke proudly of her skills with animals. She’s raised them all her life. Everyone in the neighborhood comes to her for animal advice. “Even though my house is quite humble,” she said, “every single president of Costa Rica has been here to visit.” We never found out why. “Gara” as they called her, told us she had 22 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren. How she had the time for all those animals and presidents, I’ll never know.19. Drinking fresh goat's milk20. Lisa, Margarita, grandsons Cesar and Roger23. Mom
21. "Gara"22. The clincher!24. Goatmobile

Yes, I liked this little family and I liked the goats, too. The real clincher was when they gave me the bottle to feed the babies. What can I say? Like Gina, I’m a mom. We found room in the car for the babies, and off we went. We drove through the town, up the hill and on to our favorite restaurant, right near the highway to Limon. The kids waited in the car.

25. Through the town....26. Up the hill27. Favorite Restaurant28. Pretty Cafe
30. Kids in the car
The Zurqui, on route 32 to Limon, begins with a toll booth (250 colones – 50 cents).31. Toll Booth The Zurqui is what they call the high mountain drive through the Braulio Carrillo Rainforest and National Park. You drive up and up and up, to almost ten thousand feet, winding around sharp curves, with broken down pickups and semi trucks blasting their jake brakes in your ears. It is almost always raining up there and the fog is thick like soup. I drove the Zurqui once at night in the rain and I’ll never do it again! I have also driven through on a bright sunny day and was bedazzled by the waterfalls and the verderous, gigantic plants that hang off the steep roadside cliffs. 32. Zurqui Tunnel33. Light at the end.....

It begins with a tunnel and goes on further into the mountains. 36. Cloud Forest

We stopped at the mirador (look out) to let the kids out of the car.37. Mirador La Montura38. Lisa & kids

The sun broke through as we drove down the other side on to the Caribbean Slope.
39. Down the other side....

40. Rio Sucio

We crossed the Rio Sucio (Dirty River – It’s not, really. It’s color is due to it’s origin in the ash covered slopes of the Irazu Volcano.)

42. Ranger Station41. Park Ranger43. Caribbean Slope

One more goat stop for a visit to the ranger station and then we were down the mountain and off the Zurqui. Here is the market I always stop at to buy orchids and honey. They sell honey from Guanacaste. It’s the best I’ve ever had.

44. Market

45. Traffic at a standstill46. Antique Store47. Italian Restaurant
Traffic can come to a halt due to road work or an accident. We took a break at an antique store and had coffee at a classy Italian restaurant near Guapiles.

Soon we had to make another stop for the babies. This one drew other kinds of kids, too.
48. More kids!
49. All kinds of kids50. Little House51. Local Farmers52. Caribbean Slope Landscape

The day was coming to an end as we approached Limon. Friday night traffic looked daunting so we took another little known road. We turned up the mountain to Santa Rosa and bypassed Limon altogether. The light was low for photographs and it was dark by the time we arrived home in Puerto Viejo.
53. Santa Rosa Detour
54. Evening
55. Puerto Viejo at Night

It was the end of another fun trip with Gina. She dropped me off in Puerto Viejo and went on down the road to her house in Playa Chiquita. Her grandchildren loved the new babies. I hear they slept under the kitchen table. I enjoyed those sweet little things and was even happier not to have any responsibility for them. Were my warnings well founded? Has it all worked out well? You’ll have to ask Gina about that.