The first time Jal and I came to Costa Rica, the December ’05 exploratory trip (all of five days) to determine if Costa Rica was The Exotic Place To Spend A Year, we did a 24-hour speed tour of Manuel Antonio. I had heard there were monkeys here and I was going to see one come hell or high water.
The drive from San Jose is basically in two pieces: the first 2-hour leg over the mountain to Jaco and the second 1.5 hours from Jaco to Quepos. Manuel Antonio state park is a stone’s throw from Quepos.
Jal and I both remember and have spoken in awe of that first leg from December’s trip, how terrifying it was: skinny road, huge fast-moving trucks and buses, potholes, sheer drop offs with no guard rails. The trip took us forever because we were driving so slowly, holding our breath for long stretches. Squealing with delight over our adventure and how brave we were…
Yesterday, when we got out of the car in Jaco at Tica Teri‘s house, we realized we’d driven the first leg practically yawning. The road didn’t change, but our perspective sure had. The road seems normal now, nothing to write home about.
The drive from Jaco to Quepos is another matter altogether. Not because the road is so bad. In fact, the road is mostly the best road we’ve ever driven on in Costa Rica: smooth, painted, wide enough. No, this leg is memorable because of its bridges. Memorable bridges. Four of them. Vividly memorable.
These are all one lane bridges, by the way. These days, there is so much construction going on all along the coast that you are behind massive dirt-movers and 18 wheelers all along the way. All going over these bridges, wearin’ em out just before your little CRV gets there… And blocking your view of each bridge until you get right up to it… You don’t know to be too afraid to go over it until you are right up on it, blocked in. If you panicked and tried to turn around, get out of line, you would be labeled a sissy for life.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Just outside of Jaco, is the first bridge, nicknamed the Oh Shit Bridge. You call its name over and over again as you cross… Unfortunately, my camera ran out of memory as I was crossing this
bridge so you don’t get the full event. But like a good strip tease,
we’ll leave something to the imagination.
Next, you have the first bridge that is, um, not there. A no-bridge bridge. It looks like it was started and never finished. In the meantime, there is a "temporary" bridge that has been here for quite some time.
Just before this bridge, there is a sign announcing the puente en mal estado [bridge in bad state]. Once you are upon them, you wonder which bridge they mean: the no-bridge or the temporary bridge…
A few miles down the road is the Oh My God Bridge. I really don’t know which is worse, the Oh Shit or the Oh My God. Both stunners. Here’s the OMG, complete:
The last bridge is another no-bridge bridge. These two no-bridge bridges have either never been completed or fell thru and have never been replaced. That’s how they do it here in Costa Rica. Did I mention this?
You do just enough maintenance to a bridge to keep it up. Mostly. One day it falls down. Then you replace it.
One day. It’s their way.
Gives a whole new level of adventure-dom when crossing over… Doesn’t matter the video. You can’t imagine these bridges till you experience them!
Oh. We drove back yesterday, doing the Jaco to San Jose mountain leg in the dark. In the rain. Ho hum. Just another day in paradise.
P.S. Tica Teri, who lives in Jaco and is intimately familiar with these bridges, notes in the comments that I got the names mixed up: I called the Oh Shit bridge the Oh My God bridge. Lack of oxygen (from holding my breath) caused the screw-up, no doubt! Clearly signage is in order. A can of spray paint would be the appropriate tool for this job, eh?
I’m so delighted you wrote about the conditions of two MAJOR bridges here. We deeply depend on that access to Golfito. A driver years ago told me the first bridge out of Parrita is the “Oh my God bridge”, as in “Oh my God, are we ever going to make it across”. The second bridge is coined “Oh Shit” for “I think I shit my pants” bridge. That’s how bad it is and truly, you must experience it to understand. Sorry for the vulgarity but it’s a known saying around here. Bet you’re happy to back to the cool climate. Any monkeys make it home with you? (kidding) So happy you stopped by for a visit. Come again real soon.
Great blog entry covering those bridges. I stay in the highlands for the greatest part of my visits to CR and have only been to the Pacific side once years ago -to Puntarenas via the train, then rode the ferry across to the Playa Naranjo area and back again to Puntarenas and home to SJ on the bus. So, wow, your two bridge videos were very enlightening for me, thank you.
Actually, though, I have been accross a bridge that fell down; that’s the one at the bottom of La Paz Waterfall. There is a new bridge now, but you can still see the remains of the collapsed old one underneath the new one. No one was hurt when it collapsed but they had to winch out the truck that was on it at the time it fell.
The former bridge with its superstructure was more interesting than the new one which has none.
Hi Paul, we saw that bridge when my mother in law came to visit shortly after we moved here. (I added the picture up above.) We were all VERY impressed by it. In fact, this picture is burned in my mind and surfaces every single time I cross the bridge on the autopista between the airport and San Jose. Yesterday, they were patching a bit of the surface of that bridge… yikes, that makes me nervous!!! We are looking for a rental in Escazu right now… not to avoid bridges, but that will be a nice bonus. See you!
Wow, yeah, I actually just got back from Manuel Antonio (or Mantonio) last week and I know exactly what you mean about the bridges… Only I was going over them in a giant tour bus. Needless to say I was a little bit worried, and there were probably 4 bridges between Jaco and Qeupos that had been washed out, and we had the “fortune” to get to go over the temporary make-shift bridges. Now my question is, fi the bridges that were built to be PERMANENT were washed out, how much can I trust the bridges built to be only temporary?
Anyway, you can actually read about my trip to Manuel Antonio here: http://costaricaclassroom.blogspot.com