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?