Driving in Costa Rica, you will see the undercarriages of more 18-wheelers than you ever cared to. They turn over all the time. Partly because the roads are so bad, so narrow, the ditches so close and deep. Partly because as soon as you can get a driver’s license at 18 (which makes sense), you can have a license to drive anything with zero additional training (which makes no sense at all.) I guess they figure if you can steer a moped, you can drive a 40-ton truck?
HINT: If you are driving on a road and you see a fresh tree branch
with leaves on it laying in the middle of the road, SLOW DOWN. This
means there is a car or truck stopped in your lane and they don’t have
those orange triangles (which you are required by law to have in your
car). It’s usually a truck and it’s usually turned over.
This picture is from La Nación, Costa Rica’s biggest daily paper (I showed this picture last January so it may look familiar.)
The rest of the photos I took and these are just the ones for which I was quick enough with the camera… there are at least twice as many I was not able
to photograph. Like the first few times I found myself staring at an 18-wheeler undercarriage, realizing this was going to be a common sight.
The last time Mom and I went to Sarchi about a month ago, we were following this truck (on the right). He must have turned over shortly after we passed him, ’cause here he is about an hour later when we were en route home. Fortunately, no other cars were smushed. I’ll bet it was close. Imagine watching the topple start to occur…
I’ll bet the guy driving this truck (these photos were taken two weeks ago) is just 18 and this is his first delivery job. Did they pack the truck like this, all out of balance? Is it my imagination or is the weight shifting more and more to the left? And who’s the bigger fool: the guy driving the truck or the guy passing on the left where that big metal thing will land when the truck tips over?
Hmmm. Quite possibly, it’s the moron driving behind them snapping pictures.
This truck on the left is filled with men: illegals going to work. Every once in a while, the wind blew the tarp up and we saw the guys inside. They looked plenty nervous. Mom took this picture. I never take pictures while I’m driving and it’s raining. Too dangerous.
These trucks, like the one on the right, are my favorite: filled with all kinds of junk going to the junkyard. You see 18-wheelers like this, sides constructed out of scrap metal, fill to overflowing with crap. Er, scrap. NOTE: You’ll wanna stay back for when things fall off.
On our van trip to the whitewater rafting jump in spot, the coming and going van drivers found themselves in this predicament. No room to pass, ditches and/or big rocks on both sides. And backing up to a wide spot in the road would have meant backing up for close to 30 minutes either way.
Of course, it took almost an hour to get the two vans dislodged. And all the guys (there were at least four beside me, a couple more still in our van and two guys standing on the other side with the other van driver), standing around scratching their chins, shaking their heads, evaluating the situation, shouting ideas and suggestions and orders in either Spanish or English, shoving, pulling, then re-evaluating, all of us being order to get out, then in, then out. It was quite the project!
Road and auto safety is a big issue here, whether you are driving, riding or walking. Most deaths in Costa Rica are auto-related, pedestrians and bicyclists being the biggest losers. Mostly, I believe, because we are surrounded by first-generation drivers. There is no history to point to, no collective wisdom, no long chain of evidence. No grandpa to teach the young ‘uns to drive. We are all learning together.
In the states, I never got the whole seat-belt thing (more proof of my morondom) and resented when drivers told me to buckle up or walk. Here, we can’t get buckled up fast enough. Even the boys, and not ’cause I told them. Probably because I’m driving. But after just a day driving here, you will unconsciously reach for your seatbelt if you don’t already. Some days, on some roads, you’ll even think helmets might not be a bad idea.