A Tico kilometer, I’ve decided, is longer than a mile. I had the opportunity this week to get out of the city and sample a taste of the surrounding countryside. This was thanks to the invitation of a member of our writer’s group to meet at his home for a change. His home is (to this city dweller’s eyes) high in the hills away from anywhere. To be exact, Chris and his wife live in San Isidro de Grecia.
Greg picked me up at my apartment in midmorning. Fortunately, Greg is a very good driver, whose patience was sorely tried after we left the highway and took curve after curve going up, after up on country roads. We had some Tico like landmarks from our host, such as “You will pass a row of really tall palm trees on your right.” (we saw them on our left), and “you will cross a minor bridge where the road narrows slightly. So slightly we didn’t even notice. And just what qualifies as a minor bridge? One built less than 18 years ago? We were thankful that we were not part of the train of cars and buses staggering down the hills in the opposite direction.
To enhance the bafflement of this thrilling, yet somewhat monotonous road were the people along our way, including a couple of policemen whom we asked “Are we on the road to Grecia?” Most of their replies amounted to “Yes, just follow this road and ask again in a little while.” The little whiles piled up, and Greg had to put up with my nervous babbling as well as trying to figure out what that strange smell was coming from a probably tired engine.
Yes, we backtracked several times, and a couple of times it paid off because we recognized or thought we did, a landmark that had escaped us. Finally, we turned on the road that looked like it was going to San Isidrio (we never did find downtown Grecia), and followed the road as instructed, by going up, up and onward. It took us two hours and five minutes for the trip.
Of course, their home is beautiful. The layout was open with a glorious kitchen and elegant dining room in alcoves off the living room. With vast spaces of greenery below, the view from their terrace was beautiful, too — until the fog settled in and rain began minutes after we arrived.
We learned that traffic to and from Grecia had been diverted that morning so we took the more direct route going home by following Lenny’s sure-footed car almost to the highway.
Following is so much easier than leading down or up winding roads. The trip back, in driving rain and sometimes water covered roads took us just under one hour. On the highway we were happy once again not to be part of another train of bumper-to-bumper cars buses and trucks leaving the city. Once in the city, the rain had let up and the air was warm.
The experience reminded me again how many mini-climates there are in this small country. Goldilocks would have no problem finding a place that was just right. Whether you are looking for the tropics and a seaside villa or a chalet with a fireplace in the mountains, you can find the view, the weather and even the climate that you desire.
You can live near a rain forest or a cloud forest, the Pacific or the Atlantic, in a city and enjoy the opera or a little town and listen to calypso or salsa. And all of this, thanks to the compactness of the country and the new highways that have been built, is within a couple of hours of something entirely different.
And with it all, for the most part, you will find kind and helpful people who with a smile will tell you to just keep following the road and ask again, or in the case of one policeman we asked, will take the time to mentally count the blocks you should go before turning left.
Our little trip that prompted my appreciation for the variety of Costa Rica also confirms what I said in the beginning. Distance is measured in kilometers, not miles, but a kilometer, thanks to the curves and turn backs of country roads, takes a lot longer than say, a U.S. mile.
And once again I am happy that I have chosen the bustle and energy of a city with all of my needs close at hand and a year round spring-like climate, not too hot and not too cold. Just right, thank you very much.