25.11.16 Platanar, Costa Rica
When we set off on Wednesday, we knew that Hurricane Otto was on it’s way to make landfall around 7 am on Thursday morning. We had looked carefully at the projected route, and had decided on a two night stop near Quesada, 60 miles south of the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border.
The border crossing at Las Tablillas we chose was a small one, but even so, in the hour and a half ride to the border in the morning, we were stopped by three lots of traffic police, who wanted to check our documentation (or have a look around the bike? Never quite sure). The first group of police took the longest, as they took all our documents into their hut for checking. Out of the corner of my eye I could see them turning the docs up this way and that, trying to make head or tail of them. Still, something must have made sense as they returned them to us, and we were on our way again. However,my good humour was disappearing by the third stop, just before the border, as it had rained pretty much all the way on the ride, and it was becoming tedious taking the papers in and out constantly.
It was extremely quiet at the border, and we were dealt with quickly on the Nicaraguan side, although a little morosely. It’s not much fun for anyone standing out in the rain, whether you’re working, or standing patiently waiting to be checked in. An extremely tall guy rushed up beside me telling me to follow him through immigration, as he had just seen to all the German tourists passports. In actual fact, I think he may have hindered me, as he kept shouting out things in English, as I was being seen by the officer, making the process very complicated. Still, after Paul had gone in and paid our $12 each, we had our exit stamps, and Paul had his for bikey.
Then over the border into Costa Rica. This was a whole lot more drawn out. On the surface it looked much nicer, with well laid out storage containers as offices, and somewhere proper for us to park. I waited with the bike as Paul went off to be stamped in. Then the rains really came down! I set up an umbrella system, to keep me and my seat in the sidecar, plus gloves and helmets as dry as possible, and waited, and waited and waited…….. The man who was to produce the import documentation for the bike decided to go for his lunch for 20 minutes when it was Paul’s turn. This 20 turned into 40, and then Paul described him as being a surly, arrogant, ‘devil’, who kept Paul waiting as long as possible just for fun. So two hours later, we were finally done with the Costa Rican border. Yee Hah!
We rode the rest of the way to Platanar in torrential rain. The rain and strong wind was a side effect of Hurricane Otto, so we were very happy to arrive at Cabinas Hacienda. On arrival, we were welcomed by Pancho, the manager, who was very informative about the impending Hurricane. There has never been a Hurricane in Costa Rica before, but there government had good plans in place, telling people not to make unnecessary journeys of any kind. They had emergency services on standby. To get candles ready in case of loss of electricity, and they had evacuated 4,000 people along the Caribbean coastline, where the hurricane was meant to hit first. This was about 120 miles to the East of us.
By Thursday morning the forecast had changed, and the Hurricane was heading for us, and going to miss the Costa Rican coast. We waited out the storm all day, all the other guests and workers seemed very nervous, and it really did rain relentlessly all day, although the promised winds and Hurricane never came to us. Landfall was made at 7 am, about 70 miles North East of us, and the Hurricane, strength 2, carried on through before arriving at Lake Nicaragua about 2pm, and wreaked havoc, causing floods, trees down, washing out people’s homes and leaving them with nothing. When we rode by San Carlos, at Lake Nicaragua on Wednesday, they did not look like they had much anyway, and it’s heartbreaking to think that the little they have had may have now been taken away. It’s been devastating.
In contrast, as we have stayed here for one more day, there has been an air of relief and jubilation here. The Hurricane has made it to the pacific coast where it has downgraded to a Tropical Storm, and should dissipate altogether by Monday or Tuesday. Hurricane season officially ends on 30th November, so l hope the people here will be safe again until next year.
This most beautiful part of the world, where we’ve been lucky enough to see exotic birds, geckos and iguanas today seems like it can also be a difficult place to live at times. The people here have a wonderful spirit, that it seems is very difficult to suppress. Good for them!