We chose to visit Costa Rica in the Fall of 2017 in order to experience the rainy season. We had been there during other parts of the year but we’d heard that in some parts of the country the rainy season can be difficult to navigate. Many of the roads in Perez Zeledon are rocky, dirt roads and people told us they would wash out. In order to see if this was all hearsay, we came to see how bad it really was. After all we lived in Florida for 12 years and they have a rainy season too.
We arrived in August and had found a place high on a mountaintop surrounded only by cows and cell phone towers. We were able to carry on business as usual, by using our cell phone as a hotspot for internet, and had a wonderful view of the valley. The location was very remote, being 45 minutes from the bus stop. Luckily, the owner of the minisuper next to the bus stop, Dennis, was usually available to drive us back up the hill when we got off the bus.
As mentioned, our experiment was to find out how different Costa Rica was during the rainy season. We were happy to find out that most mornings the sun was out and shining beautifully. It wouldn’t start raining until around 1pm. This provided plenty of time to do laundry, go to town, take a walk, whatever you needed to do before it started raining. We were happy to find out in our location the roads didn’t flood because we were up on a hill. It basically all just rolled down to the valley. It did rain everyday and sometimes for 7 or 8 hours, but as far as we were concerned the rain didn’t really matter much to us!
Then, early October, it was just another rainy day but this time it seemed a little different. We didn’t have a tv in our place and since it’s the rainy season, we didn’t bother watching the weather. We didn’t even know there was a storm coming. We had just visited town that morning to do our laundry and get groceries so we were all stocked up. After we finished putting away our food, we heard a big noise and the house shook a bit. Strangely this wasn’t a signal to us either because there had already been a couple of earthquakes during the time that we were there.
Once we looked online and figured out that it was a hurricane/tropical storm, it seemed to line up a little better. We wondered why the wind was howling so much? The storm knocked our power out for the entire day. It was fine though because it came on just after it became dark. Also we could still cook because our stove ran by using a portable propane tank. Our internet even worked for about half the day without the power because we were using our cellular hotspot.
We decided to do a wine and cheese pairing since we had just purchased the stuff at the store. This one included something a little different because we’d be cooking the cheese. Well, just as we finished preparing the cheese, we discovered that the gas ran out. Luckily we could cook at Bruce’s (our neighbor and landlord) until we had a chance to get down to the minisuper.
We figured all the chaos was over the next day but then we found out there were landslides all around and that the roads were not clear. Since the roads weren’t clear, gas for cars couldn’t be trucked in and therefore the busses stopped running. (Read more details about the storm)
As it turns out Hurricane Nate was one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit Costa Rica. This was mainly due to the infrastructural repairs that totaled over $17.5 million. There were 12 landslides along the route between San Isidro and San Jose, the Cerro del Muerte, so no trucks nor busses nor anyone else could take that main route. There is another route by the South to travel from San Jose but there was a major bridge that washed out there too. We were pretty much stranded where we were but thankfully, we were all stocked up on food and supplies.
A few more days went by and we decided we should venture out to get some food and propane at the “local” store. The term “local” is relative because it was over an hour walk to get down there but we really had no clue when the busses would start back up or if town was even open. It was a long walk but gave us a chance to survey the damage that occurred in the area. There were quite a few landslides very close to our place and along the route that we walked to the store. We even saw a pretty substantial crack in the road from the earthquake and impact from the landslide. Pretty serious!
When we arrived at Dennis’s shop, we gathered up pretty much anything we could find. Our shopping cart was filled with funny cereal, crackers, tuna and lots of other non perishable stuff. Thankfully, Dennis was able to drive us back up the hill with our supplies.
We had a little spare time at home due to the storm so Neil took advantage of it to complete a project he had promised Bruce. He had volunteered to build some steps in the hillside and now would be a great time to do it! There were some spare supplies around the yard so Neil used them and carved into the clay dirt to make some stairs. They came out pretty cool and despite the wet ground, proved to be pretty sturdy.
Wednesday, we heard the buses were going again. So we headed into town to catch up on laundry, groceries and supplies again. All was well until we had a hiccup and found out the bus was only coming half way back out so we’d need to find a ride the rest of the way. Then Bruce called and said “We have no power. Don’t buy things that need refrigeration! Aw man, that’s why we’re in town! Do we buy this fish or not?”
Thankfully Dennis was available to bring us back up the hill. Once we were back in our place we wondered how things will be the next time we go into town? We’d have a few days until we needed to figure that all out but that’s life in the jungle!!
So you may be wondering after this experience, what our take on the rainy season in Costa Rica was. We still didn’t really mind it because afterall "Costa Rica hardly ever gets hurricanes!"