Friday, December 2, 2016

Costa Rica Adventures 2003

I am challenging the Pacuare River at the end of my Costa Rica Adventures.

Tani and I would meet up with her college roommate, Donna Bender and Donna's husband, Wayne Cruz in Jaco,  Costa Rica along with Sara and Mike, and Linda and Scott who are friends of Donna and Wayne.  

After a flight from Seattle to San Jose, Costa Rica with each of us using 40,000 Alaska Air frequent flyer miles for the American Air flight, we arrived in Costa Rica.   We first toured the city for a couple of days before renting an SUV for travel to Jaco, Manuel Antonio National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Lake, Volcano, and hot springs. 

It was a little unnerving when the rental car company followed us out of town to reduce the possibility of us being robbed.  The roads to Jaco were good and well marked and we found the hotel where we met up with out friends.

L to R: Scott, Linda, Wayne, Tani, Donna, me, Sara, and Mike

For a couple of days, we just relaxed around the Jaco beach area before venturing south to the Manuel Antonio National Park. 

This park has beautiful white sandy beaches along with troops of curious monkeys frequently came up to us for handouts which we resisted.  We also saw several types of iguanas, lizards, and other animals along the tree line to the beach.

We then headed to the popular cloud forests of Monteverde which we reached by getting a guided tour in a rugged 4 wheel drive car.  The road was severely rutted and water ran down the ruts as the rains came and went.  We finally arrived at a spot where we could walk through the rain forest canopy on suspension bridges covered by waterproof ponchos, but they provided no protection for our pants or shoes in the tremendous downpours.

After the cloud forest adventure, we ended up spending the night near Arenal Volcano where we could watch the lava burn bright as it cascaded down the side of the volcano while plumes of smoke drifted up in the sky.  

Nearby we soaked in the hot springs during another downpour of warm rain.

We returned to San Jose where I dropped Tani off at the Airport for her return to Seattle while I had planned to explore on my own for another week.

I drove up to the nearby Poas Volcano National Park where the caldera was filled by a chalky blue lake while fog drifted by.  On the way down, I stopped at a restaurant for lunch as it again began to rain.  

Shortly after I left the restaurant the car started to make noises.  I pulled over and saw that my right rear tire was going flat.  I began jacking up the car while the downpour continued.  The jack wasn't high enough so I had to get some rocks to raise the jack.  That is when this guy shows up and offered to help me unbolt the spare tire from the back of the car while I was working the jack.  Once he undid the tire, it put it over by me and I said muchas gracias and he said adios.

After he left I thought this would make a great picture of the jacked up car in the downpour, but when I went to get my camera I discovered that my camera bag, backpack with all my clothes and gear, and my money belt---I took it off for more comfort while I was driving---were all missing.  I was robbed of everything except the clothes I was wearing and my wallet with some cash, but no credit cards, passport, nor airline ticket.

After replacing the flat tire, I then drove about two miles and came to some police men and they told me to head to the next town to the police station.  I guess they didn't care to much to chase the robbers that were just 10 minutes ahead of in a dark blue sedan.

I got to the police station and none of them spoke English so I tried my fractured Spanish and got them to type up a police report that listed all of the things I lost.  With my police report I needed to file an insurance claim with Travelguard, I continued down toward San Jose.  This time some of the roads were filled with water up to the hubcaps.  After about three stops, I found a tire repair shop that would repair the slashed tire and around the corner I found a pay phone.  

Apparently while I was having lunch at the restaurant, the robbers had slightly slashed my tire so that it would become flat and that they would then rob me where I stopped to repair my flat tire.

I called Travelguard and told them what had happened.  While on the phone with them they cancelled my AMEX and Visa credit cards.  They were so efficient that when Tani tried to use the Visa card to pay for the airport parking in Seattle, they told her it had been cancelled.  She was able to use her AMEX card since it had a different number than mine.  From then on, I travel with only my own credit card----at Tani's request.

The Travelguard rep. also told me that I could go to the AMEX office if I needed more money before I returned home.  She also gave me the address of the US Embassy in San Jose and told me to go to the front of the line outside the Embassy to the guard and explain that I am a US Citizen that needed help.  She explained that the line was for Costa Ricans who were lined up to get Visas to the US.  She suggested that I also buy some replacement clothes and keep the receipts so that I could get insurance reimbursement.

My missing American Air return ticket was a bit more difficult since I had used Alaska Mileage frequent flyer miles, they had to Fedex me a replacement ticket to my Hemingway hotel---$40 per night-- where I would stay until my departure.

When I got to the US Embassy, it only took me 3 hours to get a replacement US Passport for $85.  They even had a photographer on site for my passport photo.   There were two unfortunate US Citizens waiting with me who had been robbed while on a beach.  They were wearing just swimsuits, tee shirts and flip-flops.  At least I had all of my clothes.

Since I had a few days before returning home, I decided to take a one day Pacuare River rafting trip that cost just $90 which included transportation, breakfast, and lunch along with experienced bilingual river guides.  It turned out to be a great adventure through some very challenging class III-IV rapids in a bath water warm river.  The tour provided us with these exciting pictures of our rafting trip. I am in the front in the striped short sleeve shirt looking scared and focused.  

All of the pictures and all of the video I took of this trip were stolen.  The pictures here were from our friends and from the rafting adventure company.

After I returned home, I filed my claim $3,250 with Travelguard and they reimbursed me $2,100. The main reason for the lower amount of reimbursement was the $500 limit on camera and electronic gear and $300 cash.  The excess camera and electronics amount was $841.

As a result of this great experience with Travelguard along with other more recent experiences, I always get the annual Travelguard insurance that costs just $267.

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