Saturday, September 18, 2010

Three Hours in No Man's Land

It seemed like a good idea at the time. My neighbor Frank invited me to join him and his two surfer friends (Scott & Paul) on a day trip to Playa Pavones, Costa Rica. Playa Pavones is billed as one of the most scenic beaches in Costa Rica and famous for having one of the longest waves in the world. We were to drive Frank's car to the border and pick up a rental car for the rest of the drive. We didn't want to drive Frank's car into Costa Rica because of the paperwork, fees and time involved. We left Playa Barqueta at 6:15 a.m. and arrived at 7:15 a.m. Panama time (6:15 a.m. Costa Rica time). Frank thought it was 8:15 a.m. Costa Rica time and worried that we wouldn't be through the long immigration line in time to pick up the rental car at the agreed upon time of 8:30 a.m. Costa Rica time. We made it through the line in 45 minutes (by 7:00 a.m. Costa Rica time). Then we waited... and waited... and waited. Thinking that we missed the pickup (the car was paid for and being driven from Golfito), we called the rental car company. We couldn't get through via phone or email (even with the latest phone gadgetry). During this process, I noticed a man I recognized named Gil (who I hadn't seen in over a year). What a chance encounter! Gil was the caretaker of my Playa Barqueta house when I moved there July 2009. He had recently contacted me via email asking me for a reference to be a caretaker in Costa Rica near Santa Cruz. Because of my glowing recommendation he got the 1 year caretaker job. He had just flown down from the US and was passing through the border today (of all days).

Finally we realized that it was really 7:30 a.m. in Costa Rica, not 9:30 a.m. So we settled down in a restaurant to have breakfast and wait until 8:30 a.m. You guessed it. When 9:00 a.m. rolled around, there was still no rental car. We waited in the immigration area until an expeditor (someone who helps you get through the border) asked why we were stuck in "No Man's Land". Lucky for us, we found the car rental office that we should have found hours earlier. As it turns out, the credit card number used to charge the car was not valid (at least, that was the excuse). We could have another car brought from Golfito, but it would not be to Paso Canoas until noon. After a 2 hour drive to Playa Pavones, we would be left with only 1 hour to enjoy the beach. Needless to day, we turned around and reversed the process for getting through the border. First we went in the Salida (exit) Costa Rica line, then we went into the Entrar (enter) Panama line. Frank & I made it through OK, but Scott and Paul (from Austin, TX) were nearly thrown in Migration Jail because anyone who is not a resident of Panama (with a Visa) has to stay out of Panama for 72 hours once they cross the border (drug trafficking, you know). After mucho talking, Scott and Paul were set free and we returned to Playa Barqueta... Home Sweet Home!

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