Five days in! Everyone is alive and happy, and mostly settled. We have accomplished a considerable amount this week, including getting kids into school uniforms and a routine, driving the hour-long winding road back to Liberia, the nearest city, for household staples, attending three Spanish classes, as well as our first birthday party at an outdoor pool. Yesterday, we even found ourselves a new set of wheels.
Upon crossing the threshold of a gated property in Huacas, the town next door to Brasalito, we enter a scene straight out of the Columbian cartel story, Narcos. Three men in track suits, one with a phone in hand, another with a dirty towel draped over his shoulder, stand in front of a private home with jungle backdrop, watch us closely. The vehicle we have come to test drive is parked in the middle of the yard, as though recently dragged out of a bush.
We shake hands with “Gustavo,” his brother and the third man, whose relation stays unknown (as the introduction was in Spanish), feeling nervous about our fresh-off-the-prairies vulnerability.
After some conversation, B and I hop into the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, its branding barely distinguishable on its white and black exterior. The seats are gritty with sand and dirt under my bare legs, the dash dusty, the air stagnant. The Cyborg, Batman and motorcyclist LEGGO men left in the centre console don’t line up with the story they gave us about the previous owner—a retiree from Switzerland with a heart condition.
On the road heading to Tamarindo, B listens for signs of major mechanical mishap while I play with the buttons on the after-market stereo looking for an auxiliary mode.
“The steering is really loose and clunky, but the air conditioning works!” says B. (As essential as heat on a January morning in Edmonton!) I land on a boisterous Spanish radio station and jump to turn down the volume. “Volume works!”
In Costa Rica, licence plates are registered to a vehicle for life, not to the driver. Though the registration for the plate can change names, that process is sloth-slow (Flash was appropriately cast in Disney’s hit flick, Zootopia, apparently). Friends who have been here three years say their plate and vehicle registration is still not under their name at the Registry office. Here’s hoping that whatever we buy was never a drop car.
“What year is it?” I asked.
“2003,” B said.
“Same year we met! Maybe it’s a sign.”
Later that day, we moved on to test-drive three more vehicles we spotted on a used-car lot, all of which made the Montero Sport seem like a once-in-a-lifetime deal. ‘Chewy’ quickly adopted his name for a “steering condition”, which sounds a lot like the voice of the one-and-only Chewbacca.