Moving to CR: Dispatch 2


We’re starting to settle in. Public transportation isn’t as convenient as it was at the cabinas, (anyone taking the bus or ferry in Seattle knows about schedules for commuters, and that’s the case here) so we decided to look for a car.

Paul had already been thinking about buying a car. It couldn’t be too large both because of fuel consumption and parking issues; it had to have high clearance due to the rocks on our road and the angle at which the driveway meets the road. It also needed to have four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It needed to have four doors so we could accommodate friends and family who may visit. And parts have to be available in CR. Lots of great cars are out there, but if the parts have to be imported from the US, it could take a while should anything break.

Cars are just a little more than they are in the US. CR imposes taxes on the importation of all cars whether new or used, though used cars are subject to a higher tax rate. And just because NADA or Kelley’s Blue Book says that a car equipped with X accessories and with Y mileage is worth $Z, it doesn’t mean that that’s what CR authorities would say about the value. It doesn’t matter what you paid, the value is determined by Hacienda. So that $4K car you’d find in the US (late 90s, high mileage, but mechanically sound?) It sells for around $10K or $11K or more in CR.

People have done all sorts of things around having a car in CR: shipping one in a container; paying a car-finding service here in CR to find a car in the US and import it; or buying a car here from a private party or a dealer. Although we’d heard good things from friends here about the car-buying service, we decided to go looking on our own. We did exactly what we’d do in the US (before we discovered Costco’s car dealer list), and went looking. Because of the need for high clearance, smaller size, relative affordability and reliability, we narrowed it down to a Toyota RAV4 or a Suzuki Grand Vitara (though they’re 6 cylinders and not as economical). One dealer almost talked us into a diesel Mitsubishi Montero: fantastic mileage, but they’re so big! Parking something like that in downtown San Ramon, let alone somewhere like Alajuela or San Jose would be tough.

Some dealers specialized in newer cars, others had mostly near-wrecks on their lots. We looked at cars in several used car lots, finally stopping at a used car dealer in Naranjo, about 15 km or so from here. He had several cars in our price range ($9 to $12 or 13K), and we both liked a ’96 Toyota RAV4 and a ’98. The ’96 didn’t drive as well as the ’98, so we took the ’98 to a recommended mechanic in San Ramon (who instantly became our mechanic). He and two helpers went over the car carefully, spending about an hour, and he said the car was in good condition. We wound up buying it.

One of the comments about car buying in CR is that the odometers are frequently rolled back. We paid to have a CARFAX report on the car, which showed its history (a VIN, vehicle identification number, is needed for them to run the report). It was sold at auction in VA in Feb and had 195,XXX mi on the odometer. When we looked at the car, the odometer read around 83K: what’s 112,000 miles between friends? When Paul raised the issue with the dealer, I wouldn’t have wanted to play poker with him because he said (poker-faced, of course) that it must have happened at auction before he got the car. Right…. Still,it’s a decent car and is competitively priced, and the dealer has a good reputation. We picked the car up yesterday and hope to have car insurance tomorrow. Where’s Island Insurance and Mutual of Enumclaw when we need them?


I stopped to watch a thunderstorm today. Our house faces east, which is the direction from which the clouds and weather arise. We’ve learned that if the weather is sunny and warm in the morning, there will be some pretty impressive thunderstorms later in the day.** This may only be the case during the rainy or green season; we haven’t lived here long enough to know. (A neighbor told us that the sunny mornings and warmth draw the much cooler clouds over from the Caribbean side, hence the development of thunderstorms most afternoons.) So I settled in to watch developments after the clouds rolled in and the rumble of distant thunder began. I began reading on the veranda, often glancing up at the valley and nearby hills, which is not a very enjoyable way to read. A few streaks of lightning, which I saw out of the corner of my eye, followed by thunder. Then a little rain. Then more thunder, but no lightning that I could see. Then a bolt of lightning which I couldn’t quite see, and a huge BOOM immediately following. CRD was very scared, and even I went inside for a few moments. I was a little dazed from the noise. Then a little more rumbling and I thought things were done. Still sitting on the veranda, I saw a streak of lightning strike behind a copse of trees on a small knoll probably about 800′ from us, and simultaneously a series of booms at least as loud as the earlier one. Too far away for the ozone scent of nearby lightning strikes and my hair wasn’t standing on end, but I’d hate to experience anything closer.

**a couple of days later, when it had been cloudy and misty all day, there were STILL impressive thunderstorms, so that shoots that theory. It sounded impressive, anyway.



Ah, biodiversity. I thought I knew what the word meant, but really had no idea. The land in CR is a topographer’s dream: hills, valleys, active volcanoes, extinct volcanoes, rivers and those seasonal streams called quebradas. The land goes up and it goes down and up and down and … We are at one end of “our” nameless valley; the next valley really starts maybe 500′ away on the same dirt road you take to get here. I walked down the road far enough so I could see most of the next valley, and immediately noticed a large blue morpho butterfly, bumbling its way along. We don’t have blue morphos on this side, but we do have smaller lemon yellow butterflies.

There are coyotes in our valley; a neighbor told us that there is a black panther in the next valley that came over one day while another neighbor was making coffee and grabbed one of her two chihuahuas from the porch. The cat was gone with her dog before she could even shout. Our neighbor was surprised when it happened because panthers generally stay away from people, but I guess this one was hungry. There are also howler monkeys that are said to live on the valley floor of both valleys. Between the coyotes and the monkeys, it can be quite noisy after dusk!

I’ve never been an early riser, tending to stay up late instead (but married lo these many years to a morning person), but most people get up early here, and I find myself awakening about 5:20 or 5:30, when it just starts getting light. I don’t know why I rarely got up at dawn in the PNW (okay, in the summertime, it starts getting light before 4:30!), but it is so wonderful to feel thefresh air, listen to the birds, none of which I recognize, and watch the sky and the clouds. We open the front door as soon as we get up, and both CRD and CRC are happy to go out to reconnoiter things.