Costa Rica: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those people with a ready-fire answer to the question “What could possibly go wrong?”

Weather unseasonably warm? There’s a storm on the way.

Car won’t start? Must be the transmission.

Landline ringing? Probably a robot.

So I’m mildly astonished that when I picked Costa Rica for a must-have, big birthday vacation, I only thought “Toucans!” and “Rainforests!” and “Hot springs!”

It never occurred to me to think “Mosquitoes!” or “Zika virus!” or “Erupting volcanoes!”

That is, until I started talking with a more savvy fellow traveler who had read the fine print in the travel brochures.

“I had my vaccinations,” she said matter-of-factly, “and I’m keeping my eye on volcanoes.”

Vaccinations? Volcanoes? Wasn’t Costa Rica a Hakuna matata kind of place a little south of Florida? I was never very good at geography.

I dived into a travel book just in time to figure out that this was not like flying to Detroit for the weekend. So much wrongness to prevent! Starting with tropical disease.

First, there was the Hepatitis A shot and a round of typhoid capsules that had to be refrigerated and taken every other day for eight days one hour before some unspecified meal.

Without them, possible plague. But with them, according to chatroom chatter, possible GI misery on days 3 and 4 of the pills. Of course, said another, I might avoid this if I got the shot instead, as savvy fellow traveler had done. But then I’d already started the pills.

So on to figuring out which meal to take them one hour before. Breakfast? That might ruin the whole day. Lunch? Maybe too soon if the last was before dinner. Dinner? What if I forgot?

I distracted myself with the challenge of getting eight days of clothes into a weekender so I wouldn’t have to check a bag, which the airline would probably lose and never deliver in a rain forest. The only solution was laundry packets and quick-dry clothes, which I happened not to own except for one shirt and a pair of zip-off pants.

So off to the jungle traveler’s paradise, REI, which offered more than I could possibly fit in the suitcase but also acquainted me with the unhappy news that I should spray everything an odorless insect repellant called Permethrin. The bottle came with generous instructions in 9-point type for what to do if you accidentally ingested it, got it on your skin or in your eyes, or breathed it in and stopped breathing.

With the last typhoid pill down, I headed for the screen porch in 30-degree weather with facemask, goggles, and rubber gloves for a Permethrin moment or two. An hour or so later, still breathing despite a couple heart-stopping moments when I lost control of the sprayer, my work was done.

“At last!” I thought. “Time to enjoy the anticipation!” And off I ran to read about the tours, the hotels, the toucans. And noticed that the hotels had hair dryers but no coffee makers in the room. Egads!

Naturally, I had to find an immersion coil, an unbreakable insulated stainless steel cup and some VIA. And while I was at it, some of those old fashioned laundry hooks to hang over the shower bar for the quick-dry underwear.

They are not easy to find – most travelers apparently rely on suction cup clotheslines. But think about it. They could silently un-suction in the night.

Obviously worth one last errand. How much could you enjoy a toucan if your underwear’s still wet?

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder










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