Well, we're still in Costa Rica. Yep. I will borrow a sentiment from our good friend, Mark.... "apparently our tug is experiencing some resistance!"
We got to the airport yesterday morning in good time. No rushing around, no stress. We got to the check-in counter and we weighed our luggage, paid the fee, no problem. We got our boarding passes, no problem. Then, the last sentence was "we need to see the dog's documentation".... no problem. We handed over the vet's signed declaration that Frankie has received her rabies shot and is fit to fly. We were feeling confident. We were then asked for the government exportation document. "Excuse me? What?" Our vet didn't give us any such form. Big problem. "I'm sorry, your dog cannot fly without this document." The strangest thing is this document is not for the U.S. or Canada... it's merely a Costa Rica regulation (your pet needs this document to prove she's healthy to fly OUT of Costa Rica... how crazy is that!)
So, a very nice young man, Luis, on the other side of the counter who spoke English dropped everything he was doing to help us. He called to different departments to see if we could get an official at the airport to sign the document since we had proof of her good health signed by our vet. He led us down to the Customs area and we waited as he investigated the situation. He came back saying that nothing can be done at the airport, a vet must fill out all the paperwork from the department of agriculture. We would have to find a vet near the airport (keeping in mind it's now 7:00 am on a Sunday). We'd have to wait several hours regardless for businesses to open. Luis offered to find some vets in the area for us to call, but we no longer had a cell phone, so he then offered to call for us and see if he could confirm an appointment with someone, somewhere... and give us an address and have a taxi driver get us there. Luis then rescheduled our flight for the next morning (today) for 6:55 am (with two layovers, not ideal, but beggars can't be choosers, right?).
Luis found out that the vet that is closest to the airport is not open until noon. We would have to wait until then to call. He gave us the phone number, but offered to help us at noon after the end of his shift at work. We thanked him and he left us to go work at the gate for the flight we couldn't take. Digging the knife a little deeper.
We needed to solve our accommodation issue for the night, as well. Where would we stay? We decided to call a former guest, Ronny, who runs a B&B near the airport to see if we could possibly stay with him for the night. I looked around for a pay phone. I found some phones lined up on the wall outside the airport, but none of them worked (I guess with everyone having cell phones these days, the demand has declined significantly). So now what do I do? There was a homeless man in a wheelchair begging for change. He was watching me go from phone to phone and probably saw my exasperation when none worked. He called me over and put his hand in his pocket and produced a shiny iPhone. I wasn't kidding when I said "everyone" has a cell phone. How times have changed. I called Ronny, , but no answer (I had retrieved his number from my saved files on my computer before I started looking for a phone to use). I thanked the homeless man for his kindness and gave him my leftover coins (I write "homeless", but that's a judgement on my part, this man could very well have a home and family to go to at the end of his workday).
After the phone fiasco, I came back and joined Kevin in the concourse of the airport, feeling deflated. We decided to move our luggage and Frankie up to the second level and camp out in the airport cafe where there was free internet access. We settled in. We took turns watching our stuff and Frankie while the other went to the washroom, or to buy a beverage. Poor Frankie was snuggled in her crate the whole time so we took her out for walks, got her bowl out and gave her some water and a bit of food. She was such a good girl.
We didn't waste any time to reach Krista to let her know what was happening. We asked her if she could Google other possible vets near the airport in case she might find one that was open earlier. She was a star!! She called a few vets, but without much success. No answer. Then she was able to get a hold of a vet that was open, but fully booked. Krista explained our situation and the vet said we were welcome to wait around in her office in case one of her clients didn't show up, she would then see Frankie (but no guarantees). We could either wait at the airport, which started to feel hopeless and like nothing was being resolved, making us feel even more antsy or we could wait at the vet's with a slight possibility of Frankie being seen. The latter option felt like a step forward. We were feeling lucky! So, we dragged our four suitcases, our very heavy knapsack and Frankie, and headed to the taxi line.
Jerry, big smile on his face, approached us and spoke a little English. We explained that we needed to get to City Mall. No problem... ten minutes... $5 ride. "Okay... let's go!" While Jerry was getting us to our destination, Kevin asked him if he knew of any vets that would be open. Jerry thought, and said since it was Sunday, most would not be open before noon. He immediately called a friend or family member, not sure, spoke Spanish into his phone, then hung up. "There is a vet just a little further, maybe you want to check if they are open?" Kevin said "Sure! Thank you. How much?" "Oh, $2 more, no problem". Off we go. A few minutes later we reached a strip mall. I stayed in the car with all our belongings and Frankie, and Jerry and Kevin hopped out of the car to check if the vet was open and whether an appointment could be made. No such luck. The vet office didn't open until 1 pm. So we decided to go back to the original plan... City Mall... where we "might" be able to see the vet... but maybe not. Jerry was on the case, he didn't like that we might have to wait several hours only to not get any further ahead. He was on the phone again. We drove by a huge agricultural veterinarian building. Jerry slowed down (barely) and squeezed his car between two other cars and parked. Jerry and Kevin got out again to ask if there was any chance of Frankie seeing a vet. A minute later, Jerry comes to get me and Frankie. Things were looking up. We thanked Jerry. He said "no problem"... and told us he would be happy to wait for us. There was no discussion of how much this would all cost, but by this point, it was the last thing we were worried about. It would all be worth it if we could get this document. Kevin and I explained the situation to the cashier. She explained that it was not a matter of a vet being able to simply sign and stamp a form. A vet must examine the dog, fill out the form, then send it to the government agency that prepares the final document with all the different government departments' stamps, etc. So, it doesn't matter which vet we were going to see that day, the outcome would be the same. This process could be hastened and it "could" be possible to get the official document by the following day, soonest 9:30 am (which means 1:30 pm in Costa Rica, if we were lucky). But our flight was leaving at 6:55 am... no use. Sigh. The cashier said it would be a good idea for the vet to check all the current documents to make sure we had everything in order just in case something was missing. Good idea, indeed!!
So we waited for the vet, Raquel (which just happens to be the same name as our vet in San Marcos) to see Frankie. Fifteen minutes passed. Jerry was sitting in his cab with our 4 big suitcases (we took our knapsack with all important things with us). Jerry's car was out of sight from where we were standing. Jerry is a really nice guy, but we didn't know him from Adam, so we kept peeking to see that he hadn't absconded with our stuff. Let's not add insult to injury. No, he was still there. I went up to his car window and apologized for the amount to time it was taking... "no problem, no problem". Again, no mention of how much this was going to cost us. Couldn't worry about that. We were sleep deprived, hungry and a little punch drunk. Having Jerry hang around, even for moral support, brought us some comfort. Raquel came out and said she could see Frankie. Kevin went in with Frankie and I stayed outside to keep an eye on things. Raquel speaks English and communication wasn't a problem. After several minutes, 20 maybe, Kevin came out and said I needed to hear what the vet was telling him. So I followed, leaving our friend Jerry to his own devices. I listened to Raquel tell us that Frankie cannot fly before September 17th!!! What? Why? She explained that an animal cannot fly within the first month of having its rabies shot. Frankie had hers on August 16th. So even if we would rush around, still we would not be able to book to be on the next available fight, which is this Thursday. Even if the government agency had all the documents ready for us today, we'd still have to wait two weeks before being allowed to fly. And, no, we would never leave without Frankie (just sayin').
Kevin and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and decided it would be best to simply drive back to Hush Valley Lodge. We ask Jerry if he would be willing to drive us all the way back "home" and he agreed. How much to drive us back? "$120"... "Okay, let's go".
On the way, we borrowed Jerry's phone to call Krista to let her know we were on our way back. And to ask her if she could pick us up at La Trinidad because Jerry's car was not a 4X4. Krista had gone out and didn't get any of our messages so we thought it best to be dropped off in Santa Maria and get a 4x4 taxi from there. Jerry dropped us off and when we asked him "how much?" he replied "$125" ... he didn't charge us for all the time he spent waiting for us, he didn't charge us for the time he took to help us, he didn't charge us for the use of his phone, he didn't even charge us for the extra $2 to get us to the first mall. Kevin added and extra $10 to the charge. I was busy letting Frankie relieve herself, and with being as tired as we were, once Jerry left, we both thought "we only tipped him $10?" We did get his phone number so we will call him next week when we have to go back into San Jose so that we can make it right. We really do want to show our appreciation. We have to go back on September 15th to pick up the exportation document for Frankie (oh yes, this document is valid only for 10 days, so if we don't get a flight within 10 days of receiving this document, we will need to go through this whole process again... so we better be on that flight on September 17th.)
We took our luggage out of Jerry's taxi and hired a Santa Maria taxi who said he had 4x4. It shook, rattled and rolled. We didn't think we'd make it. Then half way between Copey and Rio Blanco, Kevin notices Krista driving behind us. We waved her down... her jaw dropped. We then paid the taxi driver and transferred all our stuff to the SUV and drove home together.
And this is how we spend Sunday, August 3rd. We got "home", back to the casita completely exhausted. Krista was kind enough to make some dinner and then we went to bed at 8 o'clock, I think. I slept like a rock until morning.
So... we start again on September 17th... wish us luck!!
P.S. And although it's really quite annoying and frustrating to go through all this, we are not fleeing forest fires, we are not trying to get to higher ground due to flooding, we are not escaping a war-torn zone... we are putting everything in perspective. We can manage another two weeks.
P.S.S. We just this minute received Colleen and Drew's Airbnb review (our last guests). Here it is:
“Anne and Kevin were the best hosts we have ever had the pleasure to stay with! What they have done to the property shows the love and dedication they have put in to making Hush Valley Lodge what it is today. The Dota region is such a special place and staying there gives you a much more real Costa Rican experience than the bigger tourist areas of the country. Make sure to do the coffee tour because it will forever change how you view coffee and the process that goes into it. I highly recommend for everyone to stay here. It is such a surreal experience staying in this hidden gem and enjoying the breathtaking property. Getting to catch your own trout and have the most delicious meals brought into your own cozy casita is an unmatchable experience. Take the hikes and explore the property because it is too superb to miss! Make sure to give Bobby extra lovin because she is the best hiking companion (and will show you the right paths to take if confused!) We hope to come back one day and experience this magical paradise with the new owners Krista and Dave. We know the beauty and charm that Kevin and Anne have put into the place will carry over into good hands. Now it's time for the new owners to have this place change their lives for the better as it did for Anne and Kevin! If you have found this place through airbnb and are considering it but unsure due to not many reviews yet, just book it and you will not regret it! We were the last guests of the previous owners, and the new owners will start fresh with their airbnb for this place. If we could give it 10 stars we would. A truly unique unforgettable experience you will not forget!”
Over and out!
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
Click here to pick up your copy of Anne's book! It's all about their adventure and the establishment of Hush Valley Lodge: from leaving their middle-class suburban lifestyle in Canada to reinventing themselvess in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica. Check it out and if you enjoy it, please spread the word! Thanks!