Of motors and mangos

It is with some irony that I celebrate the arrival of my latest purchase.

Sabbaticals (well, this one)  are/is supposed to be about getting away from convention, comfort zones and easy conveniences. Embracing the new and different, pushing boundaries, learning how to  think and/or be green and sustainable.

But I have discovered my limits, at least in terms of getting from A to B.  Hot bouncy buses, while great for clocking up carbon credits, are just not getting me places I need to get to in the time I need to get there. So, after 9 years without a car, I am now the reluctantly proud owner of a silver, 4-wheeled, vehicle.  Complete with suspension and air-conditioning – both key essentials in an over-heated, under-tarmac-ed country.   And all just in the nick of time, with monsoon rains just starting.. One key essential that appears to be missing, however, is the horn, which doesn’t work. So until it’s fixed, I just shout.  It doesn’t make any difference because no-one can hear me, but I feel better.

Here it is (Al – by special request..)

Functional, not flashy

I can get to work without breaking a sweat in quarter of the time, and pick up an ice-cream from the drive-in parlour on the way home!

Buying a (second hand) car is hardly an easy or transparent process in your own country, in your own language, let alone a foreign one..  Throw in the generally hardwired Latin charm on top of the inevitable car-salesman schmooze, combine that with the challenges of understanding the basic anatomy of a car in Spanish (and while we’re at it, in English too), and you have an experience fraught with hazards and pitfalls..

The keys to my (apparent) success were a combination of luck (friend with a car salesman in the family) and a modicum of due diligence.. (how much do second hand cars usually cost here then?) Unfortunately with no local car manufacturing ability, Costa Rica is dependent on car imports, with a current 100% import tax on top.. Ouch. This means you have little choice but to pay several grand for an old banger.. At least until the Chinese free trade agreement (FTA) kicks in and the country is flooded with cheap Chery’s (beloved brand of the Chinese taxi driver) and electric mopeds..(don’t fancy being on one of those in the monsoon season..)

Monsoon moped

But I think the highlight of my car-purchasing experience was in fact sitting in a chair in the car park waiting for the lawyer to arrive with papers and new car plates etc, and discovering a mango tree.  I mean, how unique an experience is that, to find mangos and motors inhabiting the same place?  And this one was a particularly fruitful one!  I’d like to think, with the country’s alleged leadership on all things green, that it was a clever carbon offset programme, but I think it just happened to be there by accident.

Mangos and motors

They weren’t quite ripe, but the car salesman said I could come back any time and pick one. Now, how likely is it that you would get that sort of offer from an English car-salesman?  Naturally I would have smelt a rat if he’d tried to throw in the mangos during the negotiation process, but by this time, the deal had already been struck, so this was just a clever post-sales sweetener..

There are things I won’t miss about being a pedestrian here.  The total absence of pavements, lethal 1 foot trenches effective both for draining monsoon rains and breaking ankles, lugging bags of groceries in 30 degree  heat, big 4-wheeled drives tearing past you at great speed. But there are things that I will miss about being at street-level: the odd brave/lost/stupid frog or iguana on the roadside, the smell of the hedgerow flowers, the spontaneous purchase of a bag of fresh avocados.  The landscape looks different now.

And I am now a net contributor, along with the rest of the Tico nation, to the country’s carbon emissions.

Must look into mango tree carbon offset programmes..


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nick on May 13, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Wow – nice wheels. I hope you’re going to have a nodding Madonna, a rosary and a pine tree air refresher as well. 🙂


  2. No, that’s too Chinese. Well, supplant the Madonna for a Mao and it is. I think I will have a machete. Just in case.


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