Monday, May 3, 2010

Getting Kidnapped in Costa Rica

One of my best girlfriend adventures was to Costa Rica with my good friend Bibi. Bibi is a flight attendant on Air France so as a Christmas present surprise, she and my husband organized the trip for the two of us girls using her buddy passes. It was the best Christmas present I ever got. Unfortunately, as far as my family was concerned, it was the worst trip I've ever taken.

Shortly after New Years Bibi and I set off for Central America from Tahiti, immediately rented a 4WD in San Jose and off we went: two girls, a truck, a boogie board, minimal luggage and a sense of adventure. We tackled the West coast, forded rivers that sometimes went up to our vehicle's windows, went way off the beaten path to the far South and trekked in the jungle. Towards the end of our three-week trip we ended up in the North in the dusty surf town of Mal Pais, where we surfed, zip-lined and attended some pretty wild beach parties. There wasn't much Internet, or maybe we were just having too much fun to think about writing so neither of us wrote home for a day or two. Then we left for the long drive to our last stop in the country, Monteverde.

We arrived at Monteverde in the late afternoon, checked into our friendly and frilly homestay then went to check email. About a minute after logging on we both looked at each other in shock. Both of us had pages of emails from worried family who were sure we'd been kidnapped.

Here's what happened on their end:

At some odd hour in the middle of the night Bibi's mother in France received a phone call from a girl who sobbed for help for a few seconds then hung up. Now this detail is a bit vague, but being sure it was her daughter's voice and already being worried about her little girl gallivanting around Central America, she called the phone company who apparently traced the call to Costa Rica. She then called Bibi's sister Marina on Tahiti, freaking out, to see if she'd had any news from us. Marina said no she hadn't and called Bibi's boyfriend Andy in hysterics. Andy, worried out of his mind called my husband Josh. It was about 5am in Tahiti at this time. Josh, trying to remain calm, called my dad in the States and my dad called the American consulate in Costa Rica. Amazingly within a few hours they tracked us to our guesthouse in Mal Pais who told them we had left suddenly without saying where we were going. My dad booked a ticket to Costa Rica - if he'd had Rambo gear he'd have packed it.

It was just a few hours before my dad's flight when Bibi and I checked our email in Monteverde. We immediately called everyone to let them know we were OK and to tell my dad he didn't need to pull a Harrison Ford for us. Everyone was relieved but they were all so shaken up by this time that it quickly turned to anger.

"But we didn't do anything!" we pleaded.

All anyone could say was, "You have no idea what we went through."

In all, it was an interesting exercise on how easy it is to track someone down. Now I do call and write more often and I do properly fill out all that annoying passport info when I check in. I used to be paranoid that filling out all that stuff would somehow make me more easy for The Man to find me - but if that man is my dad looking for me, I'm OK with that.

To this day I can't really talk about that wild and crazy Costa Rica trip with the people most close to me but shhhh, I had a really good time!


  1. No Darien Gap trek for you then, I take it?!

    It's funny how times have changed. When I was backpacking around Asia for a year back in the late '90s, I only checked in once a month via phone (you know, someone on a corner in some village renting out their prized international telephone line at astronomical rates) and occasionally email in the few places where online computers were available. Poste restante was my lifeline.

  2. Well at least you can count on your Dad when you need him - or even when you don't!

  3. What a story! I was reading it, enjoying it, since I've been to Costa Rica and it is always nice to find something familiar in someone else's story, and then the crisis! How terrifying for your family!

    Yes. you are quite right, fill out the forms, e-mail regularly, take cell phones if you can, etc.

  4. Sara yes poste restante! Those were the days. I traveled lots in the early 90s without anyone having a clue where I was for weeks on end. It was great and also a treat shuffling through those poste restante boxes for mail, which was such a treasure. Email has made adventures way less adventurous for sure and we really take communication for granted and think we can't survive without it. In defiance I still regularly "forget" to turn my cell phone on for days sometimes. I miss that feeling of being really off on my own that the Internet has for the most part ruined. I think I'll have to write a nostalgia post on poste restante!
    The upside I suppose is that we are safer - but safer from what? Costa Rica was safer than Disney Land! Sometimes life is more interesting when we aren't so safe.



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