The Earth here in Costa Rica is on fire. It’s scorched the fields so that horses and cows eat the charred remains of what may have been grass and the trees look like something from a Tim Burton movie – skeletal fingers attached to skeletal arms pushing up from the grave. I literally watched a house burn down to pass time while waiting for the guys to clean up Wesley at the auto lavado. It may have spontaneously combusted.

This is surprising, though maybe it should not be. We read that Costa Rica, of all the Central American countries, was the most blessed with political stability and prosperity – where else on the isthmus can you get a $4 hamburger for $8 – and we just assumed that also meant it was ripe with lush, green attractions and Spring-like weather. But it’s hard to find anything attractive in a dry and dusty landscape – it’s like hanging a brown paper bag on your wall and calling it art. I think Cy Twombley has done this.

The owner of the campground where we parked Wesley during our sojourn back to the States told us that we are getting a double whammy because we are both at the end of the dry season – the rainy season runs from May to September – and the rainy season last year was like a garden hose with a kink.

The oppressive heat has made it hard to re-engage in our travels – particularly for Coconut and J, who are content to wallow on the couch all day surrounded by air con and Wifi. Around noon of our first sweltering day, which we spent at the immaculate Finca Canas Castillas campground and cabanas, Coconut asked, “What’s there to do around here, anyway?”

Despite the grounds at the campground boasting several hiking trails and a 12-page summary of what you might see on each path, a river where we could boat or fish (but not swim because of the resident crocodiles), R and I had to admit, “Not much.” This is because it’s 100 degrees out and only I am fool enough to enjoy a hike to the mirador. The most exciting thing we did – and it was actually pretty exciting – was watch a three-toed baby sloth climb down a tree branch to the ground to pee.

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This baby sloth was found on the ground and rescued by the owners of the campground where we stayed. When it isn’t just hanging around, it likes to munch on hibiscus flowers.

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Coconut watches as Agi gives the baby sloth goats’ milk by bottle. The timing of this was funny as we had just come back from the states where we visited our just born niece/cousin who also takes a bottle. The owners of the campground that care for the sloth are trying to fatten it up in hopes of one day releasing it back to the wild.

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J smiles over the baby sloth as she lounges and munches hibiscus flowers and cucumber slices.

To really test our will to carry on, we had the following happen to us on our way to our AirBnB place on the coast:

  • On a particular desolate and sunny stretch of road, Wesley stalled and would not restart;
  • The GPS led us off of the paved highway and onto a steeply graded, bumpy, and dusty road as a “faster” way to our destination;
  • The people at reception of the condo complex where we thought we had an AirBnB rental had never heard of the woman that had rented the place to us;
  • Neither had the guards at the place where reception referred us. In act, that place didn’t even have condos;
  • R and I thought, “Oh, shit.”
Vanamos breakdown

We’ve been very fortunate during our trip that we have not had serious, inexplicable mechanical issues on desolate stretches of highway – until now.

Amazingly, and as a sign to keep moving forward, everything worked out. Using the “How to Keep your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot” by John Muir, which I was sure I would never use when R insisted we buy it but which I have now used successfully several times, I was able to identify the problem (Wesley stalled) and methodically eliminate reasons for the failure until I saw that a wire from the fuel pump had become disconnected. Once I had reattached the wire, the van started and I had earned cheers from Coconut and J and a wet kiss from R.

The GPS led us off the main highway to an up-and-down bumpy, dusty road, but Wesley, with its freshly connected fuel pump wire was easily up to the task. We eventually found our condo (it wasn’t as close to the beach as we thought) and our curses turned to relieved sighs of appreciation. Coconut and J had been spectacularly cooperative and compatible the entire day, prompting J to gushingly comment to R while we were in the grocery store that his sister, “is in a good mood today.” He really looks up to her and it was great to see them getting along so well that day.

But another hurdle awaited us. As we started unloading the pantry in Wesley, R came across the nesting grounds for our colony of sugar ants. Unfortunately, a colony of their much larger and nastier cousins had moved in as well. J had noticed a few larger ants moseying about the van while we were camped at Canas Castillas but we downplayed it. But now, as R held a bag of tomato sauce that writhed and pulsated in her hands, there was no denying the problem. While R threw ant covered foodstuffs out of the van, I calmly encouraged Coconut and J to remain in the condo (I didn’t have to try to hard to achieve this) so as not to contribute to J’s already high insect anxiety level.

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We wondered why the chickens liked hanging out under our van while we were camped at Finca Canas Castillas. Obviously, they were our allies in the staging grounds for the Battle of the Pantry – picking off ants as they came and went from Wesley’s innards.

With the kids safely sequestered, R and I were able to empty the contents of the van and I opened up a can of ant-spray whoop-ass on those interlopers that sent them scrambling for the slider door en masse. It was a massacre that will go down in history as “The Battle of the Pantry” and I have no regrets. I’m loathe to take a life, but ants need to live outside. Even if the earth is on fire.