Ya, you read that right. This FLORIDA (where the ground doesn’t shake) girl survived a 7.9 earthquake and all the subsequent ones that followed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was visiting my BFF for 30 years, Tiffany, where she nows lives in Costa Rica back in September 2012. So far, everything about this trip was par for the course…I had no travel plans except a ticket there and a ticket back.
Just the way I like it!
We knew that we were going to being heading over to the Pacific side, specifically Playa Avellanas, where she once lived. To get to this place, we took a very long bus ride, another long bus ride and a taxi. Avellanas was BEAUTIFUL! However, to call it a town, ummm….
It was an amazing surf spot. There were about two places to eat, a few places to stay and a whole lot of nothing. She was in love with this place. I get it. The extrovert in me doesn’t; but for her, it was perfect. I was excited to see where she had spent so much of her time. We stayed in a surfer’s hostel the first night. The following morning, we went across the street to have breakfast at Las Olas. Here, is where you could rent an amazing villa, dine on local food and cross the quarter mile, wooden bridge to get to the Pacific Ocean.
Right here, in beautiful Avellanas, is where the Pacific meets a river in Costa Rica. It really is breathtaking. OR SO YOU THINK UNTIL AN EARTHQUAKE STRIKES!
We were actually finished eating breakfast and rushing to pay Noel. (my favorite old school Tico) I had been holding out my money to pay for a bit. (In Noel’s defense, there was a group of about 10 Venezuelans making a surf documentary, making the place ridiculously busy) Had Tiff and I paid when we wanted to, our fate would have been completely different.
It’s really hard for me to describe my first earthquake. When the shaking began, i thought to myself that there must be a train going by. Remember, I’M FROM FLORIDA!!!!!!!! I have no clue what an earthquake feels like.
There was no train and I freaked out! I ran! I followed some other people. ( OK, one Venezuelan, because what did I know) I followed him straight through some very razor sharp, jungle plants out to the open. Once out to safety, or I thought, someone was yelling that we needed to go out into the driveway. That the jungle we had retreated to was not safe.
At this point, I realized I was bleeding. Yes, that’s right, not only did I survive this massive earthquake, but I somehow managed to be the person who didn’t know what was going on, followed someone out into the jungle and in this process, ran through bushes that had thorns. That’s right. I was now bleeding from my face and arms due to running frantically through native plants.
After a few minutes (and a couple of aftershocks) we headed back to the hostel to get our stuff. Las Olas had a backup generator and we wanted to be near other people and get any information. After all, we were now on a tsunami watch and we had no car and no way out of the town. The owners of the hostel had left to head up into the mountains and we used our key, grabbed our stuff and started walking back.
I can’t explain how panicked I was. I was shaking (no pun intended) and was really freaking out. I mean the ground doesn’t shake in Florida! And now the threat of tsunami! Oh hell no!
While walking back to Las Olas, we were having the very serious discussion on what we would do if there was a tsunami. Trying to figure where the highest ground that we could physically reach (we determined it was the roof of the hostel) is a conversation you don’t ever want to have. And then there was the silence. The Costa Rican Jungle was eerily quiet, but as we approached the villas, the sound of someone playing Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Nice was faintly heard in the distance. I can tell you that I felt like I was in some B horror flick. Picture this:
Two girls traveling alone in the remote jungles of Costa Rica. A massive earthquake hits. Making their way back to find help, they start to hear music in the distance. The upbeat tune, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, sent chills down their spines. What they didn’t know is that they were about to experience one of the most horrific days of their lives. They thought they were meeting friendly strangers, comrades who wanted to help them get to safety, but these people were no allies.
Ok, you get the point. It was creepy! But none of that happened. We made our way back to the restaurant and I told Noel that I needed whatever liquor he had. It was 9:30 am I just survived my first massive earthquake. Needing a drink was an understatement. After a while, the tsunami warning was called off and we were able to reach out to our families to let them know that we were ok. We spent the rest of the day drinking and non-stop talking about this event. We ended up renting one of the villas for the night, since getting out of Avellanas wasn’t really an option until the next day.
This mighty earthquake was felt in all of Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Some 1,650 aftershocks occurred in the following five days, including one of 5.4 magnitude and the most powerful aftershock since the September earthquake, lasting at least 30 seconds and measuring magnitude 6.6!!