The dusty dirt road wound through the dry coastal countryside. I’ve never really been worried on any road, in my low clearance minivan, with bald tires, but as I spun out climbing the hill to Playa Maderas, that all changed. Cutting hard left and right across the road I scraped for any traction I could find. As I chugged up the hill, passing a bunch of sweaty backpackers on foot, my pride pushed me the rest of the way to the top. But it wasn’t over. The beach isn’t at the top of a mountain. I crested the other side and looked down in terror at a hill twice as long with foot-deep trenches and pot holes eroded out of the silty slope. I love going downhill, usually I’m flying no-brakes on the inside lane of any elevation change. but that’s not what I was worried about no; I was worried about the return trip out of Playa Maderas.
I said “fuck it” and figured I would fuss about that idea in a few days. Whether it was the heat of the driving stress, I don’t know, but I was feeling even worse than before now, with a heavy head ache across my whole skull. On top of that, one nostril was totally blocked and it felt like there was a balloon being blown up inside my brain. I parked the whip and collapsed in the back of my van. Not too much more would happen for the next few days. At some point I realized it was not strep throat though.
I proceeded with some pretty primitive treatment techniques. I tried steaming out my sinuses while hovered over a boiling pot of water with a towel over my head. Then I added salt to that water and poured it into my nose via a ziplock bag. The water loosened up the mucus in my cavities and I had to be careful to not blow too hard and force everything into my ears. I wasn’t careful. Pretty soon I was going deaf in one ear in addition to everything else. After some time, I dragged my sick ass out of the van and down to the beach, an 80 ft walk that took all of 8 minutes. I got into the water but it was freezing cold and I couldn’t tell if my body was just being a weak bitch or if some weird weather was working. Apparently a cold system was being blown up from the South, or so I was told.A couple days later, I convinced myself I had to surf here before I was allowed to leave. I put on a heavyweight, long sleeved biking jersey and hopped in. It was still just as cold. I think I lasted all of 20 mins before recoiling to the beach. When it came time to leave, I dilly-dallied getting the van all in order for the rough ascent up and out of there. I approached the hill slowly, letting a couple other vehicles pass me. Then I got out and scouted a line on foot. There was a pretty clear path where you had to straddle a couple foot-deep ruts with the wheels diagonally to the left and then cut hard right before hitting the bank. It was now or never.
I drove to the bottom of the hill and told a local that I was not confident I could make it, and asked for help if I got stuck. He told me it was simple: just go backwards. I thought I had misheard him for a second, so he repeated himself. It made sense though. I have a front wheel drive van with a lot of weight in the back; if the driving wheels were downhill, all of the weight would be above them and would provide maximum traction to the tires. So I tried it. I flipped the van around and popped it in reverse. The homie stood below me watching as I climbed up the hill backwards, navigating almost blindly. I cut to the lefts where I thought I remembered the ruts were, and then cut back right. With a few bumps and scrapes, I made it to the top and sighed in relief. I pushed on to San Juan del Sur and then down to the Costa Rican border. I had been in touch with my cousin Michael who was working in Playa del Cocos, so I aimed for that as my destination of the day.