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  • What’s a honeymoon without a bit of abject terror? Bree and I departed from our musty hotel in Costa Rica’s cloud forest, a lush and singular place but one whose remoteness deprives it of luxury. So we were excited to leave the heavy rains of Monteverde for the sunny Pacific beaches of Manuel Antonio.

    Between us and there stood a harrowing two hours of winding mountain roads without guardrails, without fences, without signs, without paving. We had a private transport in a big white van. Our driver, contrary to advertising, spoke no English. He was a large, bald man with a scary black-widow tattoo on his neck.

    The van bounced and lurched over craters, skidded around sliding rocks and splashed through oily streams, inching through the range. At one point, we had to swing out to the rim to make room for a man driving a cart and donkey. At another, we passed by a small truck and our mirrors scraped. Always, it seemed, our driver preferred to avoid the larger holes in the road by edging closer and closer to the cliff-side. Personally, I would have opted to hug the interior.

    Silently, my bride and I shared the same morbid visions; the van losing its footing and rolling end over end down the side of a rocky hill, headlines vaguely reporting “American honeymooners killed, driver pulled from wreckage with minor injuries,” autopsies revealing the enormous amount of ceviche and tequila we’d had during our vacation. We clutched each other's hands, knuckles white, eyes vigilantly scanning the road ahead with no chance of stopping the inevitable.

    And this driver. Who was he? This guy with the scary neck tattoo like an extra from a Sylvester Stallone movie. What if he was having a bad day? What if he just did not give a shit anymore? What if today was the day he decided to leave it all up to fate?

    We barely spoke, the three of us for those two hours. And as we finally, mercifully dipped into a valley surrounded by flat beautiful land and hinting at the sandy coast ahead, our driver spoke for the first time.

    “You want to see monkey?” He stopped the van, we got out and this big bad looking dude with the scary neck tattoo cupped his hands to his mouth and chirped out to the howler monkey on the wire. The monkey was a harbinger of safe arrival and good things to come.
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