San Jose, Costa Rica
In the morning we head for san jose. There's a blanket of clouds overhead that are probably the only thing keeping us from overheating as we crawl up the mountains towards town. I'm white-knuckled the whole way fearing that our wheel could pop off and roll down the side of the mountain at any point; and if i'm not ready we might follow it down.
We had been in touch with the vw club in town and asked for mechanic referrals. We make it clear we'll go to whoever they might suggest is the best- as long as he isn't on the top of a hill. As we pull into town we call and ask directions and make our way there. As we approach we stare at the mountain in front of us and just hope the directions end at the bottom. We continue on as instructed and work half way up the side before calling for the rest of the instructions. He comes down to get us so we can follow him, and of course...he lives at the very top of the mountain. Literally.
We somehow get E to the top despite horrifically steep inclines, small windy roads and any number of buses and other vehicles coming the other way trying to slow down our almost nonexistant momentum Jonas hops to work and we spend the day with he and his family. The guy is amazing. He physically cant see or touch something with a problem without going to work on fixing it and he's in a frenzy on our bus for most of the day. As you might imagine, at this point in the trip almost everything has some problems, has wriggled loose or fallen off completely... He also quickly finds the problem with our wheel. We were sadly assuming another rebuild was in order but it turns out the guys that helped us back in Nicaragua simply didn't torque the nuts enough and the reduction box is simply wobbling around and stripping the screws. Of course, it was the one thing i didn't double check/tighten after them...
While he works and welds, we kill on other projects. Prepping the bus for its stay, sanding some small spots of surface rust and cleaning the inside. It would be awesome to return to a clean and solid bus when we get back! The family is awesome and jen makes friends with mom and the little girls. By the day's end the girls are making us handwritten love notes with candy glued to the page and the oldest wants jen's phone number and facebook info. By evening she has jen wrapped up in a blanket with her and i'm worried i might have to drive away without her. So adorable.
We also made other new friends. Next to our bus is the shell of a bay window being slowly restored to its former glory, and later in the day the owner shows up to do a bit of sanding/grinding. Hans has pity on us and offers to trade dinner/drinks back at his place for a ride down the hill (if our bus is finished today).
Well after dark we get the signoff (on as many things as Jonas can squeeze into one day) and we load Hans into the bus and take off. We don't make it far however as we don't have the power to get out of the shop's uber-steep driveway. We finally all unload, make a last run at it with Jonas driving and me pushing from behind. He makes a strong suggestion that we come back and see him after our trip... apparently we have even less power than he thought possible. Everyone hears the size of our engine and thinks we have plenty of power...they never believe us when we tell the stories- I guess we should have just had them try driving it up a hill!
We coast downhill in the dark testing both the brakes and our headlights but finally pull into Hans' place and meet Natalie and their 3 dogs. They live in an absolutely gorgeous house in the best neighborhood of san jose. The home is breathtaking and the grounds look like a botanical garden. It also all sits alongside a river that drowns out any other noise. Amazing.
As are they. They welcome us into their home as though were lifelong friends, feed us an epic meal and entertain us late into the night despite having work/meetings in the morning. We crash under their covered parking sufficiently fed and wined. Our best camp in at least a month!
We wake up groggy but finally pull out and head for the neighborhood near the airport. We knew this was the negative possibility of heading inland to deal with the bus- a couple days to kill and nowhere to go/nothing to do...but at least we're in one piece and the stress is gone ;)