San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

According to President Laura Chinchilla’s announcement just before the July 25 holiday celebrating the 187th anniversary of the annexation of Guanacaste, faster trips to the Liberia airport are in our future. The Inter-American Highway between Cañas and Liberia will be widened from two lanes to four. The highway is already much better now than it was seven years ago, when it had no shoulder lines and often no center line. Back then, a nighttime trip in the rain from the airport home to Lake Arenal was a frightening challenge to maintain a survival path while aiming between the headlights of oncoming trucks and unseeable shoulders. Now, there are not only shoulder lines and center lines but also double yellow lines to help you avoid a smash. Unfortunately, the double yellows seem to have been planned by a resurrected Charles Addams, the New Yorker artist whose cutely macabre cartoons led to “The Addams Family” TV show. His Costa Rican doppelganger has sometimes applied double lines where there are long straight stretches and left only single lines before some curves and hilltops. You ignore the extra lines at your economic peril, as there are huge fines for passing on a double-lined stretch. Nor should you let Addams fool you into passing on one of his special curves and hills.

The website, Lake Arenal section, tells of the book “Archaeology, Volcanism, and Remote Sensing in the Arenal Region, Costa Rica,” an intriguing study published in 1994, focusing on how human beings “developed a culture of survival while living in a potentially disastrous volcanic zone.” Author Payson D. Sheets supposedly shows that “the Arenal peoples prospered in their precarious environment apparently by taking advantage of food and lithic resources, keeping population levels low, and avoiding environmental degradation.” Finding this fascinating and perhaps relevant today, despite the book’s subject extending from 2000 B.C. to only about A.D. 1500, I searched the Internet for it. So far, I’ve found only one copy, on, for $688.88, marred only on the first 20 pages by notes and underlining, according to the seller.

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