Sunday, March 7, 2010

Earthquakes and Tsunami Warnings

The month I spent in Costa Rica was quite awesome. Not only did I accomplish a few of my writing goals, (the most important thing), it was filled with unusual occurances, amazing weather, interesting people and beautiful (and unbeautiful) landscapes.
The start, middle and end of my trip were marked by earthquakes. I flew into to San Jose then took a small regional flight to Quepos where my friend, Frank, picked me up. We drove down to Ojochal where I spent the majority of my trip. As I laid down to sleep that first night, listening to the ocean waves, the crazy loud cicadas, night birds and whatnot, I thought I heard the slightlest rumble. I passed it off as thunder, as it rained soon after, and went to sleep. The next morning, Frank tells me it was an earthquake that was centered up in Quepos. I thought it was pretty neat (no one was hurt or anything) that something like that happened on my first night in Costa Rica. Kind of like that country was saying hello to me.
A few weeks later, Wheat, my boyfriend, joined up with me at Frank's and we were preparing to head out to the Osa Penninsula. We got up in the morning and headed down to get some coffee and breakfast. Frank tells us about the big 8.8 earthquake that hit Chili earlier that morning and that now our side of Costa Rica was on a tsunami warning. We immediately look out at the ocean for any signs of big waves. It was low tide and Frank is confident that he is high enough up from the beach that it shouldn't be a problem if it does occur. I stared at the horizon, wondering what such a wave of water would look like, bearing down on me, and hypothizing what I would do in such a situation. Then it was time to go and we headed to Sierpe to catch a water taxi down the river into Drake Bay.
My last night in Costa Rica found me and Wheat in a little place in San Jose called the Elvis Hotel. It had such a funky ambiance but we both liked it a lot. We had nodded off for the night when I suddenly hear a sound that I at first associate with a passing train or a very low-flying jetliner. Then the bed starts shaking and I suddenly realize I'm actually experiencing what an earthquake feels like for the first time. It only lasted a few seconds and I was most impressed with the noise. We both had an adrenline rush from it and I could hear other occupants in the hotel opening their doors and talking to each other about it. The next day, the owner of the hotel, who may or may not have been actually named Elvis, told us that such earthquakes are quite common, especially during the rainy season. They do, after all, have five active volcanoes in the country, but even the non-active ones contribute their share of quakes due to faultline issues.