The Costanera is a stretch of highway that runs from Dominical to Palmar Sur, about 40 kilometers south of us. In a country renowned for having the worst roads in all of Central America, the Costanera is the exception to the rule. It is a beautiful two-lane American-quality road running along the coast that exposes a traveler to glimpses of the most beautiful blue water beaches in the world.
The beaches and coastlines of Costa Rica cannot be privately owned. The are all supposed to be public, so if you can find a way to reach the water, its yours to enjoy.
Every February the spectacular Costanera become a scene of death, devastation and carnage in which thousands of lives are lost. These unsuspecting lives are crushed out of mortal existence by cars traveling the highway after dark. It's a terrible nighttime battle between cars and crabs.
Halloween crabs are nocturnal land crabs that live in the jungle throughout Central America. They are adept tree climbers at night and live in underground boroughs during the day. Although they live in the jungle, they have to travel across the road to reproduce and lay their eggs on the beach. Where we live, their mass reproductive frenzy, thank heavens, seems to be limited in to the month of February. Honestly, folks, I have a hard time killing an ant and believe me there are a lot of ants around here. Killing a spider is almost sacrilegious for me, but crushing cute little crabs on the highway is devastating.
Imagine if you will Bill and I traveling down the road. If you’ve ever driven with him, you know his driving style can be described as aggressive at best. It’s safe and controlled, but usually on the fast side. This does not fair well for crabs trying to cross the road. Nor does fare well for his wife.
Bill’s driving along and I scare the pants off him by shouting, "There’s one!"
He replies, "I see it," and swerves out of the way. Disaster and carnage are averted.
The problem is that the little creatures travel in packs. Where there is one, there are soon whole bunches of them. Here is where the roller coaster ride begins. I’m shouting, "There’s one! .. There’s one! Did you see him? To the left! To the right! On the center line!" Bill is swerving all over the road in the middle of the night to avoid the crabs. Crunch!
"I’m trying, Tica." He says. I know that he is.
Swerve. Swerve. "Missed him!" "Missed him!" Crunch! Crunch! "Ooh! Ouch!" Swash. Swerve. "That was close. Missed him!"
Sometimes to spite all our efforts, the little guys just seem to line up right under the wheels, Crunch, crunch, crunch! Right in a row. Then there are the startled and confused crabs that won’t stay put so we swerve around them. Instead, they dodge right under the Junglemobile’s wheels. Crunch, once more.
Pretty soon I can’t take it anymore. I’m not doing the crabs or Bill any good by yelling, shouting and getting all excited. The crab splat on the road is too much for me. More than once I’ve put my hands over my eyes and said, "I can’t look anymore!"
At which point, I’ve got my eyes tightly closed in the passenger seat as Bill is driving down the road dodging the crabs without a lookout. Then I start with, "Is it over yet? Is it over? Can I look? Tell me when it’s over!"
I’m pretty sure Bill lets me hang on cringing a little longer before he finally says, "OK. You can open your eyes, until next time…."
When the whole carnage repeats itself with the next troop of horny crustaceans.
After writing this, a local Tica told me a sad commentary about the Halloween crab. Ten years ago there used to be many more crabs. At that time they were so thick, there was no way to dodge them. Whether the decline in numbers is due to man’s encroachment into their jungle habitat, the increased use of the Costanera highway or something else, it would be a shame to loose these colorful creatures.