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Wild drives in rugged Costa Rica

By Nick Parker

March 29, 2011

(CNN) -- Driving along a dirt road, I mentally prepared for an event I had been dreading: driving through a river in a car. As we rounded a corner, a view of the river opened out in front of me. There appeared to be a partly submerged pickup, carrying three local men and a dog, blocking my route.

Perhaps I should backtrack. I am a city dweller who drives once or twice a year and am not well-placed to cope with this kind of situation. But after deciding to visit Costa Rica, my wife and I were seduced by the idea of a driving holiday around the sun-drenched Nicoya Peninsula.

It quickly became obvious, even to a complete amateur, that a 4x4 vehicle was mandatory. There are a few good motorways, but around 75 % of the country's roads are unpaved. My guide book even had a section on crossing rivers, which I thought was amusing but not something I had to worry about.

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