I’m writing up this blog post from Sámara , reported as the epicenter of the 7.6 Richter  magnitude earthquake that shook up Costa Rica  exactly one week ago, last Wednesday, September 5, 2012.
Sámara is mid-way down the Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula . (Actually, while most of the media describe Sámara as the epicenter, the US Geological Survey image above shows the true epicenter as being at Hojancha, about 25 miles northeast of Sámara.)
I was probably the only person in Costa Rica who was unaware that a temblor (as the Ticos call earthquakes) had jolted the nation severely. You see, at 8:42 a.m., as the earthquake struck, I had just stepped onto a narrow pedestrian suspension bridge slung over the Río Sarapiquí, at Selva Verde .
If you’ve ever stepped on such a bridge, you know that it starts bouncing and swaying until you lose your sense of balance. Just like an earthquake!
Ten minutes later I walked back to Selva Verde Lodge to discover that I’d just missed all the shaking, which rocked Costa Rica countrywide.
The quake’s epicenter was about 25 miles (41 kilometers) deep—a key reason so little damage was done. As described by the USGS: "The September 5th 2012 M 7.6 earthquake beneath the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, occurred as the result of thrust faulting on or near the subduction zone interface between the Cocos and Caribbean plates. At the latitude of this earthquake, the Cocos plate moves north-northeast with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 77 mm/yr, and subducts beneath Central America at the Middle America Trench."
Although the shaking, I’m told, was significant, the country escaped major damage. One woman died of a heart attack caused by fright. At least 200 houses tumbled or were badly damaged, and at least one bridge was felled. And landslides have blocked many roads.
The Hotel Linda Vista , at El Castillo , on the south side of Arenal Volcano , had some collapse damage and I drove by there to see it. In fact, El Castillo was pretty badly hit, with many collapsed houses, including the main structure of Essence Arenal Hotel .
Last night I stayed with Jack and Karen Hunter at their wonderful bed-and-breakfast lodge, Tree Tops , at San Juanillo, about 25 miles north of Sámara. While there, we were shaken by three solid aftershocks.
Still, other than the damage I saw at El Castillo and a dozen or so minor landslides, for the past week I have otherwise had absolutely no sense that there was a big ‘quake… and 7.6 is BIG! In fact, it’s the largest earthquake to strike Costa Rica in more than 50 years.
So big that a tsunami  warning went out and about 5,000 people were immediately evacuated from coastal towns in and near the quake's epicenter.
Meanwhile, today will be a test day for me.
I’m driving south along the rugged dirt road between Sámara and Playa Santa Teresa . It’s a challenge at the best of times, and successfully fording the several wide rivers en route is never guaranteed. See my blog post  of January 5, 2009.
Today I learned that several small landslides had closed the road and that the rivers are high (this is the middle of rainy season), and getting through will be very iffy. Meanwhile, the alternate route over the mountains and down the eastern side of the Nicoya Peninsula will be impossible, as the paved road south of Jicaral, near Hojancha, is closed due to landslides and fracturing.
Wish me luck!
ADDENDUM (14 Sep 2012: I made it through to Playa Santa Teresa with no problem. A few miles south of Sámara the road was buckled, yet passable. And at the tiny hamlet of Islita, I noticed that the twin steeples of the church were badly cracked and surely in danger of toppling.
Now that you’re ready to travel to Costa Rica, buy Moon Handbook Costa Rica .
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal&Monteverde  pocket guide.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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