The Caribbean Costa

Monday, January 18, 2010

Phil, Perry, and I were in El Nubio, the white 4WD that Perry had rented heading ever closer to the Panama border and specifically to Puerto Viejo. We'd heard it was really sketchy and I didn't expect much from it at all, but as we rolled into town (what a way to travel!) I decided it was a marked improvement from Cahuita. At least here, there were people milling in the streets (some of whom were female and not a couple!) and life. I imagine with better weather, I would have liked Cahuita, but I'll never know. We drove around and looked at some different accomodation options and settled on Cabinas Larry for $9/night. There was no internet to be found, but otherwise it was a pretty nice place and a huge step up from my lodgings in Cahuita. We got settled in, got our stuff out of the car, and then it was time to walk the town. Quick facts: a nice beach on the north side of the town, two very well-reputed beaches south of town, plenty of expensive restaurants, and the appearance of a healthy nightlife.

We took a walk along the beach nearest town. There is beach right in the town but it's not very nice. The northern beach is next closest and almost qualifies as being in town. It's actually a pretty nice beach except that there's no surf to be found there but we walked up to the northern end and then back to town. These two girls walked by us six times, which was kind of strange as they'd basically just get past us and turn around; I thought we'd probably encounter them later but we didn't. This may have been our fault as I was still recovering from my sickness thanks to Perry's antibiotics, so we stayed in and just sat chatting, taking turns in the hammock, and listening to Greek and Spanish music off my computer. For the first time on this trip, we cooked. Perry and I cooked spaghetti together and I was pleased at how much money this saved us. Meanwhile, the two of them bought a bottle of Guarro and Fresca and just about finished it. For just hanging around chatting, it was a really good time. People make all the difference when you're traveling.

The next day we drove south and explored the famed Manzanillo beach. Perhaps because it was high tide, perhaps because of the storm that had just rolled through, or perhaps for other reasons altogether, there wasn't much beach to be found. It was brown sand, palm-fringed, and mostly empty. We stayed for awhile and watched some local kids playing a game where they'd wade into the water and then when they saw a wave they'd run out screaming and laughing. It was more funny than it probably sounds here. The surf was coming in pretty decently but I headed out to see if there was some decent snorkeling on the reefs out here. There usually is, or so I'm told, but the visibility was so bad that I kicked some fire coral that I didn't see below me and that was the end of that session. Fire coral, incidentally, is basically like being stung and, well, stings. Not pleasant but if you don't focus on it too much it fades. Until you go in the water again, which I discovered in Cocles beach back up the road towards Puerto Viejo. Here, there was plenty of sand, plenty of scenery and plenty of surfing - if you were an accomplished surfer. Perry and I were not up for the challenge and even Phil declined, but we sat by the beach and enjoyed life anyway.

Phil was going to try the next day but he wound up having a bug pretty similar to whatever I'd had, complete with fever, chills, lethargy, and no surfing. Just as well. Perry and I got him sorted with water and supplies and went to Cocles ourselves to find 4m waves scaring even the locals from entering the water. We did go for a swim, by which I mean wading to about waist-deep water (the deepest allowed before the lifeguard would whistle you back in) and trying to fight the incredible rip tide sucking you out to sea. As we drove back we found Phil walking the streets and sat with him at a cafe with a cold drink. It was HOT. We ate spaghetti again that night and I spiced it up by cooking some sausages and putting them in there. It was a great dinner. This was compensated for the next night by eating out at a cheap looking restaurant and finding our bill came to 8000 colones each (which is about $15) including our two beer. We went out as well, watching the great Plan B reggae it up with numerous guest stars from the audience then heading to another bar on the beach that was too hot and crowded to enter and visiting with a couple local girls and their pretty cool friend from Ottawa.

But all things, good or bad, have to come to an end. Perry was heading back to San Jose to catch his flight home. Phil and I were heading south to Panama. I don't want to be unreasonable here, but all three of us really didn't enjoy Costa Rica. Not for backpacking, anyway. There are nice people and beautiful places, but all of those nice people want a LOT of money to get anywhere near the nice places. I was sick almost the whole time, and Phil even got sick, though of course that can happen anywhere. The public transport is unavailable for some of the most obvious routes and the tourism industry has taken the incredible step of becoming Costa Rican culture. If I never hear Pura Vida again I will be quite happy. Still, there were good times. The crew of Tamarindo. Ziplining in Monteverde. The expensive hotsprings in La Fortuna. The party in Puerto Viejo. And meeting up with Phil and Perry. Perry was driving us to the border and I looked at the distant Panamanian mountains knowing that there lay another set of challenges, of things to love and hate and most importantly, experience. We said farewell and he drove off in one direction while Phil and I strode across the aged metal bridge into a new country.

Puerto Viejo Photos

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