Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Pura Vida, Costa Rica

Our travel to Puntarenas goes better than we could have hoped for, but there's still no chance of a bus to Jaco until the morning. Having checked out the bus times, with me vetoing the 5:00am option in favour of a marginally less brutal 7:00am bus, but quietly hoping for the more acceptable 9:00am, we head off to source some accommodation for the night.

Puntarenas is not a town many tourists will linger in - it's clean (mostly), but barely warrants a mention in Lonely Planet, so we prefer to stay close to the bus station in anticipation of an early start. We spot a local guesthouse, and wonder over to check it out. The old chap enjoying TV in the front room appears to combine the roles of owner, reception, security, and everything else, and offers us a choice of rooms for the reasonable (by Costa Rican standards) price of $25.

The room is pretty good (it's all comparative) but we're obliged to check out the imaginatively named Hostel el Turisto down the road. The net result is that we could save $5 but the "habitacion economico" would see us sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a room that wouldn't be out of place in a BBC exposé on the vile conditions that victims of human trafficking are being forced to live in. I think we'll pass...

Returning to our new friend who has only just managed to get back to his chair infront of the TV, we explain that yes, we would very much like to stay here. He looks a little sad as he tries to explain something to us, and confesses that he doesn't speak English - you're in luck amigo, I'm having a good Spanish day, and I butcher the language sufficiently to firstly understand that yes, this is indeed the bathroom, and secondly that compared to what else is on offer, the room is most definitely bueno!

He also shows their list of bus departure times, which is completely different to the one on show at the bus station. We're still aiming for 7:00am though, but turn down his offer of a wake up call...

Having gone more than 48 hours without a shower or even brushing my teeth, I throw caution to the wind and cleanse myself thoroughly before going to bed. Continuing my habit of waking up early, this time I'm wide awake at 3am, and with sleep not looking likely, set about updating the blog. Apparently I fell asleep again, as the next thing I'm aware of is being woken up from a very deep sleep by our old buddy hammering on the door at 6:30am to wake us up. We said no alarm call!

CP must have wondered what the hell I was doing, as it seems the fight or flight instinct kicked in despite me barely being conscious and I sprang from the bed and launched my naked self into the hiding space behind the door in an effort to prevent a 70 year old man from an unacceptable level of exposure.

Regardless of the circumstances, we're both now up and awake, so get dressed and head out for a a little desayuno and then on to the 7am bus. The only downside of our lodgings last night is that there was no internet - so now we're not sure if Ryan is still in Playa Hermosa or if he's moved on. We decide to jump off the bus in Jaco, the last town of any note before Hermosa to check emails and figure out where we should be going, and after wondering the streets marvelling at the prices ($9 for a coffee - and no amaretto, what?!), we get word that the boys are still at the same hotel, a 5 minute taxi away ($10, what is wrong with this country?).

We arrive at the hotel, a small beach front place and the Italian lady that owns it greets us and directs us to Ryan's room. Big hugs all round, it's been 18 months since CP last saw her bro, and I haven't seen him since 2011 (surely not??).

Ryan's travel buddy for the month, Matty, has opted to move to the hotel next door, citing troubles with the Italian lady owner as the driving force, although he's now paying a good wedge more than the $65 "special" rate (again, what?) that she's offered for the remaining 3 of us to stay here. But that includes a supposed incredible breakfast, and there's never any danger of us not staying wherever Ryan is.

After getting the lowdown on the local area and the antics of e Italian lady, we somehow offload our bags of dirty washing to the family in the neighbouring room who are heading into Jaco today - they even pick it up for us afterwards and return our now washed and ironed gear later that day - result! Meanwhile we head off with the boys to a surf spot called Herraduda, where after a hefty taxi ride, lunch, and a long walk along the beach, we deduce the surf is not even good to warrant dipping a toe in. There's time for a beer before our bus back to Jaco where the boys finally make it into the water, about 4 hours after we left the hotel.

Back at the hotel, and we bump into the Italian owner as we are popping our for supplies (beer and snacks). She tells us that there will be no breakfast tomorrow as she will be leaving very early (no problemo) so she'll only charge us $55. It's hard to explain what happened next, as it got pretty weird pretty quickly. Ryan said "oh... Nada, Nada, Nada..." (as that appears to be the crazy lady's name), and we queried the price. Removing 3 breakfasts is surely worth more than $10...
At this point, Nada lost the plot, shouting that we could find another hotel if we wanted, accusing Ryan and Matty of breaking the fridge, something about a window, it's all a blur. We escape to the shops having submitted to her $ demands, but agreeing between ourselves that we will most definitely be getting out of there tomorrow.

This sets in motion a series of events involving hiring a car - it's the best way to get around the surf spots, without having to waste hours on buses or $$$ on taxis. CP does a great job of emailing back and forth with the hire car guy to negotiate that they will deliver the car to us, and they will pick it up from us in San Jose where we will all fly out from in a few days.

The following morning, Crazy Nada has left bags of homemade banana bread outside each of the rooms in place of the regular breakfast, which would have been very sweet of her if she hadn't quite deliberately neglected to deliver ours - thanks for that! We head to a nearby beach cafe where breakfasts costs us about $10 each (thanks Nada!), and there's another failed surfer handshake by me which looks more like I'm trying to play pattercake with a surfer dude who is far cooler than me.

With our stomachs full and our wallets lighter, we head back to take delivery of the hire car, and set off for Pavones, home of the longest left break waves, and the 2nd longest wave of any kind, in the world. Any surfer that hasn't heard of it isn't worth the time of day, and any surfer that has heard of it would "froth" at the very mention of the name. The 4x4 proves it's worth as we get closer, as the final 20km in to this legendary surf town are very much off-road. Happily we still take about 30 minutes off the sat navs expected arrival time over the course of the 5 hour drive down there.

We drop the boys off for a surf and head off to find somewhere to stay. There's a few options but by far the best is a place run by an Italian (uh-oh) called Alejandro. Luckily he's a little more chilled than our previous host, and shows us his top room, which is a self contained apartment covering the entire top floor of the house. It would comfortably sleep 8 or more, and for $30 a night each it's a good deal (slowly getting used to the price jump in Costa Rica!).

We're obliged to look at another place though - there's talk of a Dutch run hostel at the end of he road in Punta Banco, so CP and I set off for a little drive to check it out, aware that it's supposedly 10 minutes over fairly lumpy terrain. We stop along the way to ask a local, who points us straight ahead with a swift "si, si, directo!" and something about two bridges, and off we go. The first bridge is a wooden thing, fairly solid for this area. The second... well there isn't a bridge where we expect to see one, but this is he main route to Punta Banco and people are going back and forth every day, soooo... it must be alright!?

It clearly isn't, but we get across, and then find ourselves staring upwards at a rocky mess that a trials bike would do well to get up. The only option is to turn around and return the way we came. CP jumps out to direct the 7-point turn that's required to get us facing the other way, and is still outside the car when as I'm trying to get some traction, one of the wheels spins wildly, showering her with mud. We laughed about it later...

Just this non-bridge to cross then, and it seems a lot narrower from this angle. That's because it is, part of the mud has fallen away in the short time since we first crossed, and CP has a prime view of one of the wheels driving over nothing but thin air - but we've made it across! Let's never try that one again!
We return to Alejandros and confirm that we will take the apartment - we assume we weren't on the right road to Punta Banco, but neither of us have any interest in trying to track down this Dutch place even after our heart rates have returned to normal.

With the boys finishing their surf long after sunset (apparently the surf here really is every bit as good as it's claimed) it's time for dinner and there's a place just around the corner that serves up excellent food for a very reasonable price. There's just enough time for yet another sunset shot...

We finish the evening with a drink on our epic balcony, trading stories about the surf and our our off-road adventure. 

In the morning the boys are up early for the first of many visits to the surf today. Breakfast is cooked up in the kitchen which is severely lacking in most things. Part of that can be explained by looking our the window where you can see a casserole dish and some cutlery, on the roof outside, presumably the thought of cleaning them was too much for a previous occupant and it's been abandoned outside. Still, it's rarely a good sign when you find yourselves having to use the frisbee you got free with a bottle of water as a serving plate.

After breakfast we all take a drive back to the scene of yesterday's incident. The ground has fallen away slightly more, but you can see the tyre tracks and then the empty space that we drove over...

Ryan didn't say much, but his face said it all - "you got away with one there", "I'm glad it's not my credit card holding the security deposit", and "you better look after my sister" - all of the above expressions conveyed while looking very much like his dad...

Mattys succinct views summed it up pretty well: "FARRRK, that is DEATH!"

If nothing else, it was a pretty good advert for our Hyundai Tuscan, but not an experience that I want to repeat anytime soon. 

We find the correct road to Punta Banco, but the boys are having withdrawal symptoms after being out of the water for a couple of hours, so they drive back to get their boards while CP and I walk the rest of the way there, and then back along the beach, stopping for a swim, and also smashing up a massive coconut for some sustenance on the go.

Dinner that night is a pizza from the restaurant downstairs, it's enormous, possibly using a bin lid in lieu of a pizza tray, and sooooo good!

The boys have had an epic day of surfing, clocking up some 5-6 hours each in the water, and it's no surprise that they're both shattered and keen for an early night. Tomorrow we'll pack up, and head back up the coast to Dominical, as all the info around says that the surf here will drop away and there isn't really much here apart from surfing.

There's time for one last surf before we go, but it's a vey short one with the boys suffering from yesterday's mammoth efforts, and they both catch up on some much needed sleep on the 4 hour drive up to Dominical - it's much harder work than the drive down as for much of it the weather is grim, and the road is barely recognisable despite being the same one that we'd cruised down so quickly a few days earlier. 

We arrive, and although the town of Dominical is still small, it's massive compared to Pavones - big enough to have a tourist information office, who direct us to a nearby hostel with "cheap" rooms. When we get there, it's no surprise that they aren't as cheap as promised but it's a private room for the 4 of us, although there's no "communal" area to relax in. But it's still pouring with rain outside so none of us are too excited at the prospect of traipsing round looking for alternatives. Instead, we take the keys and head out for a much needed late lunch.

We've barely ordered our food when a youngish guy comes in and presents us with a a large card with a hand written message on it. In brief, he's deaf and dumb, and for a small amount of money he will fashion any one of about 30 different animals from a banana leaf. Our standard policy when people try to sell us stuff is to explain that we are travelling for a long time, we have small backpacks and that is why we cannot buy your overpriced tourist tat. I can just about manage that is Spanish, but my sign language is weak, and to be fair, this guys stuff isn't overpriced, and he seems very nice. We opt for a parrott (of course!) and he gets to work.

Pretty quickly it's clear that this is money well spent, he's whittling this leaf into shape with some skill, and the finished article is very impressive.

After lunch, the rain has eased and we want to check out another hostel that has been well recommend. We go in, and it's pretty cool... the dorms are a little cramped but it's got two amazing chill-out areas, with seats looking out to the ocean, hammocks, a movie collection... what more do you want - all for $9 a night. The sticking point is that Matty is not really a dorm room type traveller. Ryan and I are too tired to care, just anywhere with a bed will do, so it's CP vs Matty, who will break first... it's Matty. "One night, just one night" he says, followed by "I'm gonna take a photo of this for my mum, she won't believe it!".
Somehow it's left to Ryan and I to explain to the other hostel that although we took the keys earlier, we don't want the room after all. The guy on the desk needs to make a call to check this, but I don't really see the issue. We haven't paid anything, all of our stuff is still in the car, we're giving the keys back... we're out of there!

We spend the evening relaxing with an entire chill out zone to ourselves and watching the movie The Beach - even Matty has to admit that the new hostel is pretty cool, and in the morning confirms that he is happy to stay here for another night! The view, with the beach all of 20metres away...

Breakfast is an incredible selection of the freshest fruit from a stall right on the beach outside our hostel, before I'm dragged around the market stalls trying every type of Pura Vida singlets that every stall has. It's a process that takes far too long, but ultimately Ryan and I get the ones we wanted, while CP is out of luck - no doubt we'll be trying again later! The rest of the day is mostly spent in the water, and there's enough surf to keep the boys happy, while it's not so raging that CP and I can still manage to splash about near the shore.

That evening, we set about getting through the rum that Ryan had brought with him, and the boys make a late call to have a sunset surf. The dutiful sister and future brother in law set up on the shore to watch, but after the sun goes down and the insect bites begin, enough is enough. When the surf sessin ends, we head out for dinner but on the way out we notice some douchebags arriving who we can just tell will be troublesome in the dorms later...

Dinner would have been quite nice but unfortunately the Parrott children have had too much rum, and can't behave, so after rushing through that I'm in bed by 9 and wondering what I'm marrying into! This apparently:

It's "quiet time" after 10pm, but I'm woken at 11 by the douchebags who are up drinking and talking shit loudly. Yes, I'm old. I'm about to go out there and ask them to either pack it in, or at least head for the other chill out area away from the bedrooms when the owner beats me to it, and I hear Mattys Aussie drawl in amongst the various shouts of "sorry, sorry, we'll keep it down...". What?? He didn't want to stay here because other people would be noisy and keep him awake, and here we are, now approaching midnight, and he's out there talking shit about Bob Marley with these idiots!? FFS!

Thankfully they soon give in to tiredness and I can get some sleep - we have a big day of driving ahead tomorrow to get us back to San Jose...

No comments:

Post a Comment