Costa Rica Chronicles: Vol. X

Oh, right, we’re near the equator.
The last installment of the Costa Rica Chronicles had us in the mountains, amidst the clouds, wearing layers, including rain jackets, which is fine for people from Bellingham. That said, as the photo I’ve used for the Costa Rica Chronicles suggests, the main allure of going to the tropics, for us, had to do with hot sun, sandy beaches, warm ocean water… the perfect antidote to winter.

And so, at the exact midpoint of our trip, we boarded a bus that would take us from Santa Elena to the port city of Puntarenas, where we walked onto an hour-long ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera, and finally we took a taxi across the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, to our next destination, the surfing mecca of Mal Pais. By the time we got to Puntarenas we remembered, “Oh, right, we’re near the equator.”

It was hot!

We dragged our bags around in the blazing sun looking for a restaurant for lunch, waited without shade in line for the ferry, and even in the shade of a canvas tarp on the upper deck of the ferry we felt the heat draining every ounce of energy from our bodies.

In Paquera, wasted from the already long trip, we were immediately thrust into the unpleasant task of haggling with taxi drivers for the final hour or so drive to Mal Pais. I say unpleasant, not because the drivers are unpleasant, in fact they are mostly incredibly friendly, but because haggling always elicits mixed feelings from me. In many ways, I can’t blame the drivers for trying to earn the best rate they can earn. They work incredibly hard, and most have families to support, so who am I, a relatively wealthy person, to try and talk them down? The sad fact, in the end, is that we couldn’t afford the trip if we didn’t work at trying to find the best deal possible, so ultimately the unpleasantness of haggling, you could say, is like an added tax.

Fortunately, rather than sun stroke, we had a stroke of good luck at the ferry dock. We noticed a grey-ponytailed man carrying a guitar on his back, talking with one driver, hadn’t seen him on the ferry, but then we saw a blonde woman we did recognize from the ferry, joining the ponytailed guy, and as we moved toward this threesome we were asked if we’d like to share a taxi with them, lowering the cost per person significantly.

The ponytailed man turned out to be Jay from Boulder, Colorado, and the blonde woman turned out to be Anna from Sweden, and the taxi, mercifully, turned out to be air conditioned. Hanging out in a cool taxi, driving through the southern peninsula countryside, and enjoying the conversation of two very friendly new acquaintances, was a wonderful way to recover from the hardships of the beginning of the day.

Jay was actually heading to Montezuma, but he decided to go to Mal Pais with us, partly to make it easier on the taxi driver, and partly because, though he’d been to Montezuma numerous times, he’d never ventured 30 minutes west to Mal Pais, and he thought he might like to surf, as it had been years since he’d tried it in Hawaii. Anna was a doctor, traveling around alone on holiday, and it was obvious that she had the kind of inner strength and occasional flares of outer toughness needed to go it alone in a foreign country, where she doesn’t speak much of the language.

In Mal Pais, a dusty, one-dirt-road-town paralleling the beach, we said goodbye to Anna, and we found that Jay was enjoying our company so much, and we were enjoying him so much, that we agreed to meet up for dinner. Then we agreed that we’d meet for breakfast, agreed that we’d meet on the beach, agreed that he might surf with us, agreed that we’d have lunch and then go back to the outdoor lounge at his hotel and play his guitar and sing songs, and then…

We’d eventually spend three days with him, sharing meals and stories and songs, and eventually a taxi to Montezuma, a hotel room there, and a farewell in what would become our favorite town of the whole trip.

Backing up, though, there’s much more to report on concerning our time in Mal Pais, not the least of which would be our very special lodgings…

A tree house!

Up Next: Surfin’ Safari

Costa Rica Chronicles: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, Vol. IV, Vol. V, Vol. VI, Vol. VII, Vol. VIII, Vol. IX, Vol. X

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