The grey side of Puerto Viejo

Construction starts early in these parts, shortly after daybreak. Melanie sleeps with earplugs, so it wasn’t until 7 that she rose. Breakfast was a simpler offering of sugary cereal cut with rolled oats and a dash of milk. Now that we are in the final 2 week stretch of this trip, we are starting to crave simpler foods. Dining out every day does get exhausting.

We had a few accommodation planning details to work out, and in short order we found what we were looking for. We now know where we are staying in Bocas…for the first 3 nights. We can figure additional days out after being there and learning the lay of the land. With that minor success for the day, we headed out for a dip in the ocean. No pool, and nothing better to do…so why not swim?

Another grey, overcast day here. Great for us whities looking to avoid the evil sun. Not so great for pictures, but maybe some blue sky to poke through in the afternoon. The wind was warm, water even warmer and whipped up into a nice froth with choppy waves…perfect for some bobbing. I spent a good 20 minutes out there before feeling guilty about leaving Melanie on the shore. This was also a bit of a test to see how rough the water might be for the more proper of us two to brave. It is a nice beach, with barely a soul on it…so more swimming is in our near future.

Rejoining Melanie on shore, we wandered along the black and tan sand to the point here in Puerto Viejo. A quaint little stand was offering up smoothies and empanadas which we happily ordered. Watermelon smoothie with chicken empanada for all of $4 Canadian dollars. When asking about what she had for empanada options…she mentioned a platano version. I had to get one of those…just to try it out. A baked crust, a little sweet, with some sweet red doughy concoction inside. A third world pop tart…but likely much more nutritious. This was the completion of our second breakfast…so lunch wouldn’t be for a while.

We headed back to the room for a change out of my damp clothes, although that spot right on the water was really tempting to hang out at all afternoon. A lack of beverage options and sunshine had us explore other things to do in town. We had a look at other things to do in town, like walk down different residential streets, check out which restaurants might be closed on Thursdays, and excite shop clerks by window shopping during the off season.

We found the lunch place from yesterday and sat down again in an empty restaurant for a couple all day happy hour mai tais. A couple like snacks of ceviche and chicken satay skewers turned out to be more food than we were used to and we left there over stuffed. We must have attracted a few tables of people too, because by the time we left the place seemed almost half full. Maybe we could find jobs down here just sitting in empty restaurants.

An afternoon ocean dip was in store. We suited up and took the shorter route to the black sand beach. This took us to the edge of town where we were immediately propositioned for some cheap coconut water, and drugs. Tomorrow I will come back for the coconut water, but now we know where the sketchy characters hang out. We skirted those guys again with our perfected “No Gracias!” and made our way too the beach. Again, very few people other than some kids fishing from the rusted out barge washed up on the old reef. We splashed in the waved for a bit, then sat on a big log and let the water wash over our toes. The fine black sand looking like both a dark pudding when wet and a freshly cleaned blackboard when the water seeped away. A perfect spot to wait out the remaining hours of sunlight…then a couple bloated fishies bounced off Melanie’s toes and we were packing up. Nature is both beautiful and gross.

A costume change into something drier, then we headed out to the same place for dinner again. It seems that in our search for variety on a day to day basis…that enthusiasm seems to have reduced a little. We now seek food that is tasty and agrees with our intestines. Tonight, another curry and different tempura roll. Bocas del Toro will be our destination in a few days and we will be forced into finding new sources for dinner. In the meantime, we will continue with the options we are happy with here.

The night is now winding down and it is time to start outlining how the rest of this trip wraps up. Two weeks will go fast. We really need to start browning up in time for those Christmas photos. Maybe I could check with the coconut water guys if they also have some coconut oil.

Puerto Viejo, the Caribbean side of Costa Rica

We slept through the night and in the morning Melanie bumped up the AC from 28 degrees to 29. Maybe she was cold. This side is a bit chillier than the Pacific side, so some adjustment might be necessary.

We readied ourselves and headed out for breakfast, and to complete the return on that rental car. When dropping the car off 5 minutes before close, the staff wasn’t too interested in completing the paperwork…especially if it could all be done in the morning. We popped into the Alamo drop point and quickly signed a couple papers to complete the rental. Just as we were about to leave, the guy looking over the car comes in to say the hood is broken. He can’t open it. I couldn’t open it, the guy in Samara where we picked up the car also said he couldn’t open it. Best for this gal to call the office at the pickup point to clarify. 5 minutes later we got the OK and departed. Extra insurance not needed, but should have kicked in for something like this if it were an issue.

Breakfast was at a little place across the street called Bread and Chocolate. It seems that almost every place in this town has at least a 4 out of 5 rating for eats. This place had a couple extra dollar signs, so the hope was the breakfast they offered would be darn good. Sure enough, tasty but it seemed like they needed a little more variety. Pancakes, waffles and French toast all seem like cake-like sweet offerings. Eggs on a plate with toast, or rearranged into a breakfast sandwich…also kind of the same. A lack of added meat options, but we filled up on eggs, hashbrowns, fruit and a baking powder biscuit before departing for a walk.

The town is not all that big. 4 decent sized grocery stores, but no barber. I mentioned yesterday no gas station. A couple bakeries though and lots of restaurants. We discussed over breakfast if we needed more time here or not. One more day might be sufficient but we need to know where, when and how we are making our way to that next spot. We have a semi-quiet room here and it is clean…which are two key needs on our end. We weighed a few options and opted for adding two nights. This will allow us to more fully research Bocas del Toro and how to easily navigate the border.

We spent a bit more time wandering the beaches. Tomorrow will be a swim day, today the clouds just seemed a bit menacing, ready to unleash a torrent of water with only a moments notice. Lucky for us, none fell. We checked out the black sand at Playa Negra and the smaller sections just off the main part of town. What is neat about this place is that it sits on a reef. All up and down this coast there are sandy beaches. Between the beaches are rocky outcroppings, but they aren’t rocks, they are pushed up chunks of reef. Gorgeous brain coral textures in what we would normally consider to be just rock. Mix in vast swaths of light sand and you have some pretty scenery. We just need some blue sky and sunlight to brighten up our photos.

We found a fusion place for lunch and split a jerk chicken burrito over a pair of mai tais. The afternoon slowed and we could have easily sat there people watching for hours as pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles of all types dodged and weaved each other on the newly paved strip. We opted for the more proactive grocery shopping and some research on our next destination.

After sunset, dinner back at the same spot as last night. The cocktails were good and we didn’t want to chance a meal tonight. It was a lot of eating out today, and tomorrow we will start the day eating in the comfort of our place. Nothing exciting to report, just another day in Puerto Viejo. More exciting stuff seems to happen when we are regularly on the move…that will need to wait a few days.

Maybe tomorrow we can make some new friends and learn a little more about where we are. Life is better with friendly conversation.

And On to Puerto Viejo

Not sure if it was the excessive rain pounding on the roof all night or the excitement of a new day. I didn’t sleep past 5:30 this morning, which was likely going to make this a very long day. I tossed, turned, read a couple news articles just to stay up to date on what might be going on in the world…and when 7:00 hit it was time to tap and tug at Melanie like a cat that needs to be fed. I was hungry and the buffet style breakfast was starting to be served.

She sleepily agreed, and started preparing herself for the day. I opened the curtains to the central courtyard and people were all milling around out there with phones pointed in one direction. I knew there were sloths around, could they be out this early? I slipped on some shorts and a shirt, then slid open the patio door to exit the room. Outside was not wildlife, but a clear view of the elusive Arenal. Melanie opted to get ready first before leaving the room, something about only being a few minutes and needing to get her hair under control. In a few minutes…the volcano was shrouded in clouds once again. At least I got one picture of it while in La Fortuna.

We were ready to sample the buffet breakfast our host Alejandro, from Puerto Vallarta, had hyped the evening before. We arrived to many of the tables already filled with German and Dutch travellers. I grabbed a couple of plates and headed over to the table of food to find…everything picked over. Scraps left and it was only 8:00. Tired watermelon chunks mixed with papaya that nobody wanted. Fried sausage-like chunks that didn’t belong on anyone’s plate. A few scraps of egg left stuck to the sides of the chafing dish. This might be a lean morning meal for both of us. The coffee and juice was plentiful though and we did load up on that. We sat and enjoyed the cloudy volcano, then packed ourselves up and into the car.

On checkout we did get to see a sloth perched high in the tree outside reception. Poor lighting conditions, and the fact the animal blends in so well to the tree eliminated any chance of a decent photo, so we just stared at its butt for a few minutes. Eventually there was some activity as the treed creature looked over its shoulder and down at us with what I figure had to be a bit of a disgusted look. Daytime is for sleeping. The chatter we were making below was not helping with any snooze.

We hopped in the car and started out on our way to the east coast. 9AM on the road. A missed turn at Tanque was quickly corrected and we found our way down the 4 to Guapiles…and then on to Limon. This is a fairly busy corridor as everything in this country seems to be shipped into Limon, then transported by truck to San Jose. We have not seen a train or set of tracks anywhere on this Central American trip yet. That is probably also why so many goods end up being expensive here. We got to Limon and thought we might have lunch, however the traffic was crazy and venturing into just the suburbs of the city was enough to turn us off of heading in further. We opted to just head south to Puerto Viejo.

Lunch was in the little town of Cahuita. We grabbed a couple photos, then sat down at a restaurant that had a couple TVs showing the Hungary vs. Costa Rica friendly football match. People were glued to the play. We sat and chowed down on a very large plate of chicken nachos…with no interest in the game. The waitresses also didn’t seem to have much interest what was on TV…or their jobs…because the nachos showed up quicker than the beer, and much quicker than the watermelon smoothie which almost arrived in time for dessert. We asked for the bill and quickly departed the restaurant and town. A cute spot, good for lunch, but we had to move on.

We arrived in Puerto Viejo at 3PM. We checked in painlessly, no need to show passports or fill in useless registration information. We got the keys and wifi password, then were off. Being as we still had the car until tomorrow morning, but no where to park it, we thought we might just as well try to check out some of the recommended neighboring towns suggested to us by others we had met along the way.

We headed down the road towards Manzanillo. Punta Uva and Cocles were first and we found lots of little restaurants and cabinas for rent all spread out down the road along the coast. So many tourists on bicycles though, and mixing these casual riders with the vehicle traffic was a bit of an obstacle course. I understand the need for bikes as all these businesses are so spread out, they would be difficult to visit on foot. The lack of lanes for the bikes, or even lines on the road, meant extra attention had to be paid by both myself and other drivers to keep everyone alive. No bikes for us.

We made it to Manzanillo. We expected more, but other than a few desolate restaurants and beach, this really didn’t look like a place we would want to stay. This was the end of the road, so we turned around and decided to check out Punta Uva. Again, a pretty little beach set up against palms blowing in the steady breeze off the Caribbean… but the dead coin sized fishes all washed up on shore were starting to make the place smell a bit like a fish market. Add some midday sun to those little corpses tomorrow and we probably wont be back there. In Cocles, we found three horses just hanging out on the beach. A nice stretch…but Puerto Viejo has easy access to a couple decent beaches which we will have to check out tomorrow.

With no place to park, I still had the option to return the car to National before 5. I just needed a little gasoline. The closest station around here is in Hone Creek, a good 6km away, so we booted it up the road to get fuel and return. We found the drop point for the car, stashed it in their gated yard and headed out for a beverage.

Right next to our accommodation is a funky looking place called Outback Jack’s. Tuesdays mean tequila is on two for one, so margaritas it was. We sat down at a table and within a minute our feet started burning. Tiny little ants were very unhappy with our location and began biting. We opted for the bar, which was a better viewing spot anyways. Jack was our bartender and it gave us a chance to find out a little about his story. Here was a grizzled old character that has collected a lot of junk over the years. That array, or disarray, of signs, old projectors, lab equipment, dead espresso machines, and painted horn instruments was strung up everywhere. Jack washed up a couple mugs for us in a greasy sink of water, then handed over a tiny pitcher of margaritas. Sitting at the bar demonstrated the less than stellar cleanliness practices. We crossed our fingers there was enough tequila in that pitcher to sterilize any bugs, and drank those limey beverages. No salt rim though. Either he had forgotten, or couldn’t find a scuzzy sponge to wet the rim. We paid and left. We didn’t want to chance food.

We wandered in the dark to try and find something to eat. Many places are closed on Tuesdays, so we ended up at the Bikini Restaurant. Sorry, no bikinis in the place. The waitresses did have skin tight dresses on though. We ordered a deep fried sushi roll and Thai curry that was so spicy we instantly broke out in the sweats. Maybe not the best of meal choices, but it has been a long day and we were not interested in more rice and beans. Melanie had a blended mojito which was fantastic, and I a reasonably priced caipirinha. Bellies full, we headed back for the night. We can explore more tomorrow in the daylight.

We covered a lot of ground today. We should sleep well tonight, especially if the neighbors stop screaming at each other. Earplugs will solve that. Tomorrow, we will see more of this little town…unless those dodgy margaritas come back to haunt us. So far so good.

The Road to Fortuna

Up at 7 and when checking my phone for the time, there was a message asking if we were OK. I unlocked my phone and there were additional notifications from friends and family sharing a story of a 6.5 earthquake in Costa Rica. I had to do a little googling to see what the story was and where exactly. It turns out the main quake and aftershocks hit around 8:30 while we were in our room last night. Epicentre was about 100kms away. Probably while I was writing yesterday’s post. We didn’t feel or hear a thing from our second floor room. No creaking, no rattling…nothing. I know the power went out for a while last night starting at around 12:30, but that was 4 hours later.

As if everything was the same, Melanie got ready and I did a little research to understand the bigger picture. Negligible damage. Many people felt it. Nothing to be really worried about since this entire part of the world is regularly hit with earthquakes. Tonight we are staying in the town at the base of a recently active volcano. It seems that the news can focus on a few details at times, and leave it up to the public to envision the worst. I was only curious to know if any of the roads were affected for our drive today. All roads were fine, so our day was to go ahead as planned…which was good because we now have 3 non-refundable nights booked.

 

Breakfast was quick, then I was off to pick up the rental car. This was a 10 minute walk across town which gave me a chance for one last look at Samara and the daily specials across the street. Happy hour at Lo Que Hay has been one of the better experiences on this trip, especially every day. Let’s hope we can find a few spots on the Caribbean to match that fun. I grabbed the car after adding a little extra insurance…just in case…and returned to pick up Melanie and the bags. We were on the road by 10.

Google maps outlined a couple options for us to skirt the nearby town of Nicoya and shave a good 20 minutes off our drive. We enjoyed the scenic greenery of the hills taking us inland and found our turnoff point. Nicely paved road lead to potholes, then no pavement…and a minor river crossing. Hmm…where was that highway? We didn’t go for the compact 4×4, mainly because it didnt seem as comfortable as the Yaris, and we were sticking to only main roads. The Yaris probably would have done fine with the 6-8 inches of water. We didn’t chance it though and backtracked to the other shortcut. This second shortcut took us down to what appeared to be an illegal garbage dump and shallow river crossing that only a real 4×4 should be doing, especially on the other side where the exit was a bit steep for any vehicle leaving the river. Two shortcuts shot down, we made our way through the city and the long way around.

We drove through Nicoya, then on to Pueblo Viejo de Nicoya, Quebrada Honda, and to the Pan American Highway. These are all 2 lane roads with no shoulder. Traffic was very light, so it was hard to keep to the 80km maximum and watch for the 60, 40 and 25km per hours zones. We got off the PanAm highway at Canas and followed a road that took us to Lake Arenal. All of these roads have numbers on Google Maps. The roads are not signed in the way that we might be used to though. At intersections you need to know what town is in the direction you want to go, then just point your car that way and drive. Keep your eyes on the road because people drive fast and there are no guardrails to keep errant vehicles from plunging down the hillside into either a house or the lake. Good roads, but not wide like what we might be used to.

We twisted and turned our way to a spot close to the lake and stopped for lunch. A microbrewery that claims to be the first in Costa Rica, therefore the most experienced. I am not sure if they think that makes them the best, or just the oldest. Regardless, I did have an IPA to test out their claims. It is the first microbrew beer I have had down here and I can say it is better than the macro brew options usually offered at happy hour. We washed that beer down with a bowl of chicken chili and another rice and beans Casado dish while taking in the lake view. A pricey bill for some OK food, but they likely need to pay a few staff that keep this place open. We wrapped things up and hit the road.

A couple hours later we arrived in La Fortuna. We stopped a few times to get some pictures from the side of the road. We detoured up an access road that leads you to the base of Arenal Volcano, but the number of potholes made driving the 2km in a bit tough on the suspension. Considering this is the biggest draw for people in the area, a few dollars can probably be diverted from replacing the arterial road (which seems to be in decent condition) to fixing up that mess leading to a national park. We arrived in town in one piece, 5.5 hours after departure, and checked into Hotel Secreto for the night. After dropping our stuff in the room, we made our way into town to see what makes this place great.

La Fortuna literally translates to The Fortune. Now I dont know if that means that someone at one time discovered buried treasure here, or if the tourist agencies realized all the money they could make by jacking up the prices on any kind of excursion by calling it eco. There is not much to this town, and all touristic restaurants seem to encase the Central Park. Prices are higher, food is the same, and not one place is advertising Happy Hour. Traffic is split between touristic buses, rental cars, and vehicles in serious need of emissions controls. I guess this is what city life is like, and is something we will have to adjust to for a few days.

On the plus side, we were able to find a Japanese place for dinner that wasn’t too expensive. A bowl of ramen with salmon and soba with shrimp was just different enough to satisfy our bellies. Ice cream from a shop tucked away down a street next to our hotel was also a nice treat. Walking back we could see lightning flashes in the distance, with a downpour of rain a few minutes after we got back. We will breakfast here and head to the east coast in search of a little solitude…and maybe that beachside happy hour.

Samara comes to an end

Again, up early. Considering this will be the last day we see Samara for likely a while, we figured we could do all the things again we really enjoyed. We could always mix those activities up a little, but simply find happiness in where we are now.

I checked my email. A note was in there outlining service arrangements for a colleague that had just passed away while on vacation in Maui. Snorkelling was the last activity he was doing prior to passing at the early age of 55. Wayne was always a cheery individual, kind of like a puppy that is always happy to see you. He worked long and hard hours which really garnered my respect. He was always positive, and only recently wanted to start doing more travel of the world. Hawaii isn’t far from home, but a good start for someone that really seemed to prefer working over leisure activities. Unfortunately, we will still be away when the service happens. We will all have to remember him in our own way, and for today…really just enjoy what we have now and where we are.

Breakfast of rice and beans, with a little bacon…delicious considering we could be eating a whole lot less. Coffee, certainly better than no coffee. We gathered a few things after breakfast and went for a walk along the beach. A fairly cloudy day, perfect for the two of us. A chance to talk about all the little things we enjoy. How lucky we are each day to be able to keep doing what we are doing, in all aspects of life. So much of what we are used to on a daily basis we tend to take for granted. We really should reflect more often.

We popped over to Lo Que Hay, the place across the street from our hotel and lunch spot for the last 6 days, and grabbed a couple cocktails and to our surprise shrimp tacos…on special today! A couple hours of sipping on beverages with our toes in the sand…thinking all of this could be gone tomorrow… we just sat back and relaxed. Even the smokers at the next table seemed less annoying than usual. Waiting for the check to arrive, it will get here when it gets here. We paid up and headed back to the room for our suits.

We headed back out to the ocean to play in the waves. Yes the ocean can be a dangerous place. We had no interest in heading out too far, especially with the number of novice surfers out there today. Sunday, combined with a retreating tide at 1PM made for a lot of beginners out there just trying to get on a board in some erratic but small waves. No sense for either of us to take a surfboard in the face, especially right before those holiday photos. 30 minutes of splashing around in shoulder height waves was good for both of us. In to the cold little pool for a more peaceful dip and a nap.

3PM hit and it seemed about the right time to check to see if our favourite Floridian might be beachside with a cocktail. It has worked out that way for the last number of days, so a quick check was in order. If not, I could run an errand or two in advance of our travel day tomorrow before Melanie was ready to join me for happy hour. Sure enough, he was there. I dove right into updating him on the recently departed colleague.

These were discussions we have been having all week. Be grateful for where you are right now because really, it could be a whole lot worse. Life is short. Anything could happen, at any time. Taking the time to enjoy a drink while getting to know new people is something we should all do on a regular basis. So far we have met some very fun and interesting people. Over the next few weeks, we hope to encounter many more.

We said our goodbyes with Tony and traded emails. No tearful departures, just smiles and good wishes. I always figure that goodbyes are never forever…we can always meet again. We parted and Melanie and I headed over for one last ceviche with smashed platano verde chips. Seriously, this would be the last time we go to Gusto Beach. We have eaten a lot here, and now really need something new for dinner…but everything is quite good.

Tonight, the place had a little entertainment. From the place next door you could hear a harmonica squeaking occasionally. As we got closer we understood what was happening. A guy on a mic was singing in a throaty Leonard Cohen kind of smoky voice. He would pair that up with a few notes from sax or harmonica, playing his own remix of cover tunes. These songs were near unrecognizable other than for a few lyrics strung together. Set this guy up against a backdrop of old CDs pasted to a white board and you have the nights Deep Jazz House with Gianpaulo…who really sounded more French than his stage name suggested. We added the rice with shrimp to the back end of the ceviche and wrapped up our meal. Tomorrow I expect a diet of fewer rice and beans. We will see how that goes.

In the morning I will grab the car after breakfast and we will head to La Fortuna. Now I just have to figure out how exactly we are navigating our way there.

Day Trip to Playa Carrillo

Another day in Samara. The upper floor room with king bed was a nice treat from the damp ground level unit we were in for the previous 3 nights. After breakfast we confirmed another night with the front desk. This will be the last request for adding nights here. 6 is plenty and we need to see a bit more before the month ends.

A quick check at the info center across the road clarified the bus schedule and pickup point, so based on the timing, it looked like we were heading out on a day trip. Sometimes these things line up. Sometimes not. Today we would at least get out for something new to do. Firstly, a stop by the rental car place to visit our new friend Jairo and have him change our reservation again. I am sure he is starting to think we are some crazy white folk constantly changing plans, but he might be happy for the business.

Jairo updated our paperwork while we waited in the excessively cool office. Energy efficiency comes from less use, which is only partially understood here. Compact fluorescent bulbs everywhere, but AC set at 24 degrees C. When electricity is as expensive as it is down here, you would think people might be a little more aware of their power spend. Jairo is just one lonely guy behind the counter in a small town. He seemed happy to help in any way he could, other than offering a blanket. Since he was the artist of that map to the SIM card place, I wondered if he could help me find out how much data I might have. With a bit of back and forth, he was able to show us a short code that tells me exactly how much of a credit I have. We were very happy, and departed for the bus.

We also found the taxi stand in town. While walking by, we had to ask about a price to Playa Carrillo. The beach is only 7km from Samara, so the cabbies should not be asking a lot. These guys wanted 5000 colones for that trip ($12CAD). Far too expensive for our daily budget, so we walked a couple blocks further to the bus stop. One of the drivers did a drive by to see if we might bite at 4000 colones…nope. The bus was only 700 for the two of us…and darn near direct, so no need to line the pockets of these predatory drivers. The bus showed about 10 minutes late and we hopped on. Come Carrillo, we hopped off for a beach stroll.

We have been told that Samara and Carrillo are some of the nicest beaches in Costa Rica. Samara we have been very happy with. Carrillo, well no development is nice. Lots of palm trees lining the newly paved roadway. A couple rocky mounds situated in the middle of the beach. Beautiful blue water curling up into surfing waves not far off the beach. This stretch of sand is not as gradual as Samara, so the transition from sandy brown water to clear blue is a lot quicker. This would be a great spot to stop for the day, set up a hammock among the palm trees and BBQ up some marinated chicken skewers with some pineapple. The only downside, this beach needs some serious trash cleanup. Lots of floating debris, plastic, littered the beach. On Samara, the businesses and town do an excellent job of keeping their beach in tip top shape. Carrillo focuses their efforts on only a tiny portion of this long pretty beach.

After 45 minutes of sun, we wandered back to the roadway to flag the bus back to Samara. We got our pictures, and they kind of look like every other beach picture down here, but each beach is a bit different. Again another 700 colones and we were back in time for a late lunch and of course some shopping. Melanie found a short dress advertised for $20USD. She gave the lady 10000 colones and between Melanie’s lack of Spanish and the shop owners absence of English, somehow they agreed on a deal. Sometimes ignorance and a couple smiles is all it takes.

Lunch was across the street with whiskey sours and mixing up our usual fish tacos with pork and chicken. The fish are probably the best, however shrimp might be something we ask for tomorrow. We sat there enjoying the scampering red backed squirrels and smokers enjoying this cigarette friendly patio. Many of the places down here don’t allow smoking, which is great…especially when sporting a tickle in your throat. This place…not friendly to those of us recovering from a cold. As another squirrel dashed between the chair legs and up the tree next to me, Tony arrived.

The three of us chatted for a bit, then Melanie ducked out for a nap. A few hours later Melanie was back and the only thing that had moved was the level of liquid in each of our glasses. The sun set and darkness was encroaching…now the three of us chatting without a natural break to the conversation. How are these afternoons turning into extended talking sessions is really surprising. It really is all part of the trip though.

We parted company for the evening and headed next door for more ceviche. A couple cocktails and a simple chicken and rice plate. No surprise encounters with other familiar people today, other than the staff at these restaurants. We paid our bill, no more 20% discount for low season, and headed back for the night. Maybe it is just the weekend, or maybe things are slowly changing around here as more tourist dollars flow in.

Tomorrow will be our last full day here in Samara. We will have to see what is in store.

Time for a Room Change

After 3 nights, it was time for a bit of a change. We slept well until the maintenance guy got to sweeping outside our door and sanding up a couple lounger benches. This was the end of our original 3 night booking and we were really looking forward to moving upstairs to our king size bed with view of the wading pool below. Not so much for the bigger bed, but a bit of privacy to be certain no one was peering through the uncovered bathroom window while showering. Time for breakfast anyways.

More of the same breakfast as the last few days. The rice and beans really sticks with you and for those of you not into the plainness of just those two elements, mix in your eggs and add some hot and brown sauce. We still havent figured out what that brown runny liquid is, but it tastes good with eggs. Maybe like a steak sauce, watered down, and some Worcestershire or ketchup added.

After breakfast our mission consisted of securing a car out of here and picking up a SIM card. We also needed toothpaste, but that could be done anywhere and at anytime with all these little markets. We made our way over to National, since the guy was friendly and helpful, and confirmed the reservation. No credit card, no drivers licence, no phone number…still we could reserve a car. Of course those are things we would need to drive it off the lot…but we could save that task for tomorrow. Our agent was also helpful enough to suggest a cheap option for a SIM card…we just had to follow his roughly drawn map to a nearby spot in town.

As he drew up the map it made me think we were on a treasure hunt. We had a couple corners to find, one of them with a market on them. If we found the correct street there would be a tower, and at the base of that tower a building where we could take a number in a very cold office and someone would help us. I should have snapped a picture of the map, but I had a pretty good idea of where to go. These days people will just pull out their phone and highlight a path to a waypoint. I tried that, but without data hand drawn maps were the way to go.

We departed. Found our toothpaste and started the hunt for a SIM card. Again, sidewalks as traffic would whip by us on this main road to the nearby Carrillo. We found the market. We found the tower, which was a cell phone tower perched on top of the building for one of the national carriers down here. ICE or Kolbi, I havent figured that part out yet, but here we were swept with a metal detecting wand by the security guard and escorted into the frigid waiting area. Why does everyone have to have their AC on something so low here? We have adapted to having the AC on at 28C…24 now sounds downright cold! With a few taps on a freestanding screen a number spit out of a little window. Now we wait.

About 5 seconds later, N11 was announced. Very prompt service. I sat down at the little desk opposite a young guy not too enthusiastic about being there. I guess it is Friday, and this might actually be his lunchtime. As with every face to face discussion I ask, “Hablas un poco ingles?” Each time i usually get the same answer back of No. No matter. A good chance for me to practice a little more conversation. He needed a passport…I had none. Drivers…no. Identity card, yes…but only a health card. As long as it has a photo ID and a number…good enough. He taps in all he necessary address details and pulls out a new SIM card. He then asks for 1000 colones (just over 2 bucks) and then says we are all done. I wasn’t really sure what happened there, but suddenly my phone was lighting up with FB messages that hadn’t been getting through the last couple days. I guess I now had data. How much, and for how long…I guess we will find out.

Melanie was shivering by the window. Observing a couple iguanas duke it out on the concrete wall of the park are entrance. The victor hung around in the sun with his comb all stiffened up. We exited back into the warmth of the day and tried to get a bit closer for some pics, but with the security guy watching for anything peculiar, and a locked gate in the way…we just kept moving.

Lunch was again directly across the street. Toes in the sand. Cocktails in hand and a front row seat for watching all the beachy people and activities of the day. Waves rolling in and out. Fish tacos to snack on. We decided at that point we can change the car reservation again and stay another day here. We are in no rush. The hotel staff might wonder if we will ever leave, or just keep changing rooms. After a couple hours, we headed back to put on our suits for a dip in the ocean.

Splashing in the waves for a bit, we then headed back for a rinse in the pool. On our way back who should we run into…Tony. He was settling into that same table we were at, and probably for a few hours as well. We said our hellos and headed back for our pool break. Melanie had a short nap and I joined Tony for a repeat of yesterdays chatting over drinks. Today, tequila sunrises and cosmos.

When we are travelling, normally we seek out different experiences on a daily basis. This is the first time where we have almost fallen into a pattern of activities. This is a really nice place and the pace seems perfect right now. Adding another day or two on to actually relax probably isn’t a bad thing. Melanie has a cold to pass. I have a patchy tan to work on. There are a few beers that also need to be drank and if we don’t do it, who will?

Melanie fetched me before sundown and a short stroll along the beach led us to more ceviche. Cocktails, shrimpy rice again…and we were done for the night. Tomorrow is a new day, where we can again walk over to the rental place and change our departure date. We can go to the front desk here and add on another night. We can have more cocktails while watching the bikinis struggle to cover body parts normally hidden from daylight.

The challenge will be to find something new to write about.