Sarah and I are sitting outside our new place a couple of blocks from the beach in Costa Rica (our next place is right on the beach). Sarah is in a hammock and I my laptop is on a table made a of a big vanished cross-section of tree. We just got our first decent night’s sleep in a couple of days since we were in Vancouver.
Vancouver was really nice. It was increidbly whirlwind but for the breif time we were there we had a great time! We got into Commercial drive around 6 and hung out with Lindsay until dinner and drinks with almost all of our Vancouver friends (Dannah were absent due to illness :/ It was great. We had some good indian food and the last taste of Canadian beer for three months (Howe Sound’s Black IPA was a fitting sendoff).
After drinks we stumbled toward a hotel near the airport to await our early-morning flight. We were having a bad navigation day in general and got off at (arguably) the wrong Skytrain station. Amazinglly though, on the way up the escelator we ran into Alex Vostrov (he’s a Vancouver indie dev who’s working on a game I’m really looking forward to)! We chatted for a while and then finished our trip to the hotel.
The next day we sat in aluminum tubes all day. I hate sitting in aluminum tubes. One of them stopped off in Houston and we got to walk around a bland airconditioned building for three hours (actually Houston airport gets top marks in my book: 6$ pulled pork sandwiches!). When we arrived in Costa Rica it was so late we had organised to sleep at an airport hotel before starting our journey to Samara the next day. This airport hotel strategy is one we started in Paris. If you have an early or late flight it’s often worth staying at a cheap hotel in/near the airport instead of wrestling with transit at 5 in the morning.
We met a fellow traveler named Rae on the way to the hotel. She was also heading to the coast the next day and we agreed to meet the next morning and figure out our transit options. After firing off a facebook message assuring everyone we were still alive we fell asleep.
The next morning we got to mentaly wrestle with the taxi and tour operator. Actually, hold on a minute. I have to punish the hotel for how awful this guy was.. hold on, this is just for google:
I would not recomend staying at The Hilton Garden Inn Liberia Airport Hotel. Our stay was dominated by an agressive and annoying taxi agent who hounded us literally from the very moment we got to the hotel. He was incredibly pushy that we book a taxi for 150$ instead of pay 10$ in bus fare to our destination. He lied to us about how long the bus would take. Unsurprisingly, when it took time to get a taxi to the bus terminal he quoted us a price (instead of using the meter) that was twice what it should have been. Unfortunately the hotel is isolated enough that we had no choice. I do not recommend The Hilton Garden Inn Liberia Airport Hotel.
Alright, sorry about that. But it’s true. If we hadn’t done a bunch of research about how to get from a to b we’d have been stuck in a cab all day. As it was the bus system was great! We bussed from Liberia to Nicoya (2 hour trip) and then from Nicoya to Samara (1 hour) and Rae bussed from Nicoya to Nosara which is up the road from Samara. While we were waiting in line in Liberia to buy tickets some guy came up to me with some typical shyster patter about where I’m going and would I like a taxi or mabey something more illicit. I blew him off but one of the locals in line turned and suggested “don’t trust everyone here”. Which was nice of him. We ended up chatting with him and made fast friends. He was heading to work as an ATM repairman. He works long hours but was seemed pretty cheery about it in general. He wanted to assure us that the people in Costa Rica are nice and honest but a few places can be sketchy. Just like anywhere. He said he liked video games so I wrote down the Contraption URL for him and we exchanged email adresses.
The bus ride to Nicoya was really nice. The roads are relaxed and we spent the whole trip cruising down a wide firtile valley filled with sugar plantations and grazing cattle. In the distance we could see the green hills rising up. The bus was full but not crowded, the seats where comfy and we spent the trip making faces at the three-year old beside us. Everyone on the bus seemed to be in a good mood, we were in a new land with new sights and smells. Moments like those are a hilight of life.
The transfer at Nicoya was a little sketchy. Turns out we had to change bus companies and therefore bus stations. But no one spoke english so getting directions to the new station was looking to be difficult. Luckily Rae speaks a fair amount of spanish! She got directions from the ticket seller and we wandered off into Nicoya. Nicoya is a small pleasent town with small pleasent roads and small pleasent houses. Which is nice since we spent the next half hour wandering aroWund it looking for the bus station. We would wander around in the direction we’d been shown until it started to look like the wrong way. Then we’d ask directions and start off in a new direction. A few loops through this and we found our bus station. It was very quiet, there were no signs saying what busses left for where (unlike the other stations we’d seen) and it was hard to find anyone to pay for tickets. Eventually we got on our nearly-empty bus to Samara and Rae got on her nearly-empty bus to Nosara. First stop both busses made: the actual bus station. We had gotten on at the service yard. Which is just as well since the actual bus station was very crowded, very loud, and had very long lines. Viva being lost and finding the secret bus station!
Another very pleasent bus ride later we arrived at Samara. Samara is your typical holiday beach-town. I’m sure Santa Cruz CA looked exactly like this in the… 20s? And so did Newport beach in LA. Lots of Costa Rican holiday makers (kids get a really long christmas break here) buying kitch and playing in the perfect long stretch of sand. It’s more touristy than we usually like but it’s a lot better than Newport beach. And if we can spend the month surfing so much the better!
Our digs here were easy to find and pretty unique. Casa Coba is a couple blocks from both the beach and ‘downtown’ Samara, a large lot with main house and two rental houses, a beautiful garden filled with fruit and flowers, and not one, not two, but seven cats! The owner Karina explained that most were hungry strays that she didn’t have the heart to turn away, who are fed but left to come and go through the garden as they please. Our casita is a one-room building made of tile and large chunks of beautiful wood, with drifting mosquito nets across the windows and doors and a patio looking out onto palms, banana trees, vines and flowers. Karina also runs a yoga class at the back of the garden several times a week.
We shed our bagage, wrote another quick facebook update and bee-lined it for the beach! It is a pretty spectacular beach. It stretches in a several kilometer-long crescent of sand dead-ending in rocky headlands which aparently have good snorkling. The waves were breaking and there were a lot of surfers bobbing in the waves. We walked down the beach and it thinned out the farther we walked. Eventually we threw asside our sandles and collapsed into the warm Pacific Ocean. We played in the waves and watched local boys catch waves while the sun set turned the few tufts of clouds crimson. It was a perfect evening.
We bought a bottle of Chilean wine on the way home and shared it with Karina and a couple of Canadians who summer here every year. So far Cost Rica has been splendid.