Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Arrival in Playa Samara - Friday 4-3-2009

Interbus picks me up from Cabinas Marielos and we drive to the transfer point at Las Huntas. This was also the transfer point for the Greyline shuttles I took to Monteverde and Tamarindo. After waiting 90 minutes for my transfer, I’m off to Playa Samara. The road from Las Huntas leads to both Tamarindo and Samara, before breaking off into two directions halfway to Samara. The road becomes narrower, with less maintained paving. We pass into deep valleys, steep hills on either side covered in golden grass. Thick rows of tall trees in the bottom of the valley denote a stream. In some places, the terrain flattens. Tall trees with thick branches loom on either side of the road, their canopy meeting above the road. We pass grassy parcels of land, fenced off with barbed wire and occupied by a horse or a few cattle.
I arrive at Casa Brian ($35 per night for private room, $16 per night for a dorm bed, casabrian@hotmail.com), down a dirt road and only 60 feet from the beach. I get out of the shuttle and walk into the fenced property. A well-tanned, bearded man of about 60 with salt and pepper hair and a cigarette hanging from his mouth and without a shirt comes out to meet me. Brian Pearson shakes my hand and welcomes me to his hostel. He takes me around for a few minutes, showing me the kitchen laid out like a ship’s galley (he was a commercial fisherman for 22 years); the open air living area with its hammocks, futon, and long communal dining table; the books; the toy box; my room; the dorm rooms, and a few other things. “That’s the program, now you’re on your own,” he smiles. I put my things down, come back out and introduce myself to everyone. There are Nick and Clark, a pair of long-time friends from Chicago; one Spaniard they picked up along the way, Juan; a college student from San Diego they also picked up, Ran; a Dutch woman who was at the local language school for three months and is just hanging out until late May, Leonie; and a professional dancer originally from Amsterdam and currently from New York, Golan. Ran and I strike up a conversation immediately about home. Someone is making lunch and they offer me some. I talk more with the other travelers. An hour after I arrive I ask Brian if I can extend my stay past Easter, more than a week past my original departure date.
When I read my guidebook, Casa Brian’s review stood out. Samara called to me the way no other place in Costa Rica called to me. When I booked my trip to Costa Rica, I wanted to spend some time in San Jose, visit the rainforest, and spend a lot of time on the beach. Tamarindo was a taste, and I considered foregoing Samara for the Caribbean. But when I found out that I could get to Samara from Tamarindo, I knew I had to give Casa Brian and Playa Samara a try. Playa Samara is a long, wide beach protected by rocks a mile or so offshore. The rocks break up the waves, making Playa Samara excellent for swimming and for beginning surfers. Sodas, cabinas, hotels and surf schools sit on the shore but there are fewer here than in Tamarindo. There are also fewer people here today than during the four days I spent in Tamarindo. The shuttle bus driver drove down Samara’s main strip before dropping me off. The main strip was about six blocks of small restaurants, hotels, laundries, and real estate offices. I did not see any of the large, luxurious, ostentatious places that depend so heavily on well-heeled tourists that were common in Tamarindo.
That night, Nick and Clark throw a dinner party for everyone. Nick's food is amazing. Even better, everyone comes together for dinner. We all sit at the long dining table in the open air living area, including Brian and his wife Sandra, to eat, drink, laugh, and tell stories into early Saturday morning.

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