Sunday, April 12, 2009

Road Trip South of Playa Samara - Saturday 4-11-2009

Leonie and Juan leave around 9:00AM to pick up the car from Alamo car rental. The pair return an hour later. We load up on supplies: beer, water, chips, a nice looking pasta salad someone made, CDs from Brian, and a melon.

The paved road winds out of Samara past small houses, a few bars, a soccer field, a church. Further on, we pass a large resort under construction. A tall grey concrete wall and ostentatious gatehouse with partially built fountains announce the coming presence of wealthy foreigners. Several minutes later, we pass Playa Carrillo with its turquoise waters, gentle waves and palm lined beach. The road splits and we head northwest instead of south because out map leads us to believe we cannot directly go south. The paved road leads us up into the local hills. Much of this hill country is fenced off but undeveloped. Occassionally, we pass a sign reading “200 hectares si vente” (for sale) with a phone number on it.
Leonie, Juan and Golan
Someone puts in a Miles Davis CD, and his slow, relaxing jazz makes excellent driving music through these rolling hills. The trees are largely green but the grass is gold. It has not rained in four months. The air is hot. The road leads around a corner. I can see past the hills to the coast and ocean. We turn off the paved road and down a dirt road. Finally, Juan stops and asks a local how we can find the beach. Juan tell us that the local said the closest beach is Playa Samara, our starting point. We turn back, find the paved road, and repeat this exercise a few times with different dirt roads and with different bemused locals telling us we’re still headed back to Playa Samara. Finally, we backtrack for fifteen minutes from our last encounter and find a small village not far to the west of Camaronal. We traveled part of the way here earlier this morning but mistakenly turned back because we thought we were going the wrong way. Past the brown soccer field and brightly painted church we stop at La Maravilla, a small bar and restaurant cheerfully painted orange. The inside is painted yellow. The bar stools and the bar itself are made wood, lightly stained so as to seem only partly finished. The restaurant is spotless. Leonie, Juan, and Golan order coffee while take pictures. Leonie and I talk about how wonderfully genuine this country seems. For example, her coffee comes in a Garfield the Cat mug painted with hearts and flowers. It is the kind of tongue-in-cheek mug you might see in an office kitchen. Someone comes in and orders a drink with ice. The woman behind the bar pulls out a large block of ice from a freezer beneath the bar, works several chunks loose with an icepick, and then places the ice chunks in the man’s glass.
Beach near Corozalito, Costa Rica
The dirt road follows the coast. Our soundtrack switches to Bob Marley. We follow it through the village of Corozalito, where we pass a handful of brightly colored cabinas, a couple tiny hotels which seem empty, a soccer field, and a church. Several minutes of driving southeast, the dirt road branches to the right. We follow the road to a beach our map does not identify. The road ends at a small parking lot where a dozen cars are parked. To our left is a grassy area with a bar and plastic beach chairs. Ahead lies the beach. We park and sit beneath a palm tree. This beach is wide but short, hemmed in on two sides by cliffs. I follow the coastline to the south with my eye. The coastline gradually curves right, interrupted by four fingers of land, each one further south and further out into the water than the one before. Small beaches just like this one must lie between each finger. Juan tells me that the very last finger of land, so far away it is almost at the horizon, is the southern-most end of the Nicoya Peninsula. He points out a small white island just off of this finger and identifies it as the Isla Cabo Blanco. Several of us go into the water. This beach slopes into the water more steeply than Playa Samara. The water here is colder, too. We stay for maybe an hour, talking, laughing, watching the waves, and sitting in the shade of our palm tree.
Leonie and Juan at Playa Bejuco
Back in the car, we head south again. The dirt road leads us steeply up a cliff. Near the top of the cliff, Juan stops the car so we can all take pictures. Looking north we can see the beach we came from, protected in its cove. White waves come in one or two at a time an crash on the sand. Dark green trees cover the hills that compose the cove. The sun, high in the light blue sky, reflects off the deep blue Pacific. We continue south down the cliff. In the flatlands between the next cliff and the previous cliff, the road branches off to the right again. Juan follows the branch to the right. We drive past fenced off grassland and some cows. The trees on either side reach high, their branches meeting above the road. The road ends not at the beach, but at a small fishing village.
Playa Bejuco, Costa Rica
Juan parks the SUV. Small houses and a beached fishing boat are on our left. An impenetrable forest is to our right. The road ends at a waist-deep saltwater pond, connected to the ocean by a hidden waterway. Wavelets lap quietly onto the shore. A group of ten locals are sitting and talking to our left underneath a large tree growing out of the saltwater, its branches extending over both pond and shore. A local boy whoops and jumps from a branch into the water. His friends cheer. We can see the waves crashing on the beach half a mile beyond the pond. We think this is Playa Bejuco, but none of us are sure. Juan finds a log on which to sit. We sit enjoying the calm. We do not encounter a single tourist.
Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica
Again, the road south winds up a cliff and again we stop at the top for pictures. Looking south, I can see multiple sets of wave leave white trails as they make their way ashore at Playa San Miguel. This next beach is several miles long and wider than Playa Samara. We take some pictures of the scenery. Golan hams it up for the camera so we take pictures of him, too. Driving south, we descend the cliff. Rocky brush turns once more to ranchland and grassland, fenced in but mostly undeveloped. Juan follows a fork in the road right. The dirt road ends at a parking lot with many cars next to a restaurant. People are lounging on the restaurant’s patio, talking and listening to music from the restaurant’s bar. We leave our SUV, this time bringing the cooler because it is late afternoon and the four of us are hungry. We set the cooler down and pass around the chips, water and beer. Leonie opens the plastic container holding the pasta salad and we all share it. It is at least an hour before sunset and already the sunlight carries a golden tint. Salty mist drifts ashore from the waves as they curl over and crash. Several of us try the water. It is as cold as the first beach we stopped at today. The currents here are strong. Only I spend much time in the water; the others talk on shore. The sky changes from blue to orange to red.
Sunset at Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica
Juan sets his camera up on a nearby rock and films the setting sun for fifteen minutes. From the correct angle, the late afternoon sun sets not into the cliffs, but behind a far away rocky outcropping just off shore. I take pictures of the orange sun disappear inch by inch behind the black rock. The sky moves from orange to red to purple. We sit in silence together in the fading light. Leonie walks into the darkening surf for a moment of solitude. Costa Rica’s stars come out one by one. I make a wish on the first one I see. I wished on the evening star earlier in my trip. That wish came true, kind of.
The sky is a deep navy blue now. We had planned to leave earlier but our day together was so pleasant and the evening so calm that we stayed here longer than we first intended. Finally, Juan gestures toward the cooler and I help him load it into our SUV. Juan drives, with Leonie next to him and Golan and I in the back, just like when we left this morning. Our trip home in the dark takes just over two hours. Back in Playa Samara later that night, we go barhopping to celebrate Golan's last night. Juan drives us home in the early morning.

1 comment:

  1. I love that beach, I think that is one of the most beautiful places around the world.