Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sámara? I didn't see a single ninja!

My friend, Lexy from St. Louis, had the great fortune during the month of May to be studying biology-type-stuff in the cloud forest of Monteverde.  I was sooo excited to hear this when she told me in February, and had been thinking of meeting up with her ever since.  She said she had an awesome time--is even considering coming back!--and learned a bunch.  But I feel bad because the last weekend I could have gone up to visit her, I couldn't make it.  I had promised Leslieann I"d go ziplining with her her last weekend here, and though Monteverde at first had seemed the perfect place, we later realized the travel was very expensive and that I wouldn't get to see much of Lexy anyway, as she had class on Saturday.
Instead, then, we decided to go to a beach on the Pacific coast called Sámara.  Many Ticos say this is their favorite beach, and it came highly recommended by Bobby the American from my first month here, too.  There we'd see the beach, possibly go to a very nice night-club in the mountains behind the city, and do ziplining.  It was 5 hours away, but other than that it sounded perfect!
Eventually it would be what I'd come to consider the "normal group," who would be with us, but Tristen decided to go bungee jumping with a large group of us international students, and Dan isn't crazy enough about the beach to spend two days there, so it ended up that just Justin and Leslie and I left Friday right after class to start our weekend.
When we first got to the town, which is about the size of the average beach-town I've visited (tiny),  we couldn't find the prices we were used to encountering at hotels.  Nothing was under $60 a night!  But we kept walking and, ironically to me, found the closest one to the beach to finally be reasonable.  We spent $10 a night to stay in a three person room (Justin, Leslie, and I) at Playa Sámara Hotel.  It was colorful and had a fan, even if the door to the bathroom didn't really shut and the outside door was hanging a little off its hinges.  We dropped off our stuff and went out to find somewhere to eat.
Right when we ducked into the first restaurant it started to DOWNpour.  Like pretty much every restaurant on a Costa Rican beach, this one wasn't so much of a building as a large area with a roof.  We ate our 3 types of exquisite pasta and a glass of cheap wine each, and it was almost perfect, sitting out of the rain but watching it, and seeing the lightning out over the ocean.  We decided we'd spend our night this way, watching the rain.
It was lucky that by the time we'd finished eating the storm had moved off the beach, really, and out over the sea.  It was almost deserted besides one couple enjoying the scenery from near where the beach started.  And the water was so far away!!  This was probably as wide as the widest beach I'd yet seen--probably Tamarindo--or wider.  It was verrrry dark in the direction of the mar.    
Justin, Leslie and I laid out our towels on the sand about halfway to the waves.  Whenever lightning would flash off over the water, the sky would be a bright grayish color and the water only slightly darker.  We could see the actual rayos in places, sometimes only be lit all around.  And what surprise that as we watched--and talked about philosphy, such was the ambiance--a lone horse walked by, silhouetted in the bright.  He held his head low and trudged purposefully but without haste in a straight line so that we saw him in several flashes of light as he moved.  Later in the night passed another horse, and even later a pair of oxen from the opposite direction.  That was the weirdest.  
We stayed and talked another 20 minutes or so, debating whether lightning striking the ocean waaay out there could be caried in the water and shock us.  Finally we decided to risk it, judging that the horses had been walking in very wet sand, if not the waves, and that nothing had happened to them.  We went down and waded for a while in the warm Costa Rica sea, Leslie's first glimpse of it.  On our way back in we noticed the ground was sparkling bright white in places.  It wasn't firefly-like--the sparkles stayed on once they were on, it seemed, but we couldn't figure out WHAT it was.  We thought of the bioluminscent plankton my old roommate, Lanae, had seen.  But we weren't in the water.  We noticed it was always near coral, so Justin picked some up, thinking it was the coral itself.  He says he felt something burrow into his hand like a bug.  Could that have been it? It was beautiful, and it's still a mystery.
The next morning we chose our breakfast place by the fact it had a cute green parrot that could call out to us on the side.  It was simple but cheap, and we were ready in this way to take our long walk down the beach to where Leslie and I would do our ziplining.  Justin was very excited to get to read a book down by the shore for a while and relax in the sun.  He's from California, what can you do?
This canopy tour for me was more fun than the one offered at Monteverde.  It was shorter, yes, but as it was less famous, it was less crowded.  We had only 2 guides acompany us and one couple taking hte tour besides ourselves.  The fact that it was smaller meant also that the lines weren't as high.  For this we got to actually go through the trees when we zipped, rather than above them, which offered more of a view to me. Plus we could hear the howler monkeys doing their weird bark all around us.   The only curse was the mosquitos.  At one point I thought I felt something on my leg, and when I looked down there were 5 mosquitoes all in a line biting me in no more than a 4 inch area.  Too, Leslie and I got to zip backwards to one of the platforms, which was finally free and exhilirating feeling after the very secure feeling of the organized front ways, strapped in completely.  I think my favorite part was that our guides had brought a snack and on our highest platform we paused, with a veiw of the blue, blue ocean to the right, dangled our feet of the edge of the 60-foot drop, and enjoyed some pineapple, watermelon, oatmeal cookies, and fruit juice.  It wasn't even hot here, where we were in the shade but away from the bushes where the bugs lived.  So, we spent half an hour up there.  I think everyone thought it was just perfect.
On our way back from this Leslie and I had planned to take the beach again, since that is the most straightforward way.  However the shore at Sámara must be very shallow becuase now that it was high tide, that far, far off ocean had crept up so much that you couldn't even walk along the sand.  For a few meters we waded and for a few we tried the road.  We planned to get lunch, shower and do some shopping for local souvenirs before we went back.  Maybe the water woudl have receded by then.
In fact it did, and we spent about 2 to 3 hours in the waves before it was time to go meet Dan and Tristen's bus.  When we started our walk toward the bus-stop from the hotel, there were 5 of the owner-less horses as from last night just grazing in the soccer field in front of where we stayed.  It was pretty wild to see.
As it turned out, Dan and Tristen were accompanied by a huge group of us.  We showed them around, had some more delicious pasta that night, and went out dancing together (though the cool place on the mountain was closed).  We did some night swimming and just had a very good time.  There are occasions when big groups are really fun.
Next day was spent all at the beach, reading, swimming for over an hour straight, and just talking.  It being Sunday we had osme difficulty finding somewhere open for lunch, and got very hot walking around.  By the time we did find a place--a very nice one, I'll add--we were pretty crabby and sweaty.  We were actually eating at the restaurant of a hotel, and Stephanie just pushed Geoff into the pool when he wouldn't stop complaining.  After we had food in us we were happier, and the bus back was airconditioned, so all was well.  Only glitch was when the bus started to pull off from the rest-stop without Dan.  We stopped it, though, and we aaall made it back safe to San José with Trits in our systems.  
I always love coming back to San José where it's cooler weather.  Though the place doesn't smell so great, it really does feel more like home now.  All the beach towns are great, it's just that a weekend is the perfect amount of time to spend there.  Otherwise they'd get boring and tedious with the heat.   That next week here everyone but Sharifa and Rebecca Dos and I went to a concert at the huge soccer stadium by a group called Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.  It was apparently awesome, everyone having You-Tubed their songs to be familiar with them before hand.  Our poor toilet started having the worst time flushing yet, emitting a high-pitched screech/scream for about 3 minutes after every time it was flushed.  And on a more serious note, Danimal got very sick and was out of class for 3 days with a headache.  No one saw him and the rumor was he'd had an anneurism.  The next Monday, of course, we found out that wasn't the case at all--he'd just had a UTI with some weird symptoms--and he is doing absolutely fine.  It just was bad timing, for at the end of that week, right when he was sickest, we had a 3-day weekend.  He'd been planning to go to that spot I'd loved so much in Panamá, Bocas del Toro.    I guess all that really matters, though, is that he's okay.

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