We’ve been busy this week looking for lodging for the next three months, so not a lot of exciting stories to share. We found a place to rent for the month of November, near where my dad will be staying when they come to visit, in the town of Playa del Coco. We’ve driven through the area before and it looks pretty cool. This week we are looking at 2 houses in Samara, to rent for December & January. The holiday season is the busiest time around here, and the most expensive to rent. There isn’t much available, and what is left is expensive. Hopefully we’ll have something locked in soon.
We saw a crocodile the other day, in the river that feeds into our favorite beach, Playa Carrillo. It was so exciting! We’d already seen a bunch of crocs at the Tarcoles river, which is notorious for crocodiles. But we hadn’t seen them anywhere else. Every time we drive by the Beware of Crocodile sign at Playa Carrillo we look for one, but had never seen one before in that area. All day I had been saying I just want to see a crocodile! And someone must have been listening.
We’ve done a few more road trips recently. It’s nice to spend the morning at the beach, and the afternoon in the air-conditioned car exploring new beaches. There is a river we have to drive through on one of our regular road trips. With all the recent rain, it is much deeper now (but that never stops Andy from driving through it). On our last trip through the river we had to stop on the other side, to make sure a girl in a very small car could make it across. It was a tense few moments as she drove across, but she made it. She said she had driven through 3 other rivers that day, but this one was the deepest. She said she was glad we were there to help, otherwise she may have turned around.
We’ve been anxious to take out our kayak that we shipped here. But we do not have paddles, or life jackets yet. Apparently these items do not exist in Costa Rica, at least for purchase. You can rent them, but not buy them. I finally found a company in Jaco that makes custom bamboo paddles, but at $120/each, and we’d need two, we would be spending almost as much as we spent on the kayak itself. We may have to look into ordering this stuff on amazon and having it shipped.
On one of our road trips we drove by a car that had flipped over. We stopped to ask if they needed help, but one person didn’t speak English and the other ducked inside the vehicle as we approached. As we drove away we couldn’t help but wonder if we had just come across a recent accident, or someone robbing the recent accident.
On that same road trip we checked out Playa San Juanillo, Playa Osteinal (the sea turtle nesting beach), Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa. There are three Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica (translation = beautiful beach) and this was the only one we hadn’t seen yet. We stopped at a random plant store in between some beaches, and I found an aloe plant. I need aloe to make my products here, especially my sunburn lotion. Now the only thing missing amongst my product ingredients is mason jars, which are almost as hard to find here as kayak paddles & life jackets.
We also bought a boogie board and snorkel gear on this trip. We’ve spent a few days recently at the beach, trying them out. Once we get kayak paddles we should be able to kayak to some awesome snorkel spots. The guys on the beach do rent kayaks for only $10/hour so we may just do that for now.
Our 6th anniversary is in a little over a week. We are planning to spend the day touring one of Costa Rica’s biggest waterfalls, Catarata Llanos de Cortes. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Samara so we’ll get up early and spend the day there. You can swim in the pool of the waterfall, and go back behind the falls. I can’t wait to check this out, as we have yet to see a real Costa Rican waterfall.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the driving around here. I told Andy if we had a dash-cam and could splice together a clip of all my reactions, we’d be YouTube millionaires. Here are some things I’ve seen on our road trips:
1) A guy driving a truck on the freeway at night, with no headlights, sticking his head out his window & holding a flashlight in front of him to light his way.
2) A family of 5 piled onto one small motorcycle, with an almost flat tire, and no one wearing a helmet.
3) A small kid riding on top of the dashboard of a semi truck, back propped up against the windshield.
4) A guy on a motorcycle, one hand steering and the other hand holding an infant.
5) A near head-on collision when one car passed another car, while another car was coming, causing the on-coming car to swerve off the road to avoid a collision.
This country is very Pura Vida...until they get behind the wheel. Pura Vida, but hold on for your lives!!
We finally got our shipment! It only took 21 days longer than they told us it would, but we have it. We were planning to pick it up when we took Katy & Heidi to the airport in San Jose on the 11th, which is why we booked a hotel room for the night. But right before we left, after already booking our room, we got an email saying it had been delayed. So we headed home early the next morning. Then when we were about 3 hours into our 4 hour drive home, we got a call saying our shipment had arrived.
That meant one more 12-hour day in the car to San Jose and back. NOT our favorite drive, but we have our stuff! We were glad to see our towels, sheets, pillows, kitchen spices, my product ingredients, Andy’s tools, our kayak, our air conditioner, hammock chair, umbrellas and so much more. It felt like opening a little piece of home. And it only took a few minutes for Andy to get through customs with our shipment. There are times when not speaking Spanish benefits us, like when it makes the customs workers so uncomfortable that they just speed you through the whole process.
Julia stayed a couple nights with us in Samara and we had a great time. We ate lots of falafel! We spent a lot of time at the beach bar just down the street from our house, Lo Que Hai (it is what it is). The place has a laid-back vibe, always has interesting stray dogs roaming around, and the bartenders are all very nice (and speak English). Julia invited her friend Kristi and her two adorable kids, who also recently moved to Samara, to meet us at Playa Carrillo one morning. We all had a great time and were excited to meet some people in a similar position to us. We got to tour their new house in Samara and hang out for the afternoon, they were very nice & we hope to see more of them!
We went to Playa Carrillo for sunset each night that Julia stayed with us, and we witnessed one of the best Costa Rican sunsets we’ve seen. It’s perfect when the sunset is at low-tide. We walked up and down the beach and explored all the tidal pools and took beautiful pictures. The bugs are pretty bad at this beach in the evening though. The bugs are the thing I struggle with the most living here, as they love me and the feeling is far from mutual. The heat & humidity, the language barrier, power & water outages, I can deal with. One more mosquito bite and you may see me on the next flight home to PDX.
Speaking of outages, the water is currently shut off. It’s a good thing I keep lots of cold drinking water in the fridge. I chose to skip our morning swim today, not knowing when I’ll get to shower again and if the water will be back on today or tomorrow or next week. Hopefully we don’t have to stay in a hotel tonight.
Andy and I have now walked the entire beaches of Samara and Carrillo. Samara is almost 3 miles long, so a total of 6 miles down and back. Carrillo is shorter, maybe half that distance. Beach walking, constant sweating and ocean swimming sure are good workouts!
The other day we explored a few more new beaches. I told Andy I want to leave here having seen every beach in Costa Rica. That may be impossible since there are so many, but we’re going to try. We drove past Carrillo, through the town of Estrada, and onto Playa Islita and Playa Corocalito. We found some gorgeous black sand beaches, the blackest sand we’ve seen yet. We also saw some nesting sites for sea turtles.
Playa Corocalito may be our new favorite beach. As we pulled in we saw a bunch of coconuts crash down from a tree. Then we notice a teenager sliding down the tree. He was up there with a machete cutting them down for his friends. He walks over and hands us two, one cut open for drinking and the other for us to take home. The people here are so nice and generous. We were mesmerized as he climbed two more trees to cut down more coconuts, flying up the trunk like he does this every day. Which I’m sure he does. There is nothing as refreshing as fresh coconut water.
One of the coconut hunter’s friends approaches us and tells us he teaches English, and wants to practice his English with us. When he sees Sophie he starts laughing and says “Hot Dog! Hot Dog!” We found that hilarious. Then he says “Hot Dog. That is a food in America?” We say yes, and he laughs some more. After eating simple, fresh, delicious Costa Rican food for the last few weeks, the thought of hot dogs as food does seem funny to us too now.
As I sit here, without running water, I do realize it isn’t all beaches, sunsets & monkeys. Every day is an adventure. Some days are hard. Some days we experience culture shock and homesickness. Some days we make life-changing memories and learn soul-changing lessons. That is what we signed up for. Each moment has been character-building and humbling. Here are some things I’ve learned about Costa Rican living:
1) I need to learn Spanish.
2) I love living at the beach. I hate the beach living with me. THERE.IS.SAND.EVERYWHERE. In our bed, in our hair, in the shower, in our clothes, in our food, on Sophie, in every corner, on every surface.
3) Central A/C is the best invention on the planet.
4) Mosquitoes are the worst invention on the planet.
5) I need to learn Spanish.
6) Doing laundry (outside in 95 degree heat with 100% humidity) and dishes by hand is humbling and satisfying. I will never take washers, dryers or dishwashers for granted again. But I will never appreciate clean clothes more than when I hand-washed them myself, while sweating profusely.
7) Not getting mail, especially junk mail and bills, takes a lot of stress out of life.
8) There are no rules here. Well there are, but no one enforces them.
9) I need to learn Spanish.
Well Andy survived the coconut/machete incident and still has all his limbs. The fresh coconut water tasted incredible, we’re planning to cook some rice in fresh coconut water for dinner tonight. Along with some chicken, beans and tortillas…a nice little Costa Rican dinner.
Katy & Heidi flew out yesterday & they had a great time. One of their first nights here we did a pub crawl, stopping 5 times at 4 places to test their drinks. We discovered a funky little craft beer bar right off the beach. They had about 25 beers on tap, including segua (our favorite). They have a popcorn machine and antlers on the wall. This may become a regular stop of ours, we felt right at home.
The monkeys were in the trees for most of the mornings the girls were here. They seem to come and stay a few days, and then leave for a while. They come back when the mangos are ripe again. We have a lot of fun watching them. There is also a huge iguana that lives in our yard. And wild horses that graze on the grass outside our fence each morning. The animal watching is a full-time job around here.
The next day we ventured over to Playa Garza and Playa Guinoes, both beautiful beaches. We collected shells, read books, swam, walked & napped on the beach. We saw whales at one of the beaches on our way home. Then we stopped for tacos at a taco hut. They were out of guacamole, apparently there is a ripe avocado shortage around here, as every other place we asked all week was also out of guacamole. However we were able to buy some avocados from the store and make our own delicious guacamole (thanks Heidi!).
We spent the next few days shopping and swimming at different beaches. We rented surf boards and boogie boards, Andy stood up twice. We got caught in a massive rainstorm and witnessed some intense thunder & lightning storms. We ate at the delicious falafel place a few times, it’s really inexpensive and is so good, the falafel sandwich is everyone’s favorite.
The girls were adventurous and went ziplining through the jungle, and Heidi also got to ride a horse on the beach. And we drove through a river! It was one Andy and I had previously driven through, but that was before the big rainstorms. It was much deeper this time. I held it together pretty well, it was my 5th river crossing so I’m getting pretty used to the Costa Rican lifestyle of driving casually through a river. No big deal, just another Tuesday afternoon. The car is still doing awesome, we love our forerunner.
One of their last meals in Samara was at The Flying Taco. They have many different homemade, unique salsas on their menu (although they were out of guacamole of course). We tried the coconut margarita salsa, the passionfruit salsa, the grilled pineapple salsa and the creamy jalapeno salsa. I can’t pick a favorite, they were all amazing.
On their last day we drove over the Tarcoles river to show them all the crocodiles. We also took them to Jaco, Playa Hermosa and Playa Herradura. We did some shopping in Jaco and ate at The Taco Bar. More tacos! Then we headed to Playa Hermosa to check out the massive waves at sunset. The waves were even too big for the surfers, the ocean was deserted.
We finally made it to San Jose and dropped the girls off at their hotel. They made it home safely and are hopefully planning their next visit! Last night we met up with our friend Julia and her friend Claudia at the beach bar across the street from our house. From there we went to Arriba for more drinks. Julia is in town because she is taking her driving test to get a Costa Rican driver’s license. She is staying at our place the next couple nights, and so far she loves Samara and may even be our new neighbor in September! Pura Vida!
We finally got our car! We are now the proud owners of a 1997 Toyota Forerunner. She handles the potholes like a champ and has powerful A/C! We got it just in time to pick our friends Katy & Heidi Narver up from the airport.
And we finally experienced the crazy rush hour traffic in Alajuela and San Jose. After picking our car up we got stuck in horrible traffic, sitting in one place without moving for over 30 minutes. But at least we have A/C!
The other day Andy and I explored the coastline, driving to Playa Garza, Playa Guinoes and Playa Nosara. All gorgeous beaches, and all within 30 km of Samara. Although the drive takes over an hour on the bumpy roads.
After picking our friends up, it only took us 3.5 hours to get to Samara, so driving at night, after traffic has calmed down, makes for a much quicker trip. We got home about 1am and slept in the next morning, then made eggs & potatoes for breakfast. We hit the beach in Samara and swam for a bit, and then made a store run to Nicoya to stock up on food, beer & pina colada fixings. Andy makes a mean pina colada, we're so glad we brought our Nutri Bullet!
Later we went to dinner at the organic vegan burger joint called Luv Burger. It was really delicious, we tried the coconut bacon cheeseburger (the cashew cream cheese and coconut bacon were an amazing combo), veggie tacos and chocolate mousse. After that we drove to Playa Carrillo and checked out the sunset and tested the water. The best beach times are first thing in the morning, and again right at sunset. We've quickly learned to avoid the hours between noon and 4pm, way too hot.
There is a family of howler monkeys living in our mango trees and they are so much fun to watch! There is a tiny baby, who is the cutest thing! They just lounge around in the tree, gorging on manos all day and sleeping all afternoon. Sophie barks at them, while they howl back. I hope that never gets old!
This morning we made homemade pancakes with bananas & peanut butter. Then packed up to spend the morning at Playa Carrillo. A guy named Edgar offered us fresh ceviche that he made. Of course we left our wallets at home, but he gave me a sample and it was the best ceviche I've ever tried. He said he used to live in San Jose, but quit his job to come spear fish on the beach and sell his fresh ceviche to make a living. He said he loves his life! Pura Vida! I told him we'll bring our wallets tomorrow and buy some for lunch.
On the way home Andy stopped and bought a coconut from some locals. He plans to open it with his own machete. I'm thinking he should wait until after we sign up for health insurance....I'll let you know how that turns out. Hopefully he still has both hands by tomorrow.
Sophie's out barking at the holwer monkeys now, so I better go supervise that situation. Audios!
We're here! We spent our first three nights in San Jose de Escazu, renting an apartment next to our friend Julia's. The plan was to spend those days picking up the car we bought, and the stuff we shipped...neither of which actually happened. The term "Tico Time" is sinking in, they tell you tomorrow but they really mean maybe sometime this year...if you're lucky.
There is a scarlet macaw that lives at the apartment building. They are not native to the area, only to the coast, so this one must have escaped from someone's home. It was really cool to see one up close! And Sophie is adjusting well, she seems to love all the new smells and animals she is coming across. She is already a celebrity with the kids in the apartment building, they always want her to come out and play.
I've been trying to find affordable, good-quality coconut oil here, so I can make my products. We found a small jar for $27! The same jar in the states would cost $8. I decided I just need to learn to make my own coconut oil. Later that evening some random lady approached us and said "Hi, I make coconut oil!" How strange! Coincidence? Or does the universe just always put the right people in your life at the right time? She later said she had no idea why she walked up to us and said that, she just felt an intuition that told her we needed to know that she makes coconut oil. She can show me how to make my own, and also coconut butter, coconut milk and coconut flour. Score!
The next day we met up with Ricardo. He is a Costa Rican and was an exchange student many years ago, in Oregon, with one of Andy's mom's friends. We toured the school he is principal at and then met his family. They took us to a lovely dinner in Alajuela at a surf & turf restaurant. Andy had sirloin in jalapeno sauce and I had shrimp in white sauce, served with a side of french fries (everything is served with french fries here). It was delicious! Everyone ordered beer and they brought them with a glass of ice with lemon juice. I have never seen anyone drink beer in a glass over ice, but it was strangely wonderful.
We went to a local organic farmers market in San Jose, it was really cool and we had a delicious breakfast of egg sandwiches and French toast with cream and raspberry jam, and homemade banana/walnut bread. Then we borrowed our friend Julia's car and were off to our beach town of Samara. It took us 5 hours, longer than we thought. We are already dreading all the airport trips we'll need to make, a 10-hour day of driving does not sound like fun. But at least we have A/C in the car we bought...if we ever actually get the car.
Upon arriving Sophie immediately barked her way around the huge yard, letting all the squirrels, stray cats and iguanas know who is the new boss of the hood. We found a couple mango trees, a banana tree and a lime tree in our yard, along with a few unidentified strange fruit trees. Score again!
San Jose was a cool, breezy 70 degrees. A great break from the 100 degree Oregon heat. But Samara is hot & muggy! We do have an A/C unit in the bedroom, which will save our lives. Although we are trying not to use it too much. We just got back from our morning swim. The beach is just as we remember it, mellow waves and gorgeous. We spent a couple hours floating in the water and are now making a late breakfast. More soon! Pura Vida!
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.