Bagpipes for Halloween...
Our last night in Samara was a lot of fun. We dressed up as “tourists” for Halloween, decked out in our matching Ranger Rick jungle hats, button-up safari shirts and cargo shorts, with cameras and binoculars around our necks. I wore socks and hiking boots, while Andy stole the night with his socks and Chaco sandals. We actually just dressed up as ourselves…six months ago. People arrive in Costa Rica decked out in their jungle-trekking gear, yet everyone ends up wearing the same tank top, pair of shorts and flip flops the entire time. You can always recognize the newcomers to this country by their fresh-off-the-boat-jungle-safari look.
Andy with our friends Larry and Mitch at Media Luna on Halloween:
A close-up of Andy's socks/sandals since I cut them out in the above photo:
We spend the evening going between the Halloween parties at Arriba and Media Luna. Andy’s night is made when an Irish Celtic band, made of Ticos, starts playing at Media Luna. Only in Samara can you see a shirtless, barefoot Tico wearing a kilt, playing in a band with bagpipes, an accordion and an Irish flute. Andy is now their #1 fan.
We end the night with drinks on the beach with our friends Kalin and Julie. It’s sad to say goodbye to them, but we will be seeing them soon enough. They’re planning to come stay with us in Playa del Coco to celebrate Andy’s 37th birthday this weekend. We’re hoping to do a sunset dinner booze cruise in the evening, and spend the day playing cornhole on the beach.
The next morning we say goodbye to our beach bungalow and hit the road. Our entire life is now packed into our Forerunner. Seeing all of your belongings crammed into one small space is satisfying. We have succeeded in downsizing and simplifying our lives. Now onto the next adventure!
Loco for Coco…
Our new condo is easy to find. It is three blocks from the beach and is located at the quiet end of town, which we prefer. There are two pools, air conditioning in every room, and cable TV. It feels like we’re on vacation…from our vacation. The first unit we check into doesn’t have wifi, but we eventually move into one that does.
There is a washer and dryer in the condo and I almost cry with happiness. I have never looked forward to doing laundry so much in my life. The first thing I do is load up the washing machine. We have been doing our laundry by hand for three months. I dance around to the sound of my clothes being thoroughly washed in hot water, it is music to my ears.
Pulling my hot, clean, fresh clothes from the dryer that evening is a feeling I will never forget. They smell like home. As I’m folding my clothes I cannot stop smiling. Doing laundry, something I used to hate and dread, has now become something I love and look forward to. In this moment I am grateful not only for the modern convenience of a washer and dryer, but also for being humbled for the last 90 days by not having access to something I had become accustomed to relying on. Going without something is a wonderful way to appreciate it again.
You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.
We hadn’t heard or read great things about Playa del Coco. It’s a bigger, busier town with a lot of tourists. We wake up and head out to check out the beach. The sparkly black sand shines in the morning sun. The beach is quiet, only a few people scatter the shoreline. Each side of the bay is surrounded by strips of land covered in lush, green jungle. The water is very calm and welcoming, small waves gently lap at the shore. A string of fishing boats line the bay, as if protecting us from an invasion. Classic rock plays quietly from one boat.
Playa del Coco at sunset:
We find a perfect hammock spot and Andy ties my hammock between a mango tree and a palm tree. I swing in the ocean breeze, watching the birds and the boats, taking in the new town. Three dogs chase each other down the beach, pausing only to play in the surf. Five pelicans soar together above the fishing boats, playing follow the leader, their patterns rhyming in the sky. I spot a Tico man spear fishing from a small rock in the middle of the bay. As the waves crash around him he thrusts his spear into the water repeatedly, trying to catch dinner for his family.
Fish for dinner, not compliments.
After our beach walk I lounge in the pool for a bit. There are two pools so there is always some sun and shade. I pick a shady spot and hang out in the water, watching an enormous golden red dragon fly circling above the my head, listening to the birds call to each other as they fly past me. I eventually move to the other pool to find some sun. The dragonfly follows…
I have to admit I do like Coco. It’s no Samara, but so far we have a good impression. It is still considered slow season here, so during the holidays it may feel like a different place. But for now it is peaceful and serene and we’re happy with our decision to stay here during November. People don’t greet each other when they pass on the street as often as in Samara, but I instantly like this town and this beach for what it does have to offer.
Walking into the AutoMercado for the first time though, is when I fell in love with Coco. It was like walking into a Fred Meyer…but better! Everything you need in one single store. Ingredients I recognize, things we miss eating. I’ve never been so happy to see English muffins and thick-sliced Canadian bacon. Fresh deli salame, gouda cheese, and crackers. Whole rotisserie chickens, rib-eye steaks, and thick pork chops. Fresh spinach, lettuce and veggies, and even blackberries and strawberries! I’m in heaven and would pay rent to live in this wonderful air-conditioned store if I could. Our first dinner in our new condo consists of grilled rib-eye steaks, herb baked potatoes, homemade garlic bread and a huge green salad with broccoli and homemade citrus dressing. I'm happy to be eating anything but chicken and rice at this point, but this dinner is special. I cranked the A/C while cooking and for once got to enjoy dinner while not soaked in sweat. I could get used to this.
Our car is Costa Rican dirty after our recent trips, so after dinner we find a small car wash down a dusty side road. For only $10 they clean and detail our entire car, inside and out. You could never find that deal in the states. We sit outside in lawn chairs, slapping at mosquitoes and watching the howler monkeys play in a tree, while the sun sets as the Tico man and his wife make our car look like new. Uh-oh, now we look even more American. I think we fit in better with a dirty car. Recently we’ve actually been mistaken as Ticos, probably because of our tans. My dark hair helps too. A few times Ticos will walk up to us and start speaking Spanish to me, assuming I’m a local. They figure it out the second I open my mouth though…
We will definitely enjoy the luxurious condo for the month of November. The washer and dryer, the pools, the A/C, the AutoMercado. But we didn’t move here to have all the same conveniences and comforts we have back home. What would we learn from that? The richest part of this experience is finding new ways, realizing you can make a home anywhere, go without things you used to need, and adapt to any circumstance. As humans we are flexible, evolving, resilient, always changing. Even if when we leave here all I take away from this experience is a new appreciation for a washing machine and clothes dryer, then I’ll be a better and more humble person than I was before.
P. S. After moving into the new unit with wifi, we have come to the conclusion that there are no comfortable couches in the entire country of Costa Rica. But maybe that’s for a reason. Maybe that’s Costa Rica’s way of saying get off your butt and go to the beach! So off we go on our first beach exploring adventure on this new section of beautiful coastline…
We load up the car and hit the road with a general plan of which new beaches we want to see. The roads are terrible and we adjust our plans as needed, but do manage to cross quite a few beaches off our “Costa Rican Beach Bucket List”. This section of coast contains some of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. The shoreline is rich and luxurious, peppered with quiet black and white sand beaches, and the water is a shade of blue that matches the sky.
A view from our beach drive:
We pull up to Hotel Sugar Beach and walk through the manicured grounds of the resort, down to the beach. The water is so bright, it reminds me of a Carribean beach. The sand is soft and lush, it feels like walking on sugar. We walk Sophie up and down the small strip of deserted beach, while taking pictures. Sugar Beach, or Pan de Azucar, is not on most Costa Rican maps. It is a small, unknown secluded beach that is absolutely breath-taking. It looks like something out of a movie.
Hotel Sugar Beach:
Getting back in the car, we spend the morning driving up and down the coast. We make stops at Playa Penca, Playa Portrero, Playa Ocotal, Playa Prieta, Pan de Azucar, Playa Flamingo, Playa Brasalito and Playa Conchal. I take note of which beaches have the best hammock trees and swimming waves so we can come back and waste whole days at each one of our favorites.
A few of the beaches we stopped at:
As we are leaving Playa Penca we notice what appears to be an albino squirrel crossing a barbed wire fence. We drive closer and stop to check him out. He is actually just a very old, grandpa squirrel whose hair has turned pure white. He slowly hobbles across the fence, taking his sweet time. He pauses to look at us, cocks his head while evaluating our intentions, then continues picking his way along…then BAM! Sophie has spotted the grandpa squirrel from my lap and has launched herself across the car, body slamming herself into Andy’s window. I worry she may have knocked herself out from the sheer impact, and am surprised to see the window didn’t shatter, but she continues attacking. I find this hilarious, but Andy is not amused by the dog drool marks that now cover his freshly hand-washed car window.
Pay It Forward…
On our beach drive we notice a Tico driving a small Toyota, hauling an empty kayak trailer. He drops a long bungee cord and fluorescent orange rope in the sandy road ahead of us. We stop to pick them up and follow him for a few kilometers, until we can get his attention. He is very grateful and thanks us twice for returning them. We say “Mucho Gusto” and drive off while waving.
Ticos are some of the nicest people and always jump in to help anyone in need. We’ve experienced their kindness and generosity many times and it’s always good to pay it forward. Today it’s evident that what goes around comes around, and we were thankful for the previous stacked up good karma, as we found ourselves in need of some ‘Tico Aid’ five minutes later…
Playa Conchal is incredibly gorgeous, one long never-ending stretch of pure white sand. There are tire tracks all over this beach, and it’s clear that this is a perfect place for a beach drive. Most of the sand is packed and easy to maneuver on. Andy has fun spinning cookies and driving in circles up and down the beach. Eventually we come to a thick, soft section of sand and get stuck. Before we can even roll our windows down, two Tico teenage boys who are fishing nearby drop their fishing poles and sprint over to give us a push. As Andy guns the gas pedal, they shout “faster, faster!” We eventually get enough traction and thank them profusely, while waving, as we shoot off to explore the rest of the beach.
The memory of those kids clapping, laughing and cheering us on, will forever remain in my heart. That situation sums up Costa Rica perfectly. You don't even have to ask for help here. People see someone in need and they immediately jump into action without thinking. It's feels incredible to be a part of this special place.
We eventually head home and make note of the beaches we still need to visit that we didn’t have time to hit today. They will still be there next week. Life's A Beach! Hasta Luego Mis Amigos!
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.