Thursday was the hottest day of our trip to that point, and the humidity was somewhat oppressive. Still, we had plans and were aiming to misbehave. Ahoy, ahoy.
Day 5.1 Breakfast & Prep; or, A New Heat. The day began with our usual work time, coffee, and open-air breakfast. We fueled up and prepared for a 2 mile walk south to the Jaguar Rescue Center, an animal rehabilitation space for all kinds of creatures, including sloths! Weather reports, which had been as inconsistent as just about any in Oregon, all reported a heat surge. Even in the early morning, we could feel the heat and humidity setting in. Best to slather on the sunscreen and get out the door.
Day 5.2: Bus Tickets & Raspados; or An Artist at Work. Preparedness is important to me, especially when traveling. I don’t have to know every detail of my trip, but I want two elements clearly laid out: 1) how/when transportation occurs, and 2) a place to sleep. (I don’t even have to sleep in the place I originally planned on sleeping, so long as there is a guaranteed default place to rest at the end of the day.) In effort to support the former requirement, we walked into town to purchase our bus tickets for Friday’s journey into San Jose. The sun was blazing by the time we acquired tickets; we would not be making it to the JRC without refreshment.
Luckily, we happened upon a raspado cart just around the corner. If you’re not familiar, raspados are a shaved ice treat drenched with fruit syrup and sweetened condensed milk. This particular cart also added chocolate and a cookie straw, if you liked. The rest of the sugar rendered the additional flavors unnecessary. With the heat of the day, the treat was practically a milkshake in a matter of moments.
The cart owner worked like an artist in a studio, his hands moving smoothly and deftly from one task to the next. When he misplaced a tool briefly, he sought more with his hands than his eyes, playing an invisible piano whose tune would make the tool appear. Watching him was as mesmerizing as nearly anything else we’d seen.
Day 5.3: Long Day’s Journey Into Jungle; or, Timing Is Everything. Heat makes everything involving movement take longer. Unfortunately, that meant that our 2-mile walk, which would normally have been accomplished within 40 minutes at a leisurely pace, took significantly longer. And, sadly, that meant we appeared at the JRC a mere 5 minutes after their final tour of the day. No soup for you. (They only tour at 9:30am and 11:30am.)
Cam, King of Making the Best of a Given Situation, insisted that we sit in the JRC’s outdoor cafe space. A banana smoothie, water, and reassurances that we hadn’t disappointed one another, and the day seemed back on track. We’re sitting in a jungle in paradise, after a beautiful walk. What is there to complain about? Looks like the JRC is just on the list for next trip. We even spotted some wildlife — small creatures that are, essentially, rainforest deer. Cam also pointed out strangler figs fighting their way up the tall jungle trees, a frightening and beautiful plant. Our return walk was gentler, slower. We indulged in the forest greenery to our left, the coast to our right, and were grateful that we had been so judicious in sunscreen application that morning. Boy, does the heat take it out of you. It was time for lunch.
Day 5.4: Of Gatos, Geckos, y Hamburgesas; or, Naps and Showers and Overpriced Sunscreen, Oh My! Sodas (the small restaurant/deli/stores in Costa Rica) are brilliant. There is almost always one within a 5-10 minute walk. And, by the time we had finished our exceedingly warm saunter back to Puerto Viejo, spotting the one across from our hotel felt miraculous. The sun is a harsh mistress. I resisted the urge to curl up for a nap on the ground beneath a table like a sweet cat we spotted, though the temptation was strong. Instead, I made friends with a gecko in a tree located among the dining tables, jealous of its ability to pay no heed to the heat. A cola and a hamburger later, we managed to pull ourselves together enough to make it back to our room for a rinse and the sweet relief of air conditioning. But the a/c and fresh showers weren’t quite enough–skin requires rehydration after that kind of heat, and I was out of sunscreen. Time for a quick jaunt to the supermarket to restock.
In brief, having a fair complexion in a tropical country means they know you’re a tourist who will need that sweet, sweet anti-sun cream and will pay what you must for it. I had thought that packing my own small bottle in my carry-on would be enough. Ha! If you don’t pay to check your bag, know that you’re likely to pay about the same amount for sunscreen while you’re abroad. At least you only have to pay for it one-way, I guess? Oh, well.
Day 5.5: Back to the Future; or, The Importance of Being An Earnest Beach-Bum. Despite our time in the heat, we were both of a singular mindset: it’s time to get back to Playa Cocles. Only rare circumstance would make those waves seem unappealing, and none of those were present. In fact, we emerged from the day’s punishing rays with only a couple small red spots, negligible areas that served as a kind of rite of passage. If two people this pale — Canadian and Welsh, respectively — managed to get this close to the equator and escaped any burn at all, they clearly had wasted their vacation time. We would not be those people.
I never considered myself one much for the beach. In truth, Oregon has more of a coast than a beach, and it’s not a space in which you relax and play in a swimsuit because it’s warm and fun. Like most very Oregonian activities, enjoying the beach requires some fortitude to face the cold and the wind. Caribbean beaches, however, want you to relax. They are full of soft sand and warm breezes, waves you can play in, areas to pull up a vehicle for a party or a blanket for reading, and ample spaces to enjoy the perfection surrounding you. This beach — this beach, specifically — had convinced me that taking up a life as a professional beach bum is not only possible or enjoyable, but is a completely fantastic idea that I should have thought of sooner. (Okay, I’ll need something to help preoccupy my mind sometimes. That said, “beach bum” is a great default setting or, at the least, a part-time job.)
Day 5.6: Pizza Night; or, What You Will. Traffic began to fill the road during our sunset walk back to town. We had already decided upon a dinner location: a pizza joint boasting $1 slices and live music in the evening. The pizza (ham and pineapple) was delicious, the company extraordinary, and the traffic mostly humorous. (We walked faster than most vehicles were moving through town, including several cars with the windows down, blaring music while their respective drivers showed off their best dance moves and air-drum solos.)
Not long after our return, a familiar sound infiltrated the otherwise quiet hotel: rain. And it went on. And on. And grew louder…. until such time as I ran out the door to watch it come down. A small party was already in progress in the pool, or else I would have jumped right in. (Why not swim in a warm rainstorm in paradise?) Instead, we found ample space on the upper level of the hotel to watch the water come down, drenching pedestrians trying to return to their cars.
And, so, the evening came to a close, with the orange street lamps and red tail lights swirling in the tropical shower, a liquid spirograph of comfort and color, capping our last full day in Puerto Viejo (this time around).