Costa Rica

Cahuita – You Can’t Beat the Heat

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. Oh, I do like to be beside the sea! That’s a lie…I mostly dislike the beach…but it’s really hard to dislike Cahuita.

Before we made the 4 hr bus ride to Cahuita, we had to stop back in San Jose to collect our other bag. There were some concerns about weight limits on the boats in Tortuguero, so we stripped down to only one backpack and Angus. This meant that my bag was stowed back in the hostel at SJ. Note to self: never separate your bags. Bertha was absolutely safe, but we could have headed down to Cahuita on the way back from Tortuguero without coming back into nasty San José.

Our overnight stay was perfectly fine, if you ignore the fact that our room was directly off of the hostel kitchen and contained a mattress stuffed with rocks and bones. The ceiling fan was covered in a considerable amount of dust. What I can only imagine to be years of dust accumulation had created a miniature alien landscape; Mesas akin to the formations in Mojave desert covered each fan blade. Visions of ancient dust falling into our eyes and mouths discouraged us from turning on the fan, so we slept on our bag of bones, sweaty and uncomfortable, while we listened to every conversation that took place in the kitchen.

We did get to do laundry, a fact I am sure our fellow bus companions would appreciate, if only they had known the horror of our stench just one day prior. It was the most desperate we have ever been for laundry. We sweated profusely in Tortuguero, and all of our clothed had been infused with an un-godly stank. Having a pile of clean clothes to choose from is not that exciting when you have two closets full of them. When you only have 6 shirts and 2 pairs of pants…it’s a god-damn luxury.

There are 7 bus terminals in San José, and we got a mini-tour of some of them on our way to Terminal Atlantico Norte. Our cabbie dropped us off at the wrong terminal but there was a friendly local ready to assist us. As soon as we got out of the cab and strapped on our packs, he approached us from the line of cabbies on the corner and asked where we were going. “Cahuita? Oh no, you are at the wrong terminal. Quick, quick! I take you to Atlantico. Quick!” I quickly confirmed we were at the wrong address and we followed him to his cab. As soon as we got there, we realized this guy was not licensed…but we were short on time and we haven’t quite gotten the hang of being rude to people yet. We took a fairly lengthy tour of the back streets of San José, while our ‘cabbie’ prophesied about our shaky odds of getting a bus ticket.

Cabbie: Very full, I don’t think you will get on the bus today.
Me: Shrug.
Cabbie: Tomorrow, even worse…
Me: Uh huh.
Cabbie: The President has cancelled all the buses tomorrow…cabs too. No cabs after 9am tomorrow.
Me: Oh yeah?

Frowny eye-contact with John in the front seat

Me: (telepathically) John, we are totally getting scammed.
John: (telepathically) Roger that.
Cabbie: So if you don’t get on the bus today, no Cahuita. Because the President ordered it. Let me call for you.

Fake phone call to bus station

Cabbie: Hello? Bus tickets for Cahuita. Two…yes, for today. Oh no, you don’t say? No more tickets? Okay, thank you.
Me: (telepathically) He totally just faked that phone call!!!
John: (telepathically) Yep. Unbelievable.
Cabbie: Sorry, guys…no more bus tickets. You know what…I could take you to Cahuita! It will only take about three hours…

As delightful as 3 three hours in this guy’s piece of junk car would be, we declined forcefully, and were finally dropped off at the bus terminal. Whaddaya know? There were plenty of tickets.

The bus we were taking was going all the way to Purto Viejo, about 30 minutes away from Cahuita. All of the people going to Puerto Viejo were young, pretty and clueless…it’s obviously a party town. We will be spending our last week in Costa Rica there, amid the drunken backpackers and half-baked ex-pats that roam the town. I don’t think the majority of these kids had been in the country long, as they were slinging back beers at 10am, which tells me two things: 1) They have never experienced the back roads of Costa Rica, and 2) They didn’t realize that Costa Rican buses do not have toilets. To be honest, I am looking forward to spending our last week watching (and maybe participating) in these types of youthful shenanigans, but for right now…we were headed to Cahuita.

Cahuita is a five street town, most of which are lined with surf shops, restaurants and tour operators…but in a very charming, washed out way. It was also hotter than the surface of the sun. We’ve been fairly comfortable in the central highlands, and only half-way uncomfortable in Torteguero, but we were physically and mentally unprepared for the heat of Cahuita. Within 1 minute, sweat was rolling out of every pour. What didn’t drip off our noses, ears and elbows, pooled rapidly in our various nooks and crannies…our shoes squeaked with it.

We stumbled around the streets in a daze, looking for our cabina. After exhausting all possible permutations of the directions we had been given, we broke down and went to the police station. After a very sympathetic conversation in broken Spanish, we got hold of our host on a policeman’s cell phone and she peddled up the road to meet us (we were told the only people in Cahuita that have a car, are tourists).

We settled into the Coconut Love beach house, each of us firmly planted under a ceiling fan, and there we stayed until the sun dipped below the horizon. Costa Rica does sunsets really well.IMG_1709.JPG
We walked into the village and ate at Bombata, which our host heartily recommended. I don’t remember what John ate, because I was face down in the first of many coconut curry with chicken dishes. Stomachs satisfactorily loaded, we waddled back home and went to bed, promising to rise with the sun and beat the heat.

We missed sunrise by a couple of hours, but we did manage to haul ourselves out of bed and head down to Cahuita National Park around 9:30am. The park covers just under 11 square-kilometers, which includes a 7km stretch of beach, trails and a coral reef. At the entrance, we passed the gauntlet of local guides who assured us that we wouldn’t see squat without them. To prove their point, one of the guides pointed above our heads to a momma and baby sloth.IMG_1707.JPGAfter cooing at this adorable pair, we decided to go along the trail by ourselves, but not before we hit the beach.IMG_1700-0.JPGIMG_1702.JPGI could get used to this Caribbean thing…it’s my type of water. Crystal clear, soft sand…I can see all around me, so there’s not much chance of creatures sneaking around, unseen.

IMG_1703.JPGWe splashed about for a bit, but it was hot as tar, so we headed for the shade of the trails. We saw a good deal of wildlife, even without a guide. John’s favorite, the white-faced Capuchin monkeys were out in full force. We stepped over many a trail of bullet and leaf-cutter ants, and the trail was lizard-highway; dozens of them were scampering back and forth. IMG_1706.JPGOur progress was halted about 1.5km in by the tide, so we re-traced our steps back to the village.

Some would argue that it was close enough to lunchtime to eat. John broke my #1 rule of eating: nothing with eyes and mouth still attached.IMG_1701.JPGI dined on my second, but not my last, coconut curry. After lunch, our plan was to do a repeat on yesterday and hide away from the hottest part of the day in our house, emerging only at night for sundown and more food. Hey, it’s a good plan…especially when sundown looks like this:IMG_1699.JPG

Our final day in Cahuita was dedicated to being beach bums. Now, I mentioned that I don’t like the beach, and I stand by that statement for the following reasons:

1) The mortal enemy of pale-skinned, red-heads is the sun.
2) I don’t like going in the ocean, or any natural body of water. Unless you can provide me a detailed inventory of the contents, I wouldn’t even consider it. Y’all, we are not meant to be in the ocean. You wanna know how I know? We don’t have gills.
3) Sharks.
4) I’m carrying around an extra 50lbs of blubber that I don’t need. The beach is the place were I am most reminded of this fact. It doesn’t help that it’s all the color of porcelain. I am constantly looking over my shoulder for Ahab.
5) My least favorite thing is being hot.

Also, I was known for escaping from my parents as soon as I was able to crawl, so when we visited the beach, they used to dig a big pit in the sand and put me in it. There’s quite a few pictures of little me, wearing a big sun-bonnet, sitting at the bottle of a hole at the seaside in England. Maybe I was scarred for life?

It was only due to my undying adoration of John Levy, that I found myself grimly suiting up for the beach, like a soldier going to battle. Swimsuit on, sunscreen on, bug-spray over sunscreen, hat pulled down, layer of clothes over swimsuit. I relaxed about 1 hour into it, at approximately 8am. I did go into the ocean, as the water was completely clear. The only wildlife we encountered were some living sand dollars, easily spotted on the yellow sand beneath our feet, and some capuchins, who were scheming to pick our pockets.IMG_1712.JPGWe set up shop underneath a big tree, and I plowed through a trashy novel I found at our guest house. There were only a couple of other people on the beach, so I laid back, watched the crabs and read my book. It’s very pretty here.IMG_1705-0.JPGWe called the beach quits around 11:30 and headed back to the village for lunch. In a couple of hours, we would head to the (gulp) Sloth Sanctuary for two nights…but as we didn’t have a car and they don’t serve dinner, we had to eat a big lunch in Cahuita. Not that I need a reason to eat more coconut curry. After lunch, we risked death and showered the beach off us, packed up our stuff and were ready to go just as the taxi pulled up outside.

I liked Cahuita, and if it wasn’t so damn hot, I could probably live there. We only were offered marijuana twice (no, thank you!) and some school kids called John “Santa”. A fun time was had by all.

So, (deep breath) I am writing this blog from the Sloth Sanctuary. If I remember correctly, this was one of the places that started getting us talking about traveling the world for real…it’s definitely the first reason that Costa Rica made the list. As of this moment, I have officially met my first sloth, Buttercup, who is queen around here. She hangs out all day in her special basket, refusing to live happily anywhere else, and is quite honestly the most incredible animal I have ever seen. She also really, really likes John Levy’s beard and reached out to touch it several times. Check that face!!!IMG_1710-1.JPGTomorrow, we are going on a special tour, where I will get to observe some more of these special creatures, which are genetically designed to make me squeak and and grin uncontrollably. John has threatened to confiscate my iphone to capture video evidence of my losing my mind tomorrow…I hope to keep it cool and calm and not to make a fool out of myself. Fingers crossed!

Also, tonight we dined like kings!

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