Pura Vida! Welcome to Costa Rica...
We executed the San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua to Playa Samara, CR journey like Travel-Ninja-Black-Belts. 5 buses and a border crossing with our longest wait in between buses being 40 minutes...when it goes like that, just as you drew it up, a long trip seems short and I begin to wonder why every other blog entry we write starts with us b****ing about some long, hellish journey.
Not today my friends...nope, today I'm here to proclaim the efficiency and comfort of the Central American public transportation system...it's a thing of beauty, really.
Double so on this day as it delivered us in 8 short hours to a bus stop 50 meters from the Entre Dos Aguas Hotel at Samara where we were set to rendezvous with the EdVenture International team for the fifth time on our trip (including 4 separate countries and twice in Aus, although W.A. counts as it's own country in some people's books.)
We found the hotel void of our friends when we arrived which wasn't too bad a thing as we had time to pretty ourselves up a bit and settle into a game of Scrabble and a patented "Gina Marie Blind Taste Test" this time between CR's two local beers: Pilsen and Imperial. For the record, Pilsen just eeked it out although we both agreed that Toña, the swill we'd been enjoying in the northern neighbor, Nicaragua, has them both beat.
It wasn't long before we heard familiar voices and good ol' Aussie gregarious laughter in the distance which meant the end of the Scrabble game, but the beginning of the real fun. (Good thing too, cuz G was killing me at Scrabble!)
And then there were 6: Chris Abfalter, Christy Nichols, Jamie Christopherson (I know; that's a whole lot of 'Chris' for one group) and then the bonus, unexpected surprise: Mr. Matt Gilbee of shirtless, cowboy-hat fame, who had survived the 21 hour travel bender from San Salvador and beat us to Samara.
They were returning from the store and had a box full of groceries for dinner, beers and mixers to go with the obscenely large bottle of Flor De Caña 7 year Rum that G and I had picked up in Nica and imported for the occasion. ($21 for a handle (1.75 liters) of some of the world's best Rum; uhhh...Yes, Please!)
And it was; we tucked into the rum and the beers as we settled in to catch up with each other and swap travel stories. It'd been 2 months since we were all in WA for G's 30th extravaganza during which time Gilbee has traveled from Los Angeles to Costa Rica and the EdVenture crew has been at work furiously preparing for the first season of EdVenture trips which were set to kickoff in just a few days...needless to say: plenty to catch up on, and thankfully, plenty if rum to fuel the conversation.
It wasn't JUST rum and banter that night. We did wander out to a spot at the beach to hang for a bit. We did make some late night dinner. But, yes, we did finish that bottle of Rum. It never stood a chance.
The next day passed in much the same manner as the rest of our time in Samara would: very lazily (for us anyway, the EdVenture kids were busy with last minute details). That day G and I took a stroll along the beach after breakfast then settled in for a cold drink and a snack before wandering back to the hotel for some hammock time. Yeah, I know...life's rough.
In the afternoon we cruised back to the beach to meet with Gilbee for happy hour while the EdVenture team finished up their work. We met them a few hours later on the beach and went with them to meet their buddy Cros who has been helping them with their trip planning. We then headed for the water for a awesome swimming, frisbee, body surfing session as the sun set and the sky came alive with oranges, pinks and reds. Dinner was pasta and we attempted to watch a movie on the projector after we ate, but we didn't make it to the end. I, myself, in typical AM fashion barely made it through the opening credits before I was sawing logs...
Day 3 in Samara and G was off to the gym before I was even awake...very impressive, but after her initial burst of energy she settled into my pace and activity level. It consisted of breakfast followed by a 25 meter walk to the pool where we sun bathed, read books, swam, and repeated then put those activities on repeat for the next few hours. When we had had enough sun we walked the 25 meters back to the covered patio and took up our positions across from each other in hammocks and read, snoozed and otherwise chilled, hard.
At one point Christy came back from running EdVenture errands for a few minutes before having to run out to meet a teacher at the school they'd be volunteering at with their students. The scene she found was of G and I so chilled out, I think she may have momentarily thought we were actually dead.
Afternoon activities were a bit more stressful: a stroll to the store to pick up groceries and supplies for a small dinner party at Cros' beachfront bungalow. Turns out he cameos as a professional chef when he's not living the dream on the beach at Samara, and as any legit British chef should, he has a couple mean Indian curry recipes up his sleeve.
At last the 5 o'clock hour rolled around and lap tops were shut, errands were done and happy hour beers were cracked amongst those of us working and those of us, ahem, not. Actually, I lie. Gilbee, G and I got into our firsts closer to 4 o'clock...but who's counting. One thing that must be noted here is our happy hour snack: Abfalter's Homemade Ceviche. Get the guy to make it for ya sometime, is all I'm saying. Awesome!
That night was a great one. Cros was a fantastic host: his curry was delicious and he followed it up with some live guitar for our entertainment. Gilbee jumped on the spare and a pretty sick jam session ensued. At some point the storm clouds rolled in and all of the sudden the rain was pounding on Cros' roof while lightening flashed and thunder roared all around us, at times booming seemingly right on top of the little house. Gilbee and Cros just played louder. We hung out late into the night waiting for the storm to pass...it didn't.
Eventually we had no choice, but to say our thank you's and goodbyes and head off into the storm. The lightening lit up the whole beach as we walked back down towards our hotel through the downpour. The thunder was crashing close enough to be loud and awesome but not so close as to pose any real danger. It was a wild but very beautiful scene. We got home soaked, but still in high spirits from the evening's activities.
Wouldn't you know it. We'd had great weather the whole time we'd been in Samara, but the final day, the day the EdVenture guys had vowed not to work was a miserable rainy one. All day. We all slept in a bit and then G and I hit the tiny Samara gym. I guess I was having trouble getting motivated because Gina accused me of wandering around "looking lost" instead of actually working out, a charge I will neither confirm or deny.
We got back and headed out with the crew for a nice big pizza lunch. The waitress told us the large pizzas weren't that big, so we ordered 3 for 6 people. They were actually pretty big, so, despite us all being really hungry, we couldn't finish them. We had no choice but to sit at the restaurant and play "celebrity" and drink pitchers of Margheritas until we managed to peck the pizzas all the way till they were gone. What was left we fed to the dog, something I usually refrain from, but this poor little guy was about the skinniest dog we've seen in 2 months in Mexico and Central America; believe me we've seen some mongrels, so that's saying something.
We enjoyed a few Skype chats with some of the crew back in Aus over a few evening beers before we headed our ways to pack our bags and hit the hay. Gilbee was on a 4am bus the next morning for San Jose, step 1 in his 2 day journey to Bocas Del Toro in Panama. The EdVenture kids were also headed for San Jose in preparation for picking up their students and getting the fun started with their first ever program. And as for Gina and I...well, we went to bed that night unsure of exactly where we were headed next. That's part of the beauty of the Pro Leisure Tour, you don't have to make decisions until you absolutely have to. Part of us wanted to postpone the goodbyes and head with the team to San Jose and then figure it out from there. Part of us wanted to keep the 'pura vida' beach-life alive and head to Montezuma. Decisions, decisions...
In the morning we decided it best to leave the EdVenture crew in peace as our presence could only result in distraction and/or bad influence and they had work to do and needed to be on their game for when the volunteers arrived in San Jose.
Gilbee was gone when we got up, but we had time to wish the EdVenture team our best and say our goodbyes before heading to the bus stop to catch the 10am bus to Nicoya for what would be a long, long trip to Montezuma.
Nothing quite like seeing familiar faces along the road to reinvigorate a couple of weary travelers. Gilbee out of nowhere! Safe travels mate, hope to catch up again soon.
And big props to Chris, Christy and Jamie for the meet up and for being inspirational in their drive and passion with EdVenture; we know you guys will do great.
Until the next time in the next country; already looking forward to it!