04 February 2015

Fasten Your Seatbelts. It's Going To Be A Bumpy Night

Why bumpy? Because our finca is up a rough mountain road (mountain! thus the ocean view). See the topographical map with the little yellow dot that says us? We're at least that close to the sea, in crow-miles, but way up in those mountains.

It is a rollicking, bumpy, teeth-jarring ride merely to descend the dirt road down the mountain. So hang on.

Recently we've seen several photos of Finca los Jalapeños, but there's so much more to our little paradise in Costa Rica. Come, let's be off on our tour of the Samara area and nearby villages around the Nicoya Peninsula. We'll go north toward Nosara, past Playa Garza, Guiones, and then return to the beaches just south of Samara.

One of my favorite activities close-to-home is simply walking along the beaches. Buena Vista is one of three long, beautiful beaches near our home. True, I've not visited Buena Vista in dry season, so maybe there are several ways to get there. But as far as I know, there is only one little rocky road (more of a path, really) that leads to the northernmost end of this long, wide beach.

Buena Vista is a very long beach. We walked from the northernmost rocky outcrop toward the southern end, and back, and it took us two hours. Yes, there were some photo-op stops, some wading, some shell collecting, but still -- two hours?! That's a long beach. This is a great shelling beach and after high tide it's filled with beautiful specimens of driftwood . . . all waiting to be carved into art or shelving for our bathrooms. Thrifty me . . . always re-purposing. This is the part where I concede to Rusty that a certain number of power tools will indeed be moved to Samara.

In rainy season there are several estuaries that empty onto Buena Vista's beach. I suppose they begin as little rivulets high in the mountains and jungle and gather momentum before pouring into the Pacific Ocean. But evidently momentum isn't the only thing they gather. They gather crocodiles. And these crocs languish, usually hidden, in the estuaries. In rainy season some of the estuaries are rather deep . . . and murky. This was especially true of the few estuaries near the southern end of Buena Vista. It was there that our walk ended. I may be crazy but I'm not stupid. I really didn't want to surprise a crocodile while wading knee-deep though its nappy-nap area. Now what are the odds of encountering a crocodile just lying in wait for me? I don't want to know. Don't need to know. Not goin' anywhere near slow-moving or still water if I cannot see bottom.

Let's now wave goodbye to our prehistoric pal and move slowly (it's bumpy) north toward the town of Nosara. For my Burkina RPCV friends, I know that you understand the joy I get from shouting the name of this town. Nooozaaarra!

Nosara is famous, world-wide, for its surfing waves. We'll take a peek later. The area also boasts a world-class yoga center. We visited Nosara two or three times, house-hunting. It's an odd little town in that, as far as I can tell, it's really just a wide-spot where two or three roads converge. You'd think it would be a true beach community, like Samara, but evidently not . . . though somewhere on Nosara Beach proper there must be other businesses. They probably hide the good stuff deep in the jungle or high in the hills. Anyway, you can see from the signs that Nosara has a great deal to offer, and one day we'll explore all of it. For now, all I know of the actual village is that they have a terrific furniture store . . . probably way over-priced, but with some fantastic light fixtures (remember those two ceiling lights in our sala that must be replaced). There is also the office of a very nice realtor (though he's no Bill Knight), a cute jewelry store (hopefully with locally-sourced items), and a great restaurant. Some believe Nosara is Zen.

Marlin Bill's in Nosara is the one restaurant where we've dined repeatedly. It's somewhat of a sports bar; perhaps that explains the repeat visits. It's not fancy, it's upstairs and open-air, and it doesn't even have a view of the ocean . . . not even a great view of central Nosara. Now with that said, what we saw of central Nosara isn't much larger than our yard/lot in DFW . . . so there's really no view. We must have blinked. But back to Marlin Bill's. This is the kind of place where after just two or three visits the entire staff will know you by name. And they have cats! Did I mention the cats?! Sadly for me, the cats don't hover or weave around the table . . . they just perch on the railing around the restaurant and occasionally wander downstairs. Could a cat be lured with a piece of the best Dorado sandwich I've ever had? One day I'll find out.

We viewed a fantastic home that I believe was just a short walk from the official beach at Nosara. Still I saw no businesses -- where are the palapa bars and surfing teachers? I could have missed them . . . house-hunting, when one views as many homes as we did, creates a blur. Indeed there were a few surfers . . . though I don't think we were present during the season of really big waves.

Here's a blow hole at Guiones, just down the bumpy, rock-and-roll road. Now let me explain again about the word road. You see the rocky outcrops that form headlands along the beaches? These headlands divide one long beach from the other . . . such as Buena Vista from Samara. Anyway, there are no roads that run along the coast (refer to that topo map at the top of this post). A single road runs a bit inland, with occasional ocean views, and it has several T-intersections with even rougher roads down to the various beaches. As I once stated, these are only roads in the academic sense. Our progress was stopped on more than one of these roads and we were forced into a 12-point U-turn. And we had a 4x4. True, it was rainy season.

Back to our tour of Nosara and its beaches. No, these beaches don't have sugary-white sand. I love the striation-effect in the sand as the tide recedes. And here we're seeing a morning low tide, so you won't see soft sand dunes on this part of Nosara.

Doesn't riding a bike on the beach look like fun? From our mountain perch I cannot imagine how Rusty will get our bikes to the beach. But hey, they can send a man to the moon -- it can't be rocket surgery. In the course of house-hunting in this area of the Nicoya Peninsula, we drove (or were driven) far inland. I wish I could tell you that it was breathtakingly beautiful. We must have missed Oprah's home. And we were there a bit too early for the hatching of the baby turtles on their protected beaches. I wasn't overly impressed (though we did see a fun finca; and Mel Gibson's place was nice, and for sale). My new favorite whine: I wanna go home to Samara.

So let's return south before darkness falls  . . . you don't get anywhere quickly on these roads. Back closer to home, from the hills above Samara (especially its southwestern hills) you can see Isla Chora. Bill & Donna have a great view from their pool deck. After a cocktail or two, it's a stupendous view. I believe you can kayak to the isla from Playa Samara. The snorkeling will be great.

Forget not that the town/village of Samara extends inland only about five blocks from the beach and only about six blocks along the beach. In about an hour you could leisurely stroll the entire town, stopping to peek in the charming stores. Samara is not big, and I hope that it remains that way. We'll have to clock-it in dry season: I'm not certain which is closer to Finca los Jalapeños . . . Playa Buena Vista or Playa Samara. I suspect it is Samara. That's nice since Samara boasts amenities (read: bars!) and Buena Vista does not.

We've spent less than two weeks in Samara (far less) and I believe that I could find the bar, Lo Que Hay, with my eyes closed . . . if I could make it down our bumpy mountain. I suspect it will always be our go-to beach bar. Great food, cold beverages . . . with friendly service/delivery to complimentary lounges under palapas. And its beach has sugar-soft sand. From a base on Playa Samara one can sunbathe, take a surfing lesson, people-watch, nosh, sip a beer or cocktail, or nap.  It's a perfect spot. If you're bored with the beach, take a short stroll  to town for lunch or some shopping. Clearly, versus Buena Vista and Carillo, Samara is what you think of when you think of a vacation beach . . . a beach with plenty of amenities, a perfect swimming beach, paradise.

But on with the show. Let's continue a bit south 'round the next headland. We'll end our tour at Playa Carillo. Let's talk sand. We all love that white-white, powdery, sugary, soft, deep sand. Who doesn't love that kind of sand? But this is the Pacific Ocean in a volcanic land along the Pacific Rim's earthquake zone. Sugar sand exists, but its far from ubiquitous. Nevertheless, Playa Carillo is everything one imagines when you think of a wide, long, palm-lined tropical beach. It's perfect.

During our many visits Carillo was rarely crowded. Heck, it was never crowded and in fact was almost always nearly deserted. This makes it even more perfect . . . until Semana Santa. Carillo offers permanent small picnic tables nestled here-and-there under the palms. Did someone plant those palms? Aren't they just too perfectly placed?

Playa Carillo adds an extra 10-15 minutes in drive-time from home-to-beach-blanket. The Carillo neighborhood seems to offer the closest zip-line tours, and some fun mom-and-pop lunch spots, too. There's really not much that isn't available with a 15-20 minute drive from our home. Horseys, canopy tours, bird-watching, ATVs, kayaking, fishing. How did this ever happen?!

And so we'll end today's tour at Playa Carillo, at sunset. Not a shabby view, huh? And one day soon we really will end our days here . . . before the rocky, bumpy drive back to Finca los Jalapeños for sundowners. I trust that sundowners is at least one African tradition that we can import into Costa Rica. I'm confident that it is. After all, it's Samara, and lo que hay.