Into the Hippy Heart of Darkness

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
Trip End Jun 20, 2006

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Friday, February 17, 2006

Or, La Corazon de Noche.

On Valentine´s Day, we left Cahuita in a giant rainstorm (it had been sprinkling most evenings) and headed 24 km south to Manzanillo. Our goal was Punta Mona, but the rain kept us from hiking in. We spent the night in a great new hotel there. The only drawback was that, in all that cold rain, we had really really been looking forward to the hot shower. Damn those ¨"Ducha" electric-resistance showerheads! Sometimes they work, often not. The hotel provided good bird watching (a lot of flycatchers, and a few unidentified ones, as well as a small daylight bat) and good howler-monkey serenade at daybreak. Andrew is convinced that they howl at every passing car, that they don´t like them at all.

So, the next morning, we set out for Punta Mona to see Tom and Abeja (Tom is Galen Shaver´s brother). The hike in was listed as 7 km...we didn´t think it would be a problem. Word to the wise, avoid CR jungle walks after 3 days of rain! The mud was often mid-calf deep, and the trail was often steep and very slippery with mud. It was the most miserable hiking experience of our lives (except Andrew remembers a bad one in Tasmania). We did see a lot of interesting flowers and butterflies and red frogs, and we heard a lot of birds, but saw few (dense jungle). Andrew´s favorite bird is the "rock-knocker" (that´s his name for it, at least). We never saw one, but it sounds exactly like someone knocking 2 big river cobbles together.

The Punta Mona website said the hike would take abt 2.5 hrs, but it took us nearly 4. We finally got to the "center" and were met with copious amounts of young hippee types. They knew we were coming, though, and directed us to Tom and Abeja´s encampment up on top of the hill. We arrived wet and covered in mud. Tom and Abeja showed up a few hours later, happy to see us and bearing food. Tom had cleared a space in the jungle for us to set up a tent-inside-of-a-tent (a small 2 man inside an open-bottomed screen house).

I suppose a few words about the center. Its sort of a permaculture-sustainability camp sort of school where people come either to visit, volunteer, or intern. They grow a variety of crops, utilize only solar power, compost everything, and rely mostly on rainwater for drinking. There was no shortage while we were there! If you want to know more about it, they have a website. Look it up.

Tom and Abeja and everyone else were gracious hosts, and fed us well (except that Jacque hates sprouts, and that´s what the salad was made of). Because we were fairly unprepared, and somewhat ill-equipped, and because there was a large group staying at the center and straining their resources, we stayed only 1 night. That was enough to get bug bites up the wazoo.

We hiked out the next morning (yesterday) to the south to Gandoca CR. The hike was mostly along the beach, which sounds all romantic, black sand beach and all, but the surf was really rough and pretty high. It was sometimes quite scary timing waves and darting between safe spots, occasionally getting caught in thigh-deep surges. There were also alot of stumps and logs floating in the surf that you had to watch out for. We were told the hike would take 45 min, but it took us 1.5 hrs. Maybe we´re slow.

From Gandoca, we flagged a taxi back to Sixaola (can´t seem to escape that god-forsaken town) and from there a bus back up the coast to Puerto Viejo (home of "the salsa brava" surf break, supposedly the best break on the Carribean side of CR), where we washed everything we owned (including tennis shoes) and took LOOOOOONNNNNG hot showers, courtesy of a working "ducha" showerhead.

Puerto has a large and booming Gringo scene, but is pretty fun, and has a number of good restaurants. Bread and Chocolate was the best, with decadant cakes and truffles, chocolate croissants and excellent sandwiches, bagels, and coffee. We also had decent Thai-Indian food (what a fusion, eh?) as a treat for escaping the mud.

And we´re off to the highlands. San Jose, here we come.

Note to Charlie--we have not yet encountered the blight of the plastic chair. It seems to be only beginning its slow infection of the society down here. There are many unique, interesting and locally crafted chairs and stools, often made of beautiful local woods. At the aforementioned Bread and Chocolate, the tabletops were crafted of solid slabs of dark wood, approximately 3.5 feet by 5 feet by 1.25 inches thickness.

Pictures are coming slowly...keep checking, they´re just slow to upload.
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dougdo on

Great blog!
I enjoyed reading your blog on Puerto Viejo! I spend a lot of time there and run the website/destination guide so I hope you don't mind but I posted a link to your blog entry from there so others interested in the area can enjoy it.
Cheers, Doug.

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