I think Costa Rica is no longer trendy. At least I hope so. I’ve been down there twice and rarely encountered other surfers. Four weeks of pure surf pornage each year can spoil someone. By the end of this trip I was down-right lonely. It was awesome.
Not many people get to go to CR and have this kind of luck. Thankfully I might add.
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The trick to really seeing CR is to get out of San Jose, and stay far away from Tamarindo, Jaco or Playa Hermosa. The waves are crowded, for starters, and everybody rips. You don’t travel to rub elbows with 20 other surfers, do you? Plus you’re going to be competing for the women with guys with names like Juan, or something.
You want to get to Guanacaste. It is the northern most province of CR, and it just got its very own international airport.
Guanacaste is full of surprises
So go deep- Go deep into Guanacaste, It is the least visited province in CR. Its also got empty beaches, rainforests, and volcanoes. You came to CR to get away, and Guanacaste will make you never want to come back. Seriously. Gourley had to talk me into the flight home.
OFF TO NICARAGUA
After a week of nothing but desolate peeling waves we decided to head up to Nicaragua, just two hours away, for a bit og a change. Here are some of the stories we brought back. Nicaragua is one of the most amazing places on the planet. It is also one of the most difficult to travel though.
We stayed with a Nicaraguan family for a while and they took us surfing with their fishing boat. This picture offers you a real feel for the lifestyle down there. An open fire burning trash cooks the morning meal while the men clean last nights catch. A bare earth floor becomes mud in the slightest rain.
It wasn’t long before I overheard Eladio saying this to Teresa, the mother of the family:
Hola Teresa! Mi amigo gringo qiuere casarse con su hija” (Teresa, my gringo friend would like to marry your daughter)
Our guide Eladio had said this to…Mother Teresa,… My previous (passing) comment of “The daughter is very pretty” had been interpreted as wedding proposal. I was off in the distance packing board bags or something. Here they are shaking hands on the deal. Apparently.
And so we drove off and waved to mother Teresa and the now (presumably) engaged 15 year old daughter.
I didn’t find out about other side of that conversation until later. And when I did, I turned redder than Gourley’s stupid Canadian sunburn
Speaking of this sunburn he actually said, in a tone of sheer despair while clutching his bottle of spf 60 “I…Can’t…Stop….burning…..!!”
But it was worth it.
This is the line to Nicaragua for 18 wheelers. Looks fun, doesn’t it?
See those hammocks? They belong to the drivers. The drivers wait three days in line before having to bribe to some crooked Nicaraguan official.
So they sleep off the line in the scorching heat, starting up their engine about twice a day.
The border, when they get to it, is the most disorganized border in the world. Nobody knows what’s going on, and even fewer give a shit. There are the entrepreneurial few who charge you for their ‘border interpretation’ services.
And every now and then you see someone with waaaaaaay too much money.
Wonder what they’re selling.
But we made it through the tangled mess it took about 3 hours to get through immigration
Sooo we fiiinally make it over this damn border and what’s the first thing that happens to us??
We get waved over by AK-47 wielding ‘police’ who politely inform us that we do not have a fire extinguisher, and a safety triangle.
Meanwhile a family of 8 drives by in a 4-seat car with no windshield. Guys whiz by on motorcycles with no helmets. But WE don’t have a fire extinguisher. (!?) Do you think this guy has a friggin fire extinguisher??
So, he says, we can pay him 100 or we can drive down to the station. I showed him my camera and told him I was a reporter.
We gave him 10. And the finger.
We saw two huge volcanos in the middle of a fresh water lake. One of them started smoking just as we got there.
Wish I brought my kite.
Which reminds me- I checked two boards, a bike and 100pounds of camping gear and only got charged 30 bucks extra. Learn the baggage loopholes.
Salt. This local farmer cut down an entire mangrove forest to harvest salt. Mangrove forests are salt water forests that flood with the tides. The significance is that these are breeding grounds for fish, and renew the coral fish stock by providing a sole source of income for many Nicaraguans.
But this Nicaraguan farmer didn’t know that. So he cut the mangrove down. You can see the now salt field in the distance behind him. Now all they have is salt. Fish catches have halved each year for two years. The village is impoverished. ( )
The Hilton has nothing on this place. We stayed at $10 dollar a night hotel on a cliff with a million dollar view in Nicaragua. Especially when you find out that the $1 beer is hand carried from the nearest village 5K away.
And if you do find it- good luck getting up the road in Rainy Season. Eladios car bailed out some brazillians on the first day. We eventually stopped helping people. It was getting ridiculous. Who rents a hyundai when there aren’t any paved roads??
So this family that we hired; they saved us about 150 USD. To hire a gringo-run boat for that long is something ridiculous like 300 for a day. FUgggehtaboutit. We paid 100 and two avocado sandwiches and scored like crazy. Gourley paddling out to empty session
And you wouldn’t have had the unique experience of being out-surfed in everyway conceivable by 15 year old Nicaraguan junior champ Capoyo. And he will out-surf you. But seriously this kid was ridiculous.
The Nicaraguans are among the nicest people in the world. Some things you should know though: They are fiercely nationalistic. Government after government has promised to lift this country out of poverty, but they seem to only bury it further.
And extreme poverty is rampant
So maybe you can understand the hesitance you encounter when they see foreigners.
And sometimes they’ll make you smile when you least expect it. VIP. Enough Said
Eventually we went Back to Witches rock. We were again humbled by the natural magic of the place.
You may remember that last year I said that the ride down to the beach was the hardest pounding I took all week. surfingvancouverisland.com/surf/fromtheroad/905witchesrock.htm It was 14km of knaaaarly downhill. The road is a series of connected potholes. This year I brought my bike. The trail starts off easy, but then the road stops and the fun begins.
I wish I had some pictures of the trail, but the jeep didn’t catch up with me till the bottom.
Morning breaks on the camp. The racket of birds and monkeys had kept us up most of the night anyway. We walked to the rock and caught the birds fishing while the waves are firing.
Without so much as a second thought we are in the water.
During rainy season you also have the added complication of the crab hordes. Crabs take over everything during rainy season. Everything. There are so many of them that they sound like rain.
During the hot day the crabs would make themselves at home under our tents. You could feel them moving underneath you if you slept in. we slept in once. Never again.
If you do nothing but surf for four weeks, you need to get away from the water for a day to reset your stoke.
So we climbed up a 2000m volcano. Our guide Eladio hooked us up with another jungle guide named Oscar.
We hiked through area owned by biologists. Our guide, Oscar, manages the area for them and earns a living by taking hikers through the area. The forest is at the foot of a volcano; Rincon de la Vieja. It is the Caribbean side of CR. They other side of the volcano is fully developed with hotels and stuff. Don’t go there. No more rainforest left, not much anyway. Go here. Avoid the taxi drivers trying to sell you their version of the ‘tour’. The best way to see this mountain is on this private land and you need to go through Oscar to see it. Scientists travel from around the world to see it.
The Jungle is loud. Very loud. Insects, monkeys, tapirs and Gourleys clumsy size 13 shoes…very loud. Also very dark. The canopy lets very little light through
The top of the volcano was 2000m up. Once you break through the jungle canopy it was like hiking through Jurassic park. Some of the rocks were hot to the touch. Some had smoke holes belching hot sulphur to the surface.
Volcano craters make you feel small. And they smell bad, like rotten eggs. You have to be in awe of the sheer power of the blast that created this crater. The raw power of the earth building forces is what makes you feel small.
Lower back down the mountain we got to swim in lava heated pools. Molten rock flowed meters below the surface creating an oddly hot pool.
Oscar is not in the lonely planet, and he doesn’t own a computer, You need to get in touch with Eladio to meet him. He will take you waaaaay deep into virgin rainforest, for a super good price.
This is how we make a rum and coke in the jungle. You should see the size of the forks.
We went back to witches rock after the volcano. It is too magic a place to pass up. Although it was completely empty somehow Gourley managed to drop in on me. No clue.
Witches rock has perfect empty waves. Its ridiculous. Actually
And I hate describing waves by using the words “empty and perfect”.
So try this: I like my waves like I like Gourley likes his women: Lot’s a shoulder and a looooong period.
but DON”T GO BY BOAT it’s a waste of time and money. Get Eladio to take you down and camp for a couple weeks. Read my earlier story on how to camp there. He is the only guy that grantees safe passage down.
Don’t go by boat.
DO NOT GO BY BOAT
DO NOT GO BY BOAT
Actually, just don’t go at all. Really. Just don’t.
And Eladio is super stoked about everything
So go with Eladio http://www.eladiosplacecr.com/
And now the surf porn we’ve all been waiting for.
Thanks to Chon Surf Photography for these shots. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call costa rica (506)83565479, excellent pricing
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