Puerto Viejo

July 06, 2021

Bus Ride

The 5 hour bus ride to Puerto Viejo leaves at either 10am or 2pm.  I really wanted the 10am bus so that I got into town during daylight (sun sets by 6pm).  And anyone who knows me knows I am always running late.  I wanted to get to the station by 9:30am, but I didn't get there until 9:50am.  No problem.  The bus was there and people were lined up to get on.  However, it was sold out!  Oh crap, that would have jacked with my day, and I wasn't in a good place to handle this curveball.  And once again, life takes care of us when we allow it.  I guess someone with a ticket didn't show up, and they let me on.  In hindsight, you can buy tickets in advance and I should have done that!

The bus ride was easy, but emotional.  I was processing so much.  At one moment, I just sat there in my seat and closed my eyes and felt the emotions and trauma of the 50 other people on the bus.  I wasn't alone.  We each have our story.  We all carry pain.  It was a reminder of how hurt this world is.  Everyone needs more grace and compassion.

I got into Puerto Viejo around 3:30pm with my duffle bag, backpack, and two bags of groceries.  I immediately walked two blocks to the grocery store (in Costa Rica they call it a "super").  My Airbnb was outside of town without easy transportation, so I wanted to bring food with me for as much of the two weeks as possible.  I also needed to recharge my Movistar SIM card for my cell phone.  I handled those items and grabbed a $20 taxi to the beach shack.  Got settled in fairly quickly and finally caught my breath from a day of travel.

Beach Shack

Ok, I'm a budget traveler (quite different than Alex!), but even by my standards, this was a bit rough.  I wasn't supposed to drink the water.  There were little geckos running around.  The kitchen was primitive, and the fridge wasn't very cold.  Everything was run down, but functional. I was told the internet was good (a huge concern for my work), but the electricity had a tendency to go out.  

I took a deep breath and reminded myself this was about the beach and ocean right out front.  We were on an isolated road, so the beach was basically a private beach.  I had all this nature to myself, and that is what I wanted.  So I went for a walk and swim on the beach before sunset.  Then cooked some dinner and connected with Henry for a Clone Wars episode.

First Week

The first week was disorienting.  I was trying to get my bearings as to where I was.  And I did a lot of emotional soul searching about my life.  Monday was Memorial Day in the US, so I used it as an opportunity to sit on the beach for hours with my emotions. Trying to make sense of what had happened to me, my part in the mess, and where do I go from here.  It is one of those lost moments we each have in life.

From there, I found a way forward and took baby steps forward into my week.  I walked 20min on the beach Tuesday and found a nice hotel called Banana Azul.  Alex would have liked this place, but it was still too low-class for her standards.  The excursion operator had been there for 15 years and was yet another person who helped me find my path forward.  I knew how to have these conversations because of Alex.  They offered $50 beach massages, which are always good for wellness.  He also told me his favorite excursion was a $99 river rafting day trip 3hrs north, and a lot of people use that to transfer back to San Jose.  I parked this info for future consideration but was excited.

I also walked 45min into town on Wednesday and found a beachfront vegan restaurant called Grow.  I enjoyed a meal and some ping pong!  This is my favorite game, and you don't find tables very often...let alone people who can play.  There were two guys there who liked to play, so an hour of ping pong did my soul good.  I would return to Grow again and enjoy some more ping pong during my stay.

On Friday, the moment came that I dreaded.  The power went out around 8am as I was getting ready for my work day.  I had been told there was a coworking space in town, so I jumped on a bicycle and road 25min into town.  I found the space, and in honor of my friend Melissa who had started a co-working space in KC, I went ahead and supported the business (vs a coffee shop) with a $40 week-long membership.  I camped out there all day and worked.  I then had to ride the bike home in the dark, which was a bit tricky.

On Saturday, I explored some different beaches in town.  I met a British guy who told me how much he enjoyed swimming during the 5am sunrise, and I committed myself to do that my second week.  And he was right!

Turning the Corner

On Sunday, my power went out again, so I rode the bike into town and hung out at the co-working space all day.  I took a break at one point and explored the small little beach town of Puerto Viejo (about 10 city blocks).  But most importantly were Amy and Trevor, my small faith group friends.  We jumped on our regular fellowship call, and they encouraged me to really soak up the beach in that second week.  I needed that push!  I made plans to clear my schedule and visit Cahuita National Park on Tuesday. I made plans to go river rafting on Saturday.  I made plans for the beach massage.  And I committed myself to enjoy the beach that took me there in the first place.  

And that is how it unfolded.  Everything fell into place.  We even had a couple of bonfires on the beach!  My soul harmonized with the ocean.  I developed some peace that had been missing.  The energy reset I was looking for finally happened.  Yes, I had made mistakes along the way, but everyone does.  I was able to find my way back to center.  The emotions were strong for everyone involved, but I welcome them.  As Jimmy V said so famously in 1993 when he was dying from cancer, a good day is when you think, when you laugh, and when you cry.  I did all three every day and loved it.  Here is the shack I fell in love with:



River Rafting

It was hard to leave Puerto Viejo on Saturday morning at 6am, but it had to be done.  My 90 days in CR were up.  My arrangements were all made.  People were waiting on me.  So onto the shuttle I went.

This was the BEST excursion I had done the entire 6 months in CR.  Alex showed me so much, and it was all awesome, so this is no slight to her.  In fact, she told me later that this is one of her favorite excursions in CR as well, and that we had simply never gotten around to it because it isn't on the beach.

The guides said the Pacuare river was a top-five worldwide-rated rafting trip.  I blew that off as shameless promotion/hype, but once I experienced the river, I immediately saw it.  I read some articles afterward and could see why this river is on the list.  And Alex later told me the story of how the country has fought to protect this river.  If river rafting is your thing, or if you are in CR, then definitely consider this.

They fed us breakfast at the central office, and then shuttled us 30min upriver.  We floated for about 18 miles and four hours.  The current was strong enough to carry us the entire way, but you did have to work to navigate the rapids.  Six people to a boat.  You definitely get wet.  At first I was a little skittish about the water, but then I fell in love with it and welcomed the splashing.  The river was scenic and beautiful and unlike anything I had experienced.  I thought of Henry a lot and how much he would enjoy it.  I want to take him there.  And I soaked up nature with my newly-found peace from the beach.  Everything fell into place.

After the float, they fed us lunch and then shuttled us to our destination.  For me, that was another three hours into San Jose.  I was TIRED and slept a bit.  They dropped me off at the Catholic hospital so that I could get a $45 COVID test for my flight home.  Then I got a $10 Uber to Gustavo's house, arriving around 6pm.  Everything was falling into place for my 6:30am flight back to KC the next morning.

Now, one more special memory was yet to happen...