It was easy to believe it was invierno, winter, as I moved swiftly south in the frigid air conditioning of Tica Bus. I sat wrapped tightly in my wool scarf and looked out the frosted windows as the brown landscape of Nicaragua passed by. Brown because the rainy season had ended in early November, leaving the sun to scorch the verdant green of the Nicaragua I was introduced to back in April. After an hour long wait to cross the border, my first impression of Costa Rica is that the cars are shinier. I got used to seeing cars held together by ducktape and wishes in Nicaragua – doors long dented closed, windows that didn’t roll down, or missing door panels. In Costa Rica, the cars seem bigger, shinier, newer. As the bus rolled ever southward, the landscape became more verde.
Yes, rainy season had ended in Nicaragua, but apparently, the seasons are reversed in Costa Rica. It became apparent we were entering jungle territory as we got closer to Puerto Viejo. The plants were of outsized proportions, adorned with gaudy flowers of purple and orange and large cones of pink and red ginger flowers. I watched the landscape skip by and was pleased when the trees parted and I got my first glimpse of the Carribean Ocean. The jungle was so thick I had no idea the road sat only a few meters away from el mar. Large waves crashed on a beach isolated save for a mama playing with her baby in a small tidal pool. Deserted beach spread out on either side of her, framed by jungle to the left and right.
I spent my first full day exploring my new home – jumping on a borrowed bike to cycle the 5 kilometers into town to the weekly farmer’s market. As I rode, I was enveloped in the smells of beach and jungle. Here, an herbaceous odor reminiscent of sweet grass, next the smell of rosemary hovered in the air, and each time the wind blew – the briny smell of salt and sea. I passed more tourists than locals on my ride . One surfer gamely clasped his surfboard in his left hand as his right steadied the bicycle he rode, two young rastas passed me to my right, then fell back, and then passed again – leapfrogging backward and forward as we headed towards town. I came upon a small traffic jam at a bridge, and was grateful to be on bike and not bound to wait for the line of cars to slowly move across the bridge. I was surprised by the small size of the market and the crowd. I’d been warned there were a lot of people there, given that the market happened only once a week. I’m in a touristy spot trying to figure out how the locals do – sure they don’t shop at fancy supermarkets to get their needs met. The farmer’s market didn’t seem like the right solution either, what with it’s $2 mangoes and avocados. I learned on my return that fruit and vegetables are cheapest bought out of the back of large trucks driving up and down the road with speakers blaring – like ice cream trucks, but for adults. I found one on my way back and bought a dozen mandarin oranges for $2 – by far my best buy of the day.
After arriving back to the yoga center, I unpacked my groceries and grabbed my camera for a stroll along the beach. After riding along side the ocean all day, I was anxious to dip my feet in and feel the pull of the rip tide. A small path cut it’s way through the dense jungle to the beach, and the beach was a site to behold. There was not a building in site – only unspoiled beach and an active ocean. A large rock jutted out of the water a short swim from the beach with large carribean plants and trees sprouting out of it. What looked like trunks of palm trees lay every now and then, spanning the tide and the beach, but with Dr. Seuss’ style large porcupine plants, dark purple with floppy barbs sticking out on all sides. The many rocks in the water combined to form small tide pools which were inhabited by groups of two – a father and son in one, two giggling teenagers in another, and a couple floating in a third.
When I’d had my fill of beach and surf, I made my way back to the main road in search of sustenance. I had been recommended to eat at Alice’s Restaurant, and had the desire to do so if only because of the name. Alice’s was unfortunately closed, but the owner was there and gave me a recommendation of another restaurant just up the road. I slowly continued on, and was not disappointed with the fresh spinach and sausage pizza served along side a generous glass of white wine. Once sated, I returned up the road to take in the live Calypso Music at a bar quite close to the yoga resort. The three man band played a homemade bass, djembe, and a banjo to lyrics in English and Spanish and much enthusiasm. I sipped on my beer and sat in my hammock chair, enjoying the cool breeze of the night blowing over me.
I returned early to my bungalow – eager to put on socks and yoga pants and curl up with a good book. Rain pounding the tin roof woke me at midnight, and I listened to the sounds of the jungle as I tried to get back to sleep. Howler monkeys woke me this morning and I rolled my mat out on the beautiful wood floor and relished my practice, the location, and the journey.