Thursday, April 23, 2009

Manuel Antonio - Quepos

We stopped in Jaco for lunch, and at Hermosa and Esterillos to check waves. Nothing happening, we hauled down to Manuel Antonio. This area is probably the prettiest jungle/beach region of the trip. Many shades of green meet white sand and clear blue water.
We surfed at the north end of the beach, which is near a point, and called a point break, but looked and felt more like a regular shorebreak to us. Direction is everything I guess. The waves were fun, but fast and a bit tricky due to lots of rip and constantly shifting. We camped steps from the sand in a small meadow surrounded by noisy monkeys (who drive Camper nuts), and sing songy birds. We cooked all of our meals because the prices everywhere are outrageous. Somehow, we have found room in the budget for beers at night.

who would like to read a story?
Let me start by saying one thing. It is damned hot, wet and muggy here. There is no dry place, and the humidity makes camping very challenging. Clothes remain sweaty, and tents become steam saunas.
The first night we had a short period of light rain accompanied by sporadic thunder and lightening. The flys went up on the tents, and both Beckers roasted inside like potatoes in the oven.
My sleeping pad had a perfect chalk-stlye outline of sweat, like you might see at a crime scene. Uncomfortable?... yes. Disgusting?.... yes also. Add two direct hits from falling mangos, near suffocation, a late night fly removal, then subsequent brief rainshower. Not much sleep that night.
As it happens, Garen meanwhile suffered many of the same issues so we decided to erect TARP CITY. The idea was to create a large waterproof tarp structure that both tents would fit under. This way, we could remove the flys and experience what is called ventilation, without worry of getting soaked. Quite impressive, really.
We built another tarp house behind the truck for drinking under.
All went smoothly until the evening of the second night when the Perfect Storm came through. As luck would have it, we were at a bar ten minutes away when loud booming occurred and white flashes leaped across the sky. The rain was heavy enough to render us totally waterlogged within 30 seconds of leaving the cantina. Garen, Camper and I raced down a muddy road back to TARP CITY, falling into knee deep mud holes, and sloshing around in the dark.
We finally staggered into camp,where rivers ran under our tents and collected in pools everywhere. We dug moats and built trenches in an effort to save the camp from being washed away completely. Hours later the torrential rains ceased, but the damage had been done. TARP CITY was a failure.

Paquera to Puntarenas on a ferry

Leaving the Nicoya Peninsula was tough, but there was virtually no swell, so now was as good a time as any. The ferry was cheap and stress free, unless you cannot handle an extremely gassy challenged man spitting in the ticket lobby. We could.
The big white tank continued to make other cars feel shabby and inadequate, and happily rumbled to the front of the line.
There were some nice folks from NC state on the raft, who we saw again later at Jaco beach. And a goofy lookin bastard in a blue shirt in the boarding line
Also, a castaway made the voyage until discovered by a deckhand and forced below for the remainder
The ride lasted only an hour. We offloaded and headed down the coast


Well, as it turns out, the final few days of the dry season are the worst time to visit waterfalls. We went anyway and camped on night in this small town of stoners.
The falls were still pretty albeit a bit on the dry side compared to usual.
The hike was rugged, but short and zip lines were stretched across the forest.
There were no waves in our immediate vicinity, so we just swam around, read a little, and worked through a few bars at night.
We camped on the beach again, as we have done so many times on this trip.
At about 1am, this one proved to be a bit different, for this is when a group of 15ot stoned ruffian hippy types began their synchronized chants around a campfire. After a long day of conjoining cheap plastic beads and braiding each others hair, it must have felt right because they were very enthusiastic.
One day here was plenty, so we fired up the sub and headed to Paquera.

Mal Pais - Santa Theresa - Playa Carmen

As we expected, the Burban did not acknowledge the infamously difficult road from Carillo to Mal Pais as any sort of challenge. We were ready for the worst, and never even shifted into 4. However easy, the drive was incredibly beautiful and we even scored another sand section.
We passed a few tiny fishing villages surrounded in tropical green, some irritated bovines,
and several severely wrecked river partiers
The big diesel roared into Santa Theresa pretty late, so we raced between potential campsites only to settle on the lousiest one at Mal Pais Surf Camp. Uber pricey, shitty attitudes, and a steep grade for tent spots. To cap it off, I got beat in a best of five by Garen at ping pong. never again.
We had weird dreams that night, possibly because we slept next to this huge thing
The next morning, we were packed up early enough to find a supremely better spot, and surf before the wind picked up. We caught the last two days of a 4 day 5ft swell period here, and the shapes were incredible.
Camping beside us were our friends from El Salvador, Trevor and Christina, from Idaho by way of Lake Tahoe. Fun, friendly people.
Our new campsite was kick ass. Half the price, steps from the water, free power, and run by a nice family.
We were a good twenty minutes walk from the nearest working break, but snorkeling and swimming were very accessible.
Camper is pretty warm in this climate, and did a lot of sleeping. And some pretending.
The swell dropped considerably after our first two days, so we hit the road again

Friday, April 17, 2009

Playa Guiones

After escaping Semana Santa craziness at Avellanas, we headed south to Playa Guiones where there is said to be Costa Rica's best beach break. We drove around a a bit and found a great campspot and parked the truck for what turned out to be about a week; we have showers and clean bathrooms and even power to run all of our geeky electronics!
Guiones is near Nosara and seems to be a popular spot for well heeled families from the states to come and stay; as most of the restaurants around are rather expensive and some have No Dogs signs posted; just like the states! In those spots Camp has to sit on the sidelines; watching and waiting...
We generally wake up and have breakfast, go out for a surf, come back and eat pancakes and a few sandwiches, then head over to this air conditioned coffee shop to play with the interweb. Camp is allowed in here and basks in the cool air on a cold tile floor...
Then we go back to the truck and sweat like fatties until it's time to go out for a long afternoon-evening surf. The sweat has been pouring off of us; and a thermometer placed in Alex's tent read over 120 one day. Every morning I have been forced out of my tent by a searing, intense heat. Even worse, my tent has become a toilet for a whole herd of monkeys, who then head over to the trees above Alex's tent to have raging parties all night. Then by midday the ground is so hot that we have to run down this path to the beach so as not to burn the soles of our feet.
The waves were kick ass when we showed up and have been getting smaller and smaller as time passes, but it's been good almost all the time. The paddle out is normally a huge drag. There are waves and waves and waves; one bigger day I counted 45 duck dives before I was in the lineup; completely shelled and unable to paddle for a piece.
The good thing about this heinous paddle out is that it keeps a number of people stuck on the inside, unable to get out to the good waves. This doesn't mean it wasn't crowded at times; but there wasn't a load of beginners on longboards out there which was nice. The waves averaged around 6 feet with 8-10 foot sets when it was at it's best. We're told we came at a great time and that it's not usually as big out there; and though we (everyone) got thoroughly abused by big sets just out of reach, we had an awesome time surfing here. IMG_2465
Our friends from Chicago were staying at a hostel near here, so by night we sampled the different bars and restaurants and met people form Virginia, South carolina, New York, OAKTOWN CA, and Idaho.
IMG_2443 Every night there was some sort of live music or open mic kind of deal, and there was a surprising amount of people out every night. We never stayed out too late to get up and surf early, but a good time was had by all...
Enjoying lazy days down here...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Avellanas y Playa Negra

Refreshed and happy to leave Tamarindo, we only had to drive a half hour south to catch up with a nice swell. Avellanas was THICK with young partying Ticos, who camped in mass along the beach.
Before we knew it, the Burban was blocked in by no less than 5 cars. Our neighbors drank and danced to loud (and lousy) music all night long.
Camper observed from her usual spot on the hood.
The lineups were as jammed as our campsite, and brimming with ruthless drop-ins, sloppy riding, and near collisions. Unfortunately, Avellanas would only work on a pretty high incoming tide, which was in the middle of the afternoon, limiting us to one session per day. But, the offshore were consistently in our favor and the 5 to 7 footers stood up nicely.
On the biggest day, we walked over to Playa Negra, a break that picks up the swell far more efficiently. We put Camper in the shade, and paddled out. Immediately, the boomers came in. A few house sized faces briefly cleaned out the 45 person lineup quickly. Soon there were about 20 people, including a kayak surfer with brass balls. There were some fun rides and some scary underwater thrashings and hold downs. We had a great time and walked a long dusty road back. More pollo casados and some beers were in order.
A few topless sunbathers sweetened the deal.
Next -Nosara
Side note: The lack of surf photos is truly appalling. I know it. Garen knows it. Camper knows it. The problem, therein, is motivation. We simply cannot be taking pics from the beach while the set comes in. From here on out, I will make a better effort to sit out every so often and snap away. Until then, you'll just have to take our word that the waves here are kicking ass right now

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tamarindo scene

Not a helluva lot of swell to discuss this week, but we surfed the river mouth for nothing and mostly just swam around.
Been awhile since we were this hungover. This place is bad for us. Acqua, Voodoo Lounge, Monkey Bar, Pacifico, and various other establishments provided the venue and we brought the colones. Semana Santa was getting kicked off and there were parties everywhere.
The dusty streets were congested with traffic, and we heard that most hotels and hostels were booked solid.
The camping was decent, complete with power and bathrooms courtesy of the Beach House, where we met a few cool folks from Canada and the UK.
Tamarindo is way too expensive. Even groceries were a ripoff. The clubs were jammed with drunk Americans, drug peddling Ticos, and prostitutes. The waves were total shiite and packed with foam tops anyways.
Okay I'll just say it: THIS PLACE BLOWS.
This was my second and last time here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

First and foremost....

We can't wait to see you SOON!

Getting into Costa Rica

Getting in to Costa Rica was easy; but getting out of Nicaragua was a great pain for a few reasons. First, arriving at the border, we found that we somehow lost the 'permiso' for the truck. This missing piece of paper cost us $100 in the end. After that, we're told we need to put the truck through 'inspection' to LEAVE the country, which was a surprise to us. The cop took one look at the truck and told us to pull it to the proper inspection area, where we had to take EVERYTHING out so they could look behind our door panels and headliner...
They didn't find anything and we didn't find the $100 dollar piece of paper, but we did get a good cleaning done. An hour and a half later, we were onto the Costa Rican side, which went relatively smoothly as loads of whities are always coming through here.
We should be done with borders for quite awhile now.
We still had light and headed to Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, wherein lies Witch's Rock, the famous surf spot. The road in was a slow going 15KM on bedrock, dry creekbeds, and dry dirt, ending at a little ranger station and a decrepit old bridge that didn't look like it was up to holding huge Suburbans. We decided to make a go at it as the muddy crossing next to it looked pretty gooey, and the thing held. We ended up going at the goo on the way out and the Suburban handled it laughing.
Anyway, a reminder that CR is a bit pricey, we had to pay $15 EACH just to surf here, camping was $2. What was worse, they don't allow perros here so we snuck Camp in, only to have here bark at the ranger later as he innocently walked past our camp.
She is pretty nasty looking...
He was nice about it and told us we could only camp for that night, which was is a shame as that amounts to us paying $34 for one night of camping, but we were about out of water anyhow, so we surfed the next morning and would be on our way.
It was about a mile's walk on soft sand to the wave, but it was worth it.
Had it not been for three boats full of surfers dropped off, we'd have been the only ones out there. It's a nice big wave that works better right but there is a left option as well unless it gets huge. The crowd was mainly beginners that day and just about everyone got waves, which were big and shapely but easy to catch and surf.
I loved it here and was bummed when a piece of my leash broke and I had to swim in, which wouldn't have been all that bad if it weren't for the river mouth that is a crocodile feeding area; I just about pissed myself. On the way back to the truck I saw two huge croc tracks coming out of the bushes and into the water; scary...
Croco's in here...
Turns out I wasn't the only one afraid; Alex was still out there surfing with a bunch of dorsal fins swimming him but taking no action. Surfers in the water headed back to the boat, but he stayed on only to brave the crocodile river on his way back to camp, where I met him with my fixed leash.
We headed off to make some lunch and drive the slow road out to the highway. It must have rained as the same road we came in on was very, very sloppy in spots, necessitating 4WD. We were spraying mud everywhere; hooting and hollering...
yee haw
Once out, smooth going on nice Costa Rican roads towards the Nicoya peninsula and some (hopefully) great surf...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playa Madera and nearby breaks

We camped out beachside at Playa Madera, about 30 minutes north of San Juan del Sur on bumpy dirt roads. The waves here are cosistently good, though low tide offers little. A week ago, the water was in the mid sixties and we were all in suits, but now it is back to a comfortable 82 degrees. There are many opportunities to practice beautifully shaped lefts.
The camping area itself kinda sucks. It is trash strewn gravel and sand lot with many feral looking dogs, nasty bathrooms, and millions of invading night crabs. Not the kind you have jeff. ha
On the other hand, it sits directly in front of a great break, beside a bar, and under trees laced with howler and spider monkeys.
Hung out with neighboring campers from Chicago
Photo 5
and more from Jersey, NYC, BC, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Ireland y mas.
We happen to come across Garen's friends from SC, Shawn and Jess. Shawn is the latest to earn himself a fee Jager shot by becoming an official member of Congrats Shawn!
The next night, we chatted with some guys from SD that are good friends with my friend Nick. Small world. We all decided to take a boat trip together to explore the nearby and only semi-accessible surf spots. It took 12 hours and $150 U.S. ,but was totally worth it.
The boat: A panga run by captain Dave and his driver Enrique.
The crew:
playing in Santana shorebreak (pic from sam)
and of course Camper
Sam of SD
John of SD
Laslo de Swiss
and a pictureless Frenchy.
Sam brought a sweet waterproof camera and got some great wave and surf shots. Maybe he will email some to me at so I can post them up here.
We surfed Playa Colorado, Rancho Santana, Panga Drops, and Colorado again. By sundown, everyone was completely knackered. We all joined up later for beers, then passed out.