How slaps in the face from Mother Nature + 5am jungle wake-up calls + lightening-filled surfing = An odd sort of bliss.
“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
I'm always surprised by how deeply I resonate with George's sentiment during travel. As someone who could happily spend the day with Netflix, my couch, and a comforter when I'm at home, I never want to be idle while abroad. Travel awakens my adventurer's spirit and reminds me why I left home: to experience something fresh and transformative that will hopefully shape my family and I into more accepting, curious, humble, and open-minded folks. Costa Rica did not let us down in this regard. Thanks to an active jungle community, muddy roads, unpredictable water, and impromptu storms, the second phase of our Costa Rica escapades were fraught with a captivating sense of adventure... and lots of curse words.
After the first night in our teak jungle house, on the shore of the Osa Peninsula, we expected to be gently awakened by the lapping waves of the nearby ocean. But no. A 5am parrot brawl caused me to fall out of bed and smack into the sticky floor. Yeah, they’re beautiful, but screw them.
Travel Tip: Bring ear plugs.
When the screeching subsided, and I realized the family was still asleep, I rediscovered my vacation vibe and snuck outside to take too many pictures of our Jurassic Park surroundings, sans toddler. (Word to the wise, small children in Costa Rica will try to wrangle with the abundant crab population. It's a toss up on who will win. Keep them close.)
As I walked along the path that wound to the beach, a startling amount of iguanas eyed me and distant thunder made the not-so-distant howler monkeys bellow their banshee cry. It was equal parts terrifying and awesome. Being in an isolated section of Costa Rica created an otherworldly ambiance that was a stark reminder that I was far from home, while also making me feel deeply grateful for experiencing something so foreign. Being in an environment that was so different from my status quo allowed my thoughts to take on a more clear, creative tone... it was addicting - so much so that from that day on I happily awoke with my 5am parrot alarm, and walked the beach path with a notebook and coffee.
When a tribe of monkeys woke up the rest of the group, our cook Luis served up a breakfast of fresh fruit, homemade bread (bless you Luis), eggs, Gallo Pinto, and alcohol-kissed coffee. With our bathing suits feeling a bit tighter, we left on a treasure hunt for good surf.
Travel Tip: If you have the option of hiring the cook that comes with many Costa Rica home rentals, do it. They will customize the meals to your dietary needs, and are often much more affordable than restaurants. We spent $150/person for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7-days. About $7/person, per meal.
While the mellow shore break in front of our house was perfect for children and unadventurous swimmers (me), it wasn't appealing for surf-obsessed Eric. Having traveled to the Osa Peninsula a few years prior for a surf trip, Eric knew how to get to the remote beach of Pan Dulce. Because this beach lies at the end of an unpredictable dirt road, it's a great place for intrepid travelers to get away from the crowds.
As a reluctant intrepid-traveler, I gave the wheel to my hubs, hopeful he could safely transport us... All went well on the heavily pot-holed road, until we reached The Hill. The Hill rose out of a “criver" (river/creek), and was steep, muddy and strewn with deep rifts. At this point, I was good to call it a day, and return to the fresh brownies Luis was making. But no. The men in my family live for chances to put rental cars to the test.
The SUV, 4WD rental car went first, emitting sounds of tire screeching, metal-on-rock clanking and other cringe-worthy tones. But ultimately, they made it. (I have no visual description for this one, as my eyes were closed.)
Next up, the flimsy non-4WD car Eric was driving. I closed my eyes and my ears for this one but still heard sliding tires, ample f-bombs, crunching rocks, tire vs. mud battles, and finally... the sound of a car moving up solid ground. Halle-freaking-lujah.
Last up were Hudson and I who walked across the foot-bridge, conveniently provided for nervous mothers.
We pot-holed our way the remaining distance to the surfer’s paradise of Pan Dulce that was a short five minutes past The Hill. We could have walked it...
While the beach was secluded, and resembled a beer commercial, there was no sweet bread hanging from the palms, as the name so inaccurately implies. But alas, it was the closest locale to nirvana I'd ever experienced.
As our surfers headed into the pumping surf, Hudson took his diaper off and began jamming wet sand into his crevices. We had all found our happy place place.
When it was time to reapply sunscreen, Hudson and I waded into the mellow waves. As I worked on removing sand from his folds, the renegade wave formed. Committing the cardinal sin of having my back to the waves, I didn't see it coming. The wave crested above my head, slapped me in the side of my face, stole my sunglasses, and tried its best to slam me into my child, and the rocky ocean floor. But because of innate ninja mom skills, I was able to grab the baby and do an awkward roll that saved him from impact, yet sacrificed the health of my right butt cheek.
Naturally, this excitement caused Hudson to start pooping on me, so we abandoned the water for a nap in the shade of a coconut tree. Because Costa Rica liked to keep us on our toes, we were awakened by a crack of lightning and the grumble of thunder. Knowing lightning and water is not an ideal combo, I strained to see if the surfers were heading in. Um, no. I watched the boys carve through the waves as a backdrop of dancing purple electricity, set against black clouds, formed behind them. F*ck.
As I pointlessly hollered into the wind, willing the guys to call it before the criver crossing turned into a legit river, the thunder-loving howler monkeys highlighted the relaxing ambiance with their demonic moaning. And the started baby stress eating sand.
When the boys finally returned, with the lightning close behind, I was in silent-mean-mode (you know the one), and got us the hell out of there.
After getting past The Hill and back on fairly reliable roads, I rolled down my window and allowed awe to replace my irritation. There's a rare energy in a warm, passionate tropical storm that makes me feel both small and intimately connected to nature. It's like the storm offers a window into the soul of Mother Nature - a soul that's fierce, yet generous in its willingness to offer us water and cleansing.
Travel Tip: While rain is rarely hoped for during a beach vacation, it offers an opportunity to experience a new layer of a destination, as rain changes how our five senses interpret our surroundings. So instead of bemoaning a storm, or hiding inside until it passes, take advantage of the invitation to deepen your connection with the natural wonder of a region by stepping into it and noticing how it feels, looks, tastes, sounds, and smells when it's taking a shower.
Click here for part 3 of our Costa Rica travel journal.