Day One in Costa Rica - Alajuela to Mal Pais
Mal Pais Travel Blog› entry 5 of 6 › view all entries
March 26th, 2009 – by: Kelly_Woo
I slept well. The fan helped keep the room cool and the bed was spacious and great for sprawling across. The mattress was a little hard but my back liked it. Alajuela is cool in the morning. It's inland. I am actually wearing the long-sleeved hoodie I brought with me for the plane ride and it's cool enough to wear it this morning.
I try to head to the lobby for that free continental breakfast but apparently, at 5:30 AM, it's too early. The building is locked up for now. Darn. Looks like I won't be eating breakfast after all. It's a good thing I packed nuts and granola bars in my checked bag.
The shuttle arrives almost exactly at 6 AM and I climb into the cool air-conditioned vehicle, joining two other women for the journey.
An hour or so into the ride along winding roads and rolling hills, not so green in the drier season, the shuttle pulls over at a truck stop and the driver tells us we have 20 minutes to use the rest rooms or grab a bit to eat at the cafeteria-style restaurant. There is also a small convenience stand and while it would be smart to grab something to eat since I didn't have breakfast, silly me didn't buy colones, the local currency. Travel guides and the lady at the surf camp told me I could bring US dollars so I brought US dollars and a credit card. I'm unsure if a small, local shop will accept US dollars and for some reason, I'm too timid to ask.
The two other women actually eat breakfast and by the time we all return to the shuttle, we're much more awake and we start chatting, getting to know eachother. One woman is heading to Montezuma while the young woman, closer to my age, tells me she is spending a few days in Montezuma and then learning to surf at a women's surf camp in Mal Pais. Very cool. I had looked in to the camp she's heading off to. It looks amazing but I am on a budget and decided to backpack instead.
By the time we arrive in Puntarenas to catch the ferry, it's very hot and I pull off my hoodie and roll it back into my backpack.
Eyes wide with wonder, camera snapping up pictures, I relax and settle in to my seat, enjoying the wind on my face and taking the opportunity to start slathering on the sunscreen. Boy is it ever hot! I can't wait to change into my bikini and boardshorts.
We're picked up on the other side and quickly climb in to another shuttle to continue on our journey.
I arrive in Mal Pais at approximately noon and the temperature is now hot and slightly humid. The sun is blazing in the blue sky directly overhead and I can hear the sound of waves crashing in the distance.
The staff is warm and welcoming when I arrive and I am quickly directed to the communal rancho I am staying in. It's got 6 beds, a roof and 3 walls but one side is entirely open. I can tell my experience will be a lot like camping, but not. I was smart to bring plenty of bug repellant. After settling in and choosing a bed by the open side, I change into my bikini and board shorts, pack my mini laptop into my smaller backpack and make the 5 minute walk down the dirt road back to the intersection and 'town'.
So, all kinds of travel guides warned me about eating and drinking in Costa Rica. Even the doctor at the travel clinic told me not to eat any raw fruits or vegetables, sushi, ice water, and all kinds of things. Before the trip, I got it in my head I'd be very wary of what I eat. Well, when I glance at the menu...all those warnings go bye-bye. It's hot out and all I want to do is order fresh juice and a nice, fresh SALAD. So...I do. Ice cold, fresh apple juice with ice and a beautiful, leafy salad.
I walk back to camp along the beach. I can't go right away because I need to return my lap top to the safe room. But I marveled at the beautiful expanse of the beach, relatively quiet. I admire the surfers, both tourist and locals as they rip across beautiful, perfect waves, and I realize that the tide is high and the waves are high enough and I just might die if I head out there myself, the beginner that I am. I'm okay to wait and after dropping off my bag, I head back along the path toward the beach, stopping to admire the horses along the way, and I pick a nice spot and just veg under tall leafy trees.
I spend the afternoon working on my tan and wading out into water as warm as bath water every now and then. It's funny that I can't actually cool off in the water as the water is so warm, but it still feels nice.
The camp restaurant serves chicken tacos for dinner among other things. I hang out in the restaurant/bar area with a book and watch people come and go. I'm still too shy to really speak to others right now so I keep to myself. I'm still adjusting and relaxing, taking everything in. The big screen tv over the bar plays surf videos and I am sipping a bottle of Pilsen, Costa Rican beer. It's cold and quite good.
I make sure to sign up for a surf lesson the next day. I know the basics and can stand but I feel more comfortable easing myself into surfing in this new, foreign place. I'm hoping the instructor can help me familiarize myself with this particular beach, Playa Carmen. Again, better to be safe than sorry, right?
It's only 8:30 when I decide to walk up the path toward the ranchos.
The air cools down at night and I am quite comfortable as I slather on a layer of insect repellant and climb into bed. I know there are a few others in my rancho but I haven't them yet. I am the first to bed. I want to be the first awake so I can walk the beach in the early morning. I need the alone time still. This is me time. This is my time to get away from every day life and release all the stresses I've been carrying with me. I am okay to stay alone for now. There's plenty of time to meet new people. Tomorrow's another day.
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