CAMPING IN POTRERO

Updated: Apr 3, 2018

Immediately getting into a bind for finances in Costa Rica, camping looked like a good way to slow down and recover lost expenses.

November 01, 2015


Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow. (Imogen Cunningham)

Three and a half hours of bus rides, spread out across three different connecting busses I was out, around and back through to the coastal highlands towards Flamingo Bay. I passed Filadelfia. Flamingo was an Isla/Isthmus that seemed isolated and disconnected from the rest of the land. The people shifted as the bus traveled and many were helpful and pleasant the closer I got.


I walked along the beach to find Myra's camp grounds. I first spotted the masseuse hut with thatch roofing. It was covered by angling palms and I set up my tent close to the beach, but still on the lush, soft grass. They had stand alone sinks, showers and rustic bathrooms behind Mayra's casita.


It was quiet, being I was there in the low season. As usual, I got out on foot and started to explore the roads and see what was within distance, if anything. There was "The Shack," a ex-pat bar owned by Jay and Becca. They were a nice couple that liked football, taking shots with the other young ex-pats and hanging out like it was a remote version of California. Very typical guys and girls you'd expect to have left the states for a new life in another country.


I will camp for at least one more night to save on lodging costs. Oh, and I found butane so I can finally start cooking!



November 02, 2015

Things were going along swimmingly here at Mayra's. I had found the butane, I had dinner and lunches planned and I walked back along the beach to Flamingo for a desayuno tipico in the Marina restaurant.


(Desayuno tipico refers to a typical breakfast consisting of eggs, fruit and bread.)


As mentioned, Flamingo is a small, isolated outcropping jutting out into the cove. Camp was nestled in between it and Potrero. Visible from here are the gigantic resort structures that are being operated on by cranes. Still, it offered a 2900COP breakfast, which was my cheapest meal out yet. It was good, but not great. Inside it was mostly a bar space with a few tables inside and extending outward to a patio. I was the only patron in sight. It was one of the first hotels in Flamingo, some twenty years ago.


Still days from my last good night of sleep, the heat and exhaustion were settling in. And for some reason, a rooster down the street would crow incessantly every 10 seconds, every minute, every hour of the day. Each crow sounding so forced it might be his last, but he has continued on regardless. The tides change at night and some of the crashes sound as if the ocean is flipping over on itself entirely, but I got used to it and I managed to sleep pretty well, all things considering.



After breakfast I checked out the area and took some photographs of what looked like an old port facility, that had closed for governmental reasons. Not paying taxes is a big thing here, but by the closures popping up all around, looks to be enforced quite heavily. It was also a high time for property sales as prices seem to be much higher. Mayra is sitting on a load of cash with her undeveloped ocean front property.


The shortest route back was by way of the beach, so I untied my boot laces and walked along the low, flat rippling shore. The sand was extremely fine, but the color of coffee. It didn't make for that great of swimming either, as the sediments were churned up and the water was hotter than a bath.


I enjoy the quiet and solitude. It's just me and the waves next to the campsite, the birds in the morning, the squirrel eating the insides of coconuts overtop the tent, the two skittish roaming dobermans, and Lula, the bread stealing cat.



Mayra and her family are usually around, but inside for most the day. She takes the little boy for walks and a teenage boy stops by once a day to kick a ball with the the younger girl. The palms throughout the camp ground are native and provide total shade for the day as I relax in one of the few hammocks strung up between. A great ocean breeze cuts through and jostles their fronds, making my writing quite relaxed.


I've gotten pretty good at cooking and keeping clean in these conditions. I do laundry every day in the sink. Cooking takes awhile, but for using a single canister butane stove I do quite well. This evening I had another rice and beans plus maduros. Alongside I prepared un tomate y pepino ensalada con un salsa limón. As I was cooking the beans, which take the longest, I remembered a cut down chili bush I passed along the road. I ran off to go pluck a few to spice things up. They were plenty hot and I carried them with me in a ziplock using for quite some time.


(Maduros are fried, ripened plantains. Tomate y pepino ensalada con un salsa limón is a very common chopped side salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers and a lemon dressing. Salsa usually refers to a sauce or dressing in addition to salsa.)


Most nights there has been heat lightning and sometimes during the day a quick downpour will come by. I hadn't had a downpour in a couple days, but I was noticing the heat lightning again tonight. I saw some really bright flashes, and in quick succession, but no cracks of thunder. As I was walking back up to the property with my collected peppers, I felt a big whoosh of air, but couldn't discern the sound I was hearing. Was it a motorbike coming around the turn? It couldn't be rain, I felt not a single drop nor any mist whatsoever, but I could hear it! It was pitch black too.


Right as I could make out Mayra's house, I could see it was under heavy rain. I ran down to the tent and snapped on the rain fly. Tore my socks and boots off and put them into the vestibule.


Mayra's eldest daughter has a square thatch hut where she gives beachside massages and it was where I was cooking at. I grabbed the table and moved it to a corner that was not leaking. The jet boiler was still firing away at the beans the whole time.


Now with things mostly secured and stored properly, I could watch as the rain passed quickly overtop and out into the cove, extending down to the ends of the curvatures at both Flamingo and Potrero. All night the clouds kept zooming past, but no more rain. It was a lot cooler this night too. I caught the glimpse of a dozen shooting stars and ate my meal beneath the light of a suspended headlamp. I showered in the grass beneath the stars and crawled into the tent, ready for sleep.



November 03, 2015 - 3rd Day in Potrero

I awoke at 5:30am to see the dawns first light but continued to rest inside the tent until eight. I made a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, with tomate, leftover beans and maduros with papaya and bread on the side. Fresh coffee served as well. I cleaned out the tent and tidied up the hanging laundry, suspended on lines between the palms. I rested in the hammock a bit to journal and worked at the blister and ant bite wounds along my feet before the day's activity.


Today I would venture up to check out Sugar y Danta beach. After I passed Potrero, I never saw Azucar, unless it was only a beach with no connecting town, but I continued the journey another 5-6km to Danta beach. I was able to see to this end of the cove from where I was camping it was all highlands. The walk had extremely steep inclines and I marveled at the infrastructure needed to build lavish houses along the steep slopes of the mountainsides. The house layout had to be staggered out from the top down as there just wasn't enough flat land to build outward.


The road kept climbing and more construction was happening. A plot of land had been graded and planned for construction, but months of overgrowth were signaling it had long been abandoned. Almost a quarter of the land I'd seen was this way: Started and then left to grow over.



A couple lookouts provided the best scenes yet. And the sun was approaching its western resting place. the elevation here was superb. I could see out past Flamingo point and beyond the coves' opposite edge, where tiny small rocks were popping up out the water in isolation. The water was calm and flat, doing the sublime effect of rolling off into the great void. I stopped and chatted with a man I recognized from the bus earlier. He was working on a grand condo development. He told us down the hill at Danta beach is where you can spend $1000/night US for a room. I could see down to the little single resort and its beach, with its little sister beach, Dantaita, around a rocky corner separating the two.




I got down to "Limonada," the resorts' restaurant which had outdoor tables in the sand. I settled on ordering a pizza. There were a few Tico's serving and working behind the bar, but the surf shop next door had all white people in it. A few Tican server girls showed up for the evening shift and they had their cut-off money maker shorts on. In any other setting, this would not be the norm, but for turistas... Another server I talked to was from Samará, about two hours car ride away, but moved to Tamarindo to work here in Danta. He loves his job, but hopes he can return to Samará to work. I settled up on la cuenta and headed back before the sun went down, hoping to get a few views of it from up on the hills.


(Turistas refers to tourists. La Cuenta is what you ask for when ready to pay.)


I ended up in a stream of workers going back up the hill and paused to see the sunset from the construction site. It was the best one yet. It made me think of how I had to stop and appreciate where I was when I was doing dive guiding in Palm Beach.




November 04, 2015 - Brasalito a no-go y Tamarindo

Next morning I hauled up the campsite back into the pack, said my goodbyes to Mayra and family and started the trek back down to Brasalito to check out another camping spot. I really enjoyed Mayra's and it was certainly nice being there in the low season having the grounds to myself. Mayra had another 5000 sq. meter property behind The Shack she was letting go, which in that spot, prices were selling at $50 a meter.


She grew up on that plot, but she worked for the land developer where the camp grounds are and got a good deal from him fifteen years ago.


So, with the sun heating up, I set out on foot towards Brasalito, pack riding heavy. It was about a 7.5km walk. I stopped for a snack and beber fresca a little ways down the road. A woman seen me coming in with the pack and walking sticks and started to chat a bit, relishing our choice to leave corporate America and head out. Soon, there were three other people standing there listening to the tale. the older gentleman said he liked my energy. He could just feel it pouring out. Might have been the sweating and racing heart, but it was a good boost to the morale. I still had an hours walk ahead, so shook hands and went my way.


(Beber refers to a drink, so beber fresca is a fresh, cool drink. Soda, Beer, Juice, etc.)



I was losing daylight, but I made it to Brasalito just before sunset. It was a small, shacky-type town, invested in the gringo dollar. Shanty bars, ATV rentals, horseback riding and a tiki restaurant. The campsite was off the main road and down a narrow dirt path that ran adjacent to the beach. There were a string of shacks with signs for bathroom usage at 500COP. I read online that the campsite lady was rude and there was standing water nearby (good for mosquitos).


I didn't like the commotion, especially coming from the private seclusion of Mayra's. Despite it being super cheap, at $5 per person. I was super tired and didn't want to set up camp, just to take it down the next morning for a cheap night in a town I didn't like or feel entirely comfortable being in.


So, did the best to piece together information for getting to Tamarindo. The cabbies were telling me worst case lies to scare me into using them, but I held firm and got on a bus that would take me halfway there. It got dark fast, and as I was switching buses it started to pour. The decided plan was to try and cook breakfast and dinner and eat out for lunch while I would be out exploring. Today, I missed it with jumping towns preemptively. Not to worry, as food would come if I hold the current course for getting to Tamarindo.


He stopped again and this time started yanking on the front tire. A ways down the road we got into an argument saying I told him Playa Real, not Tamarindo...

While attaching the rain fly to the pack in the drowning rain, the bus zoomed by and I was not at the stop. Acting out of necessity, I got a guy to come down 500COP on a taxi ride and threw the pack in the trunk atop his spare tire. The rain was still coming down all chickens and cattle like and the driver was acting totally weird. He pulled up to a convenience store and asked for the ride money then. He came back with some chips and took of swerving through the rain. I wondered now if he was drunk or not. He mumbled and was distracted. He kept trying to wipe the fogged window with newspapers and fidgeting with the opposite window, rolling it up and then down.


He stopped again and this time started yanking on the front tire. A ways down the road we got into an argument saying I told him Playa Real, not Tamarindo and he wanted 500COP more. He demanded I tell him right now if I'd pay and also lied about being a taxi driver not a collectivo. Taxi drivers are required to show a meter, while Collectivo's are not state sanctioned and can set their fares differently. I agreed to his demands as it would cost more than 500COP to get out and start new with a different driver to finish the route. But we had bigger problems.. The wheel was wobbling and making noises now. He stopped again to yank on it some more. I asked what was wrong and he said the wheel was not right. Proceeded to swerve the car back and forth across the street, as if encouragement for it to fall off was the answer. He swerved some more, got out his phone and began insulting the person on the other end about giving him a bad car and couldn't go fast.


Needless to say, I wobbled my way into Tamarindo and found my way to La Oveja Negra. The Black Sheep hostel. I found it to be cozy and trendy as far as hostels go. I finally got to eat at Papaya Verde. These were just kids, barely 18 all over. The contrast of rich resorts and dirt cheap hostels was glaringly obvious. The overall feeling of the town was dinginess and I was eager to keep the wobbly wheel moving.



#travel #Guanacaste #expedition #CostaRica #camping

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