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A Short Trip Through Paradise with Friends of Over Ten Years

Before I begin the tale of a wonderful journey with two of my closest friends, I will first introduce the gallo pinto. El gallo pinto, or "the spotted rooster", is the typical breakfast in Costa Rica. The base is rice and beans. In a home environment these are leftovers from the previous day's casado. This base is often mixed with natilla, a sour cream that's not so sour. The other ingredients are a combination of bread, eggs, sausage, cheese, and plantains. It seems like quite a heavy dish to start the day, and it is. Those new to Costa Rica often shy away from this breakfast, but once one has eaten it a few times the meal gets added to the list of reasons to get up in the morning.


Anyways, two week ago two of my friends from Stuyvesant High School1 travelled to Costa Rica from the US and Paris. One is about to begin residency for head and neck surgery, the other is 1-2 years away from completing a dual Ph.D. in Physics. The former went to Princeton for undergrad and is finishing med school at NYU this year. The latter escaped the hell of Chicago University to complete his degree in an exchange program in Paris at Sorbonne Universite.

The amigos stayed for the first few nights in Playa Negra Hotel. The hotel is a tad expensive owing to its location right on the beach. It contains a gated area with a bunch of isolated cabinas. The hotel also has a restauraunt (to my right in the picture) which serves a great gallo pinto albeit at about triple the usual price.

The transition from the hotel to the beach is seamless.


On the first day of my friends' visit we fixed the 1st of 2 flat tires the rav4 received during the trip. I had read and took notes on all the steps in my car's manual and watched an instructional video to prepare for this moment. But alas I had not done a practice run. As expected, I encountered an unexpected problem. The lug wrench did not fit easily around the nuts of the wheel, it was so difficult to use the tool that I figured I had the wrong wrench and called a tico surfpal for help.

He rolled up with a car full of surf groupies that were perhaps impressed as he saved the day. After examining the situation surfpal assured us we had the right sized lug wrench and used a makeshift hammer to bang it onto the nuts. After putting on the spare tire we patched the flat tire at the mechanic, ordered a new tire for the next day, and then headed to Tamarindo where I gave my friends a surf lesson.

The forecast had predicted large waves for the day, but the water in Tamarindo was flattissimo. This made the lesson difficult and, unlike Adam, my friends struggled to catch their first wave. But in the end they both got to stand up for at least one ride.

Tamarindo has a pop up night market on Thursdays. It was Thursday, so we went. The market has all sorts of goodies: essential oils, shiny rocks, mixed drinks, and tasty food - some of which is infused with thc.

A tasty delight that I must mention is the acai fruit. Acai is not grown locally,2 but it is sold commonly here. The night market has a food truck that specializes in "Acai, smoothies, y mas"


As I am writing this up while admiring the picture of the most delicious acai bowl I've ever tasted, I realize the woman lying on my bed is the same one in the tank top in the background. We met the night this picture was taken. My friends had chatted with her and her Argentinian friend while I was somewhere else catching up with old Tamarindo acquaintances. My friends later introduced me to her and friend. My friends are good friends.

After the night market we went to go jam with the surfpal who had helped us fix the flat. He has a kitten named THUNDER who roams around his house. THUNDER likes to accompany people on walks and demonstrate his ability to climb various trees.


I dropped off my friends at Playa Negra Hotel and then returned the next morning to eat breakfast with them at the hotel's restaurant. When I arrived I looked at the ocean and oh-my-god the best waves I've seen since I returned to CR in October were going off one after another. My buddies told me that they were exhausted from travel and invited me to skip breakfast and go catch some of the 1-2m waves that were breaking over the coral reef. I didn't have a leash3 with me, but I went to the surf shop and bought one just so I could surf this morning. Luck was with me as someone was on the beach to catch on camera the waves I caught on water.


After my surf session we went and prepared the car for the road trip by checking its vitals, replacing the patched tire, and filling it up with gas.

We left the next morning for the Selina in Nosara. I've been to a few Selina's throughout Latin America - all of which are nice - but this one was by far the best in terms of the aesthetics of its design. The hostel wonderfully integrates the buildings with the surrounding nature to give its guests the feeling they're in the best tree house complex ever made.


Before partying at Selina we went to the beach, Playa Guiones, where my friends practiced surfing in the white water as I selfishly paddled out alone to score a second epic session. In Guiones the waves break over sand instead of reef, so there are rarely barrels or steep sections. The plus side of this is there are many peaks so you don't have to compete with as many surfers for a wave. I surfed, got lunch with the amigos, and the surfed again until sundown. When I paddled to shore I was so tired that it felt as though I was pushing through wet cement instead of water.

Had I planned the trip for myself I would have stayed in Guiones. Selina's was fantastic and the rule of the surfing lifestyle is once you find good waves you don't move. But in retrospect I am happy that my friends wanted to travel to see the scenic inland of Costa Rica. After our one day in Nosara we hit the road towards Monteverde.

As has become common occurence in my life, I was punished for not listening to Diana Coman's advice. I did not study the map from Nosara to Monteverde, and Google Maps tried to save us 1-2 minutes by taking us off the high way and sending us through a "shortcut" that required (1) driving on a road in bad condition by CR standards (2) driving through a river. Only once I came face to face with the river did I give up on the "shortcut." We had to retrace our steps to get back on the highway. This fun pot hole filled detour added about 30-40 minutes to the drive.

We arrived in Monteverde. If you have a desire to breathe some of the freshest air the universe has to offer, come here. The climate is perfect and boy does the breeze feel nice. The mountainous area is a lush green during the heart of the dry season. We spent the evening and the following day hiking through the cloud forest and viewing a butterfly garden.

Please note little birdy.


Anteater looking dude who tico surfpal informed me is not actually an anteater


This was some weird foam that was on the side of the tree. Plox for comments explaining what/why this is.



I am not quite sure what these bags are for, "Concentrados Nutricion Animal" ... so someone is providing food for animals in the rain forest?


We ate breakfast at a restaurant that has a garden where the waiting staff places fruit out to attract exotic birds for the pleasure of the patrons as they eat their gallo pinto. We met a squirrel who has recently gone into modeling. We tried to warn him that if he keeps eating all the food meant for the birds he is going to get fat and lose his job.




Sigh, he didn't listen.





This massive bird occasionally let the other birds eat some fruit as well.





The butterfly garden had an introductory presentation on various bugs in Costa Rica. Our lecturer kept laughing nervously after discussing various aspects of bug sex life. But he was comfortable picking up all sorts of critters, from scorpions to beetles with pincers.


Both sunrises at our Airbnb in Monteverde were blessed with a moon set and a multi-hued sky.



For the last day of our adventure we drove around Arenal Lake to see the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna Waterfall. The drive was beautiful - more windy4 roads that offered a great view of the lake. We stopped for gallo pinto at a little restauraunt that had closed before we arrived but happily reopened to serve us breakfast.


When we arrived to a national park near Arenal, I stupid'd and locked us out of the rav4. The problem was resolved in 45 minutes with the help of 40,000 colones. On the bright side I learned what are the tools required for breaking into a car.


We did a 2-3 hour hike through a forest next to the volcano. This time we saw some interesting animals including an ostrich type bird with a yellow beak that bobbed its head back and forth as it walked.


Colorful lizard dude.


A tree with some interesting roots.


The path to a 400-year-old tree.


The 400-year-old tree tree.


The volcano.





At one point during the trip one of my friends said something along the lines of, "why don't you put away the camera and enjoy the moment?" I share the same sentiment, it bothers me quite a bit when people are cam whoring.5 But ztkfg has greatly increased the amount I value photos, and I find myself taking way more photos than I did before. I am doing my best to get the balance of photo / no photo right. Since bringing my camera to La Fortuna meant hindering the experience of swimming by the waterfall, I decided to leave it in the car.

But before I put away the camera, I took a shot of important La Fortuna rules.


The morning we had to drive back to Junqui we had to fix our 2nd flat tire. I realized hammering the lug onto the nuts was not necessary. I just needed to clean the area around the nuts before attempting to attach the lug. Derp.


We got back to Junqui, had a relaxing evening at my beach, and the next morning I dropped my buddies off at the airport. The day before they left Trump announced the travel ban to Europe. My friend from Paris was able to get back home just before the grace period ended.

I am grateful and proud to be friends with my two visitors. As a teenager I certainly didn't have the capacity to wisely choose who to surround myself with, but the dice roll of high school social life landed in my favor.6 Today there are a few political issues where we don't see eye to eye, as polite conversation during our last dinner revealed. Regardless, I expect our bond to remain forever strong.

  1. Their names can be discovered by examening the pictures in this article. []
  2. I believe it is imported from Brazil. []
  3. Which I don't like to use in general, but since there was a crowd and the waves were big and surrounded by rocks a leash was ~mandatory. []
  4. I mean windy as pronounced with both a long and short "i" vowel. []
  5. Especially when the "camera" being used is a dumb phone. []
  6. I can't say the same for MIT. While I have a few friends there the connection that I have with my high school friends is substantially stronger. []

3 Responses to “A Short Trip Through Paradise with Friends of Over Ten Years”

  1. BingoBoingo says:

    It's good to see you're getting your lessons in car ownership front loaded. It may not be pleasant, but the space of what you don't know is shrinking.

  2. whaack says:

    Yes I am thankful for all these "wonderful opportunities" to learn about taking care of a car.

    I actually got my _third_ flat tire on Wednesday when I went to do my Armageddon shopping. This time though the ever helpful ticos were actually helpful - without asking they filled up the deflated tire while I had a cup of coffee with the lady mentioned in the article. This allowed me to drive to the tire shop without having to put on the spare.

    As for locking myself out of the car I changed my procedure from locking the car from the driver's seat door to using the electronic lock from the car keys - this ensures I have the keys with me when I lock the car.

  3. BingoBoingo says:

    Ouch. It definitely isn't pleasant, but there are worse places to suffer your first flats.

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