Archive for the ‘Costa Rica’ Category

Neighbours 4

The gardens at the Riviera are full of wildlife, some of which gets closer than I would have expected.

This bird has made its nest in the young palm tree whose leaves lean into the shade of my porch. 

Riviera Guest

There are humming birds busily going around all the trees, and even the insects are really funky. This one landed on my sofa the other day.

My patio area had a door at the entrance which at first I thought must be some sort of child gate or other, however after leaving it open while I went surfing the other evening I came home to find a group of toads partying under the cool of my fans. the gate is now shut but I should add that no boots were required for the removal of the toads!

MacawThe air is full of exotic birds and I can see Macaws chasing each other through the sky almost all day long.

I have no idea what menacing creatures may lurk in the sea here but thus far, and I hope it stays that way, I have nothing to report.

Not even a fish!

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Riviera 1Regardless of my stressful drive here I had already promised myself a nice place to stay whilst visiting Pavones.

I managed to get this great bungalow at the Riviera which is a fantastic place situated alongside the Rio Claro and is run by Jamie and Sean. (http://www.pavonesriviera.com/

Riviera Bedroom 3

To minimise expense and confront the heat in Central America head on I have not allowed myself air conditioning since Guatemala, but it has been difficult to say the least so I cannot tell you how wonderful the respite of having it here is, not to mention the joy of not counting fresh insect bites each morning. 

Riviera Patio 2

In addition to the air-con I have no less than four ceiling fans, one of which cools my private outdoor sofa which you can see here.

I spent a whole afternoon in the hammock too, enjoying the fan which beefed up the cooling breeze coming from the ocean. 

My GardenThis is my private garden which is so pretty. There is a gate at the bottom of which leads me to the 2 minutes walk to the world class break here.

The garden is full of exotic plants and there are pineapples amongst other things growing in the flower beds.

It is certainly a bit dearer than most of the places I have been using so far on this trip because I have hired a bungalow on my own, but it is worth every penny and I would have no problems in telling you to stay here if you visit, especially if there are a few of you sharing. It is brilliant, the standard through is much higher than most of what I have experienced and it has all the important things I need such as a fridge/freezer and a toaster. The owners have been wonderful with me too, helping me out with a couple of issues with the car and my cashflow.

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Pavones Lineup 7As well as being one of the best places in the world to surf, Pavones is also a great place to watch the surfers in action because it all takes place so close to the shore.

There used to be a bar right on the shore where you could drink beer all day and cheer people on as the whizzed past end of the patio, but unfortunately it burnt down last year.

Me and the MuttHowever all along the break there are whole tree trunks that have been washed up on the shore, which make great spots to take a seat upon and view the action from.

Yesterday afternoon in between sessions I took advantage of one of these for an hour or so. However whilst minding my own business, taking a few pictures and having a few beers in the sun I made a new friend.

I have no idea of his name, but can only confirm that this surf mutt wandered up and just sat along side me taking in the surfers riding in front of us, so I can only assume that his owner is one of them.

Mutt Watching 5There are loads of really mellow dogs throughout Central America, probably because it is too hot for them to be aggressive all the time, and this one was typical of that.

Without wanting anything he just hung out wih me, but always kept one eye on the horizon presumably to see if his master or mistress was on the way back in.

I have wanted exactly this sort of surf mutt since I started surfing and have promisd myself I will be getting a new best friend shortly after returning to the UK.

The two of us sat there for ages but I couldn’t figure out who is owner was in the lineup that you see here:

Pavones CrewWhilst there I took a few pictures and also took some video footage on my phone.

It is a little bit shaky (probably due to the beers) but it should give you some idea of how good the surf is and the standard of some of the people riding it as the crowds in the water build along with the swell through the week. (http://youtu.be/g8Gmae7gv-Q)

It was shot from the midway point of the maximum possible ride but will give you some idea of what to expect if you have not been here before. Goofy Foot Heaven!

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Pavones Start 2The left at Pavones is simply epic.

You can actually ride it from the rocks at the point that you can see on the left of this picture.

From there you keep going past the river mouth which is just out of sight on the left. 

Pavones End

It doesn’t stop there however because you keep going to the mini-point where the picture above was taken.

 

Indeed turning my camera around at that location you can then see the bay in the distance where you can keep riding all the way into the shore. If you think I am joking check out this video of Robbie Naish doing it on a Stand Up Paddle board (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9rI76MuaXI) He needed several cameras just to catch it all on film and tracked his distance travelled using GPS! I haven’t bagged anything in that league yet, but still trying.

Shoreline

You are never too far from the shoreline all along this ride, and it is covered in rocks. At low tide they are a nightmare to walk across, because they stretch right out to sea and you slip, stub you toes, upend yourself, etc across several hundred metres of them. 

DCIM100GOPRO

I have had a few sessions in the water here already enjoying the smaller surf before the big swell arrives. I was barefoot for the first of them but enjoyed the benefits of my booties after that. However they didn’t stop me going over the falls on one wave in the morning when I wasn’t wearing a rash vest and I scraped across more than one of the boulders under the water with my back which was a tad worrying.

I’m not complaining though, and only wish this wave was a right. As lefts go I can’t imagine much better, and have been having fun whizzing down the line looking over my shoulder as I go. More to come from his break too as the waves build through the rest of the week.

Wave 50 means I have reached my half century. Good batting!

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Road to Pavones 1Two hours into my drive south eastwards I turned off the main road in order to head down to Pavones.

I had been reliably informed by a number of people that this was a good road and that I should have no problems getting there in the Volkswagen. 

Costa Rica

Getting past the fallen tree I encountered early along the journey was a concern but had I known what was coming I would have scoffed at it. 

As you can see here it is a dirt road where just enough dirt is on top of the large rocks for you to bump across. However I didn’t see anybody else on the road that wasn’t in a 4×4.

I got this picture to demonstrate how bad it was thinking that it couldn’t get any worse. How wrong could I have been? 

Road to Pavones 2

I had to cross several rivers and the surface you see leading up to this bridge was more typical of what I found.

I.e.  absolutely no coverage over the rocks at all. That there were no potholes in this shot, and by that I mean the sort of gaps in the road that a big lump like myself could comfortably sleep in, is. 

Bridge-on-the-way2

One section was so bad (and I regret not taking a snap, but had to focus on trying to get the car across it at the time) that I can only equate it to trying to drive from the waters’ edge at a beach like Brighton or Llandudno and make it up to either promenade over the loose stones which were anything up to the size of house bricks. Any one of which easily had the capacity to game over the car! The only way to tackle this was to reverse back and then take a run at whatever you might have thought was the best line, with the wheels spinning on all kinds of things and ominous bashes being heard against the underside of the car. Barely making it to the top of one hill and then looking down the much longer slope on the other side I seriously thought ‘well the car is staying in Pavones because I have no chance whatsoever of getting back the other way.’ 

Aware of the risks to the underside of the car I had to go so slowly on the flat, barely getting to 20mph at any point and the 40km of road took nearly two hours. I have to say that it is without doubt the most stressful drive of my life! Going so slowly also meant there was no air blowing into the car, so I was getting all the more wound up as I suffered in the heat. 47C according to the thermometer!

Pavones-Bridge-DownAs if the roads themselves were not bad enough the bridges were simply frightening. I went over one, which I later discover has been called the German bridge ever since a family from the fatherland didn’t tackle the necessary high-wire act 30 feet up in the air in their car well enough, going over the edge and ending upside down in the river killing them all! I can see how easily this could happen because the bridge, and I use the term loosely, was simply a few planks of wood precariously balanced on a few fallen trees. There are no barriers whatsoever and unlike Top Gear I didn’t have anybody to tell me ‘left a bit, right a bit, etc.’ so I was doing it entirely blind just hoping that the line I chose across the bridge, that was only as wide as the bug, was going to get me to the other side and that the bridge which was creaking rather too seriously would remain intact.

I have no problem in telling you that I was genuinely afraid doing this and that I was in bits by the time I arrived in Pavones. My hosts told me about the Germans and where to find the picture you see above of another bridge crossing failure which has happened here. Just to rub the salt in I was also told that if you go the very long way round it is tarmac practically all the way until the last slope down into Pavones. I dont want to jinx things but based on that it would seem that the bug might be rolling out of here after all. However I can categorically tell you I will not drive that road again, ever. I would prefer to drag all my gear the 40km out using only my third leg!

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Punterenas Road 9After leaving Dominical I had the most glorious drive down the coast road towards the Golfo Dulce.

The scenery is simply stunning and is some of the best that I have seen so far on my travels on this trip. I bagged quite a lot of pictures whilst trying not to crash the car. 

Punterenas Road 6

Here are a few snaps to give you an idea of what it was like.

The road has recently been resurfaced so I was flying in the bug and making quick progress. 

Punterenas Road 1

The first couple of hours were simply a delight. Empty roads, breathtaking scenery and a cool breeze from the ocean.

I only wish it had stayed that way…

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Dominical WaveI was going to try and paddle out here in Dominical before I left this morning. However after watching a surfer carrying his snapped board up the beach I have thought better of it.

I am somewhat sore from the beating I took yesterday and dont fancy a bill for a new board, which would almost be certain based on the overhead close outs thumping down on the beach which I have been trying to spot a ridable shoulder on for about three days. I dont think there is one by the way, at least not on this swell

Road to Dominical 1There is a huge swell on its way and I am keen to get to the entrance of the Golfo Dulce so I can learn the lay of the land before it arrives, because there are waves there, which supposedly can be ridden for more than a mile and I’m keen to bag one if I can on this trip.

(http://magicseaweed.com/Pavones-Surf-Report/446/)

Time to hit the road again.

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Shady SpotDespite our surf safari it was still early by the time we opted for the morning glass on offer at Playa Hermosa, which was the best of a not particularly inviting bunch that we had seen.

We found a shady spot to leave the car in under the trees just above the water line. Playa Hermosa 1

Apart from a few families who had started their day at the beach early there was nobody about and we paddled out with the break to ourselves. There are towering hills surrounding the bay, all completely covered in dense vegetation and the beach truly lived up to its name which translates as Beautiful Beach. (However I should probably point out at this stage that there is a Playa Hermosa approximately every 20miles all the way from the USA/Mexican border.)

DCIM101GOPRO

I thought I was paddling out into a fun waist or chest high session where we were not really going to be challenged but loads of great waves would be snagged by us both. However I could not have been more wrong.

This was the picture of the day but don’t think for a second that it was easy. Only about one wave in twenty didn’t suddenly lunge up to at least head high and then close out right across the bay onto about a foot and a half of sand, with the spray, sand and possibly you being sent flying twenty five feet into the air. The wipe outs here were unreal and I shant need to see a chiropractor any time soon after getting my whole spine wrenched into place with an unnerving series of cracks on one!

DCIM102GOPROThis picture is a crazy shot of me trying to ditch my board and bail off the back of the wave rather than drop into yet another pit of oblivion. By the looks of it I probably went head first over the falls with the lip and was lucky not to land on my board as I went.

I dont know if it was on this wave or not, but on one I took such a hammering that my shorts were nearly torn off. When I eventually got back on my board and back out past the impact zone I realised it had ripped my fly open and my wedding tackle was actual hanging out the front of my shorts. I thought better of publishing those shots from the Go Pro.

Despite all of the above we both had a really enjoyable session, then spent the rest of the day talking breaks, boards, freediving, seafood, travelling and the merits of bikini clad female surfers in the bar back at Dominical.

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George & LGSM

I met an American surfer who is my age called George in the bar last night. He is a yacht skipper who is looking to set up a fantastic holiday home locally and has returned to the area to see the lay of the land.

George knows the area well so as my copilot and navigator for the day, the two of us set of this morning to check out the breaks close to Dominical. 

Mountain Road 2

As well as the local breaks we also went of the beaten track and climbed one of the local mountains in the Little Green Surf Machine.

To say we were pushing the envelope in the bug is putting it mildly. At one stage the car is kicking out sideways, its wheels are spinning on the loose rocks and it is certainly struggling to make it up the incredibly steep hill road. 

Mountain Road 1

You can see two sections of the road here and after past experience I was wondering how wise some of the path that we attempted were in the Volkswagen.

However my car didn’t let us down and we made far better progress than you might have thought possible in it. 

View from the top 1

At one point it really did get ridiculous and we wisely gave up there, but were able to look down on all the rainforest and coastline beneath us.

This was the view from the top which was simply spectacular and certainly made the effort worthwhile.  

Costa Rican MagicWe checked out some fantastic bays and this view near to the restaurant at the tip of a headland where we had lunch was probably the view of the day.

Whilst there we saw a Capuchin Monkey swinging through the trees and had a feast of fish for lunch. We also saw the delightful sight of a foot foot crocodile which had been killed crossing the road having it’s corpse ripped to shreds by vultures who had spotted an easy meal. No chance of bagging the raw materials for a free wallet or pair of shoes though because somebody had nabbed the skin already by the time we drove back.

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Dominical Market 3Dominical is the sort of place I was hoping to find along this journey.

It is barely signposted from the main road, and the main drag of town, if you can even call it that, is a stretch of dirt road one line of palm trees back from the sand.

You can see the market stalls which vendors have fashioned out of driftwood and that sell all the usual sarongs, wood carvings, towels, tshirts advertising the local beer, jewellery, etc

There is usually a lovely sea breeze which takes the edge of the heat, although as usual that never really goes away.

Playa Dominical 1The surf here at first glance loooks epic but upon closer scrutiny you can see that it is just board snapping beach break with no shoulder to ride unless you had a jet powered board.

I have met a few cool people here including one American called George who I’m going surfing with later, that is if this morning’s torrential rain doesn’t put us off. As usual I have been up since before dawn so am waiting for him to join me.

Tortilla Flats 2I am staying in the Tortilla Flats which are next to the beach. In fact the only thing between me and the sand is the bar, which for some reason has proved something of a distraction during my stay here. It is the best bar in town and where people gather to watch the sun setting. To illustrate the proximity to the beach see Rob vs Keith.

Skate RampMy room is basic but cheap although I’m regretting not going for air conditioning again. (I have promised myself that the next place I stay will be like a palace.)

Tortilla Flats has its own skate ramp which seems to draw in the local kids. Many of them take an interest in my car but nothing untoward has occurred as a result.

Dominical RiverThe only other thing to report is that I have been warned about the river which is a few hundred metres away. I should use caution if walking along it because the 20 foot crocodiles in it have a a habit of attacking people on the footpath. Apparantly they are rather fond of dogs and have eaten nearly 50 in the last year alone!

I think I will go for a swim somewhere else then.

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