Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Pura Vida in Costa Rica

December 4, 2012
Pura Vida
After landing in San Jose I found a friendly taxi driver to take me to my old high school friend, Ed Fieramosca's house. The directions I handed over to the driver went something like this: "Take Rohmeisero Road south, after 5km look for the fruit trees and turn right, go 200m and look for the corner just before the Market". I was dubious, but at least the directions didn't instruct us to take a left at the speckled cow on the hill. We made it there without trouble and I found it a pretty nice neighborhood and safe, undoubtedly because the U.S. Embassy is close by.
I spent the afternoon with Eddie and his family, had a nice meal, and tried to follow some spanish TV. More difficult to understand than the language was why they were giving weather forecasts for North America?? Oh, and I managed to stay out of jail after a couple of polizia informed me that it wasn't permissible to have an open cerveza on the sidewalk.
In the evening I sat in on a business conference call with parties in Australia, Nevada, and Austria. Ed is in the business of building "Green" residential housing and is working on franchising the "Nudura" product in Australia. A very interesting product and building method which is essentially concrete builds with one catch. Normally concrete is poured into forms and after curing the forms are removed. Nudura is actually a type of Styrofoam and is used as the forms and left in place. The result is a super strong build which is water proof, sound proof, mold proof, termite proof, maintenance free, gives off no gases and is highly insulated. It goes together like lego blocks and after the recent 6.6 Mag. earthquake they had, it apparently can also take a pretty good shaking and not suffer.
The next morning 5:30 am came way to quickly, but it was time to catch another ride to the Nacoya peninsula. An area in the North West of Costa Rica which was new to me and also home to some of Costa's best reef and point breaks. There Eddie also happened to have a couple of projects in the works so I got to see some of the work in progress as well as being introduced to a bunch of his friends, both ticos and ex-pat gringos.
I was a bit surprised by the lack of development in this area. There is the new highway that gets you to the area, but after that it's all dusty dirt roads. In fact, in Playa Negra where I'm staying there isn't even a bank or ATM! There are a few homes, a few guest houses, a few restaurants and an approximately 200 square foot grocery store "oxy-moronically"  called Mini-Super Mercado. Not surprising, after my previous  visit, is that Costa is still really expensive, on par or more expensive than the U.S. in regards to food, fuel, land, homes, vehicles, etc. A third world mystery to me.
Somehow the locals make it work though and have kept their friendly disposition. It's a place where friends and strangers alike unfailingly wave and say hello whether walking, biking or driving. The intriguing new mantra which I don't recall in past visits is the constant uttering of "Pura Vida" (pure life). Q: Como Esta? (How are you?) A: Bien! Pura Vida! (Good, Pure Life!)  Maybe the Costa Rican government has started their own version of "Just say No!"
The first few days saw less than spectacular surf, but the last couple has seen the swell rise. My first session was good even withstanding the fact that I hurt myself more in one surf than I have in the last twenty years. Nothing big, a fin scrape on one ankle and a reef scrape on the other. To cap it off I took a left barrel and got pitched. Not wanting to dive into the shallow rocks I decided to skim the surface. Well, my board had the same idea and wacked me in the back of the head. Oh well, things come in threes so I figure I'm safe for a while. Except from the sun. Living in Florida preps you pretty good for dealing with the sun. Puerto Rico kicked the intensity up a notch. However,  the sun down here is downright wicked! Hades would feel like "Shade-ys" compared to here!
Today's swell was bigger and tomorrow's.... we will see!
Voy a ir surf! 
Pura Vida!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wide Awake and Tired in Puerto Rico

The flight from Lauderdale to P.R. is cheap on Spirit Airlines ($75 o/w) which makes a midnight departure a little more palatable. That is unless you get caught up in their new policy of charging $100 if your carry-on is a little too big. I didn't, but it's still outrageous that bringing along a large backpack could cost you more than your seat!

With a 3:30am landing time I was a bit concerned about securing transportation, especially after this summer's Spirit flight to Atlantic City, which, after delays caused me to have to sleep in the airport until the car rentals opened up the next morning. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only would there be taxis available at that time, but the car rentals would also be open. 

So after a packed flight and getting the car it was a short drive to the guest house owned by ex-pat Tom Luker, fellow Jersey Boy and father of high school friend Greg  who is now owner of Lex Mex Restaurant in Ship Bottom. Thankfully Tom is an early riser, really early. Around 4:30am he showed me to my room, gave me a surf map and said if I'm up for it he would be heading out for a surf at sun up. Who needs sleep? So off to "Surfer's Beach" we went. 

We were greeted with head high surf with only a few guys out and it sure was nice to get a board under my feet after 2+ years. I was on an unfamiliar board and understandably rusty so I certainly didn't getting any bonus points for style, but I made all my waves and was happy with that. Eighty something degree water temperature didn't hurt either!

Needless to say I was pretty tired as well as hungry so I went and found some pancakes and eggs. At least I think they were eggs. There was definitely something different in the texture and taste, but my stomach said keep eating and I trusted it. Then it was off for a much needed nap.

That afternoon I got in the car and drove around to get the lay of the land. The roads in PR have, unlike our waistlines, not kept pace with the increasing size and number of vehicles. Even in a Kia you need to be alert to many sections of road which won't accommodate on-coming traffic. Perhaps  playing "Chicken" is a national pastime.  Or perhaps instead of "national" I should say "US territory" possibly soon to become a state, as they have just voted to apply to become a US state.  Also, as much as I hate to say it, they could do with a few more traffic lights. Getting through crossroads can be a challenge when traffic gets heavy and further supports my "national pastime" theory. 

Late afternoon I met the other two guests and we enjoyed conversation and some adult beverages on the porch well past sunset. Jhana told her story of being robbed the day before and how things were sorted out. Although she was heading home to Massachusetts the next day, she was not dismayed and will be coming back. Tony is from Ocean City, NJ and a similar age so we played the "do you know so and so" game. We had about a 25% hit rate with that. 

I told them both to knock on my door in the morning when they headed out for a surf. It won't surprise anyone reading this that I blew them both off for a little more sleep. I did, however, get up early (for me anyway) and decided to join them at "Wilderness". I probably should have paddled out, but instead decided to check somewhere else. On the way out I hit a pot hole and the "POP" I heard did not sound good. Luckily it was only a blown tire.

That took some of the wind out of my sails so after putting on the donut spare I decided to go in search of a replacement. Having heard horror stories of price gouging in these situations I wanted to find a replacement on my own. I can't say I was surprised that no one, even Pep Boys, carried the correct brand. In the end, I had to call Enterprise and they informed me that it didn't have to match the brand and I could replace it myself or exchange the car and they would take care of it. No big whoop, but I have to remember in the future that Kia economy cars are not real good for off roading!

The surf forecast looks good so we will see what tomorrow brings, other than another trip to Pep Boys.....

Adios, Hablamos pronto!