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Marolt: Summer vacation in summary

Roger Marolt
Roger This

Spring break is fun, but summer vacation is longer.

The first time to Costa Rica is for zip-lining and volcano touring; the second is for surfing. This time our primary destination was Samara. The town is tiny, the beach long, the water warm, and there is a wave for everyone every few minutes.

The biggest problem is that it is so undeveloped that mongrels and horses roam the beach and might poop upwind and in your view plane. You just move a few feet down the beach and wait for the cleansing effect of high tide to tidy things up for tomorrow.

Unlike skiing, the short boards are for experts in surfing. We’re working hard to get there. What gives me pause is that in two weeks I didn’t see even one surf bum even close to my age. I’m afraid my time is running shorter than my board.

if you plan on getting robbed in Costa Rica and look at it for the entertainment value, it can be a cheap price for adventure and a good story.

We took a day trip to Playa Pelada and had lunch at La Luna. On this magnificent spread of pristine sand, it was just us, the people serving us, and a peddler who appeared from the mangroves. Relax, and they will come. He hooked us for two clay turtle bowls that we convinced ourselves would make nice gifts.

Knowing after the fact that nobody got hurt, my biggest personal disappointment was completely missing the 5.8 earthquake centered just 10 kilometers from where we were sitting on the beach. I had just gotten up and was walking into the beach bar when everyone else came sprinting out. I thought maybe a rainforest panther had come out of the mountains. Wide awake and sober, I seemed to be the only one who felt nothing. I was brooding a half hour later when the mini-tsunami drenched me in my beach lounger.

Being a victim of petty theft is underrated in a few regards. A crook stole 36,000 Colones, a MasterCard, my driver’s license, our two turtle bowls and an iPod in a rental car parked 50 feet from us at Playa Guillones. It’s an odd thing that you feel guilty for getting robbed. We’d been warned. We knew better. We got complacent. The thug got into the locked car and glove box and took our things as easily as if we’d left them with a thank-you note under a seashell on the hood of the car.

Like losing money in Vegas, if you plan on getting robbed in Costa Rica and look at it for the entertainment value, it can be a cheap price for adventure and a good story. I also think it’s a price of being a country boy and, if that’s the case, a good return on investment. To get over it, you have to be philosophical.

Since we were down to just one credit card, we left it in the hotel safe for emergencies and began using cash to pay for everything. Just like that, everything seemed a lot more expensive. Amazing.

It’s a wonderful experience going to church in a foreign country. You understand next to nothing and understand almost everything at the same time. Amen.

Driving in Costa Rica is like driving in Los Angeles in one regard — it takes a lot longer to get anywhere than you think it will. Narrow, winding, shoulder-less roads that can turn to dirt without warning consume time more quickly than cold beer and a good book under the sun.

The first day at Tamarindo is a shock. It is a beach “city” with a population of 500 and a discotheque. Within five seconds of setting foot on its relatively crowded sand, you will be overwhelmed by vendors selling everything from warbling wooden toy birds to cigars. We had to rent a beach chair for a few minutes from one of them just to take it all in. Soon, though, you get used to them and they to you so that a truce is silently reached where they only bother you every couple of hours and at dinnertime. We saw about half a dozen people selling the exact same “cute” turtle bowls we had stolen from us. They were just what our thief wanted, I’m sure. Sweet justice!

It’s hard to avoid getting sick from local water in developing countries, but it is impossible to prevent somebody else who visited a different country from doing it, who ends up sitting in the seat behind you on the way home, who moans quietly, yet with conviction, “stupid Punta Cana” intermittently throughout the flight before retching, at first into the paper bag in the seat pocket and graduating to a full-on garbage bag before mercifully landing. Poor thing. It was one of the longest flights of my life.

Great trip. Great to be home.

Contact Roger Marolt at roger@maroltllp.com.


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