04 November 2015

Surf Simply: Miercoles (Wednesday)

Today was our hard-earned and much-needed day off from surf coaching. Surf Simply offered a variety of other activities, including a trip to a monkey sanctuary that looked interesting. But my friend Jon was just over 30 miles north in Playa Negra and he'd invited me to come up to surf his local reef break. Last night I rented a small SUV, a gray Daihatsu Terios Bego. Before I started down the Monkey Trail, which one of the staff told me is what they call the sometimes-impassable dirt road that runs near the coast, I had breakfast with monkeys. Well, not exactly with them, but they were leaping around in the trees nearby.
The first stream crossing
I loaded the 6'2" in the back of the SUV and set off. There are no street signs in this part of the country, and even with an offline maps program linked to sometimes-laggy GPS, I still made a few wrong turns before I got to the Trail. Coach Asher told me I'd have to ford two streams, but since they were not far away, I'd know soon enough if the recent rains meant I'd have to turn back and go the long way around. Just short of the first crossing, I pulled to the side of the road and debated whether to wait for another vehicle to drive through. Minutes passed as I watched the flowing water. It didn't look that deep. Impatient, I got a running start and drove through the stream, which turned out to be a bit deeper than I thought. Water sprayed up toward the side windows as I pressed my foot on the gas. Keep going, I willed the SUV when it seemed to hesitate. Then we were through and on the other side. One down, one to go. The second ford came about 10 minutes later, and this time another SUV plowed through it ahead of me.
A lovely lonely beach along the Monkey Trail
The road was graded dirt, but at the end of the rainy season, it wasn't in good shape. There was an infinity of potholes and a multitude of irregular ditches carved by runoff. Driving it felt a bit like a video game with the object of avoiding those obstacles. A few times I hit an unexpected pothole a little too fast and crossed my fingers I hadn't done anything to require the flat-tire kit provided by Alamo. There was little traffic on the Trail and I might be on my own for a while if the SUV broke down. Thankfully, it got me all the way to Playa Negra after two bumpy hours on the road.
Please keep your horns to yourself while I drive by slowly.
According to Google Translate, the sign says "Her house is not dirty." Huh?
With a partner, Jon is building a cafe/coffee-roasting business with living space above the shop. He wasn't kidding when he said construction is still in the fetal stage; they don't have all the walls up yet, much less screens on the window openings. He had three guests, and they were all sleeping on mattresses on the floor. The girl was covered in mosquito bites and so grateful when I gave her a half-empty can of DEET spray I'd brought with me.
Jon's directions said, "It's on the right next to the big painted bull."
With our boards under our arms, Jon led me down a jungle path which was a shortcut to the beach at Negra. In several places, we carefully ducked under or through barbed wire, and we crossed a dry stream bed Jon said was sometimes waist-deep during rainy season. We popped out of the forest and onto a road, where he greeted several friends in fluent Spanish and I understood only a few words. At the end of the road was lovely Playa Negra, a small, rocky beach. Given the name ("black beach" in Spanish), I expected the sand to be dark, but it wasn't. Jon showed me where to paddle out in the channel, and my shoulder muscles initially protested that they weren't getting the day off. It was a reef break, mostly rights, with the waves a overhead and a few guys out in the lineup.

Jon rode several waves between lulls but I had no joy. Finally he said, "Come on, we're gonna get you a wave," and I followed him to the takeoff zone where I caught a big one. Although I made the drop, I forgot to stay high and was knocked off at the bottom by breaking whitewater. Sometime later, as the tide dropped and the waves steepened, I caught another on my own. It was my best wave of the trip so far, a long right all the way in with cutbacks on the open face. Woot!
Jon's place and my mighty Terios
I didn't figure I'd top that wave and I was hungry for lunch, so I got out and looked for interesting shells on the beach while Jon waited for his last wave. Back at his place, I chatted with Jon's cousin Ryan while Jon made us oatmeal with plantains. It was a simple lunch but surprisingly tasty.
By early afternoon, I was on the road again. Near the end of the journey, raindrops fell occasionally and I worried that the streams would become impassible, leaving me stuck on the wrong side of them with night falling. The storm held off, though, and the streams looked no deeper than the first time I'd crossed. At the first ford, the mud was mounded on this side of the bank, and my running start launched the SUV up and then into a shallow nose-dive mid-stream. Uh oh. I gunned the protesting engine and the Terios responded, driving safely up the opposite side. The last crossing was uneventful, but the storm clouds were growing darker, ready to drop heavy rain.
I arrived at the Rancho to find several of my friends watching a troop of howler monkeys in the tall trees opposite the gate. They were noisy and active, and some carried babies on their backs. Oddly, I'd seen no monkeys on the Monkey Trail. Too busy watching out for potholes, I guess.
The storm let loose soon after I got back. As torrential rain fell, fireflies glowed over the couches in the Rancho's living space. Dinner was on our own, so we all took a taxi to an Italian restaurant called il Basilico – all except Lauren, who had become violently ill. Miguel, our resident doctor, took care of her, as well as letting those of us with injuries know about an NSAID cream available at the Nosara pharmacy but not in the U.S. Having a doctor on a foreign surf trip comes in handy.

Over a tasty meal, we shared stories of the day's activities, from zip-lining (Kim and Ted) to mountain biking (Jessica) to just lazing around (Ian). When we returned to the resort, rain was still coming down. Most of us gathered at the big round table to play Cards Against Humanity. Surprisingly, I won. It was a fun end to an adventurous day.

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