All change, all change.
We change from rainforest to beach, from minibus-on-tap upmarket holiday to self-drive and from smart hotels to backpacker scenesters.
We leave the rainforest in two groups – I raft out, 14 miles and each one is a dream, through remote canyons, past postcard-perfect waterfalls. The experience is marred only by Lola being absent, deemed too young for Class IV rapids. We join up and head to the capital San Jose by bus. Nobody seems to have a kind word to say about the city and we fail to leave our hotel, gun-shy tourists taking refuge in the comfort zone of the hotel’s own restaurant. The girls play in the rooftop Jacuzzis alongside two elderly American ladies dissecting their social lives at high volume.
Picking up the car (a 4×4 as everyone has told us we must) we become more self-sufficient. We have been softened up by 2.5 weeks of pre-organised travelling, institutionalised even, where transport is arranged and drivers know the way. If the self-control is welcome, it is a shock, even if we have Sat Nav to keep us honest.
The ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula sets the pace, moving slower than the girls can cycle. A group of local 10 year old boys dance and sing along to bullish local hip-hop, egged on by their teachers. Islands drift on the horizon and if we squint it could be the ferry from Oban to Mull on a (rare) sunny day.
Tarmac gives way to potholed hardcore; an amuse bouche to shock the incoming Europeans. Within 2 minutes we start thanking all the 4×4 directives. Santa Theresa and Mal Pais are a scene, a global traveller tune-in drop-out cauldron twinned in spirit with Goa, Kathmandu, Ko Pangan et al and made famous by the waves. Big huge consistent warm waves on three paradise beaches, for experts and beginners, driven by the long-distance Pacific fetch, a siren call for surfers the world over.
We don’t stick out but we don’t fit in. We are too old, the girls are too young. Tattoos and piercings are mandatory for the under 25s. Backpackers co-exist with the long-term residents who bought land for peanuts ten years ago and watch the value grow each year. The beach is hidden from the main 4km drag of hotels and shops. For some reason (er, its called entrepreneurial spirit….) Israelis seem to own many of the businesses. The economy is split: a plate of decent chicken beans and rice can be $4 but surfing lessons are $50 each and individual pilates lessons are $70. Signs for yoga dominate.
We are meant to be here for two weeks but Mr Difficult (that’s me) doesn’t like the apartment. I reflect on the beautiful hedonic treadmill we have been on for 3 weeks and accept it is time to get off. We relax and agree to move rooms.
Next stop: surfing lessons.