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a southern yankee abroad

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Manuel Antonio

Roll Tide or Riptide?

El mundo es muy pequeno! Every time I travel, I become more aware of this fact. On my second day just outside Quepos, I was able to connect with Steph and Dan, who are close friends with my close friends Erin and Doug (Erin was my roommate in Memphis). Steph and Dan got married, traveled the world together, and moved their lives from Chicago to Costa Rica to follow their dream of opening a B&B in Manuel Antonio. After spending one last morning laying in the hammock, reading, and swimming at Plinio, Dan arrived in his fabulous ’87 Montero and brought me back to Casa Linda, where I was finally able to meet Steph after hearing about her from Erin for years!

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Steph and Dan set me up in one of their 6 very comfortable rooms available for rent. The room even had Apple TV and Netflix, but I’m not sure anyone would ever need to use it given this breathtaking view from the porch!

Casa Linda in Manuel Antonio

Dan then introduced me to his friends Reuben and Eric (aka Paulito), and we set off for Playitas, a hidden beach in Manuel Antonio. We even had to off-road to get there! Eric is a surf instructor on this beach, and offered me a lesson, but I opted to watch the pros do their thing while I swam and relaxed. Reuben is a semi-professional skateboarder, so this translates to his surfing too. I didn’t want to slow them down, but they were generous to offer to teach me!


So, in my last post, I said Costa Rica doesn’t have riptides. I think Marvin must have been speaking about only that beach in particular, because there is certainly one at Playitas. In all my years of growing up swimming in the ocean, I have never been caught in a riptide, but I was caught in one yesterday. It was a surreal experience- one minute I was swimming along and body surfing on the waves, and the next I turned around to see the shore was much farther away than I intended it to be.

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Realizing what must be happening, I immediately started to try to swim back to shore with all my strength (obviously forgetting everything I had ever been taught about swimming parallel to the shore if caught in a riptide). I was swimming so hard that my arms and legs started to go numb, yet I was still getting farther away.

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Despite all possible reasons to do so, I didn’t panic and decided just to float along and hope I got closer to shore eventually. I thought about calling out to Reuben or Eric down shore, but I didn’t think I needed to. I felt like it would all work out.

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Sure enough, right as I was thinking this, I saw Eric swimming toward me with his surfboard. Eric has been swimming and surfing in these waters his whole life, and recognized the situation instantly. He told me to climb onto the surfboard and hold on tight and keep it straight, while he swam along and pulled it forward. After a few minutes, we were back in shallow waters. Eric saved my life!

Eric aka Paulito- rescuer y amigo Tico!

 

I later learned he’s saved upwards of 50 people from riptides, but that once a young boy slipped right away from him in a breaking wave, drowning in the current. As many lives as he’s saved, the sadness of this tragedy weighs heavily on Eric’s face as he discusses it. Eric also told me I was the “chillest” person he has ever saved, as I wasn’t panicking at all and apparently most people do. Maybe I should have been, but I don’t think that would have helped the situation.

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I thought that my decades of swimming and years of lifeguard experience meant I was immune from this danger, but I was definitely wrong. I really hope this post doesn’t alarm or worry anyone (apologies to my parents!) While it’s somewhat embarrassing, I wanted to share this story to encourage others to take extra care and to not swim too far into the waves at low tide (apparently this is what was causing the strong riptide). I got back in the water a few more times that afternoon, but didn’t swim out further than I could touch. Only calm waters from now on!

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I am truly grateful for Eric’s attentiveness! I feel so fortunate to have befriended him and Reuben on this trip.

Sunset at Manuel Antonio

 

After watching the sunset, we rode the bus back into town and reunited with Steph, Dan, and the other Casa Linda guests. We then all loaded up the Montero to head to Sancho’s, where we watched the National Championship on Spanish ESPN (yes, with Spanish-speaking commentators!) Ironically, there were about 4 Clemson fans in the bar (1 who was also staying at Casa Linda) and I was the only Alabama fan. In the spirit of Pura Vida, we kept it light and friendly! (Plus, I’m a Dabo fan, so it was cool with me if Clemson won. Fun fact: “Dabo” means “that boy” in Alabama-speak, as he was born and raised in Alabama). I left to go to bed during the 3rd quarter, so I wasn’t there to witness the shocking last-second defeat. Congratulations to my new Clemson friends from Costa Rica!

Me, Steph, and my Clemson friend Aaron enjoying futbol americano at Sancho’s

 

My last day in Manuel Antonio was eventful, to say the least, but also very enjoyable and relaxing. I highly recommend staying at Casa Linda with Steph and Dan if you are in the area. They truly treat all of their guests like family and go out of their way to take care of you (Dan even drove me to the bus station in Quepos the next morning). Their energy is contagious and I’m so grateful for their hospitality!

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Donde es la playa!?

Hola from Quepos! Fittingly, my life briefly flashed before my eyes when I boarded this plane for a 15 minute flight with NatureAir from San Jose to Quepos. I found myself asking if this reactionary adventure to my first semester in law school was really worth it… eh, I decided it was! 
I was very apprehensive about this flight leading up to it, but it turned out to be a fun experience and a much smoother ride than I expected. There was hardly any turbulence! Just to be extra careful (haha), I sat directly behind the pilot, so I could just follow him out of the plane in case anything bad happened. However, 15 scenic and uneventful minutes later, we arrived at the Quepos airport (pictured below).


After paying a $3 “exit fee” to leave the airport (ugh!), I took a bus into the village to find my accommodation. I was the only English speaker on the bus so I got to practice even more with my driver and seat mate. After arriving at Hostel Plinio, I immediately changed into my bathing suit, went for a long swim, and napped on a lounge chair. All recent memories of the law library’s fluorescent lighting and dusty bookshelves faded away, replaced by recent good memories and the peace and beauty of the present moment. Pura Vida! 

After settling into my room (essentially a screened-in porch that feels like a treehouse), I walked 1 km into Quepos to buy some new sunglasses (mine did not survive the trip.. RIP!) for only 3,000 colones (about $6). I then set off to hike to Playa Mancha, a hidden beach the receptionist had told me about. Unfortunately, I got a bit lost along the way. “Hola! Donde es la playa?” (Playa=beach in Spanish) I asked a few friendly locals I encountered along the way. They tried their best to help me, but I ultimately decided to turn around and head back toward Plinio. As there were no signs (it is a hidden beach after all) and I was all alone in a fairly remote area, I was beginning to think perhaps this hidden beach just wasn’t in my plan. I did see a lot of monkeys along the trail, which was fun! Earlier, I had stopped at a roadside restaurant along the way to ask for directions, so I stopped here along the way back to show some business to the nice and hospitable owner. I had some very delicious and fresh ceviche, and an Imperial (Costa Rica’s national beer). 

The next day included a visit to the Manuel Antonio Park, and I finally found la playa! I visited with the receptionist from my hostel (she moved here from Ireland 3 years ago and hasn’t left yet), her cousins visiting from England, and another solo traveler from Colombia. Our guide was Marvin, a native who could spot the most obscure and camouflaged animals in the trees with his superhuman eyesight. He’d then train his mini-“telescope” to let us mere mortals view the animals, too, while he told us interesting facts about the flora and fauna.

I never thought bats were cute… until Costa Rica
3- toed sloth. Known for being lazy, they are actually pretty efficient. They can latch onto high branches for days at a time, safe from the grasp of predators, without expending any energy. They only come down once/week to use the bathroom, so I guess we caught this guy at a bad time…
Gladiator frog
This guy (a congo monkey) is my favorite. His face says it all. Pura Vida!

After our animal-spotting trek, I split off to go for a long swim in the Pacific. I floated and swam in the ocean for a very long time and got lost in my own thoughts.
My little spot en la playa ❤️

The ocean here has no sharks, jellyfish, or riptide (according to Marvin)… how much more perfect could this country get!? After swimming, I dried off and met a family from Jacksonville, Fl, who had set up their towels nearby. While chatting, a raccoon ran up and grabbed this family’s food! Fortunately, they left all other belongings alone. After this excitement and wonderful chat, I set off hiking to Playa Gemalas, swam some more there, then hiked to the “Lost Port.” Feeling pretty exhausted at this point, I bought a fresh coconut for lunch (they hack the top off with a knife and stick a straw in for the fresh juice) and took the bus back to Quepos, where I read and chilled by the pool the rest of the day. 
I like it here so much I’ve decided to stay an extra day! 

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