Tamarindo and Arribada

Our first night in Costa Rica was a wet one and so we didn’t speak to the other camper who had pulled in late that night until morning. It seemed that slowly we were meeting more and more people on the road, perhaps things were slowly returning to normal. We could only hope. 

While the campsite was a nice enough spot, the cats were going crazy being locked in the van and so we decided we would hike one of the three trails on the property and then head off to find somewhere better for them. Hanno and Kikki had seen a sloth here, and we were keen to spot one too. The German shepherds tagged along, which was fine with us because we then knew they wouldn’t be attacking any escapee cats. 

Due to the ridiculous amount of rain, it was somewhat hard to focus on the trees for potential sloths on the slick muddy paths. After nearly falling over for the hundredth time, I was almost glad to be back at the camper. We decided the first part of the country that we wanted to explore was the Nicoya Peninsula. Costa Rica has two peninsulas, both on the pacific side. This larger peninsula is in the north, while the smaller Osa Peninsula is in the south. 

We broke up the drive by stopping at Camp Soley. After a border crossing, especially a stressful one, its always nice to have a proper campsite and get your brain in gear for the next country. This spot is run by a lovely French couple, they even let their dog meet the cats first so we could see if there would be a problem before we paid. Their dog was completely uninterested however, and so we parked up and got everything sorted. As lovely as the places was, it was 10,000 colones or about $15 a night and that’s not really in our budget. We made the most of using the kitchen, showers and electricity, as well as meeting some other travellers yet again. 

In the morning, we decided we would move on to a free beach spot. We packed up and then spent some time trying to get Aimee. She was not impressed at being kept inside the other night and when she got wind that we were leaving she ran off and hid under this shipping container to the surprise of our hosts. After some time, I managed to drag her out and we headed for the coast. Our first stop would be Tamarindo. 

After a pointless detour to a surf repair shop that was closed, it was rather a long drive in. This small town is a huge tourist spot, but was supposed to have good baby waves and no doubt another surfboard repair shop. We headed for the free camping on the outskirts and parked up on the sand. For the first time in months we had a free spot right on the beach, it was almost like being back in Baja. 

We stay a day or so, playing around in the tiny surf with my board while the other was repaired. We checked out the incredibly expensive town and got our new sim cards up and running. One look at the streets here and it’s clear it’s meant for tourists.

We would have stayed another night, had we not found out from Kikki that it was Arribada. This is a natural phenomenon, that for a few days every month brings thousands of turtles ashore simultaneously. It’s something I’ve wanted to see since we hit mainland Mexico and the beach was less than two hours away from us. So, our plans changed. Unfortunately, the guys in the repair shop were taking their time and we we had to leave the board behind in order not to miss it.   

I booked us in on a tour for the following morning at 5am, and we set off south to get a free campsite closer to the beach. We hadn’t made it long down the first part of the dirt road before I heard that well known clunk. The shock absorber had parted company with the chassis yet again. We made it to the picturesque beach in the small village of Juanillo, where we planned to stay the night, before removing the offending part for the millionth time. 

Hanno, Kiki and Jaro were on their way to join us, but they were coming from the mountains in the middle of the country and had a lot further to travel. The free spot was only a twenty minute drive from where we were parked, meaning we needed to be leaving at 4.30am the next day. I never realised till we travelled, just how many of the attractions and tours take place at this time. When our tired friends joined us, it wasn’t too long before we called it a night, despite the fact that we hadn’t seen Jaro for nearly six months. 

On the late side of 4.30am, our convoy headed out to the beach of Ostional. We met our tour guide, got our wristbands and headed to the beach.

It was hard to say whether there were more tourists or turtles, both were in abundance. If you google ‘arribada’ you well see many fantastic photos of long tropical beaches filled with nothing but sand, sea and turtles. The reality of the even is rather different. You pick your way between different groups of people in the ever present cloying smell of rotten eggs. Vultures are also a major feature, stealing freshly laid eggs all along the beach. 

While it is an incredible sight, it’s maybe not the romantic vision you would picture. However, it is still amazing to be this close and witness the event.

That didn’t stop us getting some great photos of the turtles as we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the jungle behind. 

After an hour or so, the beach was clearing out with the majority of the turtles now returning to the sea. People too, started to leave and the vultures took over. 

Back at the campers, we agreed a rendezvous point for the south of the peninsula. We had to return to Tamarindo to collect the surfboard. While the others opted for a nap, we drove back up to the town before having one ourselves. It had been a pretty early start after all. The return drive to our arranged spot was a good 4 hours, and not really fancying that, we decided to stay one more night in the free spot. It was pretty nice, despite the fact that Lee’s shoes got stolen. We were the lucky ones though, another couple in a rental van got their passport stolen that final night and we were glad that on the most part we had been very careful to secure our stuff. 

We headed off the next day, our batteries in desperate need of charging. The free spot offered no solar whatsoever, and we needed to get some charge after spending a few nights there. Waking up to find the batteries had shut themselves down as they were so low we headed off as soon as possible. When we drove however, we were rather disappointed to see that the battery charger went straight into ‘absorption’ mode after a very short time. With the batteries on less that 10%, that definitely wasn’t right. It was also pretty irritating to complete a long four hour drive down the peninsula and still be struggling for power at the end of it when we arrived in Montezuma. 

Yet another lovely free each spot is just a few kilometres from to the town. You park up under palm trees on the shoreline. Our friends weren’t there yet and so we shared this gorgeous spot with just one another camper. 

The trees and sea were alive with birds, none of which I know the names of.

As ever on the west coast, we witnessed another fantastic sunset.

As lovely as this spot was, it yet again offered no sun. We decided in the morning we would check out the spots on the other side of the bay, for now we enjoyed the evening colours and sound of the waves.

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