This past weekend was fantastic. Friday I woke up super early, at 4:30am. Not soon after, from behind the gate out on the street, Julie began calling my name through my bedroom window. I quickly gathered my bag and filled up a water bottle. On my way out, in the dark I grabbed my keys, proceeded to stub my toe on some baseboard, and then fumbled with unlocking and locking back up an assortment of fortifications: the wooden front door, then the metal grille beyond, and finally the exterior “garage” sliding gate – each with their own key.

We started walking and hailed the bus on which we found John Marc and Hunter, two other of the projects’ interns, already aboard. After picking up the project team at a nearby B & B, we drove to the Hilton in downtown San Jose. There we waited, and at 6am arrived the Calypso tour bus.

We journeyed out of San Jose and began climbing into the mountains. Back and forth we wound, the picturesque hills coming in and out of view. After a few more stops to gather a few more tourists, we pulled off the road into a tiny parking lot hugging a steep hillside. It was a cafe & gift shop. As if we were entering the cafeteria at elementary school, we grabbed red trays from a stack and lined up for some breakfast. Eggs, gallo pinto (rice & beans), toast, fruit, coffee & juice were served – a pretty satisfying breakfast truth be told.

The ceiling was made up of wooden planks and small spaces were evident between them. All of a sudden Hunter yelled, “Look, there’s a monkey!” We all whipped around to see a shadow of a tail near the corner of the room. Then a shape began moving in the rafters, and a tail dipped down through the boards.

“That’s not a monkey,” I said, “it’s a possum!” The tail was long, thin, hairless and beige. Possums were crawling around in the ceiling while we were eating breakfast below. Curious.

We loaded back on the bus, and the tour guide entertained us with anecdotes about our immediate destination, Puntarenas. The town was built on a peninsula that stretched out into the Pacific. Because the ground was so soft on the peninsula, buildings could only be built up to three stories high otherwise they’d sink under their own weight. At this port town our boat awaited.

A big white catamaran floated in the water at the end of the dock. We stowed our bags below near the bar, and then made our way up to the captain’s helm. Bob Marley danced from the speakers as the catamaran motored out to sea. Calypso crew walked around with trays offering cut pineapple, papaya and bananas. The sun shone hotly down, and much to my dismay I found out later how lacking my sun screen skills really were that morning in front of the bathroom mirror.

We lazed for the hour and a half trip as the boat crossed the Nicoya Bay. Slowing down, we rounded an large outcropping, and came upon a semi-secluded beach. Bleached umbrellas dotted the creamy white sand and small fishing boats bobbed in the teal water.

Beach at Tortuga Islands

Beach at Tortuga Islands

After a small announcement from the tour guide about a conch shell being blown later to signal lunch was prepared, I headed for the water. Straightaway, I got in right up to my neck, kicking my feet back and letting the salt water buoy me up. The water was lukecool, only just enough to relieve the heat of the day on my skin.

Ahhh. Sun, sand, sea. The idyllic triumvirate.

I went and grabbed my beach towel and Cruising World, and made my way around the far side of the beach to a quieter spot. I read an article about sailing in the Apostle Islands, and thought how backwards the situation was: usually I’m in the Midwest, reading a magazine about a place like a beach in Costa Rica… not the opposite.

Lunch was delicious. White tablecloths and parachute canopies created an upscale atmosphere for our dining pleasure. (That was so out of a swank resort brochure, no?!) Dessert included cake with pineapple glaze and a cup of Costa Rican coffee.

Chicken & tasty sauce with fried plantains and rice.

Chicken & tasty sauce with fried plantains and rice.

Immediately after lunch we sneakily laid claim to a group of hammocks with a view to the beach. Underneath them a wild baby wart hog snoozed away. Really!!

Laying in the hammocks.  Warthog below.

Laying in the hammocks. Warthog below.

As the sun hung lower in the sky, I dug into an Angels & Demons paperback. Such guilty pleasure fiction I hadn’t read in a long time. Julie, Hunter and John Mark splashed around in the water playing frisbee, periodically entertaining me with voraciously failed attempts at diving for the disc.

Around 3:30pm we climbed back on the boat. The wind was still warm blowing through our salty hair. As if on cue, a gorgeous sunset topped off our lovely excursion.

Another day for the memory books.

(To see all of the photos from this trip, you can either view them on this blog at the photos page , or my flickr site.)