The border crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica went relatively smoothly. We figured out the beta for dodging the “fixers” and did not have to pay a single bribe to get through. We did make the mistake of trying to process Savannah’s import permit around 2 PM though, when everyone working in the customs office was out for lunch. Car insurance is mandatory in Costa Rica, so the total cost of importation was around $45. As soon as we crossed into Costa Rica, we grabbed a pizza and headed for the beach!
Over the next couple of days we tried our hand at surfing. We rented foam surf boards for 24 hours from a local surf shop in Nosara – we both tried the “intermediate” foam boards first, which were around 7 feet long. Nosara was definitely a bougey tourist town with steep prices for places to stay, eat out, and shop. We decided to camp at the end of a sandy road that led to the beach where we just had to tip a local guy to watch the van while we were out and about. He did ask if Savannah’s glass was shatterproof since there were acts of vandalism and theft in the area. It’s not, but we took our chances and figured no one would break in at night if it was clear we were sleeping inside. Despite the priciness of the area, we did shop around a bit. I bought a new swimsuit (I haven’t bought one for myself in years), and Andre gifted me some Birkenstock sandals as a birthday present. I had worn my previous ones into the ground (they featured a lot in my South Africa posts). After seeing just how awesome these shoes are, Andre even purchased himself a pair!
We both felt like we could have surfers deep down inside of us, and perhaps this was the chance to uncover them. But… surfing turns out to be really hard, even with big foam boards. I was able to hop up onto my feet on the first little wave I tried to catch, but I fell every single time after through the rest of our afternoon. On my last topple into the ocean, I got caught and turned over by the wave and then got whacked on the head with the underside of the board, which is made out of fiberglass. On the impact, I also bit my tongue. Head throbbing and mouth tasting like blood I trudged out with the board in tow and Andre close behind me – he had heard the board hit my head despite being a few sets of waves away. Instantly it turned into a big goose egg. I was worried at first how bad I had bit my tongue, but it turned out to just be a little chunk that was missing. Andre fetched some ice for my head and swapped out my board for a longer, more beginner-y one. I basically pouted on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, bummed that it didn’t seem like I could uncover the surfer in me. I did however truly enjoy Andre’s attempts to find the surfer in him. He even paddled way out where the pros were! But as I watched him get owned by each wave and rocketed off his board, I could see he was also struggling to find surfer Andre. Eventually, once he fought through the big wave break, he laid on the surf board and boogie boarded all the way back in. We both tried one more time that evening without much luck. Every evening a big rain storm would roll through, so that was our quitting point for the day.
The next morning though, with some grit and determination, we took the boards out again and we both were able to stand up and ride the little waves! No near concussions or bit tongues, hurt dignity or mouths full of water. We were actually laughing and having fun while we rode the little waves back to the shore. Maybe we found a hint of surfers in us, but we both decided it’s a hell of a lot of work to not really go anywhere. You paddle out, then ride back in, then paddle out, and ride back in. I think the reasons I got into rock climbing/canyoneering/backpacking/etc is that they are cool ways to get to new places – like a novel way to explore a landscape. It was super cool to stand on a board on top of the wave and look towards the beach, so I guess it was still exploring an ocean landscape, but in small stints. Anyway, long story short it was a really fun way to spend time on the coast but we don’t think we’ll be buying surfboards anytime soon. And my head still hurts.
I lost my earring that I bought in Namibia while surfing, so that was sad (post on how I got it, here). But honestly it felt like only a matter of time since I never take it out and drag it through caves and up climbs and into oceans. The matching one is still with my friend in Belgium, so I had to share the sad news with him (he also expected it to happen someday though). Andre and I found a small jewelry shop in Nosara and bought a small pair of hoop earrings. One for my now empty pierced hole and one for Andre’s cartilage piercing. They were a set made of melted down silver made in Nicaragua and fit the bill!
We also discovered that van life on the beach is a bit romanticized. It’s really awesome to be so close and hear the waves crashing all night, but it’s also pretty tough to keep all that sand out of the van. The sheets were full of sand… the seats, the pillows, the floor – all sandy. And it was about 90 degrees during the day which made for long, sweaty nights. We did have our sun shower at least to rinse off the salt water before hopping into bed, which definitely helped. We originally thought we’d spend a few more days on the beach, but the thought of fresh mountain air and cooler temps up higher was too tempting.
We spent the last night in Nosara in a hotel called “The Flying Alligator” and enjoyed a cool room and private shower. It took awhile and some false leads on Airbnb but finally we were able to relax and not fight the heat and sand.
The next day we headed off for San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. We’ve been here now for three nights parked outside of Finca Escalante Hostel. It has felt nice to finally relax and stop moving, though with that also comes restlessness. We’ve binged Netflix, Andre got his matching hoop in his ear and one in his nose, and we’ve been planning our next moves. San Jose has a few breweries so it’s been fun to try some local beer! Andre prefers Sangria to beer.
We really want to do a climb in Cerro Chirripo but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to swing a last minute reservation for the park/basecamp lodge, we’ll see! We’re also finalizing plans with an agent to share a shipping container with another van couple to ship our vehicles across the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia. Our target date is December 11th, so between now and then we’ll be resting and playing in Costa Rica and Panama.
Andre’s post here!
Updated map of campsites, here 🙂