Wednesday December 14: Uvita
The Water is Really Warm
I probably shouldn't have ended my previous day’s entry saying "it would be good if tomorrow morning was overcast". We woke up with it spitting out. We got up and went down for breakfast, and it looked like we were back in the cloud forest, with clouds wafting through the valley and obscuring the ridge next to us.
Halfway through breakfast, around 7:30, our guide showed up. We weren't expecting him until about 8 to 8:15. He joined us for breakfast. We finished eating and headed up to put on sun block and change clothes.
Amy took a Covid test that the guide had, and fortunately it came out negative.
We got out around 8:10, which was right on time. The national park kayak place was only about 10 minutes away, but we passed through areas of light rain, and it was raining lightly when we got there. Sam was not impressed.
Then there was a period of intense confusion. The guide was talking a lot to the woman there, and talking on the phone. It was all in Spanish, of course, so we had no idea what was going on.
It turns out that there had been some mis-information/schedule confusion. Our guide thought that we were supposed to be there at 8:30, but the kayak guide thought it was 11:30. Apparently they usually go out at low tide, and it was now high tide. After a bunch of discussion, we had a discussion with the guide, and the new plan was to head back to the hotel and chill for a couple of hours. Then we would return for the kayaking at 11:30. That would push us too late for the hike, so we'll do the hike tomorrow morning, on the way back to San Jose.
The alternative would have been to do the hike in the morning, and then come back to do the kayaking in the afternoon. We thought that it was better splitting the activities, because the thought of hiking through a light rain didn't really grab us. We were hoping that the weather would improve by 11:30 for the kayaking, and then tomorrow would be drier for the hike. Also, it would give us something to do tomorrow other than just drive, and we wouldn't have to worry about changing from wet kayaking clothes to hiking clothes at the kayak place.
As Amy put it, the silver lining was that we were only ten minutes from the hotel, and not something like an hour away.
So we went back to the hotel, and I just lay down and dozed for about an hour. I think Amy was looking through her bird book, or pictures, or Facebook.
Just after 10, I heard a rumble of a cart coming along the walkway, and then there was a tap on the door. As expected, it was housekeeping. This was my cue to stop dozing, come down to the pool area, and write up the morning chronicle. Amy is up by reception looking at birds, no doubt. Sam just escaped to the porch.
We met up with the guide at 11:15 and drove back to the kayak place. At that point, the rain had definitely stopped, and it was partially sunny.
We filled out the paperwork and walked down to the beach. Our guide, Jose, was not joining us. It was just going to be the three of us and the kayak guide.
On the way to the beach, the guide showed us an interesting plant. When you brushed/jostled the leaves, it would curl up tightly, almost like a Venus flytrap closing. After a while, it would apparently unroll.
We were expecting tandems, but we found ourselves with 4 single sit-on kayaks. Sam was not thrilled. She wanted to immediately bail, and it was only with some difficulty that we talked her into continuing.
After some basic instruction, which Amy and I didn't need, we put on our life jackets and headed out. I went first, with the guide helping to push me through the surf. Jose had told us that we would get wet. I decided to do that immediately. I was almost though the surf line, and I ran into a large wave that was just breaking. It was like someone threw a large bucket of water in my face. Yup, I was wet all right.
I waited out beyond the breakers for Sam and then Amy to come out, and then the guide joined us. Off the coast at that point, there is a large rocky ridge running parallel to the coast. It is about 2km long, and a good portion of it stays above the water even at high tide. In the center, there is a sandy bar that runs from the beach to the ridge. Like in Bar Harbor, this bar is exposed at low tide. Then, the whole thing looks sort of like a capital T, and it is called the Whale's Tail. One reason that they like to go kayaking at low tide is that the tail acts like a natural breakwater, and so the water between the tail and the beach is very calm.
Getting into the kayak, I had waded out into knee-deep water, and I was amazed at how warm the water was. I think it was warmer than when we were at the Virgin Islands.
Sam was not particularly good or interested in paddling, and eventually she ended up getting towed by the guide. We paddled out to the tail. I sort of expected that we would parallel the tail and look for wildlife (we saw lots of brown pelicans sitting on rocks), but instead we stayed clear of the rocks and paddled over to that exposed bar, where there was a relatively sandy beach. The beaches there seemed to be very, very gradual, so that you could walk out quite a distance and still only be up to your knees.
The process for going in was to line up perpendicular to the beach/surf, and then just zoom in. By accident, I found that if I was going just slower than a big swell, it would pick me up, and I would sort of surf the wave in. It felt really neat to be doing no work and being pushed in at a reasonably high speed.
We landed and pulled our boats up on the beach. The guide asked what we wanted to do, and there was a period of confusion. Eventually, I spoke up and volunteered that I would want to try some snorkeling. I don't know why, but I was thinking that the guide had one mask/snorkel, and that we would have to take turns. The guide was ahead of us, however, because he had four of them.
I found that the mask actually fit me very well, and it was pretty darned water tight. I've found that my face is fairly narrow, and a lot of masks are too wide and don't seal against my face very well.
We then did a bit of snorkeling. Again, the water was amazingly warm, although not quite as warm as at the volcano spa. The problem was that with the waves, there was a lot of "stuff" in the water, and so there wasn't great visibility. We swam over toward the "tail", but I found that there were large rocks just under the surface, and you couldn't really see them until you were just on top of them. There wasn't a lot of surf, but with the gentle swells, you would bob up and down a bit. I was afraid I would skin my knees on the rocks, so I told Amy that I was heading in, and proceeded inward. I did manage to see a little coral sticking to the rocks, and a very few fish, but that was enough for me.
I went in, got my kayak, and went back out into the surf. I spent the next while paddling out, and then trying to catch a good wave and surf in. The main problem was that with the wave pushing the stern, and the bow cutting through the water, if you weren't perfectly straight, the water would try to twist the kayak to be parallel to the surf.
Sam had been hanging out in the water, playing in the waves, but at one point, Sam got out her kayak and tried a little surfing as well. It was good to see her getting a little more comfortable in the kayaks. That didn't last too long, however.
I did this for a while, until I got too cocky. The kayaks were incredibly stable, but being parallel to a big breaking wave is enough to flip the thing. The water was very shallow, and I was in no danger, but somehow in the midst of going over, I managed to sprain/strain/damage my left thumb. The only good part is that we're near the end of the trip.
I decided, after righting my kayak, that I had had enough, so I paddled in and joined Amy and Sam looking at tide pools. A little went a long way for me, and I felt bad spending most of the time for a "kayak tour" playing on the beach.
I found a number of rocks, each with a large number of almost perfectly cylindrical holes in it. I asked the guide about them. Apparently the rock is somewhat soft, and sea creatures (slowly) make the holes.
We decided to kayak back. I had been hoping that Sam would paddle back, but once we got through the surf, Sam asked for a tow again. We just paddled straight back to the beach where we had started, sort of the hypotenuse of our earlier triangle.
Coming in to the beach, without really trying I caught a really good wave, and it shot me forward. I was really enjoying the speed, when I flipped again. That made twice for me, and none for anyone else. At least this time, I didn't hurt myself further.
I had worn a light long-sleeved shirt over my bathing suit, and between that and the sun block, I think I managed to avoid picking up too much more sun.
We walked to a small local place for a late lunch (it was about 3pm). We just ordered a pair of burgers and a cheese sandwich, and the place was basically empty, but it took them forever to prepare the food. (Interestingly, on the menu, in English it said "cheese sandwich", but in Spanish it said sandwich with "huevos" which would be an egg sandwich. Our guide talked to the waiter, and while we didn't clear things up (I suspect that Spanish was correct and the English was wrong), he ordered a cheese sandwich for Amy.
After a long wait, when we eventually got the food, Sam and I found that the burgers had interesting toppings. There was a slice of ham that looked more like Spam, and some onion rings.
Partway through the meal, Sam found a large crispy bug on her plate. At first, I was going to brush it off as a bit of ground beef, but it really looked like a fried bug. Sam was not impressed.
There is a common phrase among the Costa Ricans: "Pura Vida," meaning literally "the pure life". It is almost the national motto. It is sort of an all-purpose phrase. It can mean hello, goodbye, thank you, you're welcome, or a bunch of other things. It is sort of a generic exclamation. You might say, "that was fun", and the guide would reply, "pura vida".
I was wondering how something like that developed. I can't imagine it came from a national marketing campaign. From what our kayak guide said, it was said repeatedly by a main character in a popular movie, and so people started saying it themselves, and it spread. Now, not only do you hear it often, but you see it written everywhere.
After lunch, we drove back to the hotel and unloaded the van. Amy made arrangements with the guide for a 5:30am birding trip around the hotel grounds. I think I'll sleep through that.
We went into the room and took turns taking showers and rinsing out our clothes. I had just finished getting my clothes on, when I noticed from our porch that the sun was just setting. I put my normal lens on my SLR, took a few pictures from the porch, and then hurried down to the pool area. I took a bunch of pictures, but I wished I was there about 3-5 minutes earlier.
I went back up, dropped off my camera gear, got my laptop, and came down here to the pool area. I've been writing things up, enjoying the sunset, and taking a few more pictures (just with my phone). Our guide, Jose, stopped by, and we've been chatting while he had an earlier dinner. It is now about 6:30, so there is about an hour before dinner.
Around 7:20, I brought my laptop and Amy's camera and binoculars up to the room, and then came back with Sam. Jose said adios, and we had dinner.
Just as we were leaving to return to the room, all of the lights suddenly went out. There was darkness for about a second, and then the lights came on again. I asked one of the waiters why this happened. He said that he didn't know, but it was something about this area. Where he lived, it never happened, but for some reason it happens here all the time.
Just before we got to our room, Amy spied another large beetle on the sidewalk. This one was a bit narrower, I'm guessing a bit less than an inch, but a bit longer, maybe 3-4 inches long. It also had a yellow stripe down each side of its back. This time we got pictures of it.
Amy heard from Jose that when Danny got back to San Jose, he took a Covid test, and it came back negative. So apparently he came down with the flu or something, but not Covid itself.