So I left off last time with a picture of a monkey, our arrival in Tamarindo and the subtle suggestion that there may be trouble ahead. I do spin a good yarn, don’t I? Well, dear readers, all will now be revealed. First of all, two conclusions we quickly drew about the Pacific town of Tamarindo.
Conclusion #1: surfing is all anyone cares about in this town. By extension, there are surf-brand clothes shops and beach restaurants and juice bars where you’ll often see white-nosed, shirtless patrons enjoying an ice-cold beverage between waves; but more or less, everyone is just surfing, all the time.
Conclusion #2: the most striking thing people don’t care about here is common courtesy. People in Tamarindo are, on the whole, just plain rude. In our hostel (/surf camp, whoops), the staff were unapproachable and aloof, and the guests were standoffish, ignoring our friendly daily greetings. In town, the aggressively persistent street vendors responded grumpily when we declined to buy their cigars. In the local businesses, we were served frosty smoothies by frostier girls who were clearly counting down the minutes until their shift ended and they could grab their surfboards or their surf bros and go for one ride or another*. In the supermarket, when I handed over a 10,000-colon ($20) note to pay for a couple of sodas, the cashier cocked her head, held her breath for many seconds and brewed up the most exasperated sigh I’ve ever received from someone whose job it is to serve customers. I got my revenge, though: when she grumpily dumped the apparently unreasonable amount of change in my hand, I shoved it in my purse, gave her one of my signature ‘withering looks’ and stomped off without so much as a ‘gracias’ or a ‘pura vida’. Hah! That’ll show her.
*I’m aware that this is probably an unfair assumption. However, judging by next-door’s loud girl-noises which we were unfortunate enough to be subjected to at half-hourly intervals, it would appear that Conclusion #1 might be better off conceding: ‘the only things anyone cares about in this town are surfing and orgasms’. (Admittedly, it didn’t actually seem like this girl was doing much of either, though not for lack of effort). Awkk.
However, despite everything I’ve girned about so far, our stay in Tamarindo really was quite pleasant. There were three showers each for men and women, so there was no queue when we rose at 9am. The common area boasted a cool lounge seating space, large LCD TV and a pool table. The room had air-conditioning (REAL air-conditioning, not a plug-in fan), which I’d say worked at least 60% of the time. And the hotel was only 10 minutes’ walk from the beach.
Now, this was more like it. The beach was exactly what’ you’d expect to find in a Pacific surfer town: good-sized waves, plenty of nice breeze and vendors everywhere offering everything from sodas to surf lessons. We wandered down there and frolicked in the lukewarm water, playing in the waves and breaking out Grant’s snorkel mask so he could introduce me to the concept of breathing underwater before we booked our snorkelling tour. It was such a weird sensation to see underwater bubbles and my hands floating in front of me, yet to be able to breathe at the same time. I was nervous and jumpy at first, and my breaths sharp and uneven; soon though, I began to relax into the experience and let Grant guide me around while I floated face-down in the sea.
I don’t have any photos of the Tamarindo beach, unfortunately. I didn’t want to take my camera down there because we’d have to leave it on the sand if we went into the water, and it would surely get stolen. And then we would be camera-less and photo-less because, if you hadn’t already guessed, Grant took out his camera to photograph those monkeys during the Monteverde-Tamarindo bus ride, and never packed it back away again. Our first of three mornings in the beach town, we decided to take Grant’s camera to the shore instead of mine since his was cheaper; but after 15 minutes of turning the room upside down, it began to look like we might not have that option. The camera was not there. I continued searching long after Grant had given in, but eventually admitted defeat and called the bus company.
“They’ll have swiped it by now,” he said; “They’re not going to hand over a $150 camera if they can get away with it”.
“Nonsense,” I replied, “They’re a legitimate company with a reputation to uphold, and besides, the driver was lovely and friendly (even if he did take twice as long to get us here than we’d been told)”.
I called, and they claimed they didn’t have it. I insisted that their bus was the only place it could be, and they said another tourist must have stolen it. Grant asked me to call back three times that day (as I was the team translator) and I explained that we’d ridden up front where nobody usually rides, because I get car sick. We were assured that the buses were thoroughly checked and cleaned after every day, and nothing had been found.
I was in tears: all our photos were gone. The majority of those we had taken were on Grant’s camera because it’s lighter and more convenient: all of the pictures from the volcano hike, everything from The Springs Resort, and a lot of the cute, random snapshots like the one of me being a bull in La Fortuna. Grant, too, said the price of the camera was irrelevant, as we only needed the memory card. While I was tearful, he was pissed, and promptly got on his iPod and wrote an irate review of the company; a tirade of complaints and indignation.
I begged him not to post it, not yet; reasoned that maybe they hadn’t cleaned the front seating area because passengers don’t usually sit there, and that they just didn’t want to admit after they’d said they’d looked everywhere that they really hadn’t; warned him that if he posted that review they’d know it was from us and they wouldn’t want to help us even if they did find it. He agreed to keep the review saved for one more day, and I called the company again. I wanted closure that we wouldn’t see the pictures again; wanted to speak to the driver himself for confirmation; but they must have thought I was going to hurl accusations and abuse at him because they wouldn’t let me talk to him. I left them our email addresses and the name of our hostel in Tamarindo in case they found it, but they didn’t seem very hopeful, and neither were we.
~ * ~
We tried our best to forget about the camera. I gave the hostel owner a note of our email addresses in case the bus company called after we’d left; Grant agreed to delay publishing his review until we arrived in Manuel Antonio, and we moved on, knowing we’d done what we could. We went to the beach, we played pool in the hostel, and Grant booked himself in for a scuba dive. He’d achieved his PADI certification when he was in Australia, but I had no such experience so I stayed on the shore and wrote in my blogging notebook while he sailed off over the horizon. It began to rain and I retired to our room at the hostel, where I paced around, antsy because I hadn’t been away from him for so long in two weeks.
Two mornings later, and 15 minutes before we departed from La Oveja Negra where we were staying, the maid knocked on our door and said there was a phone call for Megan. I went through to take the call at the front desk and received the news that the camera had been found! Joy of joys, and luck of luck! We hugged, we danced, we grinned, and we thought about how if the company had called 20 minutes later we probably would never have found it because, as I said, the staff there seemed aloof and I had little confidence that the man to whom I gave our email addresses would have passed on the message.
I explained to the company that they’d have to send the camera to Manuel Antonio instead of Tamarindo, because that was where we’d be headed in 15 minutes. Thankfully, being a shuttle bus company, they operated a service to Manuel Antonio and said they’d put the camera on the shuttle. It would get there at one. I said can you leave it at the desk because we won’t get there until two. They said no but we’ll just drop it off tomorrow. I said ok.
Then we got on a minibus and went to Manuel Antonio; but not before switching buses at a rest stop only to be ambushed by at least five scarlet macaws. We scrambled for my camera and took photos and a couple of videos of some of nature’s most majestic winged kings. I marvelled, unable to quite believe that nobody had put them there – that they were just scavenging for food, like Edinburgh’s crows and pigeons, because they knew that if they showed up where there were humans about, we’d never tire of feeding them. And sure enough, of course, people tossed crumbs and crisps and cream crackers from all directions, and they feasted like the royalty they truly seemed to be.
Check back later for news on Manuel Antonio itself (hint: it was everything that rocked about Tamarindo with none of the crap). Or, if you’ve tired of checking back for updates, subscribe by clicking the subscribe button in the right-hand sidebar, or by typing in my URL (meganmadill.wordpress.com) in the search bar of your feedreader*.
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Lots of love,