Hello one and all.
I left you in the lurch a little too long with the camera thing, didn’t I? So long you’ve probably forgotten what that nagging feeling in the back of your mind is all about and why your shoulders are so tense. Well, don’t you worry, I’ll put it all to rest today: so grab a cup of tea, read on, and later you can go get yourself a massage or something.
We arrived in Manuel Antonio on what I’ll helpfully call ‘Day 1’. We settled in for what would be our longest stay in any one town, and Backpackers Manuel Antonio was a great place to spend it! At $35 each per night, it was the most expensive place we’d been, but you could see exactly where this money went: to the cleaning staff, to a well-manned reception, to the upkeep of the lovely garden and swimming pool; and to the free coffee and pancakes for breakfast. In fact, our only complaint was the heat, which after the REAL air conditioning in Tamarindo, was a challenge to come back to. But I’ll not go into that while my readers shiver away in their almost-December clothes, cursing me and my flushed little cheeks.
So, Day 1 was orientation day. We arrived quite late in the afternoon and didn’t have time for much more than settling in, getting supermarket supplies and photographing the sunset. Day 2 was similar; we booked our two activities and took a break from tourism to just hang out in the pool and pretty much just wait for the camera, which you may or may not remember was due to arrive that day.
It got to 2pm and we went to ask at reception if any cameras had arrived. They guy gave me a weird look and said ‘You must be Megan, right? Yeah, they came by yesterday!’. (He was referring to Day 1, the day we’d agreed they wouldn’t bring the camera because we wouldn’t arrive until after their shuttle left). I explained this and he shrugged and told me that the guy had brought it by at about 1pm, waited for us for nearly two hours, and then taken it away again.
I sighed. I called ShuttleBus. I asked them, ‘Wtf?’. They replied that they could send the driver to deliver it on Day 3, but since there was no trip to Manuel Antonio scheduled for that day, it would be a detour and we’d have to compensate him with $20. Whatever, I said, Just bring us the camera. This time they agreed to leave it at reception since we were already checked in; which was just as well since we had a tour booked for the day.
Grant’s dad had generously gifted us a horseback riding trip to the Tocori waterfalls with Iguana Tours (Thanks, Mr. Stubbins!); and we left in the morning on Day 3 to drive out to Don Gilberto’s ranch. The horses were the most obedient creatures I’d ever seen, never mind ridden, and my Morito was very keen and liked to be at the front of the group. This was great for me, as I managed to get quite a nice lively trot out of him for most of the way; in contrast, Grant’s horse Devil appeared very old and creaky, which was probably for the best since Grant had never ridden before.
The waterfalls themselves were enchanting, in that distinctly waterfall-y way. We waded in to the deep freshwater pools and enjoyed the cool misty spray; and we spent a good time just relaxing, refreshing ourselves and taking many photos before regrouping to return to the ranch, where we were served a delicious roast chicken casado. Casado is a traditional Costa Rican platter of rice and beans with finely-chopped veggies (‘picadillo’), a choice of red meat or chicken, and fried plantain.
Oh, by the way. I love plantain.
So after that fantastic meal, we were driven back to the hostel where the first thing we did was to ask for the camera. The receptionist shook his head and said ‘Todavía no’, so we waited another hour or so and then called the company again. They said he hadn’t shown up because there was no trip to Manuel Antonio scheduled that day. I said Yeah I know, that’s why we’re paying him $20 to bring it by specially. She said there was a trip scheduled for the next day (Day 4) so he’d bring it by then. I said, So we don’t have to pay the $20 then, right? She said yes you do. I said wtf, again.
So on Day 4, we left behind the $20 ransom money and went back to the beach. We’d stopped by on Day 2 to take pictures, but we’d vowed to come back valuable-less so we could go into the water without fear of losing our only remaining camera. We spent a good couple of hours at the shore before getting sick of it and heading back home to draw in our sketchbooky-travel-journal-type thing and then heading to Sancho’s for the best fish tacos in the realms of existence.
And yes, the camera finally did arrive that day. By this point we had become so sceptical that we were both pretty surprised to see it; we were also so over its discovery that we were barely even excited to receive it – just relieved to not have to call them for the nth time. But yes, that saga finally drew to a close on Day 4 of Manuel Antonio, a week after we had left it on the damned bus in the first place.
So after all that, we were left with only one full day left: Day 5. We’d booked a tour with Snorkelling Adventure, and we headed out bright and early for what ended up being essentially a private tour because we were the only ones booked.
I’d seen dolphins in the wild before, but never this close. They came right up to the little boat and played around, racing us and even showing off with a jump or two. For the umpteenth time, I was struck by the ingenuity of nature and how many different species of living, breathing creatures there are here.
How much can you say about seeing dolphins in the wild? Imagine you’re in a boat and a pod of dolphins is streaming along by your side: that’s pretty much what it was like. We had hoped to see some humpback whales, too, but they were nowhere to be seen. Looking back, I wish we’d managed to spot some, but at the time I remember just being impatient to get to the snorkelling.
We weren’t given a safety brief or anything: just flippers, snorkel masks and little pieces of pineapple to feed to the critters. We sat on the edge of the boat, swung our legs over the side and hopped in. (I was a little disappointed not to roll out backwards like in the movies: I guess that’s just for scuba diving).
Now, as I’ve mentioned, I had never been snorkelling before. I wasn’t really used to breathing underwater and I certainly wasn’t used to having large rubber paddles strapped to my feet, so I was very nervous and clumsy in the water. Thankfully, I had Grant there to keep me right, but I still ended up with some bumps and scrapes from where the waves pushed me up against the rock.
Our snorkelling was more or less oriented around one large rock and another smaller one, both of which possessed their own mini-ecosystems. There were corals, anemones and spiny black urchins clinging to the rock itself, no doubt packed with algae and plankton surviving off of them; and, of course, lots of tiny jolts of colour swimming round about, either individually or in rippling schools. Had I not been struck down by sea-sickness as soon as I clapped eyes on the species chart afterwards, I’d be able to tell you the name of the species of adorable electric-blue-and-yellow fish which nipped and pecked the fruit from our fingertips. All I know is, they were the cutest things ever and I wanted to turn into a mermaid and snuggle a whole bunch of them up to my face.
Ahem. Anyway. The seasickness thing was unfortunate, but the journey back was saved by the pineapple we were served by the helpful guide. I didn’t have a great big appetite, but this pineapple was so darn fresh and tasty I munched it all up anyway. No wonder the wee creatures had snatched it right out of our hands!
So on that positive note, we disembarked and prepared to head back to San Jose on the morning of Day 6. We had a couple of practical things to get sorted out, such as transporting my suitcase to San Ramon, before Grant flew back to the Land Of The Free a few days later; but I still have a couple more stories to tell. That’ll be my last ‘Last Month Of My Life’ post (I really should have picked a more flexible name for the series); and I aim to get it all wrapped up before I leave Costa Rica in two weeks’ time.
Take care of yourselves, readers, and thanks for making it through such a long account of our Manuel Antonio stay :P
Lots of love,