Although we relished the unexpected opportunity to visit Cahuita, we started to grow restless after a breezy week of idle strolls. We had nowhere to go until Tuesday the 11th of December - commencement date of our assignment with Planet Conservation in San Isidro del General. Thus, we woke up early on an unusually bright morning, decided to follow the trail of traditional tourism and headed south towards Puerto Viejo. Our main intention was to spend a placid day at the beach, for, despite all the attractions and entertaining possibilities, our budget had already suffered enough from the inflated touristic prices. Also, we wanted to find a hostel whose name we didn't remember, and whose owners we didn't personally know.
A few months ago, when we first made public our plans of embarking on our current voyage, Michael Pepple, a dear friend of ours, put us in contact with David Sloan and Danielle Kravetz, the owners of La Ruka, a friendly and accommodating lodge near Cocles beach, in the vicinity of Puerto Viejo. Regrettably, by the time we arrived in the unbridled, colorful enclave of Puerto Viejo, we had forgotten the name of the hostel, and had the wrong phone number. After a few futile attempts at asking for directions to hostel 'La Amistad' or 'La Alegria', I, stifled by the heat, gave up.
However, Julia, persistent as ever, amicably approached a store to inquire "one last time, otherwise we'll go to the beach." The shopkeeper, another Spaniard far from home, cordially invited us to use his computer to investigate further, as he, despite publishing a monthly local magazine, had never heard of the made up hostels which we were naming.
With the correct name but no directions, we continued our unguided walk to the beach. Then, as if it had magically appeared out of the jungle, we saw it: La Ruka. Dave and Danielle have recently acquired the locale from its cynical past owner, and now live there with Dave's brothers, who work as members of the friendly staff. La Ruka is the quintessence of its proud owners who, through love and dedication have created a home for themselves, and anyone who wishes it to be. Easily appreciated at first glance, the hostel is a harmonious assemblage of jubilation, relaxation and camaraderie.
Dave and Danielle were amusingly baffled with our sudden appearance. Following a brief introduction, they offered us a pair of dowdy bikes and sent us on our way to Manzanillo, a remote village where the streets end and paradise begins.
The easternmost spot in Costa Rica, Manzanillo is an appetizer of the gaudy wildlife that extends behind its kilometric beach. Lined with coconut trees, soothing waves and wooden dories, Playa Manzanillo ends gently as the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve begins. There, the prolific jungle is adamant to the frequent onslaught of the indomitable waves, who repeatedly smash against reef and rock, creating an instant raw spectacle for those who venture into the hidden treasures of fine sand. As one roams the hills outlining the coast, the serpentine roots of the corpulent, propitious trees serve as natural steps. Occasionally we would hear a vociferous troop of howler monkeys, but, despite its famed reputation as an animal sanctuary, we didn't see any animals, marine or terrestrial. Nonetheless, the breathtaking views were worth the bike ride.
Eventually, our fleeting visit to the Caribbean had to end. After two idyllic, gratifying nights in Puerto Viejo, we said goodbye to La Ruka and its endearing owners and returned to Cahuita. The next morning, we woke up early and sat out on the main road hoping to catch a ride, all the way to San Jose, where we had to find a bus that would take us to San Isidro del General.
After 45 minutes of potential cars bypassing our friendly sign, Julia stood up and determinedly announced: "the second car to appear is our ride". Astonishingly, the second car did pull over! The driver was another Spaniard, Juanca. The three of us enjoyed the road trip to San Jose, remembering our home country and cheerfully sharing our experiences in Costa Rica. After a long day of traveling, we stepped off the bus and were met by Federico Solorzano and Rafa Quesada, our colleagues and hosts in San Isidro del General. But that, our dear readers, is a whole 'nother story...