Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

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Like my brownhouse:
   Samara Beach
Saturday, February 16 2019

location: Casa Trogon, Agua Vista Lodging, Montezuma, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Today was my 51st birthday, so of course Gretchen had made plans for celebrating that took into account the sorts of things I like to do, though through the prism of things she likes to do. I'm something of a homebody who might just as soon sit around the casita all day doing what I otherwise would and then maybe go out for dinner, which wouldn't be terribly unusual on any other day. But Gretchen had a road trip planned to the west side of the Nicoya Peninsula. This would, given the quality of the roads we'd be driving on, take hours, though the distance covered would be less than 60 miles.
After a leisurely morning of (for me) the usual coffee, toast, and internet noodling, we set out, heading towards Cobano on the Montezuma Road. Not far along that, we saw a large elegant doglike creature that looked to be coyote doing its thing, unconcerned about traffic. Gretchen was sure it must be a dog, but its tail bent downward, which domestic dog tails never do.
We had a bunch of business in Cobano, since it is more of town than Montezuma. I don't think Montezuma has a bank, and it definitely doesn't have a gas station or farmacia. First Gretchen pulled a bunch of colones out of the bank, then we filled up the gas tank with regular (not the fancy stuff, though we'd been warned by the car rental company not to) at Cobano's one gas station (a Mobil). Then, on the way out of town, Gretchen got two more bottles of ear drops for swimmer's ear, even though that problem seems to have completely cleared up.
The roads became terrible even before we were out of Cobano. I think rotten asphalt is the worst surface to drive on, because the pot holes that develop in them can be of any depth. Once we were out of town, Gretchen could drive faster because the surface was gravel. It tended to be washboardy at times, and here and there would be bad patches with deep undulations, but then there would be stretches of relatively smooth sailing again, and we could go as much as 50 kilometers per hour.
Even before we'd left the town limits of Cobano, I seemed to be demonstrating all the signs of heightened anxiety, the inenvitable result of being a passenger in a car being driven in Costa Rica. So Gretchen had pulled over and given me a xanax. It was as much for her as it was for me.
Our initial goal was the beach at San Miguel, and on the way there we passed through incredibly remote terrain. I don't think we saw another motorist for a good half hour as we made four different river fords and climbed over at least one mountain. None of the mountains were that high, but they were steep and jagged. The land was mostly being used to graze cattle (that white droopy-eared Indian breed that can develop a hump), though there was a large section where a monocrop of trees had been planted as some sort of reforestation project. Other than the presence of cows and tree farms, there wasn't much evidence of human presence other than the occasional crude cattle corral system.
Normally in and around Montezuma Gretchen and I listen to a local radio station whose tagline is "Bésame" and specializes in romantic and heartbreak music, mostly in Spanish. But here in the center of the peninsula, the only station we could get played mostly 80s-era American pop with occasional 90s hits (such as Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket"). Most of the music was fairly white, though there was one early hip hop song in the mix.
After the roads, though still gravel, became a little less rough, we arrived at our first destination, a restaurant/bar called Pizza Tree. Its hook was that its restaurant space was up a set of stairs on a platform up in a tree. Gretchen knows I like pizza and, as a separate matter, I also like treehouses. How cool would it be to see them combined? Unfortunately, though Pizza Tree is supposed to open at 11:00am (which it was), it was not and we were told to come back in an hour.
So we drove to our next destination, a bar on San Miguel Beach called LocosCocos Cevicheria, supposedly (according to the Lonely Planet guide) one of the best beach bars in all of Costa Rica. Unfortunately, it too was running on Costa Rican time and was not yet open. So we walked out to the beach, one of the most beautiful we had ever seen. It was completely undeveloped and here on this Saturday, there were only a handful of people visible for as far as the eye could see. After walking across the scorching hot sand, we continued into the ocean, which was a little warmer than it had been back at Montezuma beach (and considerably warmer than our plunge pool). By the time we returned to LocosCocos (whose kitchen is housed in a faded red shipping container), it was open. Gretchen found the guy who ran the place gruff and slightly unpleasant, mostly because he insisted in communicating in English. Earlier today I'd been asking if it was even possible to get french fries in Costa Rica, and Gretchen had said something similar (yucca fries) would be here at LocosCocos. But then it turned out that they didn't have yucca fries (which I'd been excited about) but had french fries instead. So we got a big plate of those, which came with a side of a delicious and unusual pickles soaking in a pickle juice that was better than ketchup when applied to a french fry. Gretchen also got me a local Costa Rican IPA called Conejo Mago. (It didn't really suit my grapefruity preferences.) Meanwhile, a cute little dog lingered for a prolonged ear scratch. According to his name tag, he went by "Churi."
When we were finished at LocosCocos, we returned to Pizza Tree. The guy who runs that place is thick and friendly and seems to have an Italian accent when speaking English, which he did (perhaps despite Gretchen's preference, though this helped with my comprehension of what he was saying). When we saw him flicking his towel at a mid-sized lizard, we protested that the presence of the lizard in the tree was not to our disliking. This resulted in the telling of a story. Apparently when the the pizza guy first set up Pizza Tree, there was a large iguana who would frequent the place. At first everything was great and the iguana even got a name ("Arturo"). But then one day, probably after lots of customers had spoiled the iguana with bits of pizza, Arturo boldly snatched a whole slice from someone and ran off. Arturo was banished from Pizza Tree after that. And there were similar tales about magpie-jays.
Gretchen ordered us a pizza with mushrooms and olives and what not, but (since there was no vegan cheese) cheese-free. I thought the pizza was excellent, and I didn't even miss the cheese because there was a picante oil I could drizzle on my slices to give them that delightful oily quality. As we ate, a friendly magpie-jay sat on a perch only five feet away, eyeing us closely. When the pizza was gone and we hadn't given him or her any of it, he or she flew away in disgust.
For beers, I'd stuck with Imperial, which is more compatible with the climate of Costa Rica than any other beers I'd tried. Gretchen ordered an Imperial Light, but beer isn't really her thing, especially these days, so I ended up drinking both of them.
For some reason our mapping applications died as we headed towards Samara, our next destination. We ended up following a route a bit further inland than expected, and at some point the road (and a river) just ended, having run up against the edge of what Google Maps had downloaded. But when Gretchen asked some lady, she was told to keep driving the way we were driving. Someone at a tire shop gave a few simple instruction that dumped us out on a properly-paved asphalt road that even had a yellow stripe down the middle. Soon we were at the coast, driving past the beautiful (and undeveloped) Playa Carrillo. Visitors to the beach were parked in the median between east and west bound lanes, and there was plenty of parking for more people. Such a beach in the United States would be mobbed and despoiled.
Samara was the next town up the beach, and it had more of a downtown than any of the other beachtowns we'd visited. Its streets were bustling in that way that made me want another xanax as Gretchen drove through it. Our destination was the Hotel Samara Tree House Inn, which Gretchen had specifically selected for its tree houses and beach proximity. After some very tight parking behind the Tree House Inn's gates, Gretchen signed us in. The plan had been to get a room in one of the "treehouses" with a view of the beach. The place didn't really have treehouses; what it had were little buildings up on stilts and (unlike at Pizza Tree) there were no living trees that were part of any structure. Then it turned out that all the "treehouses" were taken and the only room available was one next to the pool (which had a view of the pool; not great for privacy).
Soon after setting up in our room, Gretchen and I went out through the gate to the beach. It was a wide beach with an unusually shallow slope, meaning one could wade pretty far off shore before the water became too deep to stand on the bottom. The water was warm, though not (as Gretchen is too quick to say) "like bathwater." [REDACTED]
I didn't really want to do all that much after all the bone-jarring travel, but Gretchen set out on foot to explore the town and maybe buy some produce or something. But all she managed to find was a bottle of kombucha for me (I'd asked her to maybe find me an interesting microbrew). As the sun was going down, Gretchen convinced me to go to the beach with her to watch it. Because the Samara Beach is south-facing, the sunset actually happened behind a landform at the west end of the Bay of Samara, behind a bank of clouds that incandesced purplish orange. Most of our conversation was about the cuteness of the various dogs we could see, including a brindle three-legged pitbull whom we would get a chance to pet after dinner.
Gretchen had me excited about some taco place with vegan options nearby, but once I learned there was a vegan-only burger place called Luv Burger, I wanted to go there. So we walked there via the beach (I wasn't even wearing shoes). I was liking how Samara was setup, with lots of beach-facing businesses, allowing the beach to serve as something of a mainstreet or downtown mall.
At Luv Burger, the waitress was almost apologetic as she told us that all the food was vegan. I ordered The Classic, which came with lots of great things including cucumber, pickle, and jalapeño, to which I added avocado. I also ordered spicy cajun-style yucca fries. All of it was amazing. I may have had yucca fries before, but if so, I don't remember them being so great. These were perfectly fried and had a nice, vaguely fibrous starchiness about them that really worked with the aoili and cajun sauce. As for Gretchen, she orderd the Luvburger Tacos, which looked really good. For drinks, I stuck with what works in Costa Rica: Imperial.
Meanwhile, there was a guy playing guitar and occasionally singing over a pre-recorded track that included drums, bass, and somewhat cheesy orchestration (in keeping with the somewhat cheesy catalog; it included a cheesed-up version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are.") There was a table of older women, all of whom were drinking wine and not eating anything. As I looked around, I saw that we were in fact the only ones actually eating dinner. It was a little early for dinner, but I think Luv Burger's prime beachside location attracted a lot of people who were just there for drinks. I commented to Gretchen that a gigolo could probably do brisk business hanging around Luv Burger at this time of the evening.
A fat woman who had been sitting with the middle-aged wine-drinking ladies had moved on to another table, causing Gretchen to remark that she must know a lot of people. But then the fat lady came over to talk with us. It turned out that she was the manager of this Luv Burger (there's another one in San Jose), and that she is basically an ex-pat from British Columbia. She quickly admitted that she isn't vegan or even vegetarian, but is perhaps drifting in that direction. She then started talking about how Costa Rica is a good place to be when society collapses, because one can always get mangos and fish here should the grocery stores prove unable to fill their shelves. She then went off on some tangent about how environmentalists trying to stop a pipeline from Alberta are being foolish because society depends on oil. It was a weird turn to take, especially with a pair of vegans who were likely to be on the side of the environmentalists, particularly given that the pipeline in question was carrying oil from the mining of tar sands, which only a global-warming denier could support. Gretchen resisted a little but quickly decided she didn't want to be having an argument with a clueless stranger on my birthday while we're both on vacation. When the woman mentioned "Nicaragua run," I remembered Chris and Steve talking about having to do this to keep all their Costa Rican immigration paperwork in order. I asked if she was doing that for the same reason. She said she was, every 90 days. This begged the question of how she can even be working in Costa Rica, as apparently the rules are very strict against non-citizens (the people who have to do "Nicaragua runs") having jobs that can be done by a Costa Rican, but I never got a chance to explore this issue further. In the end, fat manager lady said she was trying to make this operation run a little tighter and a little more North-American-style so that customers wouldn't have to, say, ask for "la cuenta." But, as Gretchen was quick to point out after the fat manager woman was gone, people here in Costa Rica have come to expect to have to ask for la cuenta. I actually don't like to linger in a restaurant after eating, so I'm with the manager on that point. But Gretchen and I are both in agreement that the single best thing that the fat manager lady can do to make Luv Burger Samara a better dining experience is to not linger too long at the tables of people who just want to eat their fucking meal in peace.

Backroads somewhere between Cobano and Playa San Miguel. It's hard to believe we traveled nearly 60 miles on such roads today. Click to enlarge.

Gretchen and me at Pizza Tree.

A dove in the pool at Hotel Samara Tree House Inn. The pool includes a wide shallow shelf perfect for doves and grackles to bathe upon.

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