When Sophie and I went our separate ways, it was the final week of my trip. There was no one heading towards the Carribbean side of the country and I was determined to get to Tortuguero National Park to see the large green sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach. There was no direct way to cross the country from Santa Elena to Tortuguerro so I had to backtrack to San Jose and spend the night.
I took practically a day’s worth of travel to get to the Tortuguero because the national park is only accessible by boat or plane. And since I was a budget traveler…it had to be boat…and the cheap boat option at that (read: take the boats the locals use to get to Tortuguero and pay a mere $10 rather than the fancy tourists boats that charge from $50-200 pp depending upon the “type” of excursion you do). Although it took me practically the whole day to get there, it was well worth it.
Once I arrived, I managed to book myself on a turtle tour that evening and was warned to wear dark clothes since the mama turtles have very good eyesight. At 8pm, my guide picked me up and I joined 8 others who were in my group. We walked single file along the beach for about a mile when he said that there was a turtle on the beach preparing to dig its hole for her eggs. It would take 30 minutes so we waited. While waiting, another turtle happened to come on shore! We we were soooo shocked but were instructed to make no movements and no sound. By this time there were 100 people on the beach and we all quietly waited, stood very still in the dark as this new turtle inched its way up the beach. It was massive yet all we could make out was this huge hump slowly crawling up away from the ocean. We were excited at the prospect of seeing another turtle hatch its eggs but after 15 minutes, my guide cried out, ¨The turtle is leaving.¨ She decided to abort her plans of laying eggs on the beach and book it back to the ocean. Apparently, the turtles are very sensitive to the slightest movement and are picky about where they will lay their eggs. It was cool to see how fast the turtle booked it back to the ocean. And it was MASSIVE!!! The entire length of her body was as long as me! We focused our attention back on the first turtle who was about to lay its eggs. Each group took turns looking at the beautiful event. I got to witness with my very eyes, less than a foot away, a green sea turtle laying some of its 100 eggs in the beach! It was one of the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. I definitely think it’s in my top 5 life experiences although now I have to come up with what the other 4 are. LOL. I have no pictures of the blessed event because flash cameras or any kind of light are absolutely not allowed because it will scare the turtles but you can check out fellow flickr peep, juvertson, who has a nice photo of a birthing sea turtle (I don’t know how he managed that picture in the dark).
My final days were spent not zipping around on a bus but rather chillin’ out in the sleepy town of Cahuita. So many of the travelers I met prior were encouraging me to get to the Caribbean side and spend time here because it has a really relaxed vibe and a strong rasta culture thanks to the population’s Afro-Caribbean descent. I felt like I was in a whole ‘nother country actually cuz reggae was playing everywhere, the locals spoke English, and the food had a Caribbean flavor (lots of coconut milk and spices…yum) rather than Spanish. This is also the place where I learned how to walk at a snail’s pace since it was sooo hot and there was no place I was rushing to go.
For $15 per night, I got my own private room with bathroom at the Spencer Seaside Lodge and I was a mere 50 meters away from the sea. Each room had walls with painted murals. Mine happened to be a map of the country, which would’ve been useful if I ever forgot where I was. Ha!
More importantly, I got to hear the crashing waves at night lull me to sleep and wake me up each day. To the right is the view from my room/door. In the short distance between my room and the waves, you’ll see coconut trees from which several hammocks were hung. And about 2 feet from my door were bananas still hanging on the vine; some were ripe and ready to be picked and others were still green. Guests were welcome to an unlimited supply of bananas at any time.
I felt sooo at peace and so relaxed because all I did was eat, sleep, go to the beach, swim, sunbathe, and read for four days. For a day trip, I took the bus 16km south to neighboring yet larger Puerto Viejo. Compared to Cahuita, it felt like a metropolis when in fact it really is still a small town compared to the rest of the places I had visited. But beccause I felt a more touristy vibe, I got out of Dodge quickly by renting a bike and peddaled the 6km to a nearby beach, Punta Uva (see left). It was beautiful and scarcely populated with a few tourists and Tico families sprinkled about. The water was so calm that it was perfect to swim in. I managed to surf one last time too in nearby Cahuita National Park on my last day. I spent several days here. And on my last day, I surfed one last time. All in all, a wonderful way to end my trip.
When I got back to San Jose and heard all typical city noises, I longed to get back to my haven on the beach! I couldn’t believe a mere $15/night got me a room by the sea. Man, what a life…and what a steal!!