San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beach Therapy Relieves City Tensions

I HAD been in the city too long. Myworld had shrunk to the concrete wildernessof San José and the surrounding suburbs.All of this was about to change.My tour director and social planner(wife) had recently returned from the UnitedStates and had planned a long weekend forus to Montezuma, a small beach town nearthe tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.Travel to Puntarenas was accomplishedby the two-hour ride on the Puntarenas bus,in comfortable, padded seats. By midmorningit began to get a bit warm, butopening the windows provided a breezy,acceptable solution.After arriving in Puntarenas, we caught a taxito the Tambor ferry, which was a large, multilevelship with an area for autos, an air-conditionedlounge in the middle and an open-air baron top. As I sat on the top deck, sipping a refresconatural, the warmth and the breeze began tosiphon off some of the ever-present tensenessand edginess acquired though city living.This leg of the journey lasted a little less thantwo hours and then we proceeded to board a busthat was probably in its prime somewhere aroundthe Nixon era. We waited in the hot sun for about30 minutes until another ferry arrived with additional passengers.AS we rolled through the hills on the bumpy, dusty dirt road, myawareness expanded enough to notice the smiles pasted on the facesof many of the other riders. In the city I have learned to view thisbehavior with suspicion, as it usually precedes a request for money.But once the urban landscape fades into the distance, it seems to bea common and genuine expression of happiness.We arrived in the small, touristy but attractive Montezuma twohours later. That evening, we climbed the stairs to the restaurant andbar, located on a spacious, wooden porch facing the ocean. Weshared our table with a small, entirely white cat, which was one ofthree white cats that crossed our paths while in the area.It was Friday morning and welcome to the jungle! It was alreadya toasty something degrees outside with at least 120% humidity.We hiked the muddy, sometimes treacherous Cabo Blanco trailto the beach and back – requiring about four hours and at least twoliters of water each.While struggling through mud pits and scrambling over smallboulders, the other inhabitants were relaxing, maybe having a littlebreakfast. A group of about 14 howler monkeys gazed down withpossible amusement as we trudged through a 30-meter patch ofmud.“Why not just travel through the trees?” they seemed to be thinking.Yeah, I would have loved to trade my hiking boots for fourhands and a prehensile tail, at least for the rest of the day.UPON our return, we enjoyed an excellent lunch at the CafeBakery, where we also arranged to rent horses and guide for the nextday. Later, we explored the beach on foot, hiking through sand andover rocky outcroppings for several kilometersin each direction. We completed the day withvery tasty pizza at Cafe Rico Rico, a smallrestaurant with four tables on the front porch.The little guy sitting next to me at breakfastlooked as if he was going to inquire about theweather. But instead, he dropped the emptybanana peel on the ground, climbed onto theroof and peered over the edge at all of thestrangely dressed primates eating breakfast,openly gawking at him and his companions.On the cool, sunny Saturday morning we wereenjoying coffee and hot, flaky pastries prior toour scheduled appointment with the horses, again at the CafeBakery.White-faced monkeys are fed bananas here every morning and Iwas completely enthralled, entranced and content watching them.We departed Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. The only highlight ofthe return trip was the ride on an old wooden ferry about 20 meterslong and 7 meters wide. We sat on unpadded benches above thewater and drank hot, fresh coffee provided by the vendor from histhermos.By this time, I had relaxed to the point where I was aware of thesmell of the ocean breeze and the tension that I had brought with mewas nowhere to be found. Our guide, Sophie, arrived with the horsesand we had a leisurely ride up the beach to Playa Grande, wherewe paused for an hour to frolic in the waves.

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