Rasta-time in Puerto Viejo.....side-scuttling crabs that ask: 'hey mon, got any weeeeed?'

Published: January 27th 2008
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So on we went to the laid-back vibe that constitutes the town of Puerto Viejo, part of the slightly notorious Limon province (after the rafting, the tour company - and this is part of the $80 deal - take you on to your chosen next destination). We pass some pretty basic homes and buildings on the way:

Enjoying a beer.

The Plump Annoying American (from now on known as PAP) and his lawyer friend with his big southern drawl and equally big moustache were also Puerto Viejo-bound. They were pretty funny travellers to observe though, with their bad-taste jokes that only the other would laugh at and awful sense of dress (faded jeans and great big white trainers/sneakers, all topped of with baseball caps - aged mid 50s). Here's a pic of the pug-faced know-all himself (that's the guy BEHIND me):

And listening to them arguing about their accommodation requirements was good too:

PAP: "Hey buddy" - to bus-driver - "do you know (some hotel)?" - answers - "OK cool, can you take us there?"
Moustache, as we are waiting outside the hotel: "But it says here, 'no internet access' "

Meanwhile, a 2m bean-pole of an African with the shiniest ebony skin and gleaming yellow teeth - in the half-light I couldnt be sure if one incisor was gold - is sticking his head into the passenger window, stooping somewhat, giving us the hard-sell on another place. "PEEPLE PEEPLE, DEEZ place has EVER'TING YA WANT....internet, comfy beds..."

Me: "Sounds perfect, let's go there!"

Turns out it's just 10m up the street and our van crawls up to it, with the long African still trying to chat us up with his bonce stuck through the window. We arrive and then dump PAP and Moustache at the door, Sofie and I hoping - after having disclosed a cosy-sounding option with them we wanted to try in our guide-book - the driver would just disappear. We had their bags though and they wanted to 'check the place out'.

PAP: "Nah, can't stay there"
Me: "Why?" - pointing to a large banner over the door - "it has internet access"
PAP: "They only have a room without private bathroom. I'm not gonna share a bathroom"

I mean, for God's sake, we're never going to all get a bed tonight if these two don't sort themselves out. The driver is exasperated and says that he will only take us to one more place. By now we are the two dummies, us, and a cute Italian girl - Jamelia or something. We all get out of the van - FINALLY - at Casa Verde, our first choice (Footprint: '...hammocks, private bath, cracked-tile showers, beautiful gardens.....OPEN AIR POOL AND JUCUZZI' ). The receptionist tells us there are two rooms available, and before we realise, Mr Moustache has already done a tour and announced he will take it. The thing was the other room was two single beds and no bathroom.

Sofie now: "I'm not staying in a place for 40 dollars that has no bathroom!" 43 dollars would get you the other room with two beds - one a double - and nice bathroom. "It's not fair", she exclaims, loud enough that Mr M hears. He gets the picture, and being a qualified lawyer, honours the fact that we had already designated this place and they were always going to have to take the left-overs. We bid everyone goodnight (Jemimah or whatever goes off to Rockin' J's) and collapse into our new bedroom.

So here's the hammocks and all that; there had been a huge iguana basking by the pool, but by the time i went back for my camera, the bugger had scarpered.

A complete departure from the atmosphere generated by the latinos of the rest of the country, PV makes me think I am in Jamaica (not that I've been). Bob Marley is king here, and 300 year-old men, white and black, pedal (if you can call it that, they go so slow they are almost keeling over) around town on their bikes selling weed. One actually was a very funny American Comedian (done some stand-up in New York in decades long gone)..unlike PAP-man...i wish i could remember the joke he told about his wife. Anyhow, Sofie fell in love with this chap (I labelled him Father Christmas)! After his quick-fire jokes, he doled out a couple of card tricks too. A real entertainer:

So the town has this laid-back rasta vibe, as I was saying, with eezee-life cafes and bars. One of my favourites was Pan Pay, a beachfront place baking its own bread. It is just one of those little finds where you just feel compelled to go back to time and again:

We met these two again one night later on, and took them to see Phil, the ageing American hippy and conspiracy theorist. (See entry on 'Conspiracy Theory Central').

On the main street was this cosy, totally spicey Thai place called Chilli Rojo that was all wooden inside, in fact the buildings are little more than driftwood shacks, but this lends to than detracts from their charm. It is run by an English chef who'd learned the art in Thailand and grew most of his own vegetable strains here. He also had some influence and helps out another Thai place developing its business in near-by Bocas del Toro in Panama. This next pic is not Chlli Rojo though - I think it's 'Peace and Love Coffee':

We also bumped into our old friends, the American comedy double-act, PAP and Moustache (I just cant remember their names, writing this retrospectively and having lost all my hand-written diaries). I wrote in the last mail that he'd get his comeuppance for causing me to burn after telling me to put my factor 30 suncream away and use his magic wipes instead. Turns out they'd been on a canopy tour, different to the one we did in that instead of separate specially-designed, tree-trunk avoiding platforms, this outfit spans the zip-wires between the actual trees. Being such a rotundity, they had been giving him a third strap to keep him upright, but one time they forgot, so he fell backwards as he went zipping down the cable. He hadnt been able to brake with his hand, and being so abundantly fat, he was too much of an express load for the guide at the far end to stop and slammed into the tree, rebounding, unconscious, back out on to the cable. I didnt see that though, and i wished i could have seen the video (being such a DIY freak, he'd fashioned a homemade helmet/video camera he'd proudly explained to me during rafting). They guy was black and blue!

Oh, he was even going diving for the first time the next day, which had me and sofie laughing ourselves silly later at the thought of the myriad things that might go wrong there. He was a resilient bleeder, I'll give him that. We ended up having dinner with him, and though I started off feeling sorry for the round little man, his politics were not much short of fascist. He had a big mouth regarding US policy and defended Iraq. Ok, we can all have our opinions, but his were just a little close to the mark for me. "We shouldn't be there though". "Oh?", I reply. "No, we all think it's a mistake". 'We' being his family, who are military people. The reason they shouldn't be there being that they militarily can't win, and American boys are dying. No other reason, as far as I could tell. "And don't believe all what you see on the news", I was cautioned, "it ain't all going so badly out there. It isn't the mess they would have you think". Well there you go. I refrained from asking him if he had served some time there himself to try and either fight in, or just try to go to school in Baghdad. Must be lovely this time of year.



On top of that, he really likes how in China, where he has employees, labour is really cheap and they don't take holidays or complain about long hours. "But holidays are good for employees" I posit. His answer was that we have too many holidays in Europe and they don't in the US blah blah. "It's not just hours worked though, but quality and average productivity over the year that count right?" I try to claim. Lucky for him they've never heard of the word vacation in Chinese sweat-shops yet. Bloody capitalists. Think they own the bloody world.

Anyway, weekend nights are fun on the beach, in front of Johnny's Bar. On the way there I heard a ssssst then a detached voice: "you got weeeeed, you got any weeeed mon? Coke. Hashish?" I looked about in the nearly-lit street linking ours of total blackness from Casa Verde to the main drag, but saw nothing. Then a white crab, its majestic and wet claw illuminated by one of the sporadic, dim electric lights strung overhead on wires, scuttled past us making me start. My eyes followed the path back to where the crab had emerged, leading them to a couple of black dudes with wide, white grins, both huddled together under the eaves of a building; there was a bit of a light shower going on. Ah ha. "No gracias" I thanked them and we wandered on to the beach, hoping the fine rain would subside. Since the inside of Johnny's is sweatier than a builder's arm-pit, made worse by all the bumping and grinding going on to heavy ragga vibes, me and Sofie found another place where we could play a bit of pool. To deafening music though. But the rain did subside and soon we were back at Johnny's. Well, outside it. Again, plenty of dopeheads peddling their wares. Even though you hear these things about police arresting foreigners for drugs use, most people were selling or smoking dope (besides giving multiple offers for other substances). I was still reluctant, though I did fancy a few drags to mellow the brain with the sounds of the waves crashing nearby, the big candles on sticks planted in the sand providing an atmospheric incandescence with the ragga beats in the background. So I turned down all mind-bending offers in such a public space. The nice thing is they leave you alone once they know you're not interested. No hassle at all. We downed some crisp lagers and conversed with a couple of other foreign couples we'd shared some table with. Yada yada.

Next day still peeing down but, unperturbed, we visit the market.

Ah ha! Now I remember the name of this Italian girl who we met rafting - Emmanuela! (OK, I had a little help from Sofie just then...though she only remembered the 'manuela' part). Emmanuela's amusing catch-phrase: "Yeeesss, I'M LIKE!!" (every time she wanted to exclaim just how much she liked something - very cute).

This little dude danced better than Michael Jackson - ow! Oh, and meant to add, wherever we went in Costa Rica the windy and rainy season just seemed to follow us. Though at least it was warm here on the Caribbean side.

A nice shot of Sofie during a moment of meteorological respite.


18th April 2008

Thanks for the pictures and story
They gave me a real idea of Puerto Viejo. I was thinking of moving there, I heard there is a bluegrass festival, and I want music in my life. But I'm from Manchester and I'm not sure if I can handle all that rain, even if it is warm. The Pacific side would probably be better. I guess I'll just have to start my own festival. Cheers, Alison
20th April 2008

manchester eh?
hi alison me too originally.....well, Oldham (we consider Manchester DRY); PV is an interesting spot though, but for us was a jumping off town for the skip over to bocas del toro and back (check that out if u have time) j

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