After almost two weeks of hitch hiking, we decided to rent a car. Not because we weren’t enjoying it, but because there were beaches and volcanoes and national parks we wanted to visit outside of our ride hitching radius. I had naively thought that we could just get rides from strangers all around the country, ha, until it took us a full day of bus riding and hitchhiking to get to Tamarindo, a beach town only 20 miles north of Playa Negra. Fortunately, Tamarindo is a touristic spot and we were able to rent a little car to get ourselves home and beyond.
One of our first excursions was to Ostional, a beach known for it’s massive number of giant sea turtles who have claimed the beach as a nesting ground. We expected to take a day trip and see hundreds of turtles swarming the beach. Instead it took hours to get there, we were stuck over night due to monsoon rains, and we saw only one turtle. It was AWESOME. The road there was not paved, wound along the coast following the steep hills up and down, was full of deep muddy ruts when in the jungle, and mountainous speed bumps when passing through towns. We had not rented an SUV, but the cheapest little car available. Our bad. At one point the road was completely flooded by a flowing river. I got out to walk through and find the shallowest parts while Gauthier slowly followed me in the car. As soon as we made it through, it began to downpour, and we knew we would not be able to make it back across! Also, at each speedbump, we would stop, get out of the car (Bitty too), take the propane tank out of the trunk (which we had brought from the house thinking we’d be able to fill it up at some point on our day trip), and they would stand in the mud and rain while I with much trepidation would attempt to go over the speedbump without bottoming out. I laugh as I write this, you cannot imagine how ridiculous and pathetic we looked. When we finally arrived at Ostional, it was pouring rain and so we found the only open restaurant to have a late lunch and wait out the storm. I say restaurant. If you have not traveled much in underdeveloped or third world countries (which Costa Rica is not, but many areas seem that way) you may imagine a Red Robin or even a little homestyle cafe. Not even close. Here we have a couple of tables, a mother and perhaps her sister, and several of their kids hanging out, watching t.v. in the corner… you enter, say you are there for a meal, they bring you whatever it is they have available on that particular day, and it is cheap and delicious. After eating, and when the rains had subsided, we made our way to the beach.
Black sand. Gray sky reaching down to touch the grayer sea. Huge waves roll and then break heavily, the power audible, the thunder tangible. Chickens and dogs roam. Vulchers perch on logs and in naked trees. Egg shells, soft and white, litter the stretch of beach. It is eerily beautiful. Feels like the end of the world. There are no turtles.
As we walk along the beach, Bit soaks her dress in the waves and Gauthier breaks his knife on a stump. We decide to head back to the town and find a place to stay for the night. There is a hostel. For $20 we have a bed and cold shower, for $20 more a man will wake us up in the middle of the night and guide us to the beach in search of a giant sea turtle.
At one a.m. there is a knock on our door. Bitty sits right up and from the top bunk we hear “okay is it time to go see the turtles?” Because her dress is still wet from earlier, I have wrapped her in a little blanket (a red delta blanket from one of our flights) and she looks like a miniature monk ready for prayer.
There are no flashlights allowed on the Ostional Beaches. We follow our guide in the dark. The beach is occasionally lit by flashes of lightening. The tide is out and the crest of waves look like glowing lines of white disappearing and then reappearing in the distance. There are no turtles. But there is a faint red glow down the beach. We go to it. And there we find several researchers circled around her. A giant sea turtle, readying to lay her eggs. We stand in the red light, silently witnessing the most intimate of natures gifts. When she is finished digging there is a pregnant pause, and then, in a rythm ever so repetive and deliberate, she drops egg after egg into the hole beneath her. She lays over 80 eggs. And then is still. We are all quiet. Waiting. Bit pulls my ear down to her face and whispers “mom, I think she is inner-peacing.” I believe my little monk in her innocent wisdom is right. Eventually the mother buries her offspring, turns around, and makes her way back down to the water. When she has gone, we turn around and make our way back, a light mist envelops us as we walk. A holy sprinkle. A night of blessing. It was so cool.