“I am Dutch!”
She answered in such a lyrical, bird-like way that I couldn’t not smile. It was a tiny bit smug but the friendliest kind of smug, almost as if she preceded “I am Dutch!” with “Get ready for this, it’s going to be the best answer you’ll ever hear, and you’re going to think I’m even MORE adorable than I already am! Are you ready? Ok, here goes! No, I’m not Tica! I’m Dutch!”
She had a chirpy accent and non-native, though beautifully smooth command of the English language. I sort of loved her.
We learned that she’d left The Netherlands years ago with her husband or boyfriend and that they split their time between Costa Rica, France, and driving around in a van. Dutch hippies. The best kind.
She took our drink order. Chris ordered an Imperial, La Cervesa de Costa Rica. I asked for something “fresh, fruity, and not too sweet,” and she brought me a perfectly refreshing something with lime and carbonation and a tiny bit of simple syrup. I had a couple.
This restaurant was just down the street from Shawandha, our hotel. Or more accurately, our little bungalow in the middle of a handful of other bungalows scattered through a small plot of jungle property.
A note about the “restaurants” in Costa Rica: they’re not rooms inside of buildings. Restaurants and bars (at least along the beach towns) are picnic tables with a roof-like structure overhead and hut-like structures for the bars. They’re completely open air, filled with clean, tropical breezes and a front-row seat to whatever you’re next to. In this case, it was the main road through Puerto Viejo.
The Dutch gypsy walked us through the menu with that same glimmer in her eye, and we drank Costa Rican beers and cocktails mixed with sugar and citrus for a few hours. Before we knew it, we’d moved on from dinner and found ourselves in the middle of the bar, making friends with American ex-pats who’d found their way to this tiny Caribbean beach town.
We drank whiskey and beers for hours with the American ex-pats and the Dutch hippie. As we started to walk back towards our hotel, I made an off-handed (and not totally level-headed) comment about walking to the beach. This is a seemingly fine idea until you realize that access to the beach was about a quarter of a mile down a narrow trail through some jungle trees until it opened up to a short length of beach leading into El Caribe.
During the daytime, the trail is active with scurrying lizards and little crabs retreating into their holes in the ground, and it’s lined on each side with spider web after spider web, with 4″ banana spiders just chillin’ and waiting for their next catch. They’re not poisonous spiders, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to get bit by one or wear a web on my face.
The beautiful and well-lit-because-it’s-daytime trail to Playa Chiquita
At night, the trail was much more ominous (see also: pitch black), and this is where I mentally retreated inward. I was a little tipsy and a little nervous, but wasn’t about to miss this midnight-on-the-beach experience.
Chris, with child-like excitement, was fearless. We used the flashlight app on his iPhone to make our way to the beach and once we got there, I was met with the largest spread of stars I have ever seen in my life. Well, except maybe for that time a group of us sat on the sand dunes on the Oregon coast at 1am one camping weekend.
Note to self: the best star-gazing happens by an ocean. Got it.
I stopped, in awe, and just gazed. A million little sparkles in the darkest Caribbean night sky. The sound of waves gently reaching the sand. Distant jungle sounds like cicadas and other nocturnal creatures. I looked down from the diamonds above and Chris was splashing in the waves, the sound of pure joy and life in his laughter.
This is what we would’ve seen, had it been daylight. But it wasn’t.
It wasn’t the smartest thing we’ve ever done – meandering through a dark section of jungle in the middle of the night to end up on a tiny, secluded beach – but it was definitely one of the coolest.