I arrive in Los Pargos after an 11 hour day involving a 6.30 alarm, 4 buses and the world’s most irritating taxi driver. The dusty roads leading into the town give it a sense of being disconnected, both in time and culture, from the tourist trap of Tamarindo my bus terminated in. Rustic, hand-painted wooden houses line the road, monkeys scream in the trees and the road is a dust bowl. Pura Vida indeed.
My first night is eventful. Late at night, I’m cooking in my pajamas, when I hear the door to the bedroom slam shut. No problems, I go over to open it again. No luck. I turn around and scan for the keys by the hob, then remember I left them in front of the mirror on the dressing table. Shit. I rattle the door loudly. Obviously nothing happens. Shit. I open the gate and run around on the gravel drive to Jeff the landlord’s front door, secretly glad that it’s dark as at least I can’t see the hundreds of spiders that are probably crawling all around me. I knock the front door. No answer.
I knock again. Nothing. Carver and Carla the dogs start barking, and so does every dog within a two-mile radius
Still nothing. I start pounding on the door, but no one answers. Right. I run around to the side of the house, and climb the fence into the yard where the dogs are kept that backs onto my apartment, hoping one of the windows is unlocked. Carver the Belgian Sheperd starts jumping and slobbering all over my legs. I creep over to the windows, but they’re all barred. Shit. I run back past the dogs and climb the fence again. I go and hammer on the door some more. Around half an hour has passed and I start thinking I’m gonna have to spend the night in the garage. I start walking over to Jeff’s truck in a last ditch attempt to set the car alarm off when the front door opens. It’s Jeff’s son, Jason. After a slightly awkward conversation, he finds the key and lets me back in. I microwave my food and go to bed.
The next day I wake up at 6.30 out of sheer excitement to go and swim/surf/sunbathe/drink cocktails on the picturesque Pacific beach I saw on the drive over yesterday. A couple of hours with my book later and I’ve managed to achieve a healthy (read: redder than Satan’s backside) glow. I get chatting to a local, AJ, and Jess, a surfer from New Caledonia, and they find a board for me to borrow. When I stand up, Jess near enough wets herself laughing.
‘Girl, your ass is on fire!’
We walk over from Playa Negra to the next beach, Sandy Bottom, where kids are running around and catching waves in the shallows. I attach my leash, grab my board and walk into the water trying to look like I know what I’m doing. A wave that looked tiny from the sand, and looks anything but now I’m looking up at it, breaks over my face. The board flips over and I fall on my arse, nearly losing my bikini top. I stand up, and Jess and AJ are on the other side laughing hysterically.
‘Lift the board over your head next time!’
I try it, and not surprisingly it works pretty well. We get a little farther out, and I flip my board round and jump on. AJ starts coaching me as the wave approaches. I nod my head, start paddling and inexplicably get sucked into the swirling torrent of white water. When I resurface, AJ is laughing again.
‘You’re sliding back too much… go with it.’
I jump back on, and rinse and repeat. I gasp for air, and Jess and AJ laugh harder.
‘C’mon Wales, you can do it.’
I wish this was an inspiring blog post about my determination in the face of failure, but it’s really just a story of my humiliating near-drowning experience attempting to surf on a Pacific beach. This carried on for another half hour until the sun was setting, each time sending AJ and Jess into more hysterical laughter. As it gets dark, they give up trying to teach a lost cause and we head back over to the bonfire. There’s a super moon tonight and everyone is having some beers on the beach to watch it. We sit out until late, watching the moon rise over the beach. There’s very little light pollution here, and you can see every constellation in the sky.
The next day, armed with some fresh aloe vera and undeterred by my toasting the day before, I head back down to the beach with my hangboard to have a swim and get a little bit of training in. There are a few large birds floating on the water. I start wading in. By Costa Rican standards, the water is a little chilly (around 25 degrees) but it’s bearable. I swim closer to try to make out what they are. Pelicans. Not the dolphins most people dream of swimming with, but I’ll take it. They float on the surface, looking through the crystal clear water for fish, and occasionally making a dive and returning with one in their beaks. All swum out, I head back over to my towel to dry off and get some fingerboard action in.
In between sets, I start chatting to a group of Russian guys. One of them, Sacha, mentions that they’re here for work. I ask what they do.
‘Acrobats, we have a show in San Jose.’
‘Maybe you know it- Cirque du Soleil?’
Obviously, I ask if they want to have a go on my fingerboard. One of them jumps on the warm up edges, hangs for a couple of seconds, and jumps off blowing on his fingers. I hang the two finger pockets, and they all look at each other in surprise.
‘It’s very hard’ says Sacha. He jumps back on to the two finger pockets, makes an aborted attempt at a pull up, and steps off puffing his cheeks. Despite the fact that I’m not warmed up, I know I managed this last night after a couple of beers so how hard can it be? I climb back on and with a massive effort get my chin over the top on my front two fingers. I jump off. They all mutter and glance at each other with a look of confusion. One by one, they all have a go, and none of them can get further than halfway before letting go. Wales 1, Russia 0. I head off as it’s midday and too hot to move- the beach is deserted.
I must admit, before I came here, the blank stares I got when I mentioned the words ‘Los Pargos’ to people were enough to put anyone off. However I’m so glad I opted for this place over the tourist hotspot of Tamarindo further north. Pristine beaches without hundreds of over-priced shops, just a guy with a cooler full of coconuts and a machete, for the best and freshest $1 pipas frias around. Super-friendly locals, who gather on the beach every day like clockwork at 5 to have a reggae jam and watch the sun go down. My personal highlight- the pack of incredibly cute dogs that roam the beach, looking for anyone to be friends with- including the aptly named ‘Lowrider’ below. Los Pargos is one of my favourite places I’ve visited so far on this trip, and it’s gonna be hard to beat!
Spot the pelicans