Friday, July 21, 2017

Part 1 Feeling Like David Copperfield

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And so it holds true for me.

When I last blogged Jim and I were at a resort in Arenal and on our way towards the beaches of Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Playa Hermosa, Manuel Antonio, and Matapalo. Quick rundown before I head into the goat rodeo of this last week since I've returned.

Warning: If you ever consider moving to Costa Rica be forewarned that every single thing you do to achieve that goal will take three times longer and three times more money that you are told. I have almost completely demolished my money market account in this dream of Jim's just getting everything done, from the house remodel to shipping our belongings and now just trying to get everything past customs. It's an expensive travail to get here. That's not even counting the thousands we're going to have to lay out to pay for residency. NO ONE tells you this. I researched all of this thoroughly, read books about moving here, talking to piles of Americans living here. Truthfully, it is a crap shoot sometimes depending upon the mood of whatever government official tells you.

Arenal: In Arenal we asked around about houses to our local friends there we've visited a couple of times, but there wasn't much open at the moment. Which turned out to be a good thing because although today was supposed to be Jim's last day teaching we got a call in Arenal begging him to stay another three weeks because his replacement teacher from the States flaked out and decided not to come. And now that we've returned from the trip the school is now begging him to stay at least until September. This puts us in an awkward situation because I'm not liking where we are at all. More on that later.

I did have a good and relaxing time in Arenal. We spoke to our pipe connection there and he's making us a special sample assortment to use on our website and in a sample case. This is for Jim's import business he's going to launch doing artisan made craft importing into the States. Beautiful things made here!

That left me time for birdwatching at the resort and I got to see toucans again, plus hummingbirds and a plethora of beautiful birds and flowers. The resort is really one of the most refreshing, soul-restoring places on the planet, no television, no cell phone reception and limited internet in a beautiful rainforest. A few photos.

When we left Arenal and drove to Tamarindo we stopped for lunch at a German bakery on Lake Arenal and had the best authentic German meal. It also gave us both the perfect opportunity to brush up on our lapsed German, which turned out to be a good thing..

Sadly I saw no monkeys at the 'Do Not Feed the Monkeys' place on the road. Here's the sign.

Tamarindo: On the way to Tamarindo Jim started to become fixated/obsessive with the idea that  we were going to live in Guanacaste near either Liberia or Tamarindo and spent a lot of our time where going first to universities and later to private schools to ask about a faculty position teaching English. I don't think it's a bad or unreasonable idea at all, but my patience was stretched pretty thin as he spent all three of our days there traipsing from school to school to apply. We were supposed to be looking for a house and spending some of our time on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The most we were at the beach was during breakfast and right afterward. Here's the view from our breakfast table every morning.

Here's the claim to fame for the restaurant at our hotel. Do they even realize how big that could be?
We did get to reconnect with friends we'd made on our last trip to Tamarindo and heard about an awesome house for rent about five minutes by car from Tamarindo beach proper. We went to take a look. Turns out it was owned by an elderly German couple and we spend a full afternoon with them speaking a mixture of German, English and Spanish.

I love the house! It's been vacant for five months now and smells musty. Needs a serious scrub down but those are things that can be easily overcome. It's octagon shaped and set in the most beautiful garden with stones and Costa Rican statuary. The inside was very nice, nicer than the usual Tico house and it had that rarity of rarities here - A DRYER!! An electric dryer. It has granite countertops, brand new stainless steel appliances, beautifully done granite bathrooms and most importantly of all, AIR CONDITIONING IN EVERY ROOM!!! and comes with a swimming pool. Can you tell I'm excited? It's $750 a month including utilities. A bargain.

The drawbacks. There is a loud Evangelical church right next door that was doing that rollicking Jesus rock when we were there. But that's nothing that cannot be overcome by having a shaker of martinis in the pool if it gets too annoying.

But... with Jim's extension here we have to put it off as a rental. They know we're interested and when we'll be free. But Jim wants to look at other places too.

Playa Grande:

We also went house hunting near the national ocean park there and there were plenty of rentals but all Gringo prices. The ocean was so wild and beautiful there. I got some photos of a bird I've never seen before - the magpie jay.

You cannot see it but this pretty blue bird has a quail-like curl of feathers on his head.

Playa Hermosa:
We left Tamarindo to house hunt in parts south along the coast. We stopped in Hermosa at the restaurant right along the beach to have a late lunch and started talking at the restaurant to the people we'd met there in January, asking about house rentals in the area. Turns out one of the houses right near the restaurant would be coming open in August. We toured it. Torn to shreds because the person living there now has ten dogs in it. Needs major fixing up. The owner swore he'd repaint it and fix all the problems and give us the bargain basement price of $1,700 a month plus utilities. I was so turned off by the dirty that we're not even considering this place.

I did get to see a huge flock of Scarlet Macaws, another of green parrots and some sort of pelicans during lunch. I would love to live near Hermosa, but that price is crazy. Pictures of the beach.

Manuel Antonio
Once we got to Manuel Antonio we had a huge fright. We weren't staying at any of the other hotels in that area we have before and didn't know where our hotel was. The GPS would not pick it up and the map only gave us a vague idea where it was. Raining down buckets, pitch black darkness on windy unlit roads. We came to this steep driveway marked with the name of our hotel and tried to get our tiny wheezing rental car up it. It took several tries before we got up the hill. Once we were there the hotel was dark, looked uninhabited like something out of a bad horror movie where people wandering into the place stand the risk of being added to the stew in the hotel kitchen. No one around, pitch black. Eventually a surfer climbed the hill clutching his surf board and pointed to the twisted tiled unlit path down to the registration office.

Now I'd already made a few corny jokes out of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' during the drive and Jim tells me that this is one of those Brad and Janet situations walking up to the door of the mansion looking for help. During the long dim jungle walk I could not help but start singing 'There's a Ligt' from RHPS.

Yeah, like that exactly. But we did find the manager, get our room and get settled in. He let us park next to the office, a space closer to the road instead of high in the trees up that pitted driveway to heaven. The next morning we got up to the most spectacular view of the beach, worth the scariness and the muddy trek.

We looked at apartments, but they were not exactly what we had a mind plus located five minutes from the park and subject to hordes of tourist traffic. Hung out with friends and got a little toasted one afternoon in a bar overlooking the beach.

One of the days we went back to Matapalo to see if the house I loved in January was still up for long term rental. It is, right now it's being used as short term AirBnB house, but the owner is looking for someone to rent for a year because he's burned out on the work involved in turning the place around for a stream of visitors. The price is still doable. However they've since paved a road on the edge of the beach right in front of the house, making it much less attractive to stay it.

It is likely the only really good paved road in the area. The ride through Matapalo to get to the place was bone-jarring, much worst than last time and the town does not look like it's as prosperous as it was back in January. We stopped by a guesthouse on the beach owned by a guy we'd friended a couple of years ago and he told a tale of a very depressed economy in CR since Trump took office. He's having much less tourist traffic to the point where he does not know what he is going to do. It was sobering and quite depressing. Strike Matapalo off the list of possible places to live.

And then thing go really crazy... more later.

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