Night Searches and Beaches – Part 2

(Wait, did you read part 1? Come on, at least skim it- I’m really proud of that post)

So even though I had bravely faced my fears and survived my first shift alone in the forest, we still didn’t find Guanacaste (insert series of frustrated, annoyed, sad-faced, crying emojis here). So the next day, we planned a lazy morning to gear us up for another night search starting that afternoon. I was up and in the kitchen around 9am, getting ready to make breakfast, when Gill (the PHD student I am working with) came in and said we’d been offered a ride by one of our friends to Naranjo beach. The only catch? “We have to leave in the next 10 minutes, can you be ready?”

Uh, duh.

So imagine 5 girls scrambling around the house, throwing swimsuits on, filling water bottles, shoving sunscreen and towels and lunches into our backpacks and then speed walking to meet our ride at the entrance to Naranjo road.

Now I have to explain our freak out and why this random ride was kind of a big deal. Naranjo Beach is the closest beach to us. It isn’t a heavily touristed beach, but it is a popular surfing spot and fairly frequent stop for vacationers in this area. It is also a 2 hour walk/45 min drive one way down a long, twisty, rocky, hilly dirt road. If I had not personally experienced traversing it in a car myself, I would strongly question whether driving to the beach was even possible. Because the walk is long, and, for our job, we walk all (freaking) day- impromptu visits to Naranjo are few and far between. Also, because the road isn’t the greatest, the number of rides we get offered to Naranjo almost never happen. According to my roomates who have stayed here previous field seasons, hitching a ride to Naranjo for them only happened once or twice, and only offered part of the way.

But this particular friend was offering a ride both there AND back and it was an opportunity that could not be missed. We scrambled into his jeep and bounced our way for 45 minutes on probably the roughest car ride I have ever experienced. But again, my teammates told myself and the other field assistant over and over “cherish this!”, “this never happens!”, and I only felt grateful despite the discomfort of the trek. We even stopped and picked up an older couple from Austria who had tried to drive their car down, realized it was impossible, and decided to walk the rest of the way before we came along. It was during this ride crammed into a worn out jeep with Ticos, Americans, and some Europeans along an old dirt road in the middle-of-nowhere Costa Rica heading toward the Pacific that I felt, for a moment, like a true traveler.  The experience even got a little Indiana Jones-ish when we crossed the questionably stable bridge that traversed the swamp where the American crocodiles reside.

When we arrived at the beach, no other tourists were there. Not a single soul. The sand was empty and untouched, the sea was calm and a picturesque deep blue, while the sun shone brightly in a nearly cloudless sky. We raced to the water as the sand was so hot it burnt our feet, then waded into the ocean just past the point where the waves broke. At this point, the water cleared, and we were able to stand up to our shoulders and see all the way down to our toes. The water felt amazing and all of our torn, bruised, bug bitten, and aching limbs were suddenly soothed by the salt water mixed with the sun. I floated up on my back, closed my eyes, and felt the waves rock me gently back and forth as we laughed and talked about how this moment might be one of the coolest things any of us had ever done in a long long time.

Cue beach photos…

We were only able to stay an hour, but it was a much needed hour placed perfectly in a week of exhaustive night searches. Not to mention, the impromptu ride made it feel as if Christmas had come early to the house. I truly think the uncomfortable anxiety inducing adventures (see part 1) are the ones that build character and make you grow, but the fun stuff like this is what you talk about and remember fondly for years to come. Idk if there’s a point to that, but here’s to hoping the next ten days are just as full to the brim as days 10-20 were.

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