That is a picture of a sunrise over Ballena Bay and Tambor. Sunrise. I, Christopher Matthew Pahl, was awake for a sunrise. This is the story of how that came to be.
Saturday, December 1st was our last night with Sandra and Mon. Our next stop in Costa Rica would be Montezuma, but we were frustrated by the public transportation options available (12+ hours spent on 3 buses and a ferry for probably around $28 each…FOR A 50 MILE TRIP!). But, we really loved Samara and figured that we would stay a few more days before making the trek to Montezuma. We looked at a couple of places on Friday and were planning to reserve a room after lunch. We stopped for lunch at a soda we liked with fantastic hot sauce. While waiting for our meal, we overheard the man sitting behind us giving English lessons to a woman in the soda. Julia took initiative and asked where he was from. The man (Michael) turned out to be a San Franciscan and we immediately hit it off. We started talking to him about his trip. Michael, as it turns out, is a sailor and had been sailing down the coast of the Americas. He’s been at sea for the last year or so and was just stopping in at Samara before continuing south. We vented our frustrations with the next leg of our travel and, thankfully, Michael took pity on us. He offered to take us with him on his boat down to Ballena Bay, a quick bus ride away from Montezuma. Julia and I were ecstatic, but tried to keep a level head, after all, we had just met the guy. We agreed to meet the next morning at his hotel. That way Julia and I could get a better impression of who Michael was, and we could hash out the details of our travel.
We got up early and went to meet with Michael before our last meal with Sandra and Mon. We found Michael’s place without trouble and walked to a small restaurant on the beach for a quick coffee. Michael appeared a little hungover but after talking with him for a bit, we decided that he was trustworthy and, more importantly, non-murderery. We agreed to take care of the beer and food for the trip and just like that we were ticketed for Montezuma. We would be leaving at around 4 p.m.
After meeting with Michael, we rushed home to eat breakfast and pack up our bags. We said our goodbyes to Sandra and Mon and went over to our first hostel, Las Mariposas, to meet with Jason (classmate/friend), who agreed to watch our bags for the day at his new place if we walked over with him. I should mention that earlier we had tried hitching a ride to Montezuma from our friend Selena who was working at the hostel, so we also informed her that we would no longer need her help, but thanks anyways. Then we dropped off our bags at Jason’s and picked up some food, beer and ice with Michael. He brought the supplies to the boat and we went back to Jason’s to get our bags.
The boat, Epiphany, was anchored at the far end of the beach, about a 40+ minute walk along the sand. While walking to get our bags, we ran into Selena. She had been running around looking for us. Apparently, her ride situation had fallen apart and she was hoping to stowaway on our vessel. We told her we were leaving right away and to get packed while we tried to get her a spot on Epiphany. One of us would run back to get her if we found out if there was space.
After stopping at Jason’s, Julia and I hustled down the beach with our bags. The walk was long. It was also probably the hottest day we’d had in Samara. We were dripping by the time we reached the end of the beach. One problem, Michael didn’t see us. We walked around waving our arms on the hot beach for what seemed like an hour. Finally, Michael and his small dingy rowed to shore and we rushed over to meet him. Michael appeared to still be hungover and said he needed to sleep a few hours before leaving. Julia and I looked up the beach, then to our bags, then up the beach again. Could we get angry with someone who was giving us free transportation? Michael must have sensed our mounting irritation because he offered to bring our 30+ pound backpacks back to the boat with him. These backpacks have all our clothes and toiletries. They are our backpacks, there are many like them, but these ones are ours. Without them we are nothing, without us, they are nothing. You get the idea. Michael said he understood our hesitation and how he wished he had some sort of collateral for us, but we reluctantly agreed to leave them with him. He also said he could bring Selena with us. We would call him at 8:30 and then sail at 10.
We went back to give Selena the good news. She was stoked. We decided to hang out around the language school and the hostel until it was time to go.
At 8:30, Selena called Michael. Our plans changed. Michael was not well. In fact, Michael had a fever and definitely couldn’t sail tonight. He offered to take our bags back to us, but we decided we could survive without them for a night. We would call him in the morning. In the meantime we had no accommodations and the hostel was full. We wandered around town until we found a small hotel where we could shower and sleep for around $32. I don’t have much to add, except the shower was warm and the room was clean. We crashed hard.
We awoke around 9 and went straight to Las Mariposas. Michael has a blog for his travels and you can follow his ship on the site. The ship was still in Samara. So that was good news. We called Michael. He was awake and felt much better. We would meet at another beach restaurant and figure out a time to leave. We brought our small day-packs and Selena brought everything. We were ready to go now.
After talking with Michael, he agreed that now was the best time to leave. We walked to the boat, took two dingy trips and got prepared to sail. We lifted anchor and left Samara at 2.
The trip was beautiful, if uneventful. We barbequed on the ship, drank a few beers and hung out. This was heaven compared to taking buses. Even a little seasickness couldn’t ruin the trip. We sailed through the night and the moon and stars came out bright and beautiful. Being out on the ocean in the middle of the night is an experience in itself. Every once in a while a boat would pass by. We took turns sleeping. All was well.
Eventually, we arrived at Ballena Bay. It was 2 a.m. and still very dark so we tried to get a little sleep before the sun came up. Julia and Selena slept on the bed and couch, Michael in his hammock and me, on the plastic bench. I am a princess and a pea under a mattress has nothing on the hard bench on Epiphany. As a result, I tossed and turned all morning and was wide awake by the time the howler monkeys started howling.
Then came sunrise. Sunrise was incredible. The picture above doesn’t justly convey the incredible beauty of this particular sunrise. Even as a colorblind fool, I was blown away by the sky. There was a peacefulness to it. The water was glassy and reflected the whole scene effectively doubling the experience. The jungle was waking up and birds and monkeys called to each other. Fish swam below the waters, some even jumped out to see the sun every few minutes. It was a moment I will never forget and I hope everyone can experience something like it at least once in their life.