Last blog post was information about Wild Sun Rescue Center, and what I do as a volunteer here. Today, we’re back to travelogues, starting shortly after my arrival.
The way the work schedules go at Wild Sun, we get one day off a week. Which sounds bad until you know how our days work. A day is broken into 6 blocks of time, and volunteers typically are assigned for the first three, or last three blocks. Which means that a full work day is still only half the day. You either start at 6 am and are done by lunch at 1:30 pm, or start after lunch at 3 pm and work late into the evening (with two lengthy breaks in there too). That leaves quite a bit of free time to get other things done on work days.
Granted, the first week I’m at Wild Sun, I’m too exhausted from adjusting to the new situation to want to do much but relax when I’m not working.
Mainly, adjusting to the heat. Phoenix, AZ is a warm part of the US, but it’s still winter there and getting below freezing some nights. 30’s and 40’s might not sound that cold for lows, but you have to remember that I’m sleeping without any heat, so when it’s that temperature outside, it’s that temperature inside too. Here on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, 80 is about as cold as it gets at night (it’s in the 90’s most days), and I don’t have A/C – it’s a huge difference.
Sleeping with the windows wide open in my shared bedroom with no screens gives me a moment’s pause, but after making it through one night with no animal invaders, I quickly get over it. I’m surprised to discover that insects really aren’t an issue here during the dry season. Oh, there are spiders, scorpions, bees, and ants, but no mosquitoes and very few other flying pests. That all changes during the rainy season, so I hear.
One thing it doesn’t take long to get use to is Randy’s cooking.
There’s a meal plan for volunteers and guests at the resort that when I applied months ago was advertised at $150 per week. At that price I never considered it, knowing that a small grocery store was within walking distance. But then my first full day at Wild Sun, I accidentally sit up in the dining area when lunch is being served, and an amazing salad is set in front me. My resolve to cook for myself using the shared kitchen dissolves when I have my first bite and learn that the meal plan cost for volunteers was dropped to $80 per week. That’s for 3 meals a day, 6 days a week and then breakfast on Saturday, the cook’s day off. At a cost of $4.21 per meal, I’m willing to pay.
Weeks later I’m still in love with the food at Wild Sun which is varied, filling, and healthy, and Randy never ceases to brighten my day. He lives just down the road and has been working at Wild Sun since they decided they needed a cook about two and a half years ago. He often sings while cooking, blasting 80’s tunes in English that he doesn’t understand the words to, but has memorized. He’s always ready with a smile and though I know less Spanish than he knows English, we get on well.
It’s not until the evening of the second day that I realize that I’ve been drinking tap water since I arrived.
There’s a water cooler in the commons area at Wild Sun where we fill up our personal water bottles. I assumed it was bottled water, but during orientation I learn that the jug is filled up at the tap. Fortunately, I seem to be among the majority of people who do not experience issues from the water here. Actually, most of Costa Rica has perfectly serviceable drinking water, but in more remote areas (like Cabuya) it’s always good to ask.
Four days after I arrive, I go surfing for the very first time.
Well, SUP surfing. I quickly learn that the type of SUP (stand up paddle board) used for surfing is much different that my first SUP experience on a lake in Oregon last September. The board is smaller and more curved with thinner edges, so that it can catch waves like a surf board does. Which means it’s a lot less stable. SUPing at Twin Lakes, I never once fell off the board. This time I’m kneeling on the board more than I’m standing on it because balancing on such a thing in a rolling ocean while fighting against wind is not easy!
But it’s a lot of fun. With the instruction of my friend, I catch my first wave (on my knees) before breakfast. We’d left before sunrise and watching the sun rise over the ocean with the green forests of Costa Rica rising above the rocky beach behind…. it’s an incredibly beautiful scene. My ankles hurt from kneeling, my calves hurt from balancing, my arms hurt from paddling, and I’m more tired than ever after that first trip out. But my heart is very full. There’s something magical about seeing a new day dawn out on the water. But while I have gone several more times in the weeks since then, I still only have the one photo from that first day, as none of the small crew of us from Wild Sun who are into SUP surfing have waterproof cameras.
On my first day off, I ride with other Wild Sun people who have the day off (and friends) to Tambor.
The plan is to find a good beach to spend the afternoon on, but we arrive at the intended spot to discover that there is no shade… and it’s a very hot day. A man floats just off shore in a fishing boat, and one of our number asks if he’ll take the us across the river mouth to the other side of the bay, which does have shade. He says that for 3000 colones each (about $5) he’ll take the six of us to an even better spot that isn’t accessible by road. Had I been alone, this would have been a definite “no” because of safety concerns (well actually, the conversation wouldn’t have even happened because it’s in Spanish), but it’s Wild Sun’s director who’s doing the talking, and having lived here for over a decade now, I assume he knows the risks better than I.
We pile into the boat, enjoy a pretty ride, and are dropped off at a beautiful sandy beach with few other people around. It’s a great afternoon of lounging, talking, and swimming.
At the agreed upon time, the boat shows back up to take us back. We enjoy dinner out at a nearby restaurant, a classic Costa Rica dish of chunks of fish in a lime sauce which is spooned onto patacones, flattened fried plantain discs. It’s delicious. While eating, the boat ride comes up. “Yeah, that could have gone poorly.” one of the guys remarks. Okay, maybe that wasn’t a normal experience for Costa Rica, but it ended well and some good memories were made.
We watch sunset from the restaurant porch.
On the way back to Wild Sun, we stop at a little festival that’s taking place. There’s food, vendors, live music, and fireworks. It’s kind of intense for my first week, but pretty cool at the same time. We don’t stay long and later that night in bed I reflect on how interesting of a first week it’s been. One down, 11 more to go!
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