One or two weeks ago, there happened to be an article in the Seattle Times (and I think New York Times) titled, “Laid-back life awaits on the far side of Costa Rica.” read the article here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/travel/2011607545_trcostarica18.html
So I thought I’d just like to say, farewell Puerto Viejo..
I remember when I was a wicked little kid, my family was lucky enough to go on great christmas vacations. We would go to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands every winter for a week and completely chill. We could go to any beach and there’d only be a handful of people around and everyone was super friendly. We made friends with a guy who lived on Gibney who years later I discovered through the magic of the internet was nicknamed Tarzan by the natives. Turns out his father moved there way back in the Beatnik 50’s and was one of the 1st outsiders to be truly accepted by the natives.. Tarzan was badass. He lived on my dream beach in a little hut surrounded by barbwire to keep tourists from walking into his garden. He gave us fresh squash from his garden and a killer recipe for a pumpkin soup that my mother still makes to this day. Nowadays, Tarzan is dead, his property has been purchased and subdivided into air-conditioned beachside villas costing thousands of dollars to rent.
My father would always joke that, you know you’re in a great place when a gallon of milk costs more than a bottle of rum.
That place became my template of paradise when I was very very little. Every year, we would watch that place grow and grow. The last time I went was when I was in high school. By then, everyone and their mother’s had gone to St. John and Trunk Bay. Bill Clinton had eaten at Morgan’s Mango. It was on the map. That trip, on this tiny tropical island, miles away from the freezing winter in Maine, I ran into a girl in my entry level spanish class. Later that day, my sister ran into a high school field hockey coach on the beach. And right after that, my mother ran into the owner of the shop next door to her office.
I have never been back to St. John.
Now, I’m not claiming to have been there at the beginning. Fuck, I wish I had been there at the beginning. Seen it before the invasion. No, I was there right before the end. Right before the tragic exploitative explosion. I had a handful of years of pure pleasure in a place I pictured perfect. I’ve been dreaming of finding another St. John ever since.
When I was trying to figure out where to go in Costa Rica back in 08′, I wanted a scrubby little town that tourists didn’t go to. But hell, the map has been drawn and roads have been cut through virtually every patch of jungled in every cursed country… so I settled for a small stoner town known for roadside bandits and lack of any type of amenities that most westerners would consider mandatory; Puerto Viejo.
From the get-go, I realized this was no secret garden, no untapped gem… I just did not want to see a fast food joint or a 4 star khaki-and-tie restaurant. I just wanted a place that wanted to be left alone. Of course, everyone knew about Puerto Viejo who I spoke to about Costa Rica, some had even made it there… But all agreed it was still in a relatively recent state of expansion and, if I hurried, I could still see it in somewhat of a pure state. And I was not disappointed (entirely..) Although, by the time I left, a brand new concrete 2 story superstructure had finished construction in the dead center of town and Chili Rojo had already opened up shop on the upper deck, tragically abicating their incredible hole-in-the-wall location on the side of the ocean, and the ongoing community stuggle to fight of a massive coastal marina was in full swing.
After reading this article, my spirits sunk, for my own selfish reasons.. I can only imagine the amount of revenue this will bring Puerto Viejo and how helpful it will be to the people and business owners. But God Damnit, is nothing sacred anymore!? Can a person in desperate longing for quiet off-the-beaten track go anywhere in a world of 3G networks and Air Conditioning?! How many times will we repeat the same sad mistakes in the sake of financial gain.
Ever since leaving Puerto Viejo, I’ve been saving money and trying to get back for an even longer trip to a place of silence and solitude as well as pure joy and happiness… I fear I may be too late…