Friday, 19 February 2010
Posted by Rob Voodoo
The four wheel drive Toyota driven by the smiling man from Santa Theresa turned a bend in the road and my eyes were bathed in a balmy vista: a wide sweeping beach, framed by lush vegetation dotted with beachfront bars and hammocks. This, then, was Montezuma. I checked into my shabby little room and walked out of the backdoor on to what I thought was a fantastic looking beach.
It was at this point that the illusion started to crumble.
I popped off my sandals and my soles were confronted not with pristine white sand, but shingle, á la any third-rate British beach. And then I noticed the pollution. Mankind (I suspect mainly of the rich, white and western type) has not been kind to Playa Montezuma (Montezuma beach). No matter, thought I, we’ll go check out the town.
And for that first hour I was happy enough – sure my box of a room smelt like a fishing boat and had no exterior windows, but I reasoned that would get me out on to the beach which literally opens off the back porch of El Parque Hostel. After all, I can hang around a bedroom back home.
I scrambled and hopped up the largest beach rocks in sight, saw the biggest ‘wild’ crabs I’ve ever seen and a flock of at least half a dozen Pelicans. I took a whole bunch of pictures and was looking forward to getting a bit more outdoors-y than I had been at the, frankly, idyllic Funky Monkey.
However, it was midday and I was at serious risk of turning into Lobster Voodoo so I did what you do in Costa Rica and sauntered into a beachside café for a Casado*.
The guy came over with the menu and I was pleasantly surprised by the range of meals and cocktails listed therein. There were even a couple of drinks I’d never heard of before. ‘Excellent’, thought I, ‘I might finally get my lips round a decent Mojito’, not that I was currently in the marketplace for an alcohol.
Dragging my eyes away from the larger, more expensive, dishes I went straight for the Beef Casado backed up with another Costa Rican classic, watermelon smoothie , ‘casido con agua’. All good. It was neither the best nor the worst I’d sampled, the boiled carrots reminding somewhat of what my young padawan George describes as Mother England. I finished up and requested the bill.
And this is when the trouble really started. There were my items, there was the tax. Standard. And then the total, which was 500 higher than it should have been. I decided that I couldn’t be bothered to argue with the greasily smiling proprietor and that I would call it a tip and walk.
But then when I sat down at an internet café (this is the first hostel I’ve stayed in which doesn’t have free WiFi) I was charged $4US for an ice cream, and then I was charged for two instead of one hours internet. My attempts at arguing with the skinny youth behind the desk went nowhere as his English had mysteriously dried up. I paid him. I was now starting to see things tinted deep crimson.
Storming back to the hostel I was eventually given some attention by a man who did not appear to even work there. He recommended Zuma Tours as being a decent business. He was wearing a Zuma Tours t-shirt. Opting, against my better judgement, to check it out as I knew I could pick up the Zuma WiFi signal faintly in my shit-box of a room and figuring I could leach in future, I wandered up to Zuma. Where the guy tried to charge me about 20 pence A MINUTE. I blew a Zen fuse, flipped the bird in his general direction and returned, once more at pace, to El Shit-sandwich. Where I was ignored some more and then told to go back to the first bunch of tourist-exploiting cowboys.
Instead, devoid of any more human outlet for my now incandescent rage I returned to the fishy-smelling solitary isolation ward to vent to Microsoft Word (2003 if you’re interested – what’s with the obtuse 2007?).
After the honesty and good vibrations of Santa Theresa this is all too much. I think the difference is that ST is a surf town, and most of the staff have moved there to surf – therefore staff and patrons mingle freely and often socialise – regardless of whatever culture they originated from they are drawn together by a set of shared values. Conversely, Montezuma is not known for its surf and there is a clear divide between the Ticos (Costa Ricans) running the disgustingly overpriced bars and peddling trinkets, dope and hammocks on the beach and the hideously exploited Gringos.
The national motto of CR is ‘Pura Vida’, it means Pure Life. If this is pure give me an East End pub full of chavs and coke-dealers any day. At least they’re honest about it.
Crimson Voodoo out.
*for those that missed my earlier description of a ‘Casado’, it’s the standard Costa Rican lunch/dinner dish consisting of rice, salad, potato or yucca, ‘Gallo Pinto’(like a dwarf kidney bean, pretty much the national food of CR) and a pan-fried fillet of beef, chicken or fish.