Golfito is set in a very protected little bay with steep wooded hills rising directly out of the water. The dramatic topography was rather a surprise after having gazed at it so much in our paper charts. The town itself is broken up into little chunks here and there strung out along the water where the hills aren’t too steep. There is a little runway at one end of town populated by a dilapidated shed that serves as the Alfa Romeo office and we went there to watch Mom’s plane land last Saturday.
Mom looked good and was obviously extremely happy to be back on the ground; we took a cab back to Marina Samoa where our attempts at ordering a celebratory cerveza were thwarted by a weekend-long ban on alcohol sales. Local elections in Costa Rica are a sober affair even for those who do not participate evidently and so we settled for warm beers over ice aboard the boat while we motored down to Las Gaviotas hotel where mom would stay. This end of the bay, cryptically labeled as a place where “unsavory activities” take place by Mrs. Margo Charlie’s Charts, is quiet and decidedly unpopulated and we anchored right off Mom’s hotel room. We kept our eyes peeled for said activities but actually never saw any other boat aside from the sport fishers taking off from the Gaviotas dock.
The next day we headed out for some jungle action and hopefully some birdwatching; bordering the runway is the Golfito Wildlife Refuge and a hike to a waterfall. While we heard the tucans’ sweet cries and saw many cool butterflies and insects, what hijacked our little trek was the fer-de-lance. He was coiled up on one side of the grassy path and just sitting still, looking remarkably like a pile of dead leaves; every few seconds his tongue would dart out. He was very well camouflaged but I’ve had my snake eyes peeled since Bahia Santa Elena and spotted him right away. Dangerous snake (and freakish tropical malady) experts—and this one certainly had that poisonous look about him—we had him correctly labeled and decided that it must be a young one since he was maybe only 16 inches long. After about five minutes, he uncoiled and slid back up into the woods; the tip of his tail was yellow (we looked this up back at Mom’s hotel and discovered that young male fer-de-lances have a yellow tip). Mom, above all, was extremely pleased to have nearly stepped on one of the more poisonous snakes living on this planet and deferred trailblazer privileges to Joshua afterwards. Of course, once you’ve spotted one snake, all piles of dead leaves from there on out look startlingly similar to coiled snakes and our grassy adventuring slowed to a nervous crawl while we picked our way back to the ‘safer’ dirt paths.
Convinced that the jungle was fraught with danger, Mom decided to take her chances on the boat and so we sailed across the gulf to check out Puerto Jimenez. (Actually, after having a chance to eyeball the Puerto Jimenez ferry, it is fairly clear that the Time Machine is the more seaworthy vessel.) The wind and seas behaved beautifully for Mom with 5-10 knots and we made it across in a couple of hours. We found a great room in the Cabinas Jimenez for Mom—it was extremely clean and well furnished, the bathroom was ginormous (with a shower that was probably the awesomest shower we’d experienced since the one in the Santa Barbara Yacht Club), and it had a small porch overlooking the bay. The owner is an American ex-commercial fisherman named John who was happy to give us all sorts of recommendations about what to do and see in the area and was generally a very nice guy. We did a lot of sitting around on the porch gazing out over the water and enjoying the fruits of the mini-fridge and coffee maker that came with the room.
[There is a large shallow shelf in the Puerto Jimenez bay before it drops off and gets really deep; anchoring the boat was tricky. Inevitably, it would be low tide when we had to go back to the boat making the trip always a long muddy slog.]
Although the election-drinking ban was still in effect (on my birthday the day before, fer crying out loud, we hung out at Mom’s hotel room and furtively drank a bottle of wine before heading out to dinner), we were able to convince one of the local tiendas to sell us a six-pack only after we promised not to stagger through the streets, dropping crushed cans in our wakes, and generally making it known to the larger universe where three people of obvious voting age had obtained the contraband. We had an epic walk up the coast the first day and then sailed the boat to check out a botanical garden on the mainland side. It is sort of an interesting story really: the couple traveled all over Central America and bought the land some 30 years before and started a garden, knowing nothing really about plants; they intended to grow fruits and vegetables for themselves and sell cocoa for extra money. Costa Rican soil is good for growing things and eventually, they had elaborated and diversified, collected interesting plant samples from all over the area, and now they are extensively knowledgeable about local plants and their garden is flat out impressive. They support themselves by giving daily tours in the mornings and all other times, give you literature to take yourself on a self-guided tour. We took about a zillion photos.
For Mom’s birthday, we went out to what was touted as being the best restaurant in all of Central America and I believe it. Jade Luna is located just outside of the main part of town and the setting is very tranquil. So often I feel that the ‘fancy’ ambiance (like, linen napkins sculpted into reposing swans and whole families of forks and knives) of restaurants so rarely lives up to the quality of the food, certainly in Central America—with tourist resorts being a glaring example, but this one was perfect. The place was run by an American culinary graduate from New York and she has good taste. The French bread was dense and chewy and the butter served with it was ice cold and actually incredibly good (butter in Central America is just bad), they brought out complimentary conch fritters with a curry dipping sauce (bonus points!!), our martinis were icy cold and enormous, and everything on the menu was well-described in detail and looked excellent. We all split a salad with golden fried goat cheese (I am a sucker for any salad that boasts warm goat cheese), pears, and pistachios with a mango dressing. Mom and Joshua had the pork chops that were rubbed with coffee, among some other more conventional meaty ingredients (which I forgot), and grilled. These were excellent, as was my chicken breast served with a curry yogurt sauce over a tangy chutney. The portions were very generous and we ate everything and then ordered ice cream for dessert. We ordered one scoop of rum raison and a slice of one of her pies (kahlua and coffee ice creams I think); the rum raison was definitely the standout, ice cream-wise but the piecrust was delicious. Anyway, the place is highly recommended. (Our bill was in the ballpark of $25 per person, including tip and tax.)
Mom flew out from the teeny Puerto Jimenez airport back to San Jose where she would catch her flight back to the states the next morning. Joshua and I spent the rest of the day walking all over town trying to find anyone who would sell ice and the next morning, headed back to Golfito to get checked out of the country before the weekend started.