An Atlien Abroad 2
The Flutterby Hostel is a unique universe unto itself filled with travelers and vagabonds from all over the world. The hostel started back in 2009 with the partnership of sisters Pam and Kim Andreasen. Since then they have been building relationships and funky treehouse hostel rooms to host their eclectic clientele. Reminiscent of Never Never Land from the classic film Hook, R.I.P. Robin Williams, the small piece of property filled with chickens running amuck, surfboards, a yoga deck, cabanas, a woodworking shop, a giant compost pit, and beautiful flowers. It is a little slice of Costa Rican heaven, with a sign outside that says ‘work in progress.’
Here in Uvita, the days are long and time moves slowly. The days lurch forward until they leap into the evening when the stars come out. The Milky Way, crashing waves, a bonfire, and a bottle passed around was how we spent our first night. Then our first full day we ventured to the Uvita Waterfall and plunged into the cold river water via the natural slide that sits at the top. Next, we piled into Felipe’s two door, four wheel drive tank and swarmed the local fried chicken joint, Rapido Pollo. Downtown Uvita is a bustling little strip with taxis everywhere, the BM food market, a pharmacy, a coffee shop, a bank and a liquor store. It is the main point of transfer when entering and leaving the hostel.
Life at Flutterby is in constant flux. People are always on the move, construction is always underway, and the tide is always changing. The volunteers living on site are Will, Mary, Bailey, Megan, Paul, Emilia, Josh and I. It is an interesting balance of personalities. Will and Mary’s calm energy balances out the boisterous personalities of Josh, Bailey and I. Paul practices amongst the Stoics, preferring a simple diet of bananas and peanut butter, perfect for studying and surfing. Emilia and Megan spend their time on the beach and searching for the elusive wifi to keep up with Megan’s Tinder profile.
All the volunteers and staff get to rent the surfboards for free, and the beach is a five-minute walk down a rock laden road. The beach is part of the national park, so it is three thousand colones, or six bucks if you are a gringo. I have been surfing the past several days after I get off my morning ayudante shift.
Ayudante is the "do bitch work," shift. You have got your list of tasks which include; cleaning the main tables, the guest kitchen, emptying composts buckets and then whatever different work that is needed for that day. It usually lasts from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm.
However, back to surfing, in the afternoon the low tide waves get steep and choppy, but the experience of being on a surfboard and watching the sunset in the Pacific Ocean is incredibly humbling. The sunsets here are beautiful mixes of purple, orange and yellow and when the clouds linger on the horizon, they amplify all the colors. I had the most surreal experience during my third-day surfing. Sitting on my board out past the wave break, I watched the sunset, and in that moment of bliss I looked to my left, and there was a perfect wave. I paddled as hard as I could, and before I knew it, I was riding at the front of a wave that took me all the way back to the shore. Needless to say I that was my last ride of the day. Best to end on a good note.
The schedule at Flutterby comes out every Monday, and they try to balance it out, so everyone gets some morning and evening shifts. Josh Peters in his infinite charm landed himself on PM bar shift for his first two days while I had 6:30 am ayudante shifts. In true Yardsale Pete fashion, give him an inch, and he will take a mile. It was our fourth night there, I am taking it easy; eating dinner, drinking beer and Josh is getting loaded on local rum. We played cards for a while and then at ten I decided to head to bed, while the crew decided on a bonfire at the beach. The next day I am doing my morning shift raking leaves and tidying up when Megan makes her way to the bar with a big ole grin. She proceeded to tell me about how Josh, trying to be responsible, left the beach early but when she came back, he was spread eagle butt ass naked in the crew common area. After taking a shower he decided to air dry in the crewcita but didn’t make it to bed before he fell asleeep. Emilia and Megan were kind enough to cover him in a blanket. I guess they like us because that was almost a week ago and we are still here. Our southern charm and our genteel vibes are taking us far.
Cascading water and the changing of tides put this place in perspective. Everything is constantly moist. As soon as you take a shower, you start sweating again. You are always in between; wet and dry, coming and leaving, knowledge and feeling. The Flutterby is a bubble, a sanctuary for lost boys, a haven, and a cultural melting pot of ideas, languages, and adventures. Bahia is off the beaten path so, most people here aren't first-time travelers. It is not hard to find, but it does take some time. In many ways this place feels more remote than it actually is, I feel entirely removed from the rest of the world. There is hardly any internet. I cannot make phone calls. All I know is what is around me. It is blissful. However, it makes it harder to keep up with what is going on in other parts of the world. Ignorance is bliss if you can stomach it and right now my belly feels fine but who knows when this mandarina rind will mold?
Mary, Will and I went to the secret stash waterfall Sunday the 15th. It took about an hour via riding bikes and hiking to get there. We rode through downtown Uvita, took a right at the bank, passed the liquor store on the left, conquered the road of poor terrain and faced off with Scary Gary the machete-wielding troll that lives right beyond the bamboo forest. That last part is lore, but we did lock our bikes up at the second river crossing and finish the half mile hike on foot. The river water rushed cool over our sweaty bodies. Amongst the lush rainforest, it is easy to lose your mind. It is a beautiful feeling.
However, the bugs are huge. Things can kill you here. R.I.P. Colin Maldonado. 'Why you and not me?' Is a question I still ask myself. We both got the same type of infection at about the same time. It is hard for me to believe it is just because I was able to get to a doctor and you were stuck in the Costa Rican jungle. However, that is the only reasonable conclusion. I must admit ideas of transfiguration do pop into my head from time to time, the migration of souls from one vessel to another. It is a wild idea but nevertheless it does still wander the halls of my mind.
However, the waterfall was beautiful probably about 20-30 feet high hidden right out of view from the main river. Before we found it, we got a Costa Rican family to take our picture where the river converged with itself.
Surprised at the ancient Polaroid technology the abuela jumped back startled after the first picture. Then after the second photograph the young boys, about age 8 or 9, looked on with amazement as the picture developed. After basking in the glory of the secret stash, we walked back down the mountain in the light of the setting sun.
On the way back we stopped at the La Panadaria, where Mary got some baked deserts, while Will went to the BM for some vegetables. Then on a whim, we decided to eat at Rapido Pollo. For five bucks I got a giant piece of fried chicken, rice, beans, pasta salad and a local beer, delicious. Once we awoke from our chicken coma, we raced our beach cruisers back to Flutterby. Last one there had to buy the first round. I was out 2400 colones by the end of it. It was money well spent with good company.
Will and Mary have been dating for about two years. They are a homely couple with a healthy thirst for adventure. After Costa Rica, they are moving to St. Louis for school. Will is a pre-med student that plans on working in geriatrics. Mary has her undergrad in English and is planning on studying creative writing in grad school. They are good kids on track for a great life.
Every Monday morning we have our weekly staff meeting at 8 am to discuss the past week, the coming week, and then we have our deep cleaning till 11. Emilia and I were in charge of cleaning the guest kitchen and the staff kitchen. Bumping Dr. Dre's The Chronic, we got down and dirty prepping for the two new volunteers to move in. After the cleaning, I took a nap to get ready for my third bar back shift.
8 hours of stop and go food service on your feet can wear you out. However, there's always someone new to talk to, new languages to decipher and to dance. Afterward, I drank a couple of beers with Felipe and Micco, the new volunteer from Germany and we decided to go out to some bars, but I opted out preferring a good night's rest.
I woke up early Tuesday morning to go to a farmer's market in Tinamaste with Katie Zinke and her family. Tinamaste is a mountain town with a bustling Tuesday morning market filled with the local hippie community that resides in the adjacent mountains. The drive twists and turns up a well-paved road, but the squealing of the rental car tires keeps me on my toes. I am saddled in the very back with no seat much less a seatbelt. Todd, Katie's father, howls like a howler monkey as he barrels up the mountainside. He is putting his Tico driving lessons to good use.
The market, set underneath a large pavilion, is filled with people selling crystals, tinctures, local cheeses, empanadas, fresh veggies, bracelets and other nicknacks. Waiting in line to pay for my veggies I struck up a conversation with Vinnie from Delaware. It was his second year in a row coming down to Costa Rica. He did odd jobs for a room, board, and extra spending cash amongst the Tinamaste community. Costa Rica draws beautiful people from all over the world to its beautiful landscape. Now for a dinner shift, a week full of work, waterfall excursions and serene surfing.
All Images and Words by Stephen Wilkins (@damngladtomeetcha)