After the festival in Uvita and the double-event stamina we had exerted, it was time for a nice relaxing environment where we could reflect and take it easy. We had planned to go to a small lake city in the center called Tilarón, right outside the Arenal and Fortuna volcanic area. We knew it was going to be a small town, but our experience in Tilarón was extremely different than any we had had in Costa Rica thus far.
Tilarón itself is a small town, with a very small amount of tourists coming in and out. There we ex-pats, and often we noticed the ex-pats had a common streak of having a life they wanted to escape from or some exploitative desires. We were actually staying in an even smaller offshoot of Tilarón called San Jose. One school, about three restaurant, 2 convenience stores within walking distance. The bus stop was about a 15 minute walk where we could go to Tilarón after passing through some farmland, where there were some bigger shops for food and goods.
Whenever we would walk by the school the kids would stare at us and whisper, or, on occasion, they shouted "Are you Gringos?" They are all learning English from a young age. It actually seemed to be pushed pretty hard. We actually started talking to the English teacher for the Elementary school by chance at one of the restaurants even further out of town and she at first was very friendly and met us for a walk around the lake and we practiced our Spanish. But she became eerily wary of us shortly there after. It was kind of a recurring feeling. We were there for six weeks so people started recognizing us, and we had the feeling that some teens would take pictures of of when we rode the bus, or people that we recognized giving us disparaging looks. I guess because everyone knew each other and there weren't as many tourists, perhaps we just stuck out a lot. A lot of the tourists will stay a couple hours a away in the volcano area, which we visited a few times. We never actually had the time off to go to the volcanic park area.
There were lots of free hikes nearby to be had, and we took to exploring quite often. There was really big lake nearby, and the coastline of the lake looked kind of like Martian rock. Like in Coco, there were some abandoned yacht clubs and fishing clubs. The lakes in this area were very deep. In fact, a nearby lake that Daniel walked to, El Cote, is world famous for being one of the deepest lakes in the world. In fact, no one has been able to measure how deep it is. It's also the site of some interesting paranormal activities and was an ancient vision quest site for shamanic journeys.
We also managed to find an abandoned nature reserve. The climate in this area was temperate but incredibly windy. So windy, most days it felt like you'd get knocked over. It took some getting used to, for sure. We were able to make friends with an American couple that was staying in the area long term and spent some nice nights sharing dinner with them and a local who was friendly at first,
One of the most treasured times I spent in this area was spending time at my host, Boris's house. He had built an amazing farmstay from scratch outside of town. Him and his wife had five kids, and a very large self-sustaining property. They had solar panels, a tilapia pond, a pool with spring water and a water slide, and many permacultural trees, including cashew, cacao, and more fruits that I don't remember the name of but you would never see them in America. They also had some chickens and other animals. It was definitely an inspiration!
There wasn't any Selina hostels, or yoga in town and one of my favorite things to do ended up being going to this amazing cafe, Cafe de Alma, where the quality of the pastries, espresso drinks, and service rivaled anything I'd ever experienced. They had the most amazing cakes all made from scratch. We also found a number of stores that sold salvaged clothes for about $1-5 per piece, as we found we needed some layers for the climate. Also in town was a Chinese restaurant that we were told to never go to. But one day, we saw many people inside, and were craving Chinese food so we went. This is where we came up with the Golden Law of Costa Rica. Never Eat Chinese Food in Costa Rica.
The chicken was not chicken. Maybe at some point in a time long, long, ago. It was definitely reconstituted. The sauce, somehow made everything taste worse. The vegetables were maybe grown in straight glycophosphate and then frozen for decades. The service was also terrible. We had to pretend to have a problem and leave after only taking a few bites. Even the rice was terrible, and I'm not sure how you pull that off. To top it off, they add 15% automatic gratuity.
I did meet many kind souls, in the floristeria getting flowers, and an old man in the park who dropped a lot of political knowledge on us. On my last day in Tilarón was maybe one of the friendliest local encounters. I was alone waiting for my bus and maybe just had eaten a pastry. A man dressed like a cowboy approached me and noticed I was wearing leather shoes. Actually, I had replaced the soles on these shoes in Portland and a Russian shoe repair for $40 for them to glue on new soles, but then the soles entirely came off after hiking the waterfall in Coco and I had paid a local $5 to sew them back on. The cowboy had a whole kit with him for shining people's shoes and offered to shine mine for free. He didn't mind my broken Spanish and we had a really nice talk. My shoes looked amazing and I really appreciated it.
Here's a picture from our hikes in the area.