Golfito was our last stop in Costa Rica. Only 35 miles to the border by road but considerably further by water . Golfito is an interesting place. Although near the border it’s not a honky-tonk border town but a town slowly recovering from a rapid and complete closing of the banana company , United Brands, in 1985.
United Brands built schools, did community projects and generally raised the standard of living in the community until falling banana prices forced closure and a total stop to Golfito’s rising standard of living. Slowly tourism is helping Golfito recover. Nearby Corcovado National Wilderness Park helps to attract people to the area, but progress is slow. Golfito lies on a large spectacular bay running northwest to southeast.
The bay’s narrow entrance is off the Golfo Dulce that makes a huge dent into the land from the Pacific Ocean and forming the Osa Peninsula.
Sunsets were spectacular and viewing them felt like a privilege. At the southeast extreme end of the bay are the shallows where the crocodiles live. Every few months, one ventures out into the bay near the town but from what I’m told, they don’t seem to survive the trip back. At the other end of the bay is a US Coast Guard Cutter, complete with pier, on permanent duty for patrolling the waters for drug runners. The town has a slightly dog-eared look; the people are quirky but friendly. Golfito was described to me as an asylum with all the doors left open. Everyone here seems slightly damaged but has learned to live their quirks with each other. I think about people running from something and ran out of road in Golfito, so they moved in. Large thunderstorms, created locally by the Osa Peninsula seem to hang around Golfito every few days just to add movie-like atmosphere to an already peculiar town. It’s a place where you can get most everything you need, but not necessarily everything you want. Behind the town and the bay is a 2000 ft mountain. Steep sides lead to a ridge that runs parallel to the town. The entire mountain from the ridge to the town is a protected forest reserve. An access road near the soccer field leads up the hill to the antenna farm at the far end of the ridge. The road makes for a good but strenuous hike through the reserve. I was told I’d see monkeys, toucans, parrots, macaws, and other critters on the trail. One morning I set out to hike to the top. One expat said he has started the hike many times and never made it all the way. I didn’t either.
But once on the ridge, the views were spectacular (photos to come when internet is available) and reward enough to make the steep climb worthwhile. I saw no critters that day. Our temporary home in Golfito was Land-Sea. Tim runs Land-Sea with his partner Katie. Tim runs the sea part and Katie runs the land side. The sea side has a place for one boat to tie to a pier and a few mooring balls nearby. We stayed on a mooring ball for $10/day. The cost included the mooring ball plus clubhouse privileges. The clubhouse has showers, wifi, lounge chairs and a refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and beer available on the honor system. Tim arrived by sailboat 25 years ago, fell in love with the city and built himself a life and living. Katie runs a real estate business specializing in new construction. She is always on the go. The stories she and Tim tell about life in Golfito in years past were entertaining, but many left us shaking our heads wondering how people could act that way. An animal lover, Tim has a bunch of dogs and a cat or two running around plus, every few days, a huge Green Sea turtle that has learned it gets ripe bananas thrown to it as a treat. One day a sailboat with four men came limping in to Land-Sea. Rather than ship the boat they thought it would be fun to deliver her in the water from LA to Florida. All had jobs and families and all were working on vacation time so were working on a schedule. Off Nicaragua they ran into large Papaguyo winds, like us. But in short order their engine starter quit, transmission died and some sails shredded. To add to the problems, broken sheaves wore through halyards. They ended up blown 250 miles out into the Pacific, then becalmed for a week. Only after the winds came back up did they manage to sail south to Costa Rica where the Costa Rica Navy had to help them into port. In about a week they were able to affect repairs and leave; I think without checking the weather for the very difficult and dangerous place about 100 miles before the canal. I wished them luck. We had our own repairs to make. Golfito became an extended stop when our inverter died. The capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, was the closest place we could find the replacement transistor; so we started a two day road trip by bus. We treated ourselves to a four-star hotel in San Jose, right on the downtown walking/shopping mall where there were always lots of people in every shape size, color, and dress one would find in any large metropolitan center anywhere in the world.
The seven-hour bus trip from Golfito to San Jose was comfortable, and even though this was a trip with a purpose, it was nice to get off the boat for a few days of R and R. We got the transistor and the inverter working again. I’m sure if we were to have stayed longer we would have turned into one of the inmates, but during our two weeks we both enjoyed Golfito as a fun place and enjoyed our stay with Tim and Land-Sea.
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