After our final dawn surf with Les we packed up and headed out. Will and the guys had a flight to catch the following day so wanted to get an early start on their journey to San Jose. They kindly dropped me at the road side outside of the town Golfito where I could bus and boat it back over to the Osa Peninsula, home to Matapolo's perfect point breaks. Unfortunately I missed the boat (the early one anyway) which subsequently meant I missed the final collectivo / truck heading out to Matapolo, leaving me stranded back in Puerto Jimenez.
I checked back into the same hostel H and I stayed at a week ago except this time I had the massive eight bed dorm to myself. As there isn't much to do in town I busied myself photographing the different patterns of the bed clothes. Thinking back I'm not sure why I did this, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.
I rose early and took the 6am truck up the headland to Matapalo. I forgot my hard earned knowledge about where to sit on old battered trucks and busses and ended up right at the back bouncing around all over the place. I was genuinely worried me and Wooster (my board and new travel companion) would suffer an irreversible injury before we even made it to Matapalo's rocky point breaks. Wooster was all snuggled up in his board bag and seemed pretty relaxed about the situation. I wish I had a cushioned Will bag.
The collectivo dropped me off in pretty much the middle of nowhere except for a small track leading off to the left towards the coast. After a thirty minute walk through the jungle I eventually made it to OSA Vida, the only cheap accommodation around here. A dark leathery skinned man with short hair that went into a rats tail at the back, was sitting on a log sipping a cup of coffee stoking a small fire. He beckoned me over and said his name was Milton then handed me a coffee. We chatted for a while in a mixture of broken Spanish and charades.
He said all the rooms were full but 'we' could make up a bed in his room. Soon I was hauling a bed stead from the garden up a narrow staircase, then Milton ran off to find some slats and a mattress. It was a very remote, tranquil place surrounded by dense jungle. Some nights there was power others there wasn't.
One other person was also staying up in Milton's casa. His bed was a mattress on top of three wonky coffee tables lined up next to each other. He was called Laurent and is a blogger for travel brands based in San Jose. He showed me around the place and most importantly where the three main point breaks were.
Matapalo is pretty cut off to say the least. It has a small population of Costa Ricans and a large population of vacationing rich Americans. Along the rocky track from the highway, thick jungle would part to reveal super luxury lodges. Averaging between $100 - $300 bucks a night.
There are no shops bars or restaurants unless you pay to stay in the swanky lodges, so you need to bring everything you need with you. This is apparently to limit the amount of tourists and surfers in the water. Luckily for me Will gave me a big bag of leftover food from Pavones.
There is so much wild life around. It's not surprising really as the surrounding jungle eventually meets Corcovado national park. Just walking to the surf was like a jungle safari. I saw spider monkeys and white faced capuchins, large lizards, macaws, colourful frogs, a caoti, a raccoon and something I don't know the name of that was furry brown and about two foot high.
My first evening was spent in search of a beer with Laurent. This meant spending a long time walking through pitch black jungle with only my dying headlight to make sure we didn't step on anything that might retaliate.
The undergrowth on the side of the track was alive with rustling, I kept thinking we were about to be jumped by a snake, but instead when I shone my touch it turned out to be hundreds of purple and orange 'Halloween Crabs'. We did eventually find a bar in a very expensive jungle lodge called Encanta La Vida.
King Louis Waterfall
In the right season you can take a shower at the King Lewis Waterfall. Unfortunately nobody told me it was the wrong season, so in between surfs I hiked up to a big dry slab of rock. I was more of a waterfall than it was after the steep sweaty hike. H probably would have enjoyed a shot at climbing it.
This was the first place I surfed straight after checking in. It's a sandy beach that quickly becomes a warren of sharp rock that poke up when you least expect. It's surrounded by jungle and the water is bright blue. As we walked down, a black and white caoti crossed my path, I hoped this was good luck. Giant lizards darted about as did a tiny black and green dart frog. High up in a hollow a macaw sat overlooking the beach like a king in a thrown. It was a noisy bugger. Why do the most beautiful birds make the most ugly sounds?
The wave was clean and breaking over head high. It looked quite intimidating as did the paddle out between shallow rocks reaching as high as they could to try and snag an unsuspecting surfboard. I recognised three guys who were also staying at OSA Vida so I followed them and stayed close by in the water. This slightly stalky decision turned out to be a good strategy as I made it out to the waves and back to shore in one piece as well as making some friends. They were down on their annual three day surf trip from San Jose.
I caught a fair few long rides as well as my foot a couple of times on the reef. I instantly couldn't get the fact that sharks can smell a drop of blood from a quarter of a mile away out of my head. Still it was a great first session and after the lefts at Pavones (A great wave unfortunately breaking in the wrong direction) this was heaven. I returned again later in the day and had an equally good session where I bagged more waves and more reef cuts.
It turned out two of the guys from San Jose were also surf photographers and luckily clicked a few of me. Cheers guys. You can see more of their photos HERE.
Pan Dulce is a long mellow right hand wave at the end of a small jungly track.
When it's working it can break into the next bay down the coast. Luckily it was doing just that on my first session. The wave only works at high tide and there are a few large rocks dotted around the take off are that will snap a board and a person. One guy cut up his shoulder pretty bad, luckily his board was fine! I surfed here at sunrise and sunset most days as that coincided with the high tides.
I enjoyed one blokes surf fashion... a black neoprene sleeveless top with a white collared tshirt on underneath. He looked like a surfing snooker player.
Like the other breaks in the area Backwash is another one of Matapalo's points that only works on a certain tide. It turns from a family friendly beach with a calm lagoon like ocean, to powerful walls of water exploding down the point. In Backwash's case when the tide gets low the waves get high, sometimes very high!
It was probably the best shaped wave I surfed. Long clean waves peeled smoothly down the point for ages. I had some of my best waves here and luckily the guys from San Jose had a camera in hand.
After a couple of really good rides a large greenish brown turtle popped up about foot in front of me and looked me straight in the eye. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times staring at me. I think he was trying to say "Buenas Olas Will" (Good waves Will).
Whilst chatting to folk in the water I got talking to a surfer / photographer called Val. She too had been snapping the waves and happened to have a few shots of me at Backwash.
After the session I joined her, her husband Mikey and their old friend Charlie at Charlie's house in the jungle behind the beach. It was an incredible building pretty much as open plan as you can get, as most of the kitchen and living areas didn't have walls and just looked out on to a beautiful tropical garden. Val made me a smoothie which too was incredible.
Time to leave
After four or five days I had run out of food, my feet and ankles were looking like a half finished dot to dot from a mixture of reef cuts and mosquito bites and all my possessions were rather damp and musty. I took this as a good time to leave and explore more of Costa Rica. Plus the simple task of visiting the grocery store would mean loosing a day and spending more time on the dreaded collectivo.
Milton offered to give me a lift up to the highway (still a gravelly jungly track, only with smaller stones and relatively level) on his motorbike. This was far more scary than any of the waves and rocks I had faced over the last few days. I had Wooster in one hand, my other clutching a bit of bike frame and my big heavy backpack weighing down the back suspension. With all the loose rocks and steep inclines I was sure our extra rear weight was going to cause the bike to wheelie throwing us off. However Milton had other ideas, careering towards two big rocks, clipping one and pretty much loosing control of the bike. Luckily he regained control before we mowed down a happy family on their way to the beach. That was definitely the most extreme ride I had in Matapalo and actually made me think the collectivo wasn't that bad.
I sat and waited for over an hour for the collectivo without much hope that it was actually going to come. Luckily I had a family of spider monkeys for company. Just when I lost hope and was trying to hitchhike it careered round the corner. To my surprise it was empty. This was great news as I could stand at the front avoiding spinal damage and watch the sunset in the gap above the drivers cabin.
I arrived back in Puerto Jimenez for the final time and again checked back into our favourite hostel Cabins on the Corner. I've grown quite fond of this place. I arose early for my final southern Costa Rican dawny, only this time to catch a bus instead of a wave.