Nipping to the beach – Playa Samara

“Every true genius is bound to be naive.”
Friedrich Schiller

After my final day at The Butterfly Conservatory – 31/10/13 (during which I learnt a multitude of new skills – arc welding, bridge building, the physics of shifting 1 ton boulders, the art of throwing stones bigger than my head without permanently losing my fingerprints: A skill I shall keep in mind should I ever go on the run… never say never) it was time for me to depart……. TO THE BEACH!!!

Many great reviews have been written about Playa Samara and the surrounding beaches. Words waxed with such lyricism as to boggle the mind… this shall not be one of them. At the time of writing (21:15), 45 minutes after arriving, the rain is bouncing down and the thunder would indicate that Thor recently over indulged on some ghost chillies.

The day started with a quick tidy of the room and packing my bag. I was slightly concerned as the majority of my clothes were still a little damp even after 2 days on the line, and some t-shirts even went as far as to possess a delightfully tangy ‘gerbils armpit’ aroma…… Yummy! Oh well, too late to change anything… Into the bag they go!

My plan was fiendish in its simplicity. From El Castillo, Fortuna I would get a lift to San Ramon, then hop on a bus to Samara…. So fiendishly simple I did zero research into which bus, which terminal, or even the pesky minutiae of bus times. It was a brilliant plan… It couldn’t go wrong!

The ride to San Ramon was fairly uneventful, save for the thunderous dead arm I received by the luggage of the Butterfly Boss slamming around in the back seat. He was all ready to drop me off at one of the 2 bus stations when, thankfully, he enquired with a local as to the best one… Good work Glenn! It turns out that the bus doesn’t actually stop in San Ramon, but passes by, stopping on the outskirts on the highway. Although my Spanish is improving (poco a poco!!!), would my mind have been able to comprehend those concepts, and been able to figure out the necessary directions? Did I dodge yet another bullet? We’ll never know!

So at the highway we said our swift goodbyes and I headed to the tiny bus shelter. In my uncompromising naivety I expected there to be some general information at the stop: maybe a list of destinations, or even (Gods forbid) a timetable. Silly, silly Fray.

Enquiries with the other waitees gleaned much information, with each person happily contradicting the last, all given with that genuine self assurance unique to Ticos when they’re giving wildly inaccurate information (a cultural refusal to admit they don’t know the answer to something is easily handled by a creative mind).

So I did the only sane thing… I trusted my gut. Did it feel right? Yeah. Was I confident? No! Did it bother me? Hell no!

The first bus stopped and I was informed by the driver that no, he didn’t go there, but at 2pm it would arrive. Fine. I walked back to the stop and a lady enquired as to my destination. “Samara”. This started a flood of debate between this helpful young lady, the driver, and his assistant. They decided that even though he didn’t go there, I should get on anyway. “Why not?”. So on I hopped.

Madness? Possibly… but my Spidey sense wasn’t tingling so I handed over my bags and hopped aboard. When I asked about the price he mysteriously said “pay the other bus”.

On we drove for well over an hour, to parts unknown. As I was standing it was impossible to see the road signs out the window, so on I travelled in ignorant bliss.

The Station Wagon we passed that had spun off the road and slammed into a tree didn’t even raise an eyebrow amongst my fellow travellers… apparently an everyday occurrence.

My new buddy The Bus Driver then pulled up at an obscure little tree lined stop, far from any notion of civilization and instructed me to depart. “20 minutes” was his final cryptic offering. Sweet!

Confidence was high, moral was skyrocketing, and so far my wallet had remained glued in my pocket. Life is good!

An hour and 30 minutes and several stopped buses later I was beginning to question our friendship.

The last piece of advice I had received from a Venezuelana friend was “Ten cuidado recuerda no confiar en NADIE!” or “Be careful not to trust ANYONE remember!”

I understand the possible logic, but that goes against the grain of my being, so I instantly dismissed the concept.

I began to notice that certain buses approached the stop, but never dropped below 20kmph whilst sneering at the waiting crowd, and then as the ext one approached a man ran forward, the door opened and he hopped on the moving bus… all happening so quick, and so insanely dangerous that I decided to give it a go. I’d learned from a local that my bus was white, as these were, so the ext one that approached I made my move.

Getting trampled under the wheels would, in truth, make a great story, but it would also impinge on my future travel plans so I had one shot. Was it my bus? Who knew???


I ran, it opened, I leaped, the assistant grabbed, my bag caught in the door, the driver cursed, the assistant ripped it from back and shoved my down the aisle… Success!!! I was on my way to Samara!!! $7.50 for the best adrenaline rush of my life… bargain!!!

The ride was fairly uneventful, except for the driver attempting to destroy all other road users with moves rarely seen outside The Touring Car Championship.

As the bus finally pulled up it was getting pretty dark, but I’d arrived before the inevitable rain with still a glimmer of light in which to find my hostel…… No, no, no Fray!!!

“Is this Samara?”
“No!” (insert withering look here), “This is Nicoya. The bus to Samara leaves in 1 hour. Another 37km”

Obviously! Why wouldn’t a bus destined for Samara stop 37km away??? Durrrr!

After a thoroughly generous offer from a taxi driver to take me right away (as “the bus probably wouldn’t show up” and “it’s dangerous here”, whilst a myriad of heads behind him all shook their heads in unison) I settled down at the station to await my next voyage. Another helpful young lady told me that she too was going my way, and where to wait (don’t trust anyone??? HA!)

The ride was now in pitch darkness, but I knew mine to be th last stop, and after witnessing an amazing thunderstorm I eventually pulled into Samara.

My first attempt at locating a hostel (no Dad, pre-booking is for the weak) proved ‘unsatisfactory’. The Hostel Mariposa (I tried to keep the theme going) was booked up, although I was offered a hammock for the night at a cost of $8. In another situation I may have snapped it up, as Zeus knows I’ve slept in worse places – a windowsill, a construction site and a traffic island spring to mind as particularly memorable. Having braved all other environments and survived, I knew in my heart that I couldn’t commit to this. I was tired, hungry and smelling like a badgers testicles, but worst of all… the surrounding hammocks were occupied by annoying, frat-style American youths who appeared to be on a fine commission for using the word ‘totally’. They’re probably millionaires by now. It looked a nice place, but I just didn’t have the energy to commit the necessary hate crimes.

So back into the rain I went. Armed with a soggy map I hit the hostels, but as it’s quiet season they were all closed or full. This left the random ‘ROOM RENT’ signs. Luckily the first one I tried was a delightful little place with a delightful young couple running the show, a stones throw from the beach. $25, not cheap, but dry and far away from the neurotic, hammock hogging youths (when did I get so old and judgemental?!?).

Their suggestion of a tasty place to eat led me down a dark wet path, and with little sign of activity I rushed back to the gaudy main strip with its neon flashing lights, and was eventually lured in by:


I needed something meaty, and the Supreme seemed to fit the bill. When I pointed to the medium size his look of condemnation made me hesitate. Apparently the medium was usually ordered by couples… A bizarre and irrational thought then flashed through my mind, “Is he taking the pi$$ because I’m newly single???”. I decided to let it slide.

Although I hadn’t eaten for over 13 hours I wasn’t prepared to drop big cash on a wasted pizza, so instead I opted for the small. A variety of sides were also available, but I stupidly forgot to order some taste with my pizza… apparently it doesn’t come as standard. The highlight of my meal being it was warm.

With food in my belly and a warm pillow under my head I drifted into sweet, sweet sleep… The Fraytrain is rolling again!

5 thoughts on “Nipping to the beach – Playa Samara”

  1. Superb literary skills. Your journey has its ‘moments’ of high tension, excitement and true adventure – I look forward to the dramatisation of your journey as soon as you strike that deal with whoever it is on the old goggle box who makes these deals. These expeditions sure beat Ray Mears hands down. My nephew, you Re truly my hero!! So envious and proud xx


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