Had decided to spend New Year at the famous Tamarindo beach on my first weekend in Costa Rica, when my dorm mate said that's where he would be. It has a reputation to be a party beach, and very popular with travellers and I thought would be nice to chat with other travellers again - although Fiona was the only person I was speaking to on the five hour bus journey, who was breaking a little when she needed to nap.
I was nervous about the next few days, as we didn't manage to have any accomodation prebooked. Apparently it is hard to find budget places even normally, it would be even more difficult for New Year Eve. Armed with a tent, we took one road each to scout for vacancies. I have to admit, I was easily deterred by the "No Vacany" signs posted at the end of a three minute trek up a gravel path, though I did try to find alternatives with some hostels which were manned.
Our options were either camp on the beach, outside a hotel, or next to a hotel. Horray to Sami, who spread all his French charms on the owner of some cabinas, begging for the last room, as he was with two girls, and couldn't let them sleep on the beach! It worked, and it was perfect - a room for three, plus an ensuite, more or less within budget.
After celebrating this with a very belated lunch (yes, I was turning grumpy when Fiona stopped to look at earrings, and was about to faint), we bought some wine (beer for Sami) and caught the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. We stayed on the beach, generally chatting, and Fiona pointed out the Orion and the Six Sisters to us, as we laid on the top of the lifeguard platform.
It was Fiona's aim to dance every night, but we couldn't find a place with nice music. Due to the early drinking, we fell asleep in a boat on the beach, woke up feeling cold, and not knowing where Sami was. We found him eventually in another bar, where he explained he was tired, but felt the need to have another drink in order to inspire more expressive arm movements to attract our attention. Surely being 192cm tall doesn't help at all!
The next day was pretty lazy... it took us half a day before we even made it down to the beach. It was nice, but a very long and rocky walk out to the ocean, before you can swim in it. As Fiona and I dried ourselves in the sun, and examining my tummy flabs, a passing Italian remarked he had some too. And so we were introduced to his sister, and his two Argentinian friends. Unfortunately for me, I didn't manage to escape from the Spanish speaking people!
Shortly after, we watched the sun set at 5:30pm for the very last time in 2004 into the ocean. It was beautiful and happened so quickly! But not too quickly enough for me to imagine how, firstly my European friends would be celebrating the New Year, before telepathically sending out my view of the sun set to all my friends back in Britain, and picturing what each of them may be doing in preparation. Even managed to leg it to the internet cafe to call home to say "Happy New Year" to my family, and struggling to express myself in Cantonese to Mum, a language even less practiced than my Spanish!
Again we didn't manage to find somewhere with good music to dance to, but ended up false starting a count down on the beach, whilst fireworks went off. There were loads of people congregated on the beach, and there was no shortage of finding someone to speak to. I was still somewhat selective about with whom I wanted to speak to (well, wanting English speakers, and not wanting to give the wrong impression to anyone) and I admired Sami's ease of being able to speak with literally everybody.
Although I did have a branch stuck in my foot when I was looking for a tree, I did manage to enjoy myself that night, and offered our tent to Stocksy, whom we renamed affectionately as "Welsh" (for obvious reasons) and his travelling buddy "California" (guess where he's from??). Because nobody could be bothered to set up the tent, they ended up sleeping on the floor, though I was protective about California wanting to crash on my brother's bed.
New Year Day was spent mainly recovering on the beach, when none of us really felt like the need to speak. It was enough just to stare into space, take the occasional walk to the sea and have a swim. We were invited to a ride up the hill for a view of the sunset by our Tico neighbours (two of which bore great resemblance to Fred Flintstone and Barny Rubble) in the back of their pickup truck. Met their friend, who lived in Germany for five years, and even Fred was travelling around Switzerland for a few years. To my dismay, my German came out in Spanish, which says alot about the degraded level of my German! Resolved to find more German speaking friends to correct this.
Though we were all exhausted, Fiona tried to persuede the Argentines, who had a car, to take us to Flamingo beach, 20km away with the only disco playing salsa music. My foot still hurting, and feeling unsociable from any prospects of unwanted romantic advances, I decided to take an early night. Was too scared to speak Spanish, and too tired to realise I could have expanded more firsthand knowledge of Argentina and South America. Though Sami and Fiona were going to take a walk in Tamarindo with them, the three of us crashed on the bed, and they were only mobilised when Welsh popped in cheerily to announce he managed to find a room in our hotel too.
I needed that early night though, as I managed to stay awake to look at the views passing through the bus window, and feeling that I wanted to be on the move too. So many of the other travellers were heading north to Nicaragua, then to Honduras, and Guatemala, and stirred my yearnings to visit the places I missed on the way down, and the places with so many good memories. To cheer me up, I was blessed with sitting behind a French Canadian with beautifully clear sharp blue eyes, which were almost all that I could see when he turned to speak to us.
The biggest reward though, wasn't finally using the toilet after eight hours of continuous bus journey, nor even the big fruit salad I ate for late lunch at Puntarenas- but the smile on my homestay mother Miriam's face when she patted me fondly on the shoulder, as I came out the shower, as if she was glad we were back again.