Surf´s Up... not quite.
Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
28Trip End Mar 16, 2010
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I dont surf. The most I have ever come close to is dating a Springbok surfer back in high school and doing some body boarding (but that came to a swift end the day a wave took me all the way up to the lifeguard tower sans bikini top!) However, the promise of being able to swim in the Pacific Ocean and therefore notch up another sea/ocean I have been to was too good an opportunity to miss, not to mention the lure of a chilled out beachtown vibe, so Al and I got on a bus heading to Sona for the first leg of this journey.
One five hour bus trip later we got off at Sona, a dusty one road town but also the gateway to Santa Catalina
An internet cafe welcomes you into the town. A dusty road turns left winding up a hill where you can see nice views of the Pacific with various accommodation points along the way and an Italian pizzeria on the left. Our driver did not know where Casablanca Surf Resort was (this originally being the place we wanted to stay at and another Lonely Planet recommendation) but suggested an alternative. Al and Thomas, the Austrian guy we met on the bus, went to take a look while I stayed in the car to watch the bags. They quickly came out shaking their heads. The bathroom apparently was under a foot of water and Thomas was offered a cement block to sleep on with a roof overhead, no walls and a thin mattress. We said no.
The owner of this retreat said that Casablanca no longer existed so we got back into the cab and headed for Cabanja Roloīs, a bit of an institution in Santa Catalina, owned by a local, Rolo and his family. The view was great, the room not bad and the kitchen very bad
One thing that surprised us was the dirty brown colour of the ocean. The town had apparently had really bad weather the day before we arrived with lots of mud running into the sea. We decided to skip swimming and head to the beach the next day instead. We were still puzzled about the Casablanca resort and asked Rolloīs wife about it. Turns out the resort had closed down 7 years ago! So much for Lonely Planetīs up to date information!
Santa Catalina is a strange town. It reminds me a little bit of the movie Hot Fuzz, the locals all seem to look through you and I kept feeling an undercurrent of something I couldnīt quite put my finger on. Maybe its the fact that everything is so slow. Whilst we were there the internet connection was down, the phone boxes were not working properly and there was no cellular reception. Great if you donīt want to be in touch with anyone at all, but not so great if you really need to contact someone. Even the dogs are lazy, with one literally lying in the middle of the road, not bothered to move if cars come its way.
Due to the fact that San Blas had cost a little more than planned, we decided to cook our meals instead. We were joined for our dinner by a host of mosquitos, gheckos, crabs and a cat that had definately seen better days. This poor thing had been bitten by a dog a few days prior and had a nasty open wound on its back. It also took a liking to me and followed me everwhere, meowing to be stroked. On our final day I couldnīt take it anymore and, mindful of rabies, put a plastic bag on my hand and stroked it
Our second day and we headed into town to the local bakery for breakfast. Mini chocolate croissants, little hot dog rolls, and fresh fruit smoothies, we enjoyed it so much we went back for seconds. After this hearty feast we took a walk on the rocky beach below Cabanja Rolo all the way around the bay until we reached the beach break where all the surfers were hanging out. We bumped into Thomas, our Austrian friend who, after a little debating, decided to rent a board and check out the surf. We decided to head to the beach and read for a while. An hour later and Thomas headed back to us, the waves had died down so he didnīt have much luck. We all decided to head back to the hostel and have a quiet afternoon. As we headed back the way we had come we noticed that the tide had come in and where the path had been was now a river. The only way to cross was to wade through, Thomas went first and the water didnīt look that deep. Alan went next taking our bags and holding them above his head. I went in and promptly stepped in a big hole bringing the water up to my chest
We cooked another meal that night and decided to check out what the local nightlife had to offer. What we found was this: an emtpy shell of a house that in the daytime was used as a canteen of sorts, offering food to the local builders, but which turned into a nightclub in the evenings, complete with beers being sold out of a freezer in the back for a dollar a piece and a somewhat skew jukebox nailed to the wall playing anything from Celine Dion to Daddy Yankee for 25 cents for two songs. Surfers and locals alike were drinking, smoking and shouting the odds although the locals also had a habit of pulling their shirts over their heads, displaying a generous amount of beer bellies. An initiation perhaps? We chose some tunes and sat back to people watch for a little while enjoying the unusual location and its inebriated inhabitants. Unfortunately the party was over at 9.45pm when the jukebox was promptly unplugged, this being deemed the kick out time. We headed back to the hostel, sated with beer, happy that we had a chance to enjoy some nightlife, yet once more puzzled by this town and its ways.
A bus back to Sona, another bus to Santiago and a minibus to David and we were on our way to our next adventure.