Renting the Tamarindo condo for two weeks was our first experience of living in a hot country for an extended period with no fixed agenda. Many people go south every winter. Most go for a short beach holiday, for a respite from the cold. Some retirees we know spend several weeks or even months in Florida, Mexico or Costa Rica every year. Theirs are extended stays where they live in the heat, in a different country and culture, for long periods of time.
When I have travelled before in hot countries, I was either working or touring. Working in Africa, we taught in the morning from seven until noon, came home to a main meal prepared by our French-trained housekeeper, took a siesta for two hours, showered an in the late afternoon-early evening, did our errands about town on our Mobylettes, or had cocktails with our friends. It was early to bed, early to rise, and the routine was fixed. On weekends and on school vacations, we toured or socialized.
Touring in hot countries, hitchhiking and using local transport as young people, or more recently in small tour groups, the goal was to “see the sights.” As young people, we had things to do and places to see, the more the merrier, whatever the temperature. As older adults, our touring timetables were set by skilled travel guides, and all we had to do was to follow along. Airports, buses and hotels are typically air-conditioned. A good tour guide mixes up the experience so that, from several different base locations, there is a good balance between sight-seeing and “down time.”
I had anticipated visiting the cloud forests, canopy hikes, volcanos and hot pools around Arenal and Monteverde in the mountainous interior. This was my stereotypical view of Costa Rica. For a variety of reasons, including the vagaries of aging, and a mishap I will discuss later, we were unable to go there. Next time. And none of us were into the surfing, snorkelling, sailing, deep-sea fishing and late-night partying that makes Tamarindo such a hot spot for sun-loving young people and sports activists. When touring is not the goal and we are not surfers, I initially wondered what we would do. How it is that our ex-pat friends spend their time abroad?
Adapting to the heat is a shock and imposes its own imperatives. Local trips in the car or hiking on the beach start early and end early. Midday, it is wise to be in the shade, in a beachside bistro bar or at home on the balcony. Walking at that time is foolhardy. Even the surfers go home until late afternoon. Once the sun goes down, nightfall comes quickly. Driving or walking in the dark didn’t seem a good idea and we hadn’t yet learned how to use the local cabs. The best time of day is the early morning when we wake up to the birds singing, and the reverberating guttural roars of the alpha male howling monkeys saluting the dawn. Then, a leisurely breakfast is in order. That’s the key. Leisurely.
It took me several days to slow down and learn that the heat liberates us to pursue our normal daily activities, but at a slower pace than at home. We sink into what we most like to do: eating, drinking, cooking, socializing, sleeping well (for a change), swimming in the pool, reading, learning how to use my new camera, writing posts for Facebook, checking our favourite sites on the iPad or computer. All at leisure, without any pressing daily activities, and in a sublime setting with a warm climate, it can become a great life.
Today’s howling monkey photos were taken by Lucy Ramos. Thanks, Lucy.