Uvita, Costa Rica
Next stop for me was a little town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica called Uvita. I found a place online called Flutterby hostel and after getting dropped off by the bus I walked to the hostel, which actually turned out to be a reasonably long walk in very hot sun. When I arrived the girl behind the desk said it was pretty gutsy showing up with no reservation, but I was pleased to find they had a bed for me in their pirate tree-house dorm: one of the coolest dorms I've stayed in so far! The dorm doesn't really have any walls; it's pretty much open to nature and then every bed has a mozzie net. So chilled!
The reason I came to Uvita was to do some dives near Caño Island, so the first thing I did was get myself booked in. There wasn't a boat going out there for 3-4 days but I felt like this would be a nice place to stop for a while so I was quite alright with that.
One morning I went for a walk to the Uvita waterfall. It's only about 3-4 meters tall, but the rocks it flows down are all smooth and mossy so you can go down it like a water slide. It was pretty awesome fun! There was a tour guide there who was showing his clients where you could climb up onto a ledge another meter or so up and jump off, so I followed them up and took the plunge. It was quite exhilarating, having been years since I'd jumped off anything remotely tall!
Another afternoon I went out to see the "whale tail", a sand and rock formation in the shape of a whale tail that becomes exposed for a few hours at low tide each day. I rented a snorkel, and stupidly decided to try and climb out over the rocks to get to the drop off without having to swim so far. That was a big mistake as my feet were torn to shreds, and once I got close to the drop off the size of the swell smashing into the rocks made it appear way too unsafe to get out that way anyway.
I ended up going all the way back into the sandy part of the tail, and then snorkelling out along the edge of the rocks. The visibility for the first 20 meters was absolutely terrible, maybe 20-30cm and I nearly turned back at that point, but I was happy to find that it cleared right up as I got a little further out. I saw some huge trigger fish that looked about the size of a small titan trigger, but with different colouring and they didn't seem at all aggressive. There were loads and loads more fish here than I'd gotten used to diving in the Mediterranean; I didn't even get out past the water 1.5-2M deep and the fish were still pretty plentiful.
The day that I got to go diving I got picked up from the hostel bright and early by a girl from the dive shop, fitted out with gear and met the other divers. They were a friendly bunch of expats from all over the place. Columbia, Venezuela, Germany, Argentina, USA; all over! Everyone else spoke Spanish so I had some good chances to practice listening, and sometimes they'd repeat parts in English which let me see see how close my own translation was.
The boat ride out to Caño island took about 90 minutes, we were taken to shore to sign in to the marine park while the crew sorted out everyone's gear on board the little boat. It was the smallest boat I've ever been on for such a long boat ride. The ocean was glassy smooth that day; I took motion sickness pills as I always do but I probably didn't really need them after all. Still, I'd prefer to eliminate the slightest chance of feeling seasick cause there are few sensations worse.
On the first dive we got to the bottom of the buoy line and there was 2 white tip reef sharks waiting there for us on the bottom, who chilled out for a bit before they swam off. There were huge, huge schools of fish of all different sorts, some so thick they'd cast a cloud-like shadow. I was able to swim calmly right through a few big schools and they didn't seem too fussed by our presence. Throughout the dive we saw even more reef sharks, probably 6-7 in total, which I was super stoked about.
We went back to shore of the island for our surface interval, and ate some delicious pineapple. Boy do I love tropical fruit in the tropics! They all just taste so much more sweet and flavoursome!
The second dive was even more crazy, with even thicker schools of fish, and an absolutely silly number of sharks. At one point there was six sharks all sleeping on the bottom in a group, until they noticed us sneaking up to have a look after which they took off in different directions and settled down elsewhere. It was hard to count an exact number, but I think we could have seen any number of sharks between 6 and 15. Maybe it was just the same sharks over and over, but it felt like there were at least 10 different ones down there.
The German guy with us actually snuck up on one and touched it's tail, and later told me how it's possible to turn them over and rub their belly and they go into a trance like state until they get flipped over right way up again. I'd love to see it some day.
I was thoroughly impressed by both dives at Caño Island, they were definitely worth the wait, the long boat ride and the higher than average cost of the dives. Those two dives were easily among my top 10 dives, if not my top 5.
At the hostel throughout the week I noticed a bunch of fliers around the place for a festival that was on that weekend called BestFest. It turned out the hostel was pretty much booked out all weekend as accommodation for performers and crew, which meant that I met a few of the guys involved with the festival, Franklin and his wife Kristin, Jamin and his girlfriend Marty. Franklin and his wife turned out to be some of the friendliest people I've ever met and they seemed to know absolutely everyone, so I got introduced to more people than I can remember.
Marty was performing at the festival with fire poi and thought she might be able to get me in as her fire safety, which would have be pretty awesome. It didn't eventuate, but it did get me over the line deciding that this was something I wanted to get along to.
As luck would have it the fully booked hostel managed to find a bed for me so I could stay throughout the weekend, so it was decided, I was going to BestFest.
I got a lift to the festival with Franklin and Kristin, and since they were crew we got to drive right into the festival, and into the "backstage" part of the site.
I actually got to spend quite a bit of time in the crew area of the site throughout the festival, since most of the people I'd met seemed to be back there. Ever now and then security would block me from getting back there without a crew pass, but I'd always manage to find another way in because I'm sneaky like that.
There was an interesting mix of music, a lot more bands and less electronic stuff than I had expected. I met lots more cool people, but my terrible memory for names really didn't help me much here.
Two acts that stood out for me were Conspirator and Gramatik. Both were great music to spin poi to, so I found some room up the back and spun for most of both sets, leaving me pretty hot, tired and sweaty by the end.
I managed to get a lift back to the hostel in a minivan, which we crammed 13 people into. At the time I though this was way beyond a sane number of people for such a vehicle, but that was before I'd been to Nicaragua :P
I got a really lovely compliment from Franklin and Kristin about how much they'd enjoyed hanging out, and they let me know they'd pulled a few strings and had managed to sort out a photography pass for me for the Sunday night! Such complete legends!
Sunday night was a lot quieter than the Saturday, as one would expect, but it was great to get more time to hang out with my new found friends. Very glad that I crossed paths with those guys and I hope I run into them again some day soon!