Dry Season, Green Season, and Pura Vida Plumbing

Sámara Beach sunset with surfer exiting ocean

Let’s talk about water. Most humans enjoy being near large bodies of agua. I certainly do. That’s why coasts, islands, rivers, and lakes are so incredibly popular. There is something about walking along the beach that soothes you. As a teenager, I was the one who would try to wake all my friends up early to head to the lake. If you slept in, you didn’t get a parking spot and the best areas for rock jumping were already taken. Priorities people! My BFF and I even got hypothermia one year because we decided May was a perfectly reasonable time to go swimming in Colorado. It is not!

Should I learn to surf?

May might be too cold for swimming in Colorado, but here in Sámara, Costa Rica, you would be crazy not to get into the bathtub warm Pacific Ocean. Here’s the problem. I grew up with nice, calm lake waves. These are surfing waves! Granted, they are the “teach little kids how to surf” kind of surf waves. Not the Portuguese surfing competition kind. But I still get nervous about swimming under the waves so that I don’t get pummeled.

Sámara Beach sunset
It feels like Sámara Bay faces west but it doesn’t! It actually faces south, so the sun never sets over the ocean. It goes down over land.

Plus, there are very strong rip tides here. You can see them in how the sand collects on both sides of the bay and is deeper in the middle where the sand gets sucked out. That middle part is where the more advanced surfers go for the bigger waves. It is also the area to watch for unsuspecting tourists to head out, only to get slammed repeatedly by ever building sets of surf. Now that is fun to watch!

So I’m learning to read the rip tides and not freak out when the ocean is pulling me in a direction I do not want to go. By sticking with the sides of the bay instead of the center, the currents mostly just take you back to shore. That way, when I start to get tired or into trouble, I can just stand up. There are no lifeguards that I can see and the conditions-flag always stays green, which blows my mind. Even on the calmest days, the surf here would constitute a red flag in México, for sure!

Mrs. ItchyFeet at beach bar
Lucky for my pale skin, most beach bars in Sámara have shade! This one even has GF beer!

Don’t step on a crab!

The other thing that I am super surprised about here in Sámara (pronounced SAM-ah-rah), is how big the tides are. We are talking several meters, which is a lot. So when the tide is in, there is hardly any beach left. It’s just a hill of soft sand right into the ocean. But when the tide is out, the beach is massive! And… and… and… you get tide pools! I have seen so many amazing creatures here. Everything from predator cone snails (they hunt other snails!) to sea slugs to crabs that burrow into the sand.

There are even sand mason worms here! These are cool because they look like someone’s long-lost ankle-bracelet. They cement sand and shell fragments together to form this delicate tube structure. You only see them at low tide, half buried in the sand. This is really a nature lover’s paradise. It helps that Sámara is a tiny village with barely any trash. Lots of beaches that I have recently been to have an absurd amount of plastic floating around. Not here!

Sand crab
Sand crabs are adorable! It takes a lot of effort not to step on them because, after they bury themselves, they are really hard to see.

The city does an excellent job keeping the streets clean, which does wonders to keep plastic out of the ocean when it rains. There are trash cans (and recycle!!!) everywhere, and people actually use them. In Mazatlán, per custom, everyone puts their trash right onto the street or sidewalk for pickup several times a week. So it’s not uncommon to see people just toss trash out their window or as they are walking. This leads to a lot of plastic in the ocean and along the beach. Trash in the street encourages more trash because “everyone else is doing it”.

Can you drink the water?

You don’t truly appreciate potable tap water until it is gone! After living in México for six months, I am so excited to be in Costa Rica where I can simply grab a glass of water from the faucet and drink it down. It’s not even that. It’s the washing of fruits and vegetables with no fear of sickness. It’s the brushing my teeth without need of a glass of purified water. And what about pasta? Some recipes call for noodles to be rinsed after cooking. That’s hard to do from a jug.

Horses on the beach
Look how dry it gets during the dry season! A few horses got loose on the beach. They were having the best time!

You just don’t think about those little things. Plus, replacing the giant jugs is a big old pain in the butt. I got incredibly lucky in Mazatlán because the owner of the apartment installed a purification system for the water with a faucet by the sink. It was amazing… but not as amazing as being able to drink the water from every faucet in the apartment without fear.

The other wonderful thing about this apartment is that the manager is letting me use the housekeeper’s laundry machine. This thing is fascinating because it’s a washer on one side (that you fill with a garden hose!), and a centrifuge on the other side. So you add soap and clothes, fill with water, run the washer for like ten minutes, move the sopping wet clothes to the centrifuge while draining the washer, spin, move the clothes back, fill with water, run the washer to rinse, move, spin, move, rinse, move, spin, done. Line dry. It’s very manual but works great!

Vodka tonic on ice
It is hot-hot in the tropics, so a cold drink is wonderful. But watch out for high prices. This vodka tonic cost $14! Ouch!

Random watery tidbits

Besides the interesting laundry machine, there are a few other plumbing peculiarities. First and foremost is that toilet-paper should not go into the toilet. If it does not pass through you, it does not get flushed! The pipes are very narrow and toilet-paper clogs up the works. It is very awkward to wipe and then put that dirty paper into the trash next to the toilet. I’m getting used to it though!

A lot of the plumbing is done without P-Traps. P-Traps keep water in the drain so that gases don’t come back up into the room. This means that sometimes it can get a bit smelly in the bathroom! This was true in Mazatlán as well, but there I had drain covers. I can’t find those suckers anywhere around Sámara. Luckily, my Portugal friends taught me a trick after my stinky bathroom experience in Lisbon. Fill a sandwich bag with water and cover the drain with that. Works wonders (Thanks, Friends!)!

Now you would think that Costa Rica is a tropic jungle with tons of water. While that is true during the green season, not so much during the dry season. This creates a problem because a huge portion of CR’s electricity is from hydroelectric. They are currently in a drought, so I have gotten some warnings that they may have to ration electricity (turn it off in specific areas for up to three hours per weekday) to make up for the shortfall. Luckily, CR has just gotten a ton of rain, so they are delaying the rationing.

Lagoon forming
With the wet season starting, this lagoon is forming by the beach. I hope I get to see a crocodile down here someday!

Dry Season vs Green Season

The last time I was here in Costa Rica, I stayed in Playas del Coco during the dry season. Over the winter, it very rarely rains and gets so dry that many trees lose all their leaves. While it’s hot-hot, it’s not crazy hot because the humidity is so very low. The cactus just love it. Iguanas and birds maybe not so much. Lots of critters used the swimming pool as their only source of water when the river ran dry. It was so interesting to see the very start of the green season when the rains began.

This time in Sámara, I am here just as the dry season is ending. Let me tell you, it is gorgeous to see the transition, but that humidity is crazy. It is hot-hot tropical hot. You get out of the shower and you are immediately drenched in sweat again. I legitimately do not know if this apartment has hot-water, because I have never tried to use it. I’m a cold shower on a hot day kind of person! The humidity is so high that I have to be careful to dry everything that gets wet or it will mold. I have a system.

Now that the rains have started, the river to the west of town has started to flow into the ocean. So at high tide, it can be somewhat difficult to make it across. But at low tide, it creates a very large sand delta. There is also a lagoon forming, which makes for some really fun bird watching. I’m hoping crocodiles show up, but I think it might be too shallow. I’ll keep my eyes open for you all! But not for long because the green season is also mosquito season! Beware the mozzies!

Thunder and lightning…

I lived for a time in Colorado Springs, CO, USA, and one of the great summer evening activities was watching thunderstorms roll in from the mountains quickly dumping their load onto the desert plains on the east side. You would hear that thunder and know that you should probably head for cover soon. It would only rain for about five minutes, but it could be intense. Those storms have nothing on the tropical storms here!

Tropical rain on palm trees
The wet season has begun!

Just lightning and thunder and so much rain. I was enjoying a casado at a local Soda at the bottom of the hill to my apartment when one of these storms rolled in. The stairs up to my place became an absolute waterfall and completely flooded the back road with mud and so much water. Lightning even struck the field across the street! It was unbelievably loud. There were some very soggy delivery drivers on motorcycles.

It rained so hard for so long that the downspout that ran through the restaurant couldn’t keep up. The waitress tried desperately to remove leaves and clear the line, but water got all over the counters and on her phone. She moved me to a different table so that I wouldn’t be the next victim of the water intrusion. I had to stay until the rain stopped because there was no way to get back home. It was all very exciting!

Recommended Posts

1 Comment

  1. love the story, let us know if you take up surfing and how it goes
    we also love the thunder and the rain (when it’s warm)

Comments are closed.