Matapalo Guanacaste, getting there during a violent strike in Limon. Arriving to find a seemingly friendly resort which is draining the local town of its water.
“So let me get this straight. You want family photo’s taken of your vacation in Costa Rica at a big resort and you want to pay for us to stay there for two nights as payment for our services?” Kim says.”Yes.” answers Heather. “Oh, and it’s all inclusive”.
Woohoo, we could really use a vacation right now is what I am thinking. Sun, fun, friends who speak English, no cooking or cleaning for 3 days. “Which resort is it?” “RIU Guanacaste”. “Oooh, we haven’t been to Guanacaste yet. It’s so far away”, the decision is instant, “We’ll see you in June”.
With a smile on my face, I immediately start preparing the list of things that need to be handled before we can leave:
1.) Someone to stay on the farm overnight
2.) The dogs must be fed twice a day
3.) The jalopy goes to the mechanic (It’s a 7 hour drive through the mountains)
4,) Camera gear needs to be checked and cleaned
I then check out RIU resort to see where we will be staying. The website to the place is sub-par and lacking information. It is mostly a cut and paste job from the other resorts it is modeled after from the same big resort corporation (Spain). Not impressive, IMO. So I go on to search local news about the area. It seems that there were some behind the scene dealings on how the “big” corporation bought the land and how the govt. benefited and the only people that lost were the original landowners and the community. They were also accused of ‘green washing” – talking up their environmental consciousness all while they diverted a stream and buried a section of mangrove. It is opposite to our beliefs and how we run our farm and lodging facilities. I was torn.
Certain that I could get over my “friend of the earth” oath I had secretly made a long time ago. I continued getting ready for the trip. I found shame and hypocrisy easy pills to swallow when confronted with food, drink and AC. I found a Peace Corps volunteer to stay on the farm and watch the dogs and we had the truck scheduled to be serviced a few days before we left. All was according to plan.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Barry calls me from the mechanic and says that the steering arm on the right side is broken and that they would try and get one from San Jose before we left. Then a major rainstorm causes a landslide in the mountains. The road to and from San Jose is closed (our route to Guanacaste and the route of the steering arm to us). Nightly riots have started in Puerto Limon. The dock workers union doesn’t agree to the terms that the Costa Rican Govt. made with a Dutch shipping company and they are burning tractor trailers in the streets. The steering arm won’t get to us on time and we need to rent a car, which is in Puerto Limon. We call the rental place and they say that we should come early to get the car because who knows what is going to happen after 5pm. They are sorry but they can not help that we will then be charged for an extra day. So, on the day before we leave we have to drive to Limon in the midst of unrest to pick up a rental car, drop our car off at the mechanics and make suggestions to the benevolent overlord (pray) that Route 32 is open in the morning at 4am.
We arrive in Playa Matapalo a little before noon. We left at 5 am under clear sky and open road. The resort is massive. Separate buildings house a casino, a disco, shopping and the spa. The main structure is white concrete with columns and arches and everything that you would expect from a beach resort but nothing I would expect to see in Costa Rica. The Caribbean side doesn’t have these huge all-inclusive places, mostly just beach bungalows. We are beguiled and weirdly comforted.
After sitting in one of the bars and having what appears to be all the free beer we can drink our room is ready. We decide to just focus on the job at hand, getting the best pictures of the family as possible. I knew it would be easy. They are basically Barbie, Ken and an adorable off-spring. The grounds of the hotel lent tropical backgrounds with interesting shapes and shadows and the beach was surrounded by green mountains and backed by the sunset on the Pacific. A photographer’s happy place.
We ended up having a great time with friends. Drowning ourselves in food, drink and the pool bar. Barry got some great shots of the Cales and of the surrounding environment. We may never visit again because once is enough. But who knows.
This is Timelapse Photography taken of the hermit crabs, the waves and the foot traffic. Enjoy.