Today after teaching my yoga class, I was on the way out the door when the receptionist/my favorite housemate, Gio, called after me. I stopped to chat. “What are you doing today?” she asked. I told her I didn’t really know. She said, “Oooh then you should go to El Coco. There’s a shuttle today at 12. I’ll write your name down.” She went on to explain that it’s the most beautiful beach in the San Juan del Sur area and it really shouldn’t be missed. She said there’s a hotel with a pool and a restaurant that sells expensive burgers, for “$10, or maybe 7.” The shuttle apparently doesn’t go often because it’s so far to El Coco, so this was my lucky day. She said it was sooo beautiful that the bus was going to leave us there until after the beautiful sunset. Great!
I hurried home to pack up and made it back just in time for the guests being ushered into a Jeep-ish vehicle with seats along the side of the back to maximize the space. There were 5 other guests with me, a couple from Germany, and older couple from Spain, and a girl from Switzerland. We all made some silly jokes about what would happen if it rained on us at the beach. The Jeep bumped along through beautiful green pastures and hills as the road transitioned from pavement to rocky dust. We were all cheerful when we got out at a barbed wire fence just outside of a big facing rock gate leading though the jungle with a glimmer of beach at the end. Someone said, “Esta El Coco?” and the driver gave a definitive, elongated, “Siiiiii.” I made a joke about how he says “ok, here we are in the jungle” and we all hop out and walk off, saying “ok see you in 6 hours!” Someone said “yeah, well we want to see the beach!”
We made our way past a farm yard’s worth of animals in the front yard of a corrugated metal shack. We followed the reddish dirt path toward the light shimmering on the back of the waves. When we popped out of the trees, there was a collective anticlimactic “oh.”
To the right, there was a steep rock face where the sand ended so the group moved as a horde to the left. There wasn’t much beach as the tide was medium-high so we skirted the edge of the trees, sticks and shrubbery. We knew there MUST be shining restaurant with pina coladas and burgers and pool floaties just around one of the bends. Eventually, the tip of a thatched roof came into view. We all got excited and started poking each other, pointing to the reeds flapping the beach breeze. As we plodded nearer, it because clear that this was indeed not the majestic resort we were promised, but a simple snack shack with coke, juice, rum and chips. It had a few nice hand-made bar-height stools and tables. We parked in front of it because it was the closest beacon of hope to the dream we were promised.
I walked around the rocks at the end of the point just beyond the shack thinking maybe we were just shy of paradise, but on the other side, there was only a metal shack and a muraled wall. I walked back to an expectant looking group and shattered their hopes.
We huddled up to chat and check in. One woman broke from the group to check at the snack shack that there wasn’t a secret hotel hiding somewhere behind the trees. No. Then we recapped what was promised:
- Some people didn’t eat lunch or bring snacks in anticipation of this fictitious eatery
- Tranquilo waters. Perfecto for swimming? Not with those waves and 2 local surfers
- Swimming pool with hotel attached. Nada.
- Fantastico views. I mean this beach was… a beach, but we wouldn’t say so much more
My hypothesis was… we were NOT at El Coco beach. The runner headed off to the shack again and we all watched as the server shook his head and she stood with her mouth open then asked a new question and the cycle went on and on. She returned and confirmed our fears. Indeed, this is NOT El Coco. This is Playa Yankee and it’s 5 km from Coco. We considered walking momentarily. We laughed about Robinson Crusoe and joked about a fisherman and a bonfire. Then everyone went back to worried looks.
I pointed to a couple of men and said, “I bet one of them has a truck.” So our heroine, the runner, went over to talk to them next. In fact, they did NOT have trucks, but one brave soul volunteered to ride his motorbike toward town and find someone who DID have a truck. He clutched his hat and headed off down the beach.
In the meantime, in our state of terrible distress, we decided a swim would be nice. I was one of the first few in the water. It was a bit “frio” but refreshing. The surfer’s waves rolled in at a nice rapid pace that was fun to ride even as a mere body surfer in the shallows. The swiss girl and I giggled as we rushed toward shore on the back of the white foam.
After a bit, we were all on the beach again, eating snacks, reading, smiling, laughing. Well I was doing those things and about 3 out of 5 of the others were too. It was funny to get dropped off in the middle of nowhere *considering we knew we DID have a pickup <worst case> at 6.
Then it started to rain. We all said “OH NO remember when we were talking about THIS in the car?” as warm tender drops delicately floated down onto our skin, which was just starting to dry from being in the Pacifico. We reached to gather our things, but in the end, no one moved very far. I walked around and took some photos. I only wished I was more engulfed in the story in my book. Then maybe I would be happy to wait until 6.
A truck with surf boards and their riders pulled up down the beach. Two members of our party rushed toward this rescue team but were rudely ignored. The surfers were here to surf and could not help us poor touristas sunbathing in the rain at the beach. We settled back in and watched some pelicans dive gracefully into the sea. “Well at least they’re eating,” some said as they put a chip into their mouth.
Someone spotted our brave knight who gone off in search of a truck trudging up the beach, nearly *two* full hours after our arrival. Some members of our group rushed and some meandered over to him in their own time. The heroine translated- he DID find a truck. He had to pay $39 for it and wants $6 (one from each of us) for himself. We went through the motions of discussing whether or not this would be acceptable, knowing full-well that we were all in to leave the soft sands of the deserted beach stretching gracefully along the shore.
We gathered our things quickly and followed behind the man and his small family, who had also been left at the beach while he went on the truck-hunt. We watched tiny footprints developing behind the man’s baby as he also quickly walked up the beach.
When we got to the truck, I saw that it was totally empty. The woman who had translated clarified- oh yes, he paid someone to GIVE him their truck to come get us. One by one we climbed in to the back over the railing. This truck didn’t have seats along the sides like we were accustomed to, only wooden slats to hold us in. The translator woman made a joke, saying people would think we were farm hands coming back in from a tough day in the field.
We took off up the dusty bumpy road, conscious of each rock and pothole along the way as we popped up and crashed down onto the wooden boards. We passed lush green fields and trees flowering with yellow and red blossoms. Then we slowly rolled to a stop.
The translator hadn’t yet mentioned this part. The man’s motorbike had broken down on his way out of the beach, so we were going to bring it back to his home on our way into town. He untied the back gate of the truck and lifted it off. There was just the simple matter of hoisting the two-wheeled beast of a machine onto the truck. We all piled out to make it easier. I took a photo of the road, and when I turned around, the task was done. Everyone but me had put in some muscle. Oops. I felt rather guilty.
We all found places on either side of the motorbike and we headed again towards town. Everyone had a hand on the machine to brace themselves and keep it from falling on themselves on any extra-bouncy bumps. One man was holding a handle bar and said he didn’t know if it was the brake or the clutch. I announced clutch a little too quickly. I think he expected no one to know but I did and I was/am proud of my motorbiking days.
A short way down the road, we rolled again to a stop. We had arrived at the man’s house. Next order of business: unload the motorbike. This time I stuck around to be of assistance, but there were too many hands and I just sort of circled the group like a sad younger sibling who wants to play with the big kids. We hopped back into the truck bed and waited while the man went inside to get his license in case the police asked for it in town. We talked about the cost of the trip and whether or not the hostel would reimburse us for the perilous ride, as warm sunlight fell on us, freshly filtered through the leaves of the trees arching over our heads.
The rest of the ride was smooth and I encouraged everyone to come to yoga. They were semi-interested. Back at the hostel, there was a bit of a scene with various employees joining the negotiations over the rides. The original driver was called in. He said he DID leave us at El Coco. The new driver was called in to say he DID pick us up at Playa Yankee. In the end, the hostel covered the cost of our savior’s truck and the ride home that we would have taken at 6. Everyone was smiling, in spite of all of the horrors of the day’s mishap. 😉