Sunday, December 20, 2009


Yesterday I descended from amidst the clouds and arrived in a beach resort called Tamarindo. On the way, we stopped at a rest stop that had some macaws and deer hanging around. Having had a relatively active itinerary prior, I was really looking forward to the rest and relaxation of a beach resort. Tamarindo is predominantly made up of a couple of main streets, and reminds me of a Costa Rican version of Noosa Heads, in Australia. It has a high concentration of Western tourists, which has earned it the nickname, “Tamagringo”.

And I must be honest, that was its attraction for me. There are many who like to seek out the authentic and off-the-beaten-track experiences that have not yet been overrun by tourists, but I actually have no problem with visiting an area that totally caters to tourists. It doesn’t make me a bad person does it? ;)

So I arrive at my hotel, which is located right in the center of town, on the beach and actually appears to be the best hotel in town. Thanks very much to my travel agent! I decide to take a walk around and check out the town and get a bite to eat while I’m at it.

The shops tend to be predominantly composed of souvenir shops, surf shops, ladies boutiques, restaurants and tour operators. I happen to come across a falafel shop, and am not too surprised to find it is run by an Israeli – they really are everywhere! I ask him where is good to go tonight and he gives me some names of bars but also mentions that there is a fiesta on tonight in the next town, and everyone will be going to that. Sounds interesting. I purchase a falafel off him and tell him “l’hitraot”.

I continue to walk around and pause for a few seconds in front of a tour operator. I really have no intention of going on a tour as I am all-toured-out but am curious what kind of things are on offer in this area – it seems to be all the same stuff I have been doing. The guy in the shop takes the opportunity to come and talk to me and try to convince me that he has something I would like. He lures me into the shop, saying he will show me some photos of a nearby beach. I have no problem with the beach I am on, but I oblige him anyway.

There are two other guys in the shop and one says only a couple of words but my finely tuned “Aussie radar” picks up on the fact that he is one of my own. We swap the origins of our upbringing and then he says that he and his friend are looking to rent a car for the day and would I like to join them. “I could do that”, I say. But they weren’t happy with the price this guy was offering and we go in search of a better price. We go to a few places and then decide to give up on this quest and enjoy the remaining hours of sunshine. We go to the beach. My new friends are actually planning to go to the fiesta that night which they were at yesterday, and participated in, showing me the video of them in the bull ring with 100 other people (mostly men), trying to avoiding getting mauled by the bull. Crazy.

So we went that night, and I must say, it was at once compelling and disturbing. The bull ring is surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of people, locals and gringos alike, but inside the bull ring are 100 or so people, many of them gringos looking for a thrill. Myself and my new friends find a position sitting on the ground outside the fence. The Aussie guy goes in to the ring, whilst the other guy stays with me. The bull comes charging out with a rider on its back, who eventually gets thrown off, and then people take turns in trying to antagonize the bull by grabbing its tail and other things of that ilk. There are twelve bulls that come out in all, and at least half of them seem so scared that they run back to the door that they came from, trying to get out of this madness. It all seems very cruel.

This is also my first up close experience with the locals, Ticos, as they are called. There is one extremely drunk middle aged couple who have decided to sit on the inside of the bull ring, a considerably dangerous idea, in our minds. I am amazed that no-one cares enough to try to get them out of there, and I certainly lack the language skills to try. The woman is so drunk she is rolling around on the floor, exposing her underpants, it’s really not a pretty sight. The man, every now and then takes off to join the rest of the men in the ring, often taking his shirt off beforehand, stumbling back when the bull is captured.

At about the fifth bull, (just when I chose not to videotape it), someone is seriously injured. He is tossed around by the bull like a rag doll, and ends up getting dragged off by a bunch of people to the shed where the bull’s victims get treated. People crowd around the structure, hoping to grab a peek of the mutilation through the slats in the wood. He easily could have been injured to the point of serious head and back injury, if not death. I haven’t discovered his fate. But here’s the thing. The guy wasn’t wearing a shirt and when I look over to the drunk couple, only the woman is there for the remainder of the night, oblivious to the fact that her man has probably been seriously injured. It is a really sad state of affairs, and once again, I lack the language skills to talk to any of my Tico neighbours about it, or to ask the drunk woman if she knows where her man is. The horrendous thing is, that after such an injury, the show goes on, with 7 more bulls coming out one at a time.

Afterwards, we head back to town to socialize with our fellow gringos and go to a sports bar and then a night club. I have forgotten what it’s like to go to clubs where smoking is not banned and am somewhat bothered by the amount of smoke. After a few games of pool, I say goodnight and head back to my hotel.

Unfortunately the next day I came down with a cold and was really not well for the remainder of my stay in Tamarindo.

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