Splette's Travel Blog


Those of you who know me a little better, are familiar with my special ability of getting myself in unnecessary trouble, so that life never gets too boring. A condition, my friend and travel psychologist Rolf V. diagnosed as sensation seeking. This story is a representative example.

One of the reasons I came back to Costa Rica was to meet up with old friends from the time I was living here. Unfortunately, many of my Tico friends here are even more spontaneous than me and it’s been near impossible to make any plans ahead of time of who to meet when and where. For that reason a trip to the cloud forests of Monteverde and another trip to a beach had been cancelled at short notice and I grew tired of being stuck in San Jose. So I decided to go to the beach of Manuel Antonio by myself. While I generally love travelling by myself, it can have some disadvantages at times. For example having no-one to watch your stuff at the beach while you go for a swim. But as the seasoned traveller that I am, I have a solution for such minor problems: I left my camera and all valuables at the hostel and only packed my Costa Rica phrasebook and two beers in my little man-purse, grabbed a towel and headed for the beach. The sunset was nice and my Spanish skills seemed to improve with every beer as I was studying useful sentences from the phrasebook. Well, until I remembered that I had hidden my other credit card, driving and diving license, vaccination pass and my bus ticket back to Panama in an inner pocket of my man-purse. Damn. So much for being well prepared. I had heard that theft is not uncommon at the beaches here, especially at dusk and well, I had two beers already and was all by myself. But hey, the water was just too tempting. So I went to swim. The waves were great fun and the water had perfect temperature. Luckily, nothing was stolen while I was in the water.

The next day I went to the beach again. This time I was smarter and left my man-purse at the hostel and just took towel and keys. At one of the more remote areas of the beach where no-one but a few surfers would hang out I put the towel on the sand, near a sign ‘no basura’ (no littering) and went for a swim. Again, the water was perfect although there was no sunset tonight. It was starting to get dark. The surfers left one after the other and also I decided to go back home. At dusk there is an awful lot of mosquitoes at the beach and I did not have any insect repellent. I took the towel, dried myself up and slowly walked home. About 5 minutes later it struck me: THE KEYS!!!! Before I went for a swim I had hidden them underneath my flip-flops, covered by just a bit of sand in case someone would go through my stuff looking for anything valuable while I was in the water. And when I got out of the water, I was distracted by those damn surfer guys next to me, so I completely forgot about the keys. I ran back to the ‘no basura’ sign and tried to remember the exact spot where I had placed my towel by reading the traces and footprints in the sand. But it was hopeless. Hectic I began digging here and there like a squirrel looking for a misplaced nut. Stop! I’m never going to find the keys like this. I switched to German mode: This problem needs to be approached systematically! I identified the spot that I considered to be the most likely location and started digging from there in squares, roughly the size of one square meter each.

Searching systematically square by square

Systematic search

With that approach it should be only a matter of time until I find the keys, which I had only covered with a bit of sand. So I would not have to dig very deep. As I started digging the mosquitoes happily feasted on their newly found victim. It was pointless to even try to fight them off. My only hope for survival was to dig as quickly as possible, find the keys and get out of here. After square one did not turn up the keys, I moved on to the next one. It was getting dark quickly. In the distance clouds where illuminated by a lightning. It was quite a dramatic scene. The last people walked home along the beach. They looked slightly disturbed as they watched me digging through the sand like an obsessed madman with that frantic expression on the face…

What kind of monster mosquitoes were those?

What kind of monster mosquitoes were those?

Half an hour had passed and I was all covered in sand and mosquitoes. My hope started to fade. The insect bites were itching like crazy and I decided to have another quick dip into the sea to wash off the sand and mosquitoes. It felt great but didn’t last. I had to get back to digging, square after square. My key chain was not that small. It contained the dodgy key to the hostel dorm room, my key to the padlock that I used to lock up my electronics and valuables at a locker in the hostel. But most importantly was the ‘magic pen’ – a small and very useful travel pen that my friends Dan and Michael gave me before I started my pan-american journey three years ago. Dan has passed away since, making this magic pen irreplaceable for me. I could not give up. Yet. So I kept digging. It was very dark. Weird fluorescent things appeared in the sand, tricking me into thinking it might be the metal reflection of my key chain. At some point a thuggish-looking guy showed up. He didn’t say a word but kept watching me from up close. I was wondering if he was a thug but I looked too crazy for even him to try to rob me. I was not afraid. I had absolutely nothing on me that anyone could rob. For a moment I considered talking to him to offer him 10$ to help me digging. He left and I kept digging. By now the area that I had covered was quite large. Worrying thoughts crossed my mind: Had I missed the key? Was I not digging deep enough? Or did someone actually steal it while I was in the water? I was exhausted and demoralized. By now I had been digging for about an hour. Should I give up? The hostel probably wouldn’t mind their lost key too much. They probably have a bolt cutter to open my locker. But what about Dan’s magic pen. Was it meant to find its end at a beautiful beach in Costa Rica? I decided to wade through the area I had already dug through one last time. Final location of the keysMaybe I had missed the keys and now I would feel them with my feet as I shuffled through the sand. But with 4×6 meters the area was too big to cover everything once more. I went back to the point where I started out and although I was pretty sure that I had placed my towel not that close to the line where the vegetation started, I decided to just dig a little bit more in that direction. And there they were. I found them! I couldn’t believe it.

Back at the hostel: All covered in sand

Back at the hostel: All covered in sand

My index finger hurt. Something must have been in the sand, maybe a dead jellyfish. My arms hurt from digging, it was quite a workout. Completely covered in sand and an amount of mosquito bites that statistically suggest I now have malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis altogether, I walked back to the hostel. I did not care about my battle scars or what the other people thought. I found my keys and felt nothing but happiness.

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