To Costa Rica and Back, Again
From the very mountainous Monteverde, we did another monumental bus ride to the Pacific Coast and Montezuma Beach. The road is pretty passable most of the way then one suddenly comes around a corner and sees the ocean. From there it is a very steep descent on a very steep, curvy road amidst clouds of fine, brown dust, to the town of Montezuma. It was a picture postcard beach and palm tree setting with a lot of surfer kids, stray dogs, and several pretty good restaurants, including a pizza joint. Our favorite was a little coffee shop where the birds sat on the edge of the table and took bits of banana bread out of our hands.
It was a good bit hotter than Monteverde, but we found a great little Tico hotel, Mar y Cielo (Sea and Sky), right on the beach with shade and palm trees and hammocks. We developed a habit of sitting on our balcony and reading or watching the tide come in and out from after lunch to about three, then walking the beach in the afternoon when it cooled down a bit. We hiked to two different places where a river forms a series of small ponds, one of which had a monumental waterfall at the end and a big pool underneath, just like the Tarzan movies. It was quite a hike to reach it, but well worth it.
Montezuma has an interesting little bookstore, Libreria Topsy. The owner, Joelle, is originally from Connecticut. She first came to Costa Rica to take Spanish lessons, fell in love with it, went home, sold her car, and came back to open her bookstore. She's been in C.R. fifteen years and has no plans to return to the U.S. She had a rather dismal selection of well worn, used paperbacks for sale, but had a fairly good selection of books that she rents out to people while they are in town. It's too darn hot to do much but sit in the shade and read there, so she had a pretty good thing going. She also carried the New York Times, which is at a premium in Costa Rica. A week-old copy sells for $10-$15.
By far the best bookstore in C.R., and our most interesting interview was with Larry Coulter of Good Light Books in Alejuela, one of the larger towns in C.R., close to the airport. Larry moved to C.R. from Sebastapol in Northern California, where he had been a contractor for thirty-five years. His store is very nicely organized with a great selection at decent prices. He had a few I almost brought home for resale, but luggage space was limited. He has about 20,000, mostly used books, and a selection of new books about Costa Rica. His clientele is made up of gringo ex-pats, American, Canadian, and European tourists, and only about 7% Ticos. He does do some selling on ABE, but doesn't like their completion rate thing. We compared what we don't like about the online giants, but quickly realized there wasn't much we could do about their practices. He loves the weather and hates the fact that robbery is a constant threat. He was robbed twice, so he had to alarm his store and put in burglar bars and razor wire, like every other merchant in a big C.R. city. Though the violent crime rate in C.R. is not terribly high, petty theft is a national pastime in the cities and one must be constantly alert.
I asked him how he replenishes his inventory, which is an ongoing problem in C.R. because of the high cost of shipping and the general inefficiency of the shipping companies and post offices in C.R. One way, he told me, is to buy back at half price books that he has previously sold. He also has a connection with someone who works at the plane-cleaning service at the airport and who very often finds books that have been left on planes. Once each year he goes to the California Bay Area and buys large quantities of books which he ships reasonably cheaply to his shop in Alejuela.