A day in the life (chapter 3)

Life onboard
six foot iguana at waterfall costa rica
March 19, 2018

I woke up naturally around 7 but laid in bed for a while listening to the birds chirping and the howler monkeys howling before I climbed over a semi-conscious John and out of bed. I seem to fall into a morning ritual when we are at anchor of climbing up the companionway until I can see 360 degrees, and just taking it all in for a moment. Sometimes our boat is facing a different way than I expected. Sometimes a particularly low tide is exposing reef lines I haven’t seen before. Sometimes there are small pesky birds lined up on our jib sheets I get to shoo away.

After my visual survey of the morning, I plopped down at my computer to get some writing done before the rest of the day woke up. Sometime later, John emerged and put the water on for coffee. I asked him what his vision was for the day. We decided we would go for a dinghy exploration of the estuary nearby to look for crocodiles and colorful birds before returning to the boat to rebuild the watermaker (again) and take care of some overdue scrubbing.

By the time we figured out that the tide would be too low to get through the entrance of the estuary until late that night, Danika had hailed us on the radio. Danika is a 36’ Cape George from Seattle with our friends Jen and Jason on board, and the only other boat in Bahia Ballenas with us. They reminded us that it was Saturday (what month is it again…?). We had heard there was a farmer’s market on Saturdays in the one-road town across the bay. So after John cooked up some tasty omelets, we jumped in the dinghy with cameras and grocery bags and water.

There was no sign of movement on the one road of town. We asked at the “mini super”, a sort of 7-11 style grocery store that dots these tiny coastline towns, and he politely confirmed there is no market here on Saturdays, or ever. You have to take a bus to Montezuma for that.

Not three minutes later, we were chatting with an expat from Alabama outside the store about the fresh mint he had just bought at the Saturday market. He pointed us down the road and around the corner to the fishing pier. A pleasant stroll down a tree studded dirt lane lined with quaint bungalows that face the ocean brought us to the market. It turns out this is a two-road town!

We strolled through the piles of vegetables and herbs laid out on blankets in a run down restaurant, in awe of the delicious freshness of the place. I soon forgot the vegetables, though, when Honey started talking. Honey runs this farmers market, and several others. She has a hypnotic way of speaking that draws you in and keeps you there. Her white wavy hair embellishes her charm. She sailed to this bay with her husband on their handmade wooden boat 40 years ago, and stayed. Honey and her husband want the whole world to use solar energy, and they understand the technology to make it happen. Honey works hard to make the world a better place.

Honey talked with us longer than she needed to; it was obvious she was on her way out the door. She said she was headed to Montezuma, just down the road, for the next farmers market. She invited us to come see her there. I don’t think we made a conscious decision to follow her; instead, her magnetic nature drew us to that conclusion instinctively.

So instead of buying some veggies and being done for the day, we walked out only with a bag of freshly made cinnamon rolls and strolled down to the bus stop, thinking we would stock up when we met up with Honey in Montezuma instead. We didn’t know how often the buses ran or how much they cost, and we had to ask which side of the street we should stand on to get the right bus. But this is standard procedure when our home takes us to a new town every few days. We sat on a bench in the shade and munched on cinnamon rolls for an hour or so, chatting and unhurried, before the bus rolled up.

Our intention was to first get off in Cobano, a small town between us and Montezuma. But the bus fare was the same to ride all the way to Montezuma, so we stayed on. The bus ride was beautiful, weaving through farmland and up steep hillsides, gliding by tiny farming villages and along the craggy coast. When everybody else got off the bus, we did too. The driver let us know the return bus was either at 2 or 4. We had plenty of time to go to the market, grab a bite, and be back on the 2:00 headed home.

funky town of Montezuma costa rica

Montezuma is a funky little expat town filled with organic cafes and beach bums selling crafts and vegan ice cream stores. As we walked towards what looked like the middle of the town, we got hungry and stopped for pizza. Except the pizza oven didn’t get hot for another two hours, so we had sandwiches and salads and decided instead we were due for a pizza night on the boat. Danika volunteered to make the dough, and I added excitedly, “I have artichoke hearts!”

Honey had not been specific about where this market was to be. We asked a local, but again he shook his head, and apologized that the market ended hours ago. So we wandered to the edge of town and soon found ourselves at the trailhead for a waterfall hike. John and I had read about this hike, but had thought we’d skip it. It’s the heart of the dry season right now, and the waterfalls we have seen so far have been a bit… uninspiring. But there we were, with bags weightless from the lack of vegethe path to the montezuma waterfalltables, free entrance to see a waterfall, and at least an hour or three before the next bus.

Just 500 meters from the trailhead, we came to a short craggy granite slope with a gentle cascade of water weaving among the rocks. Beautiful, to be sure, but aptly described as uninspiring. We stopped and snapped a few photos. Then we saw people walking along the river further upstream, so we walked on. There was a sort-of trail that weaved into the streambed and along the shore that kept us hopeful we were headed to something.


Along the way, a woman in a bikini and flip flops with grey streaks through her long brown hair and piercings in her nose and naval instinctively stopped us with a Dory-like exclamation “just keep going!” There was a bigger waterfall ahead – confirmed. But don’t stop there! It was worth it to scramble up the hillside past that one and hike around the bluff to drop down into the pools above the big waterfall. And once you’re there, “just keep going!” There is another set of falls with perfectly swimmable pools above that. And the further you go, the less people you will see.

We soon understood what she was talking about. Turning a bend in the river, we were greeted with a 60-foot cliff with a small but not insignificant waterfall cascading down the middle. Oh, and about 73 other people. It was hot, and we were out of drinking water (having not expected to be on a hike today), so we stopped in the shade to watch the locals climb the cliff ever higher before leaping into the pool below and to swim in the refreshing fresh water. I kicked myself for not bringing a bathing suit, then remembered I had left the boat with the intention of buying vegetables… luckily a sports bra and some quick dry shorts work just as effectively.

We didn’t linger long before we just kept going. Our friend’s instinctual advice was vital; we never would have called this scramble a trail. But up we went, grabbing roots and rocks and seeking footholds. The heights eventually got the better of Jen and Jason, and they turned back to enjoy the ground level viewing and people watching of the lower falls. John and I, of course, had to just keep going.

montezuma waterfall costa rica

We scrambled down an exposed root system clinging desperately to the hillside and found ourselves soaring above the waterfalls below, looking up in admiration to the falls above. We shared this spot with only 4 other brave souls. One of them disclosed that there was an iguana sunning itself on the far rock that is this big, holding his hands out like a fish tale told too many times. Neat, I replied. Thanks.

I promptly forgot about the iguana and turned my sights to the refreshing pool calling my name. I scampered over the rocks and nearly tripped over the biggest iguana I’ve ever seen, skillfully blended into the rocks around him. I actually think our friend underrepresented his heft, unable to stretch his arms far enough apart.

This huge iguana hung out with us at the Montezuma Waterfall in Costa Rica

six foot iguana at waterfall costa rica

We filmed the iguana and swam and sat in the sun and swam. Eventually we retraced our steps up the tree roots, across the bluff and down the washed out hillside to the bottom of the falls and Jen and Jason lounged in the shade. It was after 3 when we started the hike back down the streambed and the first time I’d looked at my watch all afternoon. So much for the 2:00 bus.

We were back in town with just enough time to sit at a beachside bar to guzzle water and a few ice-cold beers before the last bus of the day rolled up. On the bus, we were chatting about how the day had shifted away from being able to add any vegetables to our provisioning when the bus stopped in Cobano, the middle town on the way home, right across the street from a produce shop. Jen and I jumped off the bus and trotted across the street for a 3-minute grocery run. I intuitively grabbed fruits and veggies without conscious thought of a list or a plan. The bus was running and in gear when I jumped back on board with a fistful of change and a bag full of yummies.

It was dusk by the time we zipped back across the bay to Halcyon and Danika. Jen quickly whipped up some pizza dough and Jason shredded some mozzarella, then they joined us on Halcyon for a relaxed evening of making pizzas and drinking beer and talking about boats (typical…).

I climbed into bed, my legs weary and my heart full. This was a day that embodied the spirit of cruising. Of going with the flow, shifting focus, exploring new places, and following spontaneity.

  1. Reply

    Peggy Martin

    April 25, 2018

    What a beautiful way to spend the day!

  2. Reply

    Pam Chandler Parrett

    March 19, 2018

    What a wonderful experience y’all are having. Keep safe.

  3. Reply

    Dwight Motz

    March 19, 2018

    Great pictures John! Love your stories Becca! Sun beginning to shine here in PNW. Joined Seattle Sailing and Christa, Cat and Leah taking ASA Sailing 101 on first weekend in May. They should have fun together. Can’t wait to get on the water.

I'd love to hear from you

John and Becca Guillote

John is the photographer. He portrays the layers of history, emotion, spirit and culture in each moment through his application of light, perspective, and detail. He also takes pictures.

Becca is the writer. She tells vivid stories of authentic moments, highlighting the beautiful, dangerous, dramatic and hilarious with grammatically correct sentences and her tongue held firmly by her cheek.


To receive the newest posts in your inbox (we won't spam you, I promise)

Follow us on social