Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lake Arenal report

Hola from Puerto Viejo. Just reporting on last week for those interested – Nic and Aaron.

Lake Arenal was pretty sweet. It was not the epicness that was expected of the place, but saying that, I still had a great time. I sailed every day, although, the first two days and the last were the strongest winds, the last day in particular being noteworthy.

I guess the one thing that you do not hear in the advertisements is that the winds, when not cranking, are actually quite gusty, particularly when clouds are coming overhead or rain showers are passing through, which was about 1/2 the time while I was there. But, in the end, I was told by some regulars that it was not the best week. Most said that, in their experience, it is by far the most reliable high wind destination you can find down south, and that is why there are lots of people who keep coming back (or move here part-time in the winter).

Here’s my run down:
Saturday – arrived at noon – sailed all afternoon, fairly solid on 4.2/74L.
Sunday – sailed all day, starting to waiver, but made the 4.2/84L combo work.
Monday – rainy, gusty – sailed 4.7/84 on/off for 15/20 min chunks throughout the day.
Tuesday – ditto, but less.
Wednesday – 5.4/101L, small chop, gusty, rainy. Short 1/2hr 4.7 session at the end of the day nicely powered.
Thursday – improving, but not all there – sailed 5.0 for bits and pieces.
Friday – had to leave by 1pm, but CRANKED all morning. Sailed 4.2 overpowered with 74L. This day was the main day for me that showed the places potential. In one 500m reach, I could typically hit a number of decent ramps for several shove-its, tabletops and backloop attempts. Lots to hit on port, nothing much on starboard on the way back in.

I reckon I would say this even if I was not sponsored, but my Quatro’s and Goya Sails put those Pryde’s and JP’s to shame. They are not terrible in any sense, and maybe it has a lot to do with just being familiar with my own stuff, but the bigger JP FSW’s did not enjoy planing too early and sometimes the rigs felt lifeless. Saying that, as soon as I was powered up on the small stuff in higher winds, I enjoyed the 4.2 and 74 RWW and 84 FSW. I’m sure my displeasure with the big stuff was also in part since it was really gusty. Next time, I will try to bring my own equipment, but travelling with the twins is enough to lug around.

Despite my lofty goals, I learned nothing. I made some slight progress on shaka’s, but I’d say it is probably a very subtle lesson I learned to take another small step towards getting them one of these millennia. It is a TOUGH place to learn flat-water freestyle type tricks, since there really is NO flat-water to speak of. It is a B&J destination, and if the wind is strong, there is certainly lots of potential to learned aerial moves, but don’t expect too much improvement on the slidey stuff. If you do progress on those sorts of tricks, hats off, you will be killing it when you head back to your local flat patch of water.

TicoWinds is very well run by Peter Hopley and gang. Good amount of gear there in a range of volumes and sail sizes. Great fulfilling lunches & drinks keep you hydrated and powered for the afternoon. About 1/2 windsurfing, 1/2 kiting during my stay, but I reckon kiting is taking over there.

Have either of you been before? Do you know where you will stay? I found that any info on-line, from TicoWinds or otherwise, was a bit lacking in giving the lay of the land in that area. Basically, TicoWinds is not affiliated or situated at any hotel/resort/restaurant (as I thought, for some reason). It is pretty much strictly a rental concession in a long jutting-out piece of nature reserve land in the west end of Lake Arenal. From the paved road, it is a nice 15min walk in on a dirt/mud road. This entrance is about 1km to the north/east from an intersection where there is a nice coffee shop/restaurant (decent latte's, depending on who is there ;). Up the hill, there is Mystica (accomodation, restaurant, yoga retreat), and then you get into Sabalito, about 2km up that hill (which is where a few people were staying).

In the other direction, about 1-2km away, is a small town called Rio Piedras where there are a couple small Pulperia’s (grocery stores), but not much else. I was told that up the road from there, is Rock River Lodge (open) and a number of other rentals.

In other words, the area is really sparse. Unless you are there with a buddy, or end up being at a place where other sailors are staying, there is NOTHING happening in the evenings - so make the most of the social atmosphere during the day at TicoWinds.

I stayed at a place called Equus BBQ, which is about 200m closer to TicoWinds from the coffee shop. I was in a small basic cabina without kitchen for $20/night. Decent enough place, but in the evening, I was bored silly - there is only so much fiendish Soduko one can do. Due to our kids and being with them previous to this in San Jose and elsewhere, I spent the first couple nights sleeping like a log - 8pm to 7am, but then I was caught up with rest – yet still, nothing to do in the evenings.

If you have a car, you can get around a bit, but without one, its not very safe to be walking or biking on the road for km’s on end to hook up with a buddy, unless they are very close-by. Internet is not easy to come by, especially if you don’t come equipped. Mystica has wireless for those with laptops, and presumably staying there or buying something to eat. There may be other such places around, but I did not know where they were. If you are not getting a rental car, definitely ask for the bus schedule when you are in Tilaran - get the schedules for Tilaran to La Fortuna, Tilaran to Arenal and vice versa. Tilaran is 12km away ($6000 colones cab ride) and Arenal is about the same I think, maybe a bit farther. La Fortuna is an hour away by car, or 2 if you take the bus.

Sorry, but not a single photo to share for you!

Enjoy!! I definitely did, despite the remoteness of the place and lack of the best conditions.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Off to Arenal...

We're chilling in San Jose today, but I am off tomorrow to Arenal. Hoping for a solid week of nuking winds before rejoining the familia in Puerto Viejo.