Nuevo Arenal: Moya’s Place

To read my Costa Rica journal from the beginning, click here.

I was starving. I’d had entirely too little food these past few days.

Bound for Liberia, we had left our ecolodge near the Nicaraguan border, and had retraced our way down 40-km of bone-chipping dirt road into Pital, back past the small town of El Castillo, and into Nuevo Arenal. It was here that we stumbled, ravenous, into Moya’s Place, an inviting open-air restaurant. The wall facing the street isn’t even a wall, it’s just… a wide opening. The interior walls sported brightly colored murals depicting Mayan and Aztec scenes.

A friendly waiter hovered helpfully over us as we ordered our food. I requested a papaya drink.

“With milk?” the waiter asked encouragingly.

“Sure!” I answered.

The waiter beamed and made a little note on his tablet. He turned happily to Martin, who ordered a mango drink.

“With milk?” the waiter asked uncertainly.

“Sure!” Martin answered.

“Hmmmm…..” the waiter said doubtfully, pencil hesitating over the tablet.

“Or just… with water?” Martin hastily amended.

The waiter’s face beamed once again. “Oh yes,” he said with relief. “With water.”

Drinks and food arrived, and the wonderfulness cannot be overstated. Granted, I was hungry. I’d felt deprived of food, for one reason or another, for days, and I was ready for an enormous calorie wallop. Martin and Dakota laughed as my towering cheeseburger was gingerly placed before me, the pillar of food swaying gently, threatening to topple. Juicy meat and gooey cheese were sandwiched between two thick buns and stacked with every vegetable you can conceivably pile onto a hamburger. Banana chips were liberally sprinkled around the plate. Colossal is a word that springs easily to mind.

“You’ll never finish it!” Martin and Dakota hooted. I’m sure Dakota was avidly eyeing my meal, already salivating at the prospect of leftovers which would surely be pushed his way. That skinny girl can’t possibly finish such a mountain of food!

I wish I’d taken bets.

Oh yeah, baby, I ate all that.

Because bite by delicious bite, that colossal cheeseburger disappeared. And the papaya milkshake, too, effortlessly vanished. All of it.

You definitely want to eat at Moya’s Place. Order the cheeseburger, and the papaya drink with milk. Oh well, order whatever you want, it’s all good, just make sure you’re really hungry.

Extremely satisfied, we continued towards Liberia. We roared along, windows open, happy and slightly sleepy. Since we all, inconceivably, had a tiny corner of unused stomach-space (or so we told ourselves), we decided to stop at a coffee shop half an hour down the road. “It’s the best coffee place in Costa Rica!” Dakota declared, although I’m not sure how he knew that.

Probably he was just making stuff up, as usual.

We were climbing out of the truck when we heard a veritable shriek from Dakota in the back seat. “Oh God!” he moaned. “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”

He ejected himself from the vehicle and strode around the parking lot in agitation, muttering gibberish to himself. We asked him anxiously, over and over: “What’s wrong? What is it? What happened?”

Once he was able to formulate somewhat intelligible sentences, we learned that he had left his brand new, super-expensive, light-weight, zoom-into-something-from-miles-away, bad-ass camera back at Moya’s Place.

Make that waaaaaay back at Moya’s Place. On the empty seat in that open-air restaurant, in broad view of the street.

The camera was surely gone.

But Martin and I grabbed Dakota and flung him bodily into the truck, headfirst, and hurtled back to Moya’s Place, while Dakota jabbered and babbled from the backseat. Martin screeched to a stop in front of the restaurant and Dakota anxiously flew up the steps, fully expecting the obvious: “Oh gosh, so sorry, no, we didn’t see any camera. Are you sure you left it here?”

But the friendly and reliable staff, who had had our backs when ordering drinks, calmly reached behind the counter and handed him his precious camera. “We knew you’d be back,” they told him with a smile.

Moya’s Place to the rescue. Again. I blew them kisses from the truck’s window as we turned around and left town for the second time.

When we finally got back to the coffee shop, a full hour after our initial arrival, we made Dakota buy the coffee, since he’d put us through all that trouble.

Oh wait. He couldn’t, he was out of money.

So we bought the coffees. His, as well as ours.

After the adrenaline-rush from the camera, and the caffeine-rush from the coffee, I was super-charged and in high spirits. I had been crowing, “Extremo! Maximo! Super!” ever since leaving Monteverde, singing out the words for rappelling, kayaking and crocodile-watching; for outlandish tropical birds, leafy green hikes, and dangerous insects and amphibians. “Extremo!” I would cry. “Maximo! Super!”

But now, over-stimulated and a little crazy, I was hollering the words at every comment that Martin and Dakota tried to make, at every bend in the road, at every little thought that might flit through my jittery brain. “Ex-TREM-o!” I fairly shrieked. “MAX-imo! SU-per!”

It was funny, I guess, for a while, but then I noticed that Dakota had resolutely put his earphones into his ears and was doggedly listening to music, and Martin was grimly clutching the steering wheel with white knuckles and staring, unwaveringly, straight ahead… and my rush started to tumble, thank goodness… and we all continued the drive in relative peace and quiet.

And so we drove back through Tillaran, back through Las Canas, and finally, finally, back into Liberia. It was hot and humid and dry. We were sticky and sick of driving. The landscape was an ugly brown. The trip was ending. My coffee rush was long, long gone. Seven-and-a-half hours after leaving the leafy green jungle of the ecolodge, we pulled up in front of the hotel in Liberia.

It had been a wonderful, wonderful trip. Tomorrow, we would return home.

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