Gigante is the kind of place I could end up hanging around for a while. It’s beautiful, for one: a crescent of beach curves around a bay, with a rickety dirt path leading to a longer, windswept beach known for its surf. It was also the first place we came to land after four days of wind-tossed sailing. The creature comforts immediately made themselves known: cold beer! Flushing toilets! SALAD!
You may be wondering about the last one. But I am a professed and vocal lover of green vegetables. Really, almost all green vegetables. And while a week isn’t so long, I found that my diet was seriously lacking in the leafy greens in the week I had spent with Saltbreaker. And here, at Camino del Gigante, was a menu listing not one but two salads comprised of “mixed greens grown in volcanic soil.” One of them included goat cheese! And almonds! My eyes widening in delight, I tried to contain my animal urges as the massive pile of glorious green was set down at our table.
What’s more, Gigante manages to walk the fine line between being noticeably gringo-ed out (read: lots of English speaking/primarily American tourists) but still authentic and off-the-beaten-track feeling. It may be because it’s a surfer destination, meaning the tourists are decidedly more laid back than your average American traveler. Or, maybe it’s because the vast majority of travelers we met happened to hail from Northern California — the cafe-bar-hostel we found ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time had an enormous Republic of California flag hanging from the outdoor shade made of tarps.
Yes, Gigante was a place I felt right at home. I could see sleeping in a hammock on the beach for days on end. Maybe I’d even learn how to surf and join the crowds of cute, tanned girls carrying boards back from a morning in the ocean around noon (my total lack of arm strength being only a slight hindrance to excelling at an activity that requires a kind of ridiculous amount of paddling). At the very least, I was doing very well lying on the beach while Nick and Alex worked on their surfing skills, even getting up sometimes. Plus, there was an open air restaurant down the beach that served plump, glistening lobster tails – made smokey thanks to a hint of char from the grill, and costing about $8 for six. If that’s not a reason to stick around, what is?
Or… maybe I didn’t fit in so well. As we sat at our “regular” table at Camino del Gigante (it doesn’t take long for the people at the bar to remember you when your 4-day tab is listed under “Sailboaters”), our waiter/bartender came over to take our orders and chat. He was, no surprise, from Northern California, right near Santa Cruz. He was spending his off-season traveling around Central America and surfing; he was hanging out in Gigante for a few weeks, working as an interim bartender in the meantime.
“Off-season… what do you do back in California?” I asked.
“I’m a farmer,” he says.
“Oh! What do you grow?” I asked blithely, sounding about as naive as I must have looked.
He gave me a look. Nick and Alex gave me a look. I blushed, looking down as he walked away to get our cold Victoria Maestros.
“Well, it’s California,” I said, in a weak attempt at self redemption. “They grow everything in California!”
I mean, he could have had an avocado farm. How cool would that have been?
So, maybe I’m a little too square to live in Gigante full time. Thankfully, the Saltbreaker crew didn’t seem to mind — or perhaps they liked keeping me around for entertainment value. Gigante was where I demonstrated my mad skills at dinghy boarding: the lovely crescent beach made for a somewhat challenging landing. If we (okay, Nick, Alex, and Dave Green) didn’t time it exactly right, we’d get soaked by a wave, on the way into land or back to the boat.
Boarding from the boat, I did just fine. But boarding from the beach required a running-jumping combination that proved to be a bit much for my natural gracefulness. Run and jump I did, landing in the dinghy elbow? shoulder first? with the boys managing to get in, start the motor, and laugh at me simultaneously.
“I like your style,” Dave Green said. “Head first! That’s the way to do it.” I half glared, half laughed, as we were all drenched by a well-timed swell.
Still, my blunders in Gigante aside, I found myself sitting on one of the sun-faded couches, toes in the sand, reading a book while Alex napped, quite certain that I could really get used to this.