""Yo, Throw, Throw And A Bottle Of Rum""
A storm blew in that afternoon, turning the sleepy surf town of Dominical on the west coast of Costa Rica into wet wonderland of palm trees and puddles, with a million micro-waterfalls cascading off of every frond and gutter. Soon, the torrent subsided and it was a drippy dusk in paradise. My Australian and German travel buddies, Jules and Thekla, and I, watched the weather change from the Tortilla Flats bar enjoying some fresh local food and beer.
Once the sun popped back out I suggested we go check out another bar in town, the one that supposedly had some hidden dartboards. With an "Aye!" and a "Ja!", Thekla and Jules agreed to join me.
Down the muddy rutted dirt road, through the jungle, and into the heart of town, we found San Clemente's Bar and Grill. An orange and white Volkswagen minivan floated over the entrance, indicating that surfers and adventurers alike were welcome inside.
There was a large outdoor seating area next to the bar under a thatched roof. Inside, more tables and a large dance area filled the floor, the walls decorated with every type of surf company logos and dozens of old and broken surfboards. To the side was a pillow filled room-made from an old schoolbus attached to the building. Next to it was a size-able shrine dedicated to Elvis Presley. And, in the back, behind the DJ stage was another room, containing a worn out pool table. And in between, hung two old looking dartboards.
They were Eric Bristow Harrow's boards, oddly hung a foot to low. The dartboards were aged with mildew from the humidity and the wires were round, but the sisal was still in great shape. Strangely, at some point, someone in this town had added these boards, but apparently they never played much-but I didn't mind. I had found more tungsten treasure.
While Thekla and Jules started sipping fresh beverages, I asked the bartender my usual questions-do people ever play, do you have an bar darts, and I explained who and what I was doing. The cute bartender's eyebrows raised with curiosity as she gave me some answers. Then I asked if I could change the height of the boards; she said, "Sure."
With Jules trusty multi-tool and a couple twists of the wrist, I moved the bracket up the wall. The backboard was too low as well, and I noticed that with the board at the proper height, there were some dangerous gaps in the bamboo and wooden walls above the board-any throw too high might result in a dart lost outside in the jungle. So, I found a decorative half piece of surfboard and propped it behind and above the dartboard to prevent the danger. Now, in this little lost town in Costa Rica, I had a proper dart area. I unzipped my case, feathered my shafts, and gave my gal pals a quick 101 course in 501. And, we began to play.
I, of course, was in my own personal heaven, and the three of us enjoyed several legs, lagers and cocktails. As night encroached, Jules and Thekla returned to our suite at Tortilla Flats to rest up after a long day, but I stayed and played for an hour more, trying to hit that first Costa Rican ton-eighty before I gave up myself, trundling home buzzed and happy, down the dark earthy roads.
In the morning, after a delicious breakfast at the Tortilla Flats Bar, while Thekla was sleeping in, Jules decided to try some fishing at the nearby inlet, where a brackish river meets the sea. The waiter told us tales of alligators gobbling up local stray dogs and to be careful. The weather had cleared, and as we walked, we saw local surfers heading out for the morning waves. After an hour of fruitless and fortunately gator-free fishing, Jules and I decided to walk the town. We perused past the vendors along the beachfront-hipsters and locals displaying their colorful sarongs or hand made jewelry. We found several blue and green iguanas sunning themselves on the trunks of palm trees-I was secretly hoping to find one on a menu somewhere as well. We passed the rustic shops of tour operators and considered some options for tomorrow, perhaps rafting or paddling the mangroves. And, we stopped at a couple markets, buying bizarre fruits to sample, and some snacky staples along with a fresh twelve pack of Pilsens. Finally, we circled back to Tortilla Flats where we found Thekla finishing an early lunch.
It wasn't quite noon but already humid when we went to our room to cool down in the air conditioning. I opened my Mac and began to surf and email, when I noticed that the PDC World Grand Slam was streaming-Beaton, Nicholson, Whitlock, Taylor, et al-were queued up to battle for one of the biggest events of the year. Jules and I moved out onto our balcony overlooking the bar and the beach and began to watch. Moments later, Thekla re-appeared.holding a brand new bottle of Costa Rica's best rum, Flor de Caņa. Before I knew it, the three of us were happily drinking rum and cokes in the jungle and watching the world's best dart players. To me, it was the perfect afternoon of darts and travel. But, the evening was even better.
A surreal sunset followed, filling the sky with marmelade colors of tangerines and berries. We stepped to the beach to watch, with our heads equally swimming in alcohol. At dusk we had dinner-more fresh fish and fruit-and made more friends at the Tortilla Flats bar. And, soon after, I led our little pack of pals back to San Clemente's for more darts. A half dozen of us played for two or three hours, as the bar slowly filled with beautiful young people coming to dance. A DJ began setting up his electronics and spinning rhythmic beats. Soon, the thrill of darts gave way to the pull of the dance floor, and we finished the night tripping the light fantastic.
Long after midnight, I finally staggered back to the suite to pass out, and I'm sure I slept with a big grin. After all, not only was I lost in a surfer's paradise in Costa Rica, with plenty of friends and fine potables, but I had also found darts in one of the most unusual and unlikely places I've ever visited.
There was a good chance these would be the last dartboards I see in this part of the world, where the game is rare at best. But, satisfied as I was, I never dreamed of how much more of my favorite game I would find in the days and weeks to come, exploring Central America.
Over and double out.