Costa Rica trip journal

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18/02: Day 19 – First day in Costa Rica

Wahou that first day was quite an experience! Got at the airport of San José around 12 pm, after trying to look stuff to do on my computer, I told a taxi I wanted to go to the beach and that he should propose a place. He proposed me Jaco, but we are going to go there with my friends, so I said no and then he proposed in that case to go to Santa Teresa and there I was, off for to Santa Teresa.

The taxi took me to the bus terminal, in the bus met this really nice guy, Nolan, who quickly became my friend. He and his brother Steven, were a bit flyte, but so nice. I couldn’t understand everything they were saying, but it was funny. Anyway chatted away with Nolan in the bus, he told me all about Costa Rican food, drinks and even football teams. We arrived at Puntarenas and from there had to take a ferry. The boat was 1 km away from the bus station… so Nolan was like, don’t worry, just follow us. Grabbed the ferry and on board, met one of their friends, Ramon. They were all going to work in one of these ferias, very typical in Latin America. They told me the party was going to be good there, so I should go with them and I that we could all go to the beach together in the morning.

Once arrived at land, it was already dark and we took a really old looking local scruffy bus, I was more or less the only white girl, but it was good just to let someone, locals, take you somewhere. So there I was, embarked in a new unknown adventure, following 3 costa Ricans. I remember nervously laughing during that bus ride, because I was just in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with people I clearly didn’t know, not knowing at all where I was going and I was super happy about it. Learnin’ to let it go babe! Actually, I knew I was going to Cobano… not that it really meant much…

We stopped again in the middle of nothing, on a dirt road. Nolan helped me find a room. It was strange that even there, which was nowhere, we had to go to 3 places before finding space for me. Anyway, once I was settled, we went to the feria and had a really good night. Loads of unexpected fun!

In the end after arriving at the airport, I took a taxi, a bus, a ferry, a bus, a cab and another cab. We organised to meet the next morning at 8 at my cabinas to go to the beach all together.

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19/02: Day 20 – 2nd day of Pura Vida 

I had arrived by night, so I didn’t really any idea of what was around me. When I woke up I went on the little terrace of my cabina and had a big jungle in front of me. It was amazing. I made the most of the wifi to call my parents and while we were talking, the trees next to me started wiggling around. Looking closer, it was quite a large monkey just wanting to draw attention on him. I felt so happy, still laughing about the situation.

However, that high state of contentment dropped when I realised that my 400$ safety nett was gone, along with the nice cigars I had bought in Cuba and a small kit of useful stuff to travel with, was gone… The trip was long, transited by Mexico and then my bag sat all night in the airport of San Jose, so someone with a good X-ray probably made the most of it… (hope you bought some nice S**T M**!%?$* F*&/!?**R!!!). Anyway….

8h00 Nolan was there!! He is so sweet… Nolan was pretty on time, but I was starting to understand that the bus and all transportations are on Latin American time… The other 2 came along as well and we all 4 went to Playa Carmen, which is in the Santa Teresa / Mal Pais area. It was really really nice, the beach is nice and wild, with quite a few waves. Paradise for surfers! I remember thinking that Costa Rican tourism looked… interesting. Don’t know if it was because of the season, but on the beach, there were not many people, but it was almost all families, the slightly rich hippie kind of ones, vegan for sure, parents full of tattoos, with their surfing boards and 1 or 2 small kids. It was funny and in the end, it was only in this place.

After disappearing for about 20 min, Ramon and Steven came back with 4 fresh coconuts, that they got by climbing up the coconut trees, which is apparently totally illegal, but still… I felt pretty privileged. They are all three so so nice. Steven was my mule, as he was carrying my big backpack around everywhere.

At 2 pm I was already off again to San José to pick up Julie, Pierre Alexis and Pierrick from the airport. So exited to see them, but actually pretty sad to leave my 3 new friends. That peninsula looks so good right now. I can see it from the ferry and it looks so wild and beautiful with the sunset…

Arrived at TripOn Open House, our hostel, chilled there for a bit and on my way I was to the airport! Even though I waited absolutely ages, I was so happy to see them!

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20/02: Day 21 – Day in San José and night in La Fortuna

After a pretty sweet breakfast, we went off to spend the day in San José; it’s nice but nothing too interesting.

I remember we went through the Jade museum (didn’t stop there); the Pre-Colombian Gold museum (didn’t stop there); the National Theatre (did stop there and it was nice); the Metropolitan Cathedral of San José (did stop there and it was very nice); the San José Parque Central…. What I really remember from San José is that we actually mainly went for food and beers. We did walk around and see what there was to see, but it’s not a very charming city, however it’s quite lively. There was a lot of music everywhere and it was warm and sunny; it really had that Latin feeling.

Then went back to the hostel and back to the airport to grab our rental car to hit the road! I wish it had been that simple… We waited for aaaaaages before they told us they didn’t have the car we had booked anymore (which obviously created a big discussion) and that we would get a smaller one… Again it took them ages to give us the car and impatience growing bigger and bigger, we started to act like board kids, on the parking lot of the agency, running everywhere, putting music super loud, being real brats. We had planned to leave early so we wouldn’t have to drive by night… of course, we left at sun set.

We arrived at La Fortuna, at our Arenal Hostel Resort. The rooms were not that great, the staff was not friendly, but all the setting was really super nice. The garden had loads of hammocks, it has a cool bar, some music, a pool. It was pretty sweet.

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21/02: Day 22 – La Fortuna

Started the day with an impressive view on to the Arenal Volcano from our room, which is always pleasant and followed with a delicious and very large breakfast. That place had everything, eggs, bacon, fruit, toast, Nutella, peanut butter, beans, plantains, juice, absolutely everything.

Then, to get good conscience, we wanted to get some serious stuff done, so went hiking around the Arenal Volcano. It’s really nice, views are awesome, nature is terrific and varies quite a bit actually. Unfortunately, clouds decided to stick on top of the volcano, but it was a very nice hike. It probably took us around 3 hours.

For lunch we stopped at this restaurant on the road back to the hostel. As we were deciding on what to order, the waiter asked us if we wanted to share some grilled meat. Not only did he propose it, but he came back with this huge chunk of raw meat, presenting it as if it were some sort of…. I don’t know, but we just looked at it a bit surprised and finding the situation a bit strange. Anyway, we politely declined the meat and I remember taking this enormous salad which was really good.

When coming back, we had heard that we could go to some hot springs, or rather so hot pools, heated by the volcano. We asked in the hostel and they were only suggesting places we had to pay 50$ to get in to stay 2 or 3 hours… So that was out of budget and question. Eventually, Julie went to ask in a local shop and the girl told us about this place locals went to, Las Termalitas de Arenal – 4000 Colones / 7€. It was very nice. The water was heated by the volcano, it had 4 or 5 pools, there were very few people and we chilled there for a couple of hours.

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22/02: Day 23 – La Fortuna to Monteverde 

We left La Fortuna to go to Monteverde, at 10.30, arrived at 2.15 !!! The way was beautiful and loads of fun. Mainly dirt rocky paths, in the middle of no where, but with incredible panoramas and it was apparently again, the shortest way.

At some point, MapsMe was asking us to cross a little river… Cross a little river in the middle of no where, with a rental car… After walking through it a couple of times, seeing the water arrived a bit above knee level… we decided it was not reasonable and thought about finding another way. Problem? Well kind of: there was no other way than to back up the 2h30 we had already driven… As we were leaving, we first of all crossed some kids, so we asked. Is it normal to cross the river? They told us that people do it in dry season, but not really at the moment, especially since there was another one a bit further. So we were a bit defeated. But then, this man came out of his property, so we jumped on the occasion to ask if it was safe to cross the river. He seemed pretty confident and said that, as long as the car was not too loaded, it should be fine…. 5 people in a car, each one with a backpack… huumm how to say… is that a loaded car? Anyway, we decided to go for it!

Half of us got out of the car and crossed by foot and veeeeryyy slowly the others crossed with the car. We were all holding out breath, but in the end, no problem, both times! It was so funny!

We finnaly arrived at our hostel, Cabinas Vista Al Golfo, in Monteverde, which is a small town, famous for its rain forest and canopy, so we asked about doing some canopy. The girl could organise it, but we had 20 min to get our gear on, ie, put appropriate clothes on and have all the GoPro accessories ready and go.

Costa Rica has some of the longest canopies (in the world?), with 1-mile-long ones. It was loads of fun and the views over the forest and the sensations are really cool. Feeling like Superman, so high up in the sky. That was an experience!

Back to Monteverde, we had diner in this expensive restaurant, which I can’t remember the name of, but it was built around a huge tree. So the stairs are built around the trunk and you eat under the decorated branches. The atmosphere is pretty nice.

Cabinas Vista Al Golfo, is a good enough hostel. The setup is pretty convenient and it has big common areas and nice big terrace. Breakfast was nothing special though.  

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23/02: Day 24 – Monteverde to Parritas. After a very painful theft, an amazing view…

Off we were from Monteverde in direction of Jaco to get to the house we had rented. The distances in Costa Rica always seem pretty short, but you permanently end up by spending double the time you were expecting on the road, especially when you follow MapsMe that takes you the shortest way, for sure, but often the slowest, but often also, the prettiest. Anyway on the way down, we stopped at Puntarenas for lunch. I was, unexpectedly, back where I had taken the ferry a couple of days ago. We ate in a small beach restaurant which had a bit of wifi, so I decided that I wanted to post on Facebook, there and then, one of the videos I had taken during the canopy (you know that urging sense that a lot of people have today, to share all their life on social networks so they can feel they exist). Obviously, Wifi was terribly slow, it took ages to load and all my friends were shouting at me, but I don’t care, I’m used to being a pain in the ass, so I made everyone wait until it was posted… and this is why this detail is so important…

As we arrived in Jaco and before to go up to our house that was high up on a mountain, we needed to go food shopping, so we stopped at a supermarket. Obviously we had all our stuff in the car, because we were changing cities and hadn’t arrived yet at our final destination. I remember thinking as we were leaving the car with everything in it and everything pretty visible “it will be fine, we’ll only be 10 min”… Well what a big mistake.

As we came back and opened the car, that’s the first thing I checked. Not seeing my daypack on the back seat, where I had left it, I step back thinking maybe someone had put everything in the boot… So I asked who had moved the bags. Everyone was loading the shopping, not paying too much attention to my question, so I looked, but daypacks were nowhere to be found… they were gone…

3 daypacks where gone, mine having all my most valuable stuff. MacBook, camera, GoPro, passport, credit cards, etc… What I was mostly upset about was all the small sentimental things I knew I would not be able to replace, like a pencil case I had since forever, a little notebook I had used as a diary during my trip in Patagonia, all my photos and videos from Cuba and Costa Rica, but it was especially my old Chilean ID, that I used in the US when I bought alcohol, even though it was out of date, because I would always forget to take my big French one. And that was only for me…!

No need to go into too many details about the fury I was in, walking around all the parking lot like a crazy person, saying “it’s not possible, it’s not possible, it’s not possible”, trying to take my breath back. We asked all the little shops around, obviously no one had seen anything, I even asked the supermarket if they had video cameras… One storekeeper was sweet about it, he helped us call the police and seemed like he was feeling very sorry for me (I’m still not convinced it wasn’t him that took everything, but anyway…).

When the police arrived, it was just a joke. While one was insinuating that it was our fault since there was no breaking in marks, the other big fat one, was just staying in the shade of their freaking police car, drinking water and not giving a S**T. I mean, they knew there was nothing to be done, that it was too late and that it happens all the time, but still!!

It was a hard hit and thinking about all the hassle it was going to create (go to the police, block the credit cards, get new ones, redo the passport, find all the receipts to send to the insurance), was a big headache.

After a couple hours of drama, we took the car to go to finish the 11km that separated us from the house. 11 km, who long do you think that could possibly take…? Well, I’ll tell you that on a rocky mountain road in Costa Rica, it takes 45 min !!! But jeeeese these 45 min were worth it. When we arrived at the house, it was spectacular. The house was huge, beautiful, full of light and the view… we arrived as the sun was going down, so the sky was kind of pinky, it was breath taking, especially with the pool overlooking this amazing valley and the ocean in the back. Wahouuu… words are missing to describe the beauty and magic of the scene. I was upset I couldn’t fully make the most of it, still thinking of my long gone bag…

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24/02: Day 25 – Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

We chilled at home in the morning and I can’t remember who made a delicious, very Costa Rican lunch, with rice, plantains, beans, tomatoes, etc.

On our way out, we had to stop at the police station, to make our deposition of everything that had been stolen. A crucial part if I wanted to get out of the country… First of all, they needed to take “finger prints” on the car…. (seriously…?!). So 3 policemen came with all their kit and started to collect prints… What a joke! I mean, we were already 5 people using the car, what prints to you think you’re going to find honestly…? Anyway, main point was that they didn’t seem to find any sign of the thief breaking in the car. After that we were able, Pierre, Alexis and I to make our deposition. That took aaaages…. We had to each give a detailed list of what was stolen, the price of each article, etc. As I was listing my stuff, I insisted to the policeman that he needed to put that the car had been broken into, otherwise I wouldn’t get reimbursed by my insurance. As I had said that, another policeman that was sitting behind me, doing something else, asked: “but was it broken into?”, I don’t know, I replied, it had to be, but I’m no policeman, you should know. He seemed to be agreeing with me, nodding to what I was saying and left. There’s where it becomes bizarre…  5 min later, as I was finishing my deposition, he came back, camera around his neck and asks where our car was. So we go with him to the car and in a second, after 5 policemen had already inspected the car, he finds where the guy had broken in. Kind of surprised, we all looked at the pretty large dent at the top of the front door that we had all missed! At that moment, I think we all more or less thought that that had come out of nowhere… So, was it already there or did he want to help my making that dent magically appear…? We’ll never know!

After 2 hours, we were finally going to the Manuel Antonio National Park. We had read that we could see a lot of wild life in the park and that it was beautiful, so I was expecting something quite wild. Instead, it was kind of manicured, with a paved road all along and we had to hire a guide for him to spot out, with his big lens, the sloths Costa Rica is so famous for. So we saw a couple of these (they are such funny creatures, they are so slow! You can only really imagine it when you’ve seen one) and we saw some white faced monkeys. They look so sweet, so cute, so human!! But, be weary, actually they are aggressive spoilt little brats, used to tourists giving them all their food. The beach area at the end, was really nice. White sand, blue water, pretty perfect. All of it was nice, definitely, just not what I was thinking.

I think that evening was one of the most scandalous (in a good way) of my trip! We came back home, had a big fat barbeque, great meat, great food and got the party started. We put some Costa Rican Rum inside the coconuts we had bought, mixing it with pineapple juice and the coconut water; I took out 1 of the 3 cigars I had left from Cuba and had all of that in the amazing swimming pool. It couldn’t get any better and we couldn’t possibly feel any luckier. One of my friends said this sentence that definitely made me put all of it behind: “that scum can steal whatever he wants, we’ll never have all of this”.

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25/02: Day 26 – A trip to San José, a piece of me back and a big dent in the car

This morning I left the house at 5.45am for San José, to arrive at the French embassy for the opening, to get a temporary passport.

As you may have understood, the roads in Costa Rica are not that great and on top of that, our house was pitched high up in the mountains. So, leaving in the pitch black was quite the adventure. Up and down the rocky hills, through tiny villages built on dirt roads; I drove maybe 45min hour before light started rising and the spectacle that was slowly unveiling itself was beautiful. Not only was the nature powerful, but it was also everything about the atmosphere, being here, almost alone, in the middle of nothing and nowhere, crossing old lads on their bikes going to work their fields and ladies walking along the path, carrying baskets on their heads… The most memorable image was the children going to school, in their traditional clothes, some of theme walking, some of them accompanied by their mother or father on the back of a horse and some of them… ON THEIR SMARTPHONES !!! (guys, we are nowhere near a town or a city, there’s no way smartphones should make their way into this scenery! WTF?!). I have no idea how long all of them should walk to get to school or to work, but it really seemed there was not much around. I also saw a big truck coming to pick up people to, most likely, go to work and I could see all of them sitting very tightly at the back of that truck. These roads where so scary: either they were narrow and I felt my big 4×4 was going to tip over or they peaked up and felt the engine was going to die or they peaked down and I was thinking that the breaks were just going to give up… Of course I also left with very very little gasoline, but I was eventually able to stop in a village with a very rustic gasoline station and was able to fill up.

After driving almost 2h20 at 35km/h, I finally, and actually quite suddenly, arrived in the premises of San José. As I got to the embassy, I started discussing with the lady everything I needed for them to make me a temporary passport, amongst which a photograph, which I didn’t have. So, she gave me an address and while I was waiting for the shop to open, I switched on the internet on my phone. I couldn’t believe was I was seeing…! A photograph of my passport, with a message saying: ‘I found this in the street, would you like to get it back?”! It was funny, my reaction was: “Yayyy something less to think about, Urrrrr all of this for nothing…!!”. Anyway, arranged with him that he would leave it at the police station, went back to the embassy, explained them I didn’t need anything anymore and I was back on my way.

The drive wasn’t as nice on the way back, but something had to happen… As I was following MapsMe, at some point, I see a smaller road that I thought could save me up some time…. so I chose to go down the more dusty, more narrow, more rocky, steeper road (what a stupid idea! When you don’t know… just stick with the instructions; always trust the machine!). As I drove down this path, it became narrower and narrower, but I still wanted to push on, I kept on hoping… I got to the point where I couldn’t even go any further. It wasn’t rocky anymore, it was actual rocks everywhere, with trees surrounding the car… a nightmare. When I decided it was finally time to back up, there was a this even smaller path that I could use to turn around, but it was going down and had trees on both sides… I’m not a good enough driver to handle that kind of environment and situation. So of course, what happened as I backed-up to do my U turn? A branch unfortunately made the acquaintance of my back door, leaving a nice big dent in the rental car… And you know that feeling you can get when you can see the branch is already making its marks and you can’t do anything else than continue backing up and worsen the situation…? Well that was me.

Despite the ups and downs of that trip, it stays one of my most Wahou memories, definitely of Costa Rica, but also of my whole trip.

As I got back home, a swim in the amazing pool and a great lunch where waiting for me, a good way to cool of all of that adventure.

In the evening we went at the Feria of Quepos to have some last drinks. Bad beer and country music made us go back home pretty early.

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26/02: Day 27 – One last swim and it’s time to say goodbye  

We left the house late in the morning, after a last adventurous walk in the nature that surrounded the house.

We wanted to make the most of the beach one last time, before they would head back to the cold Bostonian winter. So we went to Playa Espadilla, just by the Antonio Manuel National Park, had lunch and spent all afternoon there. A good swim, a couple of souvenirs, a sand fight and a beautiful sunset later, we were back on the road to San José.

I remember that until the last minute, I wasn’t sure at all what I was going to do. Go back with them to San José or directly go to my next stop, Puerto Viejo. Thankfully, I did check just before they left if I could go from Quepos to Puerto Viejo… cause the answer was no!

Spent the night in San José.

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27/02: Day 28 – San José to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca  

Took the bus early to go to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (it’s important because there are a lot of Puerto Viejos in Costa Rica). Arrived there, booked a room in the quite famous Lionfish hostel, and went for a walk on the beach. The weather wasn’t great, but the beach was had this fascinating black sand; something I had never seen before. Walked around Puerto Viejo; it’s a cool town, pretty chill, weed, loads of bars and party, surfing when the weather allows it.

As I came back, I met a fascinating guy, Manuel. He was a funny cynical journalist / writer, who had a hedgehog as a pet. So cut! Very interesting guy. Pretty smart. He was a Venezuelan, who lived in Panama and who would take a 15h bus ride just to come to the beaches of Costa Rica. It seemed that he had lived a quite a few Latin American countries and was not disgusted, but something similar, by all of them and their political regimes. He’s the kind of guy after you meet him, you wonder what the hek you’ve done with your life so far.

Spent the evening together and he made me taste some strange street food that I can’t remember.

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28/02: Day 29 – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and back to San José 

This morning I went with my new friend for a quick morning swim, before he had to jump back on the bus back to Panama.

Around 11 am I wanted to go visit the Jaguar Rescue Center, which is an animal rescue center you can visit and also volunteer, but anyway, as I asked a taxi driver to bring me there, he explained that the tours start in the morning and sometimes need to be booked… so I was really disappointed and had to find something to do.

So I walked down the main road and there are a couple a really much nicer beaches, much more wild and on top of that, there were some sloths in the trees on the way.

Around 5, I took the bus back to San José.

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29/02: Day 30 – Bye Bye Pura Vida 

For my last morning, I went to the market to find a replacement for my small daypack, which I was really starting need!! I did find the ugly red bag, which in the end I travelled with, until Vietnam! The other thing that I found, that I still carry around, was an ankle bracelet, with the colours of the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, the big football team of Costa Rica, that Nolan and his friends supported. It’s a nice souvenir of Costa Rica.

It was a quick tour, since I had to be at the airport at 11.30, direction Paris for a couple of days and then Singapore!

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—> Check what’s next: Singapore!

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