Friends, Forests and Frogs – Costa Rica!

Friends, Forests and Frogs – Costa Rica!
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica To our delight, we spoke with our new Norwegian friends, Anders and Henriette on our last night in San Juan and discovered they too were headed to Tamarindo. Unfortunately, the Tica bus was full so they would just meet us there. Crossing into Costa Rica was the most difficult so far. We read in our guidebook that you must provide proof of a ticket out of Costa Rica when entering but that rule is ‘rarely ever enforced’. At the border, we ran into Anders and Henriette who looked a little troubled. They told us how they had been turned away because they didn’t have an outbound ticket and were forced to go by a completely useless bus ticket from San Jose to Panama City. Joseph and I have a flight booked from Panama to Brazil but no ticket out of Costa Rica. The immigration line was huge so we decided to just chance it and rely on our powers of persuasion. We also had a twenty to slip the guy. Sure enough, the immigration officer asked us for our outbound ticket, we smiled and showed our Panama ticket (on my iPhone). He was on the verge of saying go buy a ticket when he noticed our Australian passports. Joseph and I both have the new passports in which each page is dedicated to some piece of Australiana, mostly animals. The immigration officer was fascinated, points at a dingo and says “Bingo”. Thanks to that little mammal, he forgot all about entrance requirements, stamped our passports and we strolled into Costa Rica with our $20 still in hand. We said bye to the Norwegians as our Tica bus was leaving and would meet them in Tamarindo. The Tica bus took us as far as Liberia and from there the intention was to catch a two hour bus to Tamarindo. While waiting for the bus, the universe once again brought the Norwegians and us together. Anders and Henriette were in a cab on their way so we were happy to share. Joseph and I share fiscal irresponsibility with the Norwegians so we never once felt guilty about our private transport. I was instantly impressed with Tamarindo. The beach is wide and long and the waves gentle enough to learn to surf. I have been labelled a beach snob on this trip. Being from the Gold Coast, I expect beaches to have pristine white sand and beautiful water. I guess I have been spoilt, but that said, although Tamarindo didn’t have white sand, it was very nice. Our pre booked accommodation left a little to be desired so we quickly changed to Villa Amarillo. For $50 a night we had a beachfront room with air conditioning, hot water and a little fridge to keep our beer cold. Anders and Henriette took the last room, a pricey $60 complete with an ocean view. During the day, Joseph and Anders would rent surfboards and Henriette and I, sun lounges. Joseph quickly became a competent surfer so I decided I should give it a crack. I paddled out, caught the first wave and managed to stand up. It must have been beginners luck though as I couldn’t stand up after that for a while. Surfing is an exhausting sport too, lots of paddling, getting dumped and hauling your body onto the board. We both had a lot of fun. To celebrate our day of surfing the four of us went out for dinner. Joseph ordered a beef burrito which would, at about 11:30pm that evening, break our streak of neither of us falling ill. I don’t need to go into too many details suffice to say it did a number on poor old Joseph. The aftermath of the dodgy burrito saw us staying close to the hotel for a day, I was there for moral support, before we were back out on the waves. We spent four nights in Tamarindo before heading up the mountains to Monteverde. Monteverde is famed for its cloud forests. I had no idea what a cloud forest was, but I soon discovered it’s a rainforest, high enough in altitude to be cloaked in clouds. The four of us caught the shuttle up the very windy, dusty road to the small town of Santa Elena. Our accommodation was basic at Cabinas Eddy but was actually one of the best places we have stayed. Freddy, the hotel manager was the kindest, most accommodating host we’ve ever had, ever. He happy explained everything on offer and went out of his way to make sure we were taken care of. He even offered to go and buy our bus tickets while we were off exploring. On our first night, we were a little tired so all we could manage was a trip to the frog sanctuary, the Frogarium. It was a little disappointing as all the frogs were trapped in little aquariums. However, we did see some very cool and some very poisonous froggies. The blue poison dart frog is actually very small and I imagine very easy to stand on so I made a mental note to wear shoes in the forest. Anders and Henriette, after their attempts to talk me into it, went zip lining and bungee jumping. Joseph and I opted for a hike through the cloud forest and a visit to the hummingbird sanctuary. I have a feeling in ten more years, Joseph and I will be those somewhat strange, bird watching people. Our little hike was actually kind of fun. The Monteverde reserve is a massive national park 10,500 hectares in size and even our short walk through a small section of it took three hours. The forest is very dense but the paths are clearly marked so we decided once again to pass on getting a guide. Towards the end our little feet were having flash backs to the hike up San Pedro Volcano, so we gave them a rest at the hummingbird sanctuary. Being from Australia, I have not had a lot of exposure to hummingbirds, my first sighting was in Roatan. They are super fast and are the only species of bird that can fly backwards. After trying in vain to get a good photo we had had enough and headed back down to the hotel. But the day wasn’t quite over. Freddy, our host with the most, had told us about a very large ficus tree that could be climbed in a forest nearby. We met up with the Norwegians and attempted to find it. And find it we did. The tree was about thirty meters tall and the trunk was hollow allowing you to climb all the way up it. While we were in the forest that looked like it could house Ewoks, a little family of white faced monkeys showed up. They were swinging through the trees with the greatest of ease putting on a little show for us. Even a little wombat type creature strolled past letting us know the forest was FULL of animals. One of the best sunsets over the Nicoya peninsular greeted us on the walk back into town. It was a nice ending to our stay in Monteverde. I am not sure if the song with the lyrics ‘Do you know the way to San Jose’ is actually about San Jose Costa Rica, but it’s a good question. San Jose in addition to being the capital of Costa Rica is almost completely devoid of street signs. It is a clean city and seemed relatively safe compared to other Central American capitals. We decided to stay here for two nights in an ex presidents mansion. The house actually was home to the president who abolished the Costa Rican army and allowed women to vote, so he was one of the good guys. He also had a swim up bar. San Jose was also where Jose and I had a little travel meltdown. Packing up and moving accommodation was definitely starting to take its toll so we used the San Jose stop to do as little as possible. It was a good place to do it too as there is very little to do in the first place. Laundry was a highlight and my new sunglasses purchase. We also revised our Caribbean coast itinerary to just include one Costa Rican stop, Puerto Viejo. It was, sadly, also where we would have to say goodbye to our new friends, Anders and Henriette. They were heading directly to Panama to get on a sailboat that would take them to the San Blas Islands and onto Columbia. If I had my time again, I would absolutely grow some balls and do this trip to Columbia. I feel that Anders, Henriette, Joseph and I really bonded in Costa Rica, it was so nice to meet like minded travellers to share a part of our journey with. We look forward to seeing them again in Norway in August. Wiping the tears from our eyes and with the feeling that we had forgotten two Norwegians, Joseph and I headed to Puerto Viejo. The bu s trip down from Puerto Limon to our destination filled me with beachy excitement. The jungle grows right up to the very remote beaches. They whole time I had the theme from Jurassic Park playing in my head. Nah nah nah nah naaaah, nah nah nah nah naaaaah. Our pre booked accommodation, although taking a reservation, didn’t know how to HOLD a reservation. I felt a bit like Jerry Seinfeld at a car rental place, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I left Joseph with the bags and went off in search of alternative accommodation. Puerto Viejo is pretty hot and muggy. By the time I had returned, I was so sweaty Joseph thought I had entered a wet T-Shirt competition instead of finding a room. That said, the hotel I found, The Lizard King, had a pool, big rooms and free breakfast for a reasonable $45 a night. Puerto Viejo is a small town on the Caribbean coast so it has that Afro-Caribbean feel to it. Similar to Caye Caulker. It also means you get offered weed by every second person. Joseph and I have started a daily counter, ‘The number of times I’ve been offered pot today’. One day the counter reached seven, Joseph and I must have that stoner look about us. In addition to declining the offers to purchase marijuana, during the days we rented bikes and explored. We road down to the nearest little town, Manzanillo. The whole ride was through a steamy jungle that hugged the beach so stopping along the way for swims was essential. Our evenings were spent sampling the different restaurants and meeting some interesting people. Costa Rica is definitely more expensive when compared with the other Central American countries. Some things are excessively priced too. Joseph and I spent $20 at Quiznos for lunch one day and the four of us spent $80 on pizza that night. San Jose is expensive. That said, a meal and a few beers down in Puerto Viejo is still a lot less that back home, but the increased prices have taken some getting used to. There are a lot of American tourists here too so I guess that has something to do with the price hike. Costa Rica has definitely been a highlight. If you only get to visit Central America for a short time, make sure this country is on the top of your list. Just be prepared for things to cost a little more. It truly is a beautifully diverse place and jam packed with wildlife. We definitely recommend Costa Rica! We bought our shuttle tickets to Panama and depart for Bocas del Toro tomorrow. It is hard to believe we have been travelling for two months. We only have one more country left to explore in Central America and less than two weeks until we meet Craig and head to Brazil. Can’t wait to see what Panama has in store for us!


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