We only plan to spend a few days in Costa Rica, firstly because it’s expensive and secondly because it’s quite developed. Costa Rica is very much a tourist destination these days, package tours from Europe are common and with that comes the infrastructure that we have found ourselves avoiding on our trip (well most of the time) – McDonalds, coffee shops and pizza joints aplenty. This trip is about feeling a little lost and getting deep into new countries and cultures not usually possible with a two week break from the office. Perhaps we will come back here at some point to fine dine and sip margaritas, but not this time. So this whistle-stop tour includes just a beach town for three days to break up our trip to Nicaragua. There was a plan to visit a volcano, but we didn’t go, it’s not particularly active at the moment, and I wanted to see lava!
Puerto Viejo is very much on the tourist map but it’s not so over developed that it feels spoilt. The town itself sits along miles of perfect beach and it’s a haven for surfers, luckily there are not many in town though, they can be strange bunch. At some point a switch flicked in their brain and the only thing in life worth living for now is the perfect wave, dude.
The trip in from Panama is great, crossing the border is a blast. After a few stamps and $3 dollars paid to someone for something we’re not sure of we tentatively walk across an old railway bridge. Most of the wood covering the bridge has rotted away and the railway sleepers are now stepping stones, a 50 metre drop into a river below. With heavy backpacks and locals with carts it’s great fun and exactly what you want from a border crossing! Bit of excitement and danger. In America, lawyers would make a killing waiting at the other side for the occasional sprained ankle, ready to sue.
We get lucky with a hostel in town; our first choice is full so we spend a little while walking around until we find Hostel Pura Vida. It’s not so much hostel as hotel, with a private room and our own bathroom it’s almost luxury. We pay for three rooms for us and our new travelling companions who are on the next bus into town.
After a lazy day exploring town and an evening stuffing ourselves stupid at an all-you-can-eat Thai buffet we have an early night. We’ve got a busy day scheduled for tomorrow.
Hiring bikes only costs about £5, and after breakfast we head out along the coast road to find a local animal sanctuary. Having spent a month working in one we were keen to experience another and we were shocked to see how different this place was. Originally a home project in the backyard of an Italian and Spanish couple, the Jaguar Rescue Centre is now a highly regarded place with lots of monkeys and snakes in particular and it’s absolutely awash with cash. The gardens are immaculately kept, cages are professionally made and cute baby monkeys hug tourists willing to part with $15 dollars for the experience. Aside from the money coming in from the twice daily tours they also have received large grants from the Australian government. These monkeys are living five star. The hands-on approach to the animal care is in stark contrast to what we have learnt in other sanctuaries, we are not experts, but it does feel a little wrong. Aside from snakes and monkeys they take in sloths, various birds and even a friendly deer that liked to lick my feet.
Asked if we were thinking of volunteering we shoot each other questioning looks, can we? We would in a heartbeat but flights home have been booked so we leave a little sad. More monkey time will have to wait.
Meeting up with four more of our new traveling group (we are a now an eight strong posse) we stop for locally grown chocolate and hit a local beach. The waves here are huge and we forget that we are all grown adults (some rather more so than others *cough*) and spend a few hours playing in the surf until we are too tired to battle the strong rip tides.
An incredible day, great place, great company and REALLY good fresh chilli chocolate that left us on caffeine highs for the rest of the day.
The next day is Stefan’s birthday, so saving ourselves for later that night we have a quiet day and catch up with a few blogs. That night we go out for a great pizza and some drinks to celebrate. Numerous cuba libres and a few games of pool later we finally call it a night around 3am. It’s goodbye to Costa Rica and hello Nicaragua. We’ve heard great things.