Published: February 10th 2006December 23rd 2005
We arrived in San Jose in the evening of the 28th October, flying via Panama City. It was funny to go back to the hotel I had stayed in on my own when I had been there previously. After a day in San Jose we went down to the Caribbean village of Puerto Veijo de Talamanca, where I had also been before. It is a great place, but it rains a lot, so we ended up spending a lot of time in our room. During the sunny days however we made it to the beach and walked along the beautiful coastline. It was great to be in a place where we could relax, just the two of us. We ended up staying there for quite a while, hiring out a moped one day and driving down the coast.
On the 9th of November we got the bus back to San Jose, and then on the 10th got a bus to Playa Tamarindo, on the north end of the pacific coast. We probably wouldn’t have gone there, as it is a surfing town dominated by North Americans, but some of Ruths friends were going to be arriving there and we thought
it would be fun to meet up with them. It was certainly interesting to see another side of Costa Rica, where I hadn’t been before, and the weather is much drier on the Pacific side.
After hanging out there for a while, we got a bus down to Playa Nosara, which was meant to be more relaxed, with more wildlife and less tourists. We found an interesting hotel run by a Swiss couple who had lived there for many years, and had a swimming pool by the jungle, where we saw howler monkeys, iguanas, and a coti, like a racoon. It also had private access to the beach, which was very beautiful. One downside was the hotel was very isolated, so we were quite dependent on its restaurant, which was far from impressive. We had to make a few walks down the beach or muddy roads to find other hotels or restaurants, and would have been better off hiring a car, but none were available. Still the night walks proved to be quite an adventure in the end. During the last couple of days a strong wind blew in from the coast, and we were told they would last
three days, then the rainy season would end, just like that, as happens every year.
On the 24th we got a bus to Santa Elena near Monterverde, the most famous place for cloud forest hikes and zip lining adventures. It was really nice to be in some jungle parts of Costa Rica, as so far we had only really been in beach areas. The zip lining was amazing, flying over the top of the forest, sometimes over 50 m up, breaking with your hand on the cable. It was scary at first but a great adrenaline rush. We also went for a trek through some cloud forest which was dripping with water, with spectacular trees, but little wildlife.
After Santa Elena we got a jeep, boat, jeep combo to go to the most famous volcano Arenal, the most photographed active volcano in the world. The journey across the lake on the boat with the volcano in the distance was spectacular.
One of the consistent complaints we had in Costa Rica was that every hotel we stayed at seemed to have building work going on. The hotel we had booked in La Fortuna, the town by the volcano,
was no exception! We had to laugh as we pulled in to see the whole top floor was a building site. We hired a car so we could drive round the volcano for the best view of the red hot boulders flying down its side. It really was quite spectacular, though the top was covered in cloud. You could also here the rumbling which was very impressive and intimidating. Ruths friends were only able to stay a night, but Ruth and I found another quieter hotel the next morning. We spent the day with them, going to a waterfall and driving to the observation post for another view of the volcano. From there we were also greeted with the view of a few toucans flying gracefully past, the first I have seen in the wild.
The other girls left in the evening for their journey back to the airport and Jersey, and Ruth and I were once again on our own. It had been quite funny being the only bloke with four girls, which had even prompted a few funny comments or envious stares from other males!
Ruth and I kept the car and went back to the
volcano in the evening, but it was clouded over. In an attempt to get the perfect photo, where the red hot lava is visible but also the silhouette of the volcano, we got up at 4.am and went to see the sun rise. It was quite an effort but we got some good photos. Unfortunately during the critical 20 minutes or so the photos I took were blurred, as I am still learning all the specifics of more challenging photography. Most crucially I didn’t have a tripod, which would have made things a lot easier, and auto focus was impossible in the low light. Its actually a lot more difficult than is generally suspected to get perfect or great photos, and we are both getting much more critical of our photos as well. One criticism of La Fortuna and the area surrounding the Volcano was that it was very touristy. It was like a great theme park, and they even charged $30 to go in hot springs. We decided not to bother, noting that in the Ecuador book you can do the same type of thing for 40 cents. Costa Rica has a strange contradiction that on the one hand
it is quite touristy (very popular with those from the USA), but at the same time quite undeveloped and other worldly (compared to Europe anyway). It does have some beautiful scenery and many more protected National Parks than most Central American countries.
On the 30th Nov we went back to San Jose, where we started trying to research information about going to Galapagos. Decision making is one of the stresses of travelling, and we had to decide how much we would spend, when we would go, whether we would book on the internet or turn up and hope for a deal. We spent some time in the internet cafes emailing various companies finding info and prices.
On 3rd December we decided to go white water rafting, easily organised from San Jose and thoroughly recommended by Eddy, who had done it when he had been here with Licas. We got up at 6.00 and drove to the river, where we got in an avon style dinghy, 5 tourists, one guide. He turned out to be a Costa Rican white water champion who had represented them in the world championships recently in Ecuador. It was one of the best rivers,
and included several lvl 4 rapids, as well as many lvl 3’s and 2’s. (only goes up to lvl 5) Feet hooked under straps on the bottom of the dinghy, we had to paddle through the rapids, to make sure we didn’t get stuck in any back currents, or washed over board. Sometimes there were literally holes in the river where the current eddied, and it was really exciting.
For the next few days we wandered San Jose, going in and out of the internet café trying to organise the Galapagos tour, worried all the boats would be booked up as it was the start of the high season there. On the 7th Dec we flew to Quito, and managed to confirm a tour starting on the 13th, aboard a lovely boat called The Beagle, which was a nice touch. It was pretty expensive, but being on a good sail boat would be part of the experience, rather than a budget motor boat with a much larger group on board.
(important note - photos are taken by ruth as well as myself!)
There are more photos below