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Published: October 3rd 2005
Today, I took a trip down to one of the many “farmacias” or pharmacies in town to get a refill on a prescription that I had filled originally in the U.S. The thing about it, though, is you don’t need a prescription in most cases. Just tell them what you want, and you’ll get it. Usually, I’ve found it is best to bring in the old pill bottle or box and just show it to them and they’ll give you exactly the same thing or a generic version.
While, as I’ve said, there are many farmacias in San Ramon, I like the one I usually go to called “Farmacia de Jesus,” complete with a big statue of Jesus Christ on one of the walls of the shop. For about the same price as an insurance “co-pay,” you can pretty much get what you need and conveniently, God will be with you during your purchase!
Speaking of medicine (okay, roughly), I have gotten quite a few emails on the state of healthcare in Costa Rica. In a word, it’s quite good. Like anywhere, you need to do your homework and choose the right doctor and hospital. From what I’ve learned
there are both private and public hospitals in Costa Rica. While the public hospitals are generally good, many people, particularly ex-pats, tend to go to the private hospitals which usually provide faster service and better conditions. I’ve been to “Hospital CIMA San Jose” (http://www.hospitalcima.com/portada.htm) for a doctor’s appointment and a cat-scan and found the place to be quite nice. It was very clean, efficient and the doctors seemed well-trained and spoke English. In fact, you really couldn’t tell you were outside of the United States—expect for the mostly Spanish being spoken by the patients and other visitors.
Road Trip….see pictures throughout this blog entry….
On Friday, we took a brief (1.5 days) road trip to the Nicoya Peninsula. It is on the Pacific Ocean. To drive to the ocean at Puntarenas, it is only about 1 hour for us. For my DC friends, it’s much easier (and closer) than going to Rehobeth! It feels kind of odd as I always have thought of the Pacific Ocean as being on the west coast of the U.S. off of California. Puntarenas, which means “coastal point” or something close to that as I recall, is a medium-sized town, perhaps 75,000, whose
Crude map of where we went
I made this crude map with the red circle being the area on the Nicoya Peninsula that we visited.
glory days ended quite a few years ago when other ports were built up. It could be worth a day’s visit, but most people either use it to take a connecting bus heading down the coast to Jaco or Quepos, or as we did, use it to catch the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula.
The car ferry ride across the peninsula to Paquera is about 1.5 hours. Honestly, I think on a faster ferry it would only be 30 or 40 minutes but nonetheless, you ride your car on and grab a seat for what is a very pleasant ride. We had to wait in line for about one hour until the ferry arrived but it wasn’t so bad. We were immediately greeted by a “non-official” bilingual man handing out free brochures and maps of the Nicoya Peninsula and explaining how we get a ticket for our car. Getting things done, or more specifically, paying for things, do annoy me here on occasion and getting your ticket for the ferry is one of those annoyances. One doesn’t just walk up to the ticket booth and buy a ticket, rather, you have to wait for a man to give you
Vendor selling pork on a stick
They were so good I had two of them!
a voucher and then you walk up a long line of cars for a few blocks to buy the ticket, then get back in your car and drive onto the ferry. It wouldn’t be a completely terrible system if they handed out the vouchers a little earlier than 15 minutes prior to departure. In fact, on the way back, I was still in line buying a ticket while Beth was already on the ferry with the car.
While waiting for the ferry the expected vendors with carts selling ice cream, drinks, and other food were in abundance. One man was selling barbecued pork on a stick. I haven’t had that in a long time and didn’t expect to see that here as I considered it to be more Middle Eastern or Asian. However, I hadn’t had lunch so I took the plunge. If you ever find yourself waiting for the ferry at Puntarenas, definitely get one (or two as I did) as they are probably the best I’ve ever tasted, and inexpensive too.
The ferry was a fun ride. The lower level had seats and the scenery on either side of the water was stunning, with mountains draped
in trees in full green bloom. I was amazed watching teams of birds flying in and out of the water looking for prey, all in unison—nobody could have choreographed better movement. The upper level of the ferry had a full bar with tables and DJ playing music. And, at times, passengers did karaoke! Inside the ferry, there were tables and they offered a buffet lunch or dinner—for an extra charge of course.
We arrived in Paquera and as I mentioned in my last blog entry, headed for the deserted beach we were told about. It is called Playa Orangos, and it is only about 2km down the road from the ferry. Here is a bit of information about Playa Orangos: http://www.1-costaricalink.com/costa_rica_beaches/playa_organos_beach.htm. We found the sign and left turn off for the beach easily off the main road. I should mention, however, that the road was a dirt road and mostly uphill with many big, natural potholes and tons of mud from the rain, even trying the patience of my 4x4 Izusu Trooper. I should also mention that a few minutes earlier a warning light came on in the car indicating that something was amiss in the undercarriage of the
car. That light coming on made the rest of the trip a bit tenuous, not knowing if we were going to lose an axle, a wheel or some other important part of the car, particularly in the middle of nowhere, where we often found ourselves on this trip. I dread going to the mechanic on Monday.
After a torturous 2km drive on the dirt road we first came across the cabins we had heard about just behind some trees off the beach. Run by a nice Costa Rican family, they were pretty decent but basic. We even saw some monkeys up in the trees near the cabins which was fun. The problem was, they were in the middle of nowhere and anytime we wanted to get food, we would have had to drive that dirt road and I did not want to risk it given the state of the car. Before heading out to find more suitable accommodations for the night, we went down to the beach and sure enough, it was a very nice deserted beach with trees. If you want to get away and just be by yourself, I recommend it for a few hours.
found a nice hotel on the beach in Tambor. Except for the rain, it was a beautiful hotel and beach. The hotel was empty the night we stayed there and we met the Belgian owner. She told all about how she found it, refurbished it, and bought it. Definitely cost her millions of dollars I’m sure, though she said she sold her company in Belgium (unlike the two of us who simply left of our jobs). I learned recently that when staying at another hotel, show your business card and you get a discount as a fellow hotel/B&B owner.
The next day we headed further south down the Nicoya Peninsula to the little hamlet of Montezuma. It was a very pretty down right on the beach with only two streets, one going north and south, and one going east and west. It looked more European than Costa Rican with fun shops for jewelry, books, quaint eateries and the like. I really liked the town and hope to visit it again. We only stayed for lunch as the rains continued in earnest. Also, after Montezuma, the road heading across the peninsula westward get much worse, apparently lacking pavement.
reason I went to Montezuma was that my guide book said there was a small place with cabin rentals (“cabinas”) and a Greek restaurant. I wanted to try this Greek restaurant essentially in the middle of nowhere. Oddly enough, the map in the guide book showed the cabins being a few miles south of Montezuma, however, it was literally two blocks away. So, I found it, but sadly the restaurant was closed for the low season. Next time I’ll check it out. We decided that we had enough of the rains and headed all the way up back up the peninsula to Paquera to catch the ferry home.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the state of the roads on the Nicoya Peninsula. They aren’t great and you have to be careful. In many spots it was impossible to avoid the huge potholes because they covered the entire road! What I learned though, is to follow the guy in front of you. If he knows the road, you’ll avoid the potholes along with him. Also, several stretches of the road were simply hard dirt with no payment and occasionally single car bridges, again with dirt. A
Another view of the hotel's beach
Don't you just want to visit us now!?
4x4 car is definitely needed in the rainy season.
Once we got back across the water to Puntarenas where we originally caught the ferry, it was a one hour drive back to San Ramon. By this time, it was dark out, totally driving rainstorm and Costa Rica roads don’t have many street lamps. The road was full of big trucks interspersed with cars and there are many twists and turns on this part of the road back home. It was doubly hard to drive in the rain, see the road and avoid the potholes. The potholes weren’t as bad as on the Nicoya Peninsula but a one-hour drive normally took almost three hours. In the future, I think we’ll stick to daytime driving. After we got back, someone told me that the road between San Ramon and Puntarenas is the most dangerous in all of Costa Rica, with the most car deaths in the country! Well, we survived just fine.
I highly recommend this trip though. It’s a beautiful area, less expensive than Jaco, Quepos or Manuel Antonio, and the scenery at least during the drive is worth the trip.
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