San Juan del Sur to Corcovado: 3 days and 10 buses later

Published: November 6th 2013
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San Juan del Sur to Puerto Jimenez

On a map, it looks like it is a relatively short distance to get from San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica on the far south west coast. It took us 3 solid days of travelling, totalling 31 hours of travel time, utilising 10 buses in the process. We had given ourselves 6 days to make the journey south, with a few days allowance to break up the fairly torturous travelling.

Before we left San Juan del Sur, we spent another 6 fabulous days there before the hordes started rolling in, and the dynamic and energy of the place changed. We spent 16 days there in total, over 2 different stretches, and saw the place change from a quiet little town, to gringo ground zero with the restaurants and bars heaving (as well as some of the gringo's on Sunday fun day...). On the other hand, it was great to see the restaurants that we had visited daily over our time, swell with customers towards the end of our stay. As for a good period of time it was just our small crew frequenting the places, and they must have been struggling for a while. It still didn't stop me from eating lobster everyday though, at $6 for 3 tails, it was a very decadent lifestyle.

Elisa stayed for 4 days, and Ian and Denise came for a few days, but the mainstay was Brendan, who after a month was still there baking himself golden everyday in the hot sun. He must be the brownest Irishman going around. We took the new arrivals out to Playa Maderas for another beautiful day at the beach, but soon it was just the three of us again. An average day was comprised of getting up late, going to the market for breakfast, hammock for a few hours, go eat lunch, have ice-cream, go to the beach to either swim or watch the sunset, eat lobster, get more ice cream, play cards and drink some rum. It was a fantastic way to relax and unwind before we tackled the trip down south to complete our trip. It was pretty sad to leave Brendan, i even think mojo cried a bit on the chicken bus on the way out of town. But we know where we can get a good curry when we get to India.

Lunch drinksLunch drinksLunch drinks

Pineapple juice, hibiscus tea, Passion fruit juice. And the pot of chilli i demolished in my time at the market
get to the border it was 2 buses, and after a muddy walk across the frontiera, it was another 3 buses to get to Samara, on the western side of the Nicoya Peninsula. I had wanted to make our first stop at Montezuma, but it would have worked out to be a real long day, arriving in the night, which is far from desirable. Instead we found Samara, and was pleasantly surprised. As it is still the off season, the hordes of American ex-pats and tourists that flood to the Nicoya region were still not here, meaning that it was still a sleepy little town. But, it also meant that not much was open, as October is generally the month when hotel and restaurant owners close down for the month to perform maintenance, or go on vacation. To add to this, it was the halloween weekend, meaning that many people from San Jose had come down for the weekend to party. Arriving at 3pm on the Friday, we traipsed from place to place, only to find that it was either closed, booked out, or way out of our price range. This was a bit of a shock, as the last
Average lunch for $2.50Average lunch for $2.50Average lunch for $2.50

rice, beans, chicken and salad
few months we have just rocked up to a town and found cheap accommodation straight away, as there is only a smattering of gringo's travelling at this time of the year. Feeling a bit despondent, we sat down at a bar and started to wonder whether leaving San Juan Del Sur was a good idea. But a nice lady working behind the bar took pity on us, and started ringing around town to find a place for us, eventually getting us a room just up the road.

That night we had a tremendous storm that raged all night, but the next night was beautifully clear and we went back to the bar to join in the festivities. A local guy named Milo was performing that night, and he was an amazing talent. Armed with 4 guitars, a saxophone, a drum, a pan flute and a sampler, he would play a riff or a tune, sample it and then play it back as a backing instrument/sound while playing another instrument and repeating the process until he had 5 or 6 samples. He was fantastic to watch, and i am sure that if he wanted to he could make it to the big stage with his prodigious talent. But as i found out later on in the night when i bought him a beer and chatted to him, that he was more then content surfing during the day, and then playing locally at night.

After a few days chilling at the beach, it was time to move on south again, and it was a gruelling 13 hour day that started at 4am and ended in Dominical just as the sun was setting. First it was a bus up to the capitol San Jose, a place that i am glad we only spent a few hours in, before traversing over the massive mountain range that spears upwards before hair pinning down towards the coast again. That bus trip was only 135km, but it took over 3 hours to complete, thus giving an indication of the heights that had to be scaled and descended. Getting out at truckstop at halfway, it was a shock to find that the temperature was around 10degrees, about 20 less then when we had started the days journey. The mountains were covered in dense cloud and mist that sometimes opened up revealing glorious views, before we were swamped again with 10metres visibility and heavy rain. I tried to catch some sleep, but each time we went round a left hand bend the cold water would flood through the escape hatch on the bus and onto me.

After an 1.5hr wait in a funny little bus terminal, we had the final leg for the day. It was only 35km to Dominical, but with another mountain range to traverse it took 1.5hrs to complete. The area is known as where the sea meets the sun, and it was beautiful countryside, with rolling hills of jungle complete with tremendous views over the pacific below. Macaws and Toucans flapped past, as we criss crossed numerous strong flowing rivers, before finally touching down in Dominical.

Some say Dominical is what the rest of the pacific coast of Costa Rica used to be like, with it only being spared the american treatment due to the fact that it is hard to access. Most people come here to surf the massive break that roars as it crashes into the beach. Large trees and bits of driftwood litter the shoreline, giving a strong indication of the power of the waves here. The swell was not huge during our stay, but some sets were well over 10ft and the handful of surfers out there were getting some great rides on empty waves. We stayed in a very rustic little room full of various insects, but it was right on the beach and the pounding of the surf was a nice sound to fall asleep to each night.

With another day of rest under our belt, it was time to complete the journey to the Osa Peninsula. Starting again at 4am, but this time completing the day's travel in only 7 hours. It was quite an effort to get down here, but we have now sorted out a guide for our time in Corcovado National Park, and cannot wait to venture into this wonderland in 2 days time.

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