And now the end is near..........

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Central America Caribbean » Costa Rica » Puntarenas » Jaco
November 12th 2011
Published: November 20th 2011
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La FortunaLa FortunaLa Fortuna

Mt. Arenal
...... Sex Pistols version!

12th Nov ’11 Monteverde to La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Today we travelled by Jeep Boat Jeep to La Fortuna – which seems to be the standard way to reach the place without spending hours and hours on windy mountain roads/tracks. The Jeep part was really a minibus, but apparently that is what they are called over here, maybe to make it sound more adventurous!
Anyway it was fine, bit of a scramble up and down river banks with rucksacks but apart from that no problems and we arrived in La Fortuna about lunch time. The small town is dominated by a huge volcano – Mt. Arenal which up until a few months ago spurting lava but no does not – what a shame, it is quite a sight and appears as if it is right at the end of the main road in the town. Until this volcano started erupting in the 60’s the town was just a little village, now however it is one of the main hubs for adventure sports in Costa Rica and filled with tour companies (all offering the same trips), restaurants and shops selling souvenirs.
As we are a large group
La FortunaLa FortunaLa Fortuna

Christmas comes early!
now and because Ronnie ‘loves us’ we are using Intrepid’s Comfort Hotels!!!! In Costa Rica – well Monte Verde and here anyway, funny thing is they are exactly the same ones that were on the original itinerary before the group expanded in size hmmmmmm anyway we pulled up at the tallest hotel in town (5 floors) which was decorated for Christmas already, which was slightly bizarre but the rooms were great – hot water and everything!! The maid had kindly blocked the side patio door with a towel along the bottom of it so we only had a small ant invasion – marvellous!
Not all the rooms were ready so we left the bags and were due to be taken for lunch and then to a travel agency for a presentation on the trips available here. However the moment we arrived in the hotel Howard spotted the England v Spain match on the tele in the restaurant, parked himself directly in front of it and refused to move another inch! I left him to it and suffered the presentation – at least you got a free drink (liquid lava ha ha). The prices were extortionate and the tours nothing new
San JoseSan JoseSan Jose

Bullet Holes
so I drank my drink and eventually got back to the hotel.
We managed to evade another group dinner and tried out a little local place Howard had read about and had a nice meal, then found the ice cream parlour and had a banana split! Then stamped on a few ants and went to bed.
13th Nov ‘11
Not having any trips booked or reason to be up we slept and slept, it was great!!! We decided to get up eventually and went in search of lunch, Howard had spotted a bakery café at the top of the main road so we wandered up there to find it shut and ended up in Burger King!! – ah well there are times when you just need a bit of the familiar. It was quite funny as Helen and Terry came in after us and we all acted and felt a bit guilty about being there!
14th Nov ’11 La Fortuna to San Jose
Despite loving us so much Ronnie’s budget couldn’t stretch to private transport so we were back to the original itinerary and caught 2 local buses to get to San Jose – not a problem at all. We
San JoseSan JoseSan Jose

Workers Memorial
got off by the side of the main road with traffic thundering along and with our back packs on had to run across it and then walk 5 minutes to the Gaudy Hostel (back to basics again). The hostel was fine, the room mega basic and just a fan and a window with half the slats missing, but it is our last night so anything would seem fine!!!
We all went on a walking tour of San Jose and saw the ‘sights’, it is just a big sprawling city with not much character and only a very few points of interest. We then attempted to get a taxi back to the hostel which took ages as the traffic is so heavy and they have the usual one way systems. Ronnie had warned us about the dangers of wandering off too far at night and particularly about the dangers of the Coca Cola bus station at night. So when we got back at dusk Howard decided to go and check out the bus station as we would be going on from there in the morning. He came back in one piece and said it was fine, lots of small shops and people milling around but no hassle.
We then girded our loins and went out for the final group meal, we went to a bar first which did food but several of the group weren’t happy about eating there and wanted to go to the Mexican next door, you could tell Ronnie wasn’t too pleased with this rebellion so I just said ‘We started in Mexico it seems right we should end in it’ everyone laughed and so we did.
It wasn’t a bad final night, the food was good, the Pina Colada lovely, the prices reasonable, had a good chat and a laugh with Elva and Karen, Terry made ‘the speech’ and presented the tip collection and we went to bed – thinking YES no more nights to go!!!
15th Nov ‘11
After a hot sticky night tossing and turning and listening to everything that was going on in next door’s bathroom (the walls were that thin) I woke up quite early and in time for the breakfast. Said a few final goodbyes as various members of the trip were leaving at different times, ordered a taxi to the bus station, taxi came, off we went, arrived at the bus

Where we are now staying
station and straight away someone came up to us and asked if we knew where to get tickets from then showed us to the right place. We bought our tickets, wandered around a bit then just sat and people watched until the bus pulled in.
People were beginning to line up so we checked we had the right queue, stowed our rucksacks under the bus, got on and finally the only 2 Gringos on the bus were FREE!!!!!!!!
It was quite amazing really, we both instantly started to relax and both realised just how stressed out with the trip we had been! The prospect of another 12 days in Costa Rica suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
The journey to Jaco took about 2 ½ hours winding our way through mountains and over hills, all very lush and verdant. The sky however went from sunshine to grey at first I thought this was just because we were up in the cloud forest again but as we made our way down towards the coast it became apparent it wasn’t.
Jaco is just a small town with one main road with little shops and restaurants, however the American influence was quite apparent as we spotted KFC and Subway. Once again there were not many tourists in evidence and it seemed quite a sleepy place. The bus terminated right at the end of town next to Pizza Hut and off we got. Howard had already booked 3 nights at the Kangaroo Hotel – as recommended by Lonely Planet and rated highly by Trip Advisor. We started walking back into the town but not really knowing how far away the hotel was and as it was oppressively hot and muggy we flagged down a taxi. Well we drove for a long way, right out of the town and down another road with not much else on it and pulled up at the small hostel. We were let in and then taken to our room, which was tiny with a window with a couple of slats missing and a fan, oh dear where was the a/c Howard was eagerly anticipating? Hmmm we were told only 3 rooms had a/c and the hostel was full but the owner was sure we could manage without. The bathroom was the usual dingy place with an open to the outside brick vent and the whole place looked prime for cockroaches and the customary ants. The pool itself looked ok but was surrounded by high concrete walls with no chance of sun getting in (had there been any) and nowhere to just relax. So we got on the net, checked out other places and narrowed it down to 2 which were right in the town, walked the ¾ of a mile to get back to the town road and went to see them. The first one was ok, nice room and opened right onto a square area of balding grass with an old horse in it, but the second one was like heaven!!!!
After a bit of tea we got a taxi back in the dark to the Kangaroo and Howard went off to begin negotiations to see if we could get out of our 3 night booking. He came back grinning as the owner had started by saying a room with a/c would be free the next night but he told her he had already made other arrangements and she was fine with it – phew didn’t have to waste any more money!
16th Nov ‘11
So here we are at Tommy G’s just a couple of steps down a side street from the main town road, a 2 minute walk from the beach and a little slice of heaven behind a wrought iron gate! The place only has 5 rooms but they are beautiful, all terracotta tiles, spotlessly clean, a/c, Wi-Fi (when it works), a fridge and a small kitchen/lounge, a bed with an orthopaedic mattress no less, a balcony area to sit on, a beautiful little garden, lovely pool and sun loungers!!! All for just £9 a night more than the hostel room!!!!!
The couple who run the place are Barb and Tom from USA who semi-retired and moved to Costa Rica and built the place themselves. They live on site too and said although they don’t make much money as they don’t allow prostitutes or any wild parties – which cuts down on who can stay here (apparently Jaco is renowned for both). They seem really lovely and kind of remarked that we would be with them for Thanksgiving which we looked blankly at and said you will have to tell us what that is, so who knows maybe we will get a turkey dinner as well!
So now we have a lovely lovely place to stay – I have to remind myself this is still Costa Rica so I must stay on bug alert!, clean clothes and even cups of tea when I want! We both feel so much better despite the weather. This evening we had the mother of all thunderstorms it went on for about 6 hours then I gave up and went to bed! The lightning was every 10 seconds at one point, with great cracks of thunder and I have never seen such torrential rain. The pool just about burst its banks, the river was completely swollen and running so fast! It was quite awesome! It also meant we couldn’t get out for tea so had to improvise with 3 eggs and an onion!!!
16th Nov ‘11
What a great nights’ sleep! Had a wander to the supermarket and bought a few thunderstorm emergency backup rations, had a swim, read.
Also have had plenty of time to reflect on the bloody trip and what can I say? It was a mistake to have booked it certainly, it was just too long to spend in an organised large group definitely. Did it make travelling through the countries we did easier? Yes I don’t doubt it did, we didn’t have the hassle of sorting out transport, getting through customs etc., we got upgraded to private transport a lot which cut down on travelling times, however perhaps it took some of the fun out of it too. We didn’t get to meet other travellers, we didn’t meet many locals either. English is not spoken very much at all over here though and not speaking Spanish is a definite drawback which is also where being with a tour leader who speaks fluent Spanish is a bonus, but overall I don’t think it was worth it. The herding about, waiting for 16/18 people to order food and pay for it was an absolute pain, trying to make conversations with people when you can’t hear what is being said is draining. Also having to pay out money again and again for extras you wouldn’t have bothered with is a financial burden, not to mention the frustration of knowing that the whole trip could have been done for half the price with much better accommodation! For Howard that was infuriating!!!
Having said all that I must also say everyone on the trip as individuals were really nice (with the odd exception), the tour leader Ronnie was exemplary – so enthusiastic about central America, very knowledgeable, great at resolving problems and not fazed by awkward requests or refusals to toe the line (now I wonder who I am referring to lol). If I was a single 20 something year old, not used to travelling independently and just wanted to get pissed I would have really enjoyed this holiday, but I’m not and nor is Howard! THE END hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
19th Nov ‘11
We have now had 2 days of sun!! I even have some burnt bits!


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