. We had decided to stay in Quepos instead of Manuel Antonio itself. Quepos is a proper town whereas Manuel Antonio is very little else than the entrance to the National Park and some hostels and restaurants around. We got a room at the Wide Mouth Frog Hostel which was really nice, we paid the little extra for a private double with shared bathroom. As it was already dark and not much to see, we took a walk around town and got some pizza take away for dinner.
The next day turned into a complete chill out day, because of the weather, we woke up to pouring rain and a complete grey sky. No point doing trekking in a National Park or going to the beach. We just chilled out at the hostel reading and relaxing. The next day the weather had cleared up a little so we decided to check out the National Park. We got the local bus to Manuel Antonio and got off at the last stop which is close to the entrance of the park. Of course the entrance fee was another 10usd as all the other National Parks in Costa Rica, and we didn’t even get a map of the treks. The guy that we paid the ticket too suggested we took a picture of the map at the entrance and then we could check it on our camera. Well, that’s what we did. Not really what you expect when you pay 10usd but anyway…. We soon realised that this National Park was much more prepared for the gringos than for example the one we had visited in Cahuita
. Manuel Antonio National Park is packed! There were little groups of people everywhere, nearly all of them with their own local guide keeping an eye out for animals. Since they spotted the animals and then stopped and spoke about them, we of course benefited from this seeing exactly the same as the little groups around us. We got a really nice close up look of some white head capuchin monkeys right at the entrance. A bit further away a bright green frog and of course plenty of mini lizards, to our delight we saw our first moving sloth, and thanks to the binoculars we managed to see it really well! (Thanks Laura! I knew they would come in handy! ) The trek is actually a fairly wide road for 4x4 vehicles so it was really easy. The first part ended in a picnic area with plenty of greedy robbing monkeys and their raccoon friends that were equally greedy and robbing. Anything at all left behind at the beach was at risk of robbery, especially if it contained food. We had some opportunities to get some really nice close ups of both the monkeys and the raccoons. Just after the picnic area we took another route which the groups didn’t seem to take. This part was a bit trickier since it had rained it was really muddy, but it was well worth it for getting away from the crowds of people and having a bit of peace and quiet which is what I expect from a National Park. This part of the trek was literally a complete circle around 1200 metres which brought you back where you started and allowed you to get back on the original trek
. The final leg of that trek followed along some really beautiful beaches where we chilled out for a bit. What was worth noting was that they had water stations every 500 metres more or less, so that anyone could fill up their water bottle with fresh drinking water. At the exit of the National Park there was this mangrove joining the beach which you had to cross to be able to get to the main beach. They were of course prepared and had people with rowing boats taking the tourists across the 20metres. We had read that it was shallow and you could walk it, so we stripped down to our swim wear again and put everything in the backpack and held it over our heads and walked across. We were joined by a French couple. A lot of people were looking at us funnily but no one followed suit. We decided to make the most of the day and enjoy the beach in Manuel Antonio since you cannot swim at the beach in Quepos, it is really dirty. We only got about an hour out of it though as it started raining again. As soon as we got back we got the bus ticket for San José for the next day, making sure we got the direct bus instead of the colectivo.
We took the bus to San José and had to spend one night in San José again, since taking the bus to the border would take another 6 hours and the border crossing closes at 8pm. So we went back to the Costa Rica backpackers and didn’t really get a good room so had a crap night sleep and got up at 5.45 to get the bus to Peñas Blancas to cross the border to Nicaragua
. We did it the complicated way, taking the local bus instead of the faster and more comfortable more direct buses. But since we were going to San Juan del Sur really close to the border and the direct buses don’t drop you at the turn off for this town, we decided to save the money and do it the local way. Again the only option was a colectivo to Peñas Blancas where that bus dropped us off. Then we needed to stand in a long queue to get our exit stamp for Costa Rica, then walk about 15mins and then queue again to get our entry stamp for Nicaragua. It all went well, just took a long time. Entering Nicaragua we had to pay 12usd each however the daily budget should be much lower in Nicaragua than any of the countries we have visited so far. Since we were doing the crossing the local way we then had to get on our first “chicken bus”, these are actually the old yellow U.S school buses. Now, we are still not sure if they are called “chicken buses” because they are bright yellow, because you are packed in little chickens in boxes or because the locals actually travel with chickens on the bus. Or maybe all three! Well, I have no idea where it came from and if it had also crossed the border, but there was a man travelling with a chicken on this particular bus. We got dropped off in La Virgen which is the turn off for San Juan del Sur and since there were a few more tourists on the bus we just got a shared taxi to San Juan del Sur instead of waiting for the bus. We had checked out the Sunrise Beach Hotel from the Lonely Planet, turned out they were full however the owner offered us a double room in his house for only 10usd. Since we had been up since before 6am we just agreed on the spot. Let’s see what Nicaragua has in store for us!
The Monday morning we spent chilling out and getting ready for the bus to Quepos, we had checked the bus time table at the hostel and also the terminal. San José has a very strange system, instead of one big bus terminal, each bus company just operates out of and individual address. So we were going to Transportes Morales and the Terminal Coca Cola. We got there with about 25mins to spare for the departure of the bus. Only to find out that they had now moved to another address. In we got again in the same taxi and took off to the new address. The taxi driver was really nice and didn't charge us for this additional trip, which he perfectly well could have, so we gave him a nice tip. Only inside the terminal did we realise that the direct bus we wanted to take was already full and we would have to wait 2hrs and 30mins for the next "colectivo". The difference between the direct bus and the colectivo is that the colectivo also serves as a local bus, which means it stops every two metres to let people get on and off. So the journey of course takes much longer. But since we are not in a rush it didn’t matter that much