Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
91Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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Where I stayed
Leaving Rosa and German's wonderful household was difficult, maybe less so because most of the family had returned to the Beach house, so we bade farewell to the housekeeper Olivia and headed for the San Jose bus station. Our taxi driver was a typical Tico, friendly and helpful and, as we had some time to spare, he gave us a quick tour of downtown San Jose, showing us the highlights of the prostitution areas and a few pretty parks. By day the city does not look as bad as I would have guessed from everything I had heard about it. We caught our bus, headed to the Caribbean side, and as with most buses in Costa Rica, it was not air conditioned. Added to the heat was the fact that they allow standing room only on the long distance buses.
The countryside was stunning as we climbed up and around the interior volcanic mountains and then down into banana world. Miles and miles of banana plantations followed by miles of shipping containers – Dole and Chiquita’s and Del Monte factories stocked up ready to bring your banana to your table wherever you are.
At about hour 4 the bus hit the Caribbean coastline around Limon and the beauty of this raw coast made the trip worthwhile. It is still unspoiled with gated communities. Instead, original little homesteads and shacks on big properties were the norm, and because we were passing by at dinnertime, most families were out on their porches chilling out and watching the world go by directly across the road from some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Time moves slowly in the Caribbean and the feel of this side of Costa Rica is entirely different from the Pacific side – same as for Panama.
We had the name of a town, or more specifically a beach, in mind – Punta Uva, given to us by a friend of German’s, so we asked some locals on the bus to tell us where to get off. Not according to plan, we arrived in the dark near the end of the bus route and the driver simply pulled over and we had to fetch our bags ourselves from the bus hold – we had changed drivers in Cahuita, and had traded in a good one for a very drunk one. So as often happens, there we were, usually it is just me, at the side of the road, in the dark with my little trusty bag. We walked along the road, me with my headlamp on illuminating the way – got to love that invention, and found the name of the place German’s friend had told us about. Complete darkness……when it is dark in the countryside, it is dark. We found the outdoor restaurant – nobody there, not a light on, couldn’t see into the jungle if there were cabins there or not – finally an older man with his shirt half on/half off came down the lane looking a little frightened. We asked him about the place and he told us, in Spanish, that the people had gone home. At least that is what I think he said…..not good. Booking ahead is not a bad idea – don’t know why I do it so little! So, back out to the roadway to start walking down the black road into the night……the next signpost we saw pointed in towards the jungle, on the oceanside so Louise waited with the bags while I scurried down the little lane in the darkness. I finally found a number of cabins and then a woman working there. She seemed very surprised to see me emerging from the darkness. The spooky thing was, amidst a number of little cabins, there seemed like maybe only one other was occupied. She told me she spoke no English so I used my Spanglish and acting skills to get by. The price was double what we had anticipated - $56 night….yikes – welcome to Costa Rica…..but it seemed the only choice considering we were miles from the last town and not even any cars had gone by us in the dark.
Turned out the beach here supposedly is really lovely – touted to be the calmest swimming beach on this side. Riptides are prevalent here, killing many tourists each year. We got up, went out to the beach – just steps from our cabin, even though we couldn’t see it in last night in the dark and also couldn’t hear it. The jungle is very loud both day and night – insects at night and birds through the day. Bad luck has it that today the ocean is having a storm – a pretty violent one so the tide and the surf are very high and only goofballs are out swimming. In fact, earlier we saw, in front of a gigantic sign warning of riptides, explaining how you drown and just next to the red flag warning you to not go in today, an old gringo guy – maybe 75 years old, wade out by himself to beat the odds………stupid is as stupid does……We walked the 6 kms back into town – Puerto Viejo, a town that many people had told us was their favourite place in Costa Rica………hmmmmm…………I kind of thought the town would be a bit bigger. All in all it consists of a few short streets with lots of dread locked Rastafarians riding their bicycles or sitting around waiting for Bob Marley to return.
Very Rasta, very chill, and lots of young gringo backpackers looking for the party to start. The other large group represented is very old white American hippies who just might have been one of these backpackers years ago, except, for these guys once the party started they forgot to go home. Now, thirty or forty years later they are still riding their beach cruiser bicycles in their surf shorts.