Costa Rica (1/2)

Bocas del Toro, Panama - 11.11.2016

Wooohooo. Back on blog. Well, we decided to not write anything about the USA in hindsight. Only pictures everybody say thank ya. For all you lazy ''just watching'' people, I'm looking at you Pee. Let me know when you read this :)

So, after spending some awesome days with Pedro in Chicago and planing our Puerto Rico trip we flew to San José, Costa Rica. We kind of forgot to plan Costa Rica (Okay, we were lazy) and took the things Tatiana told us to go and made a rough plan out of it. We arrived in a rainy San José and had the first people screaming ''Taxi'' at us since South East Asia. Hehe. We took a bus into the city centre and walked 2 km in the rain to our sweet little Hostel. The streets reminded us a lot of South East Asia. Actually a lot of things did. Later more. San José was more for arrival. We will be there again in the very end to fly to Puerto Rico. We did nothing much but plan our next steps. After two days we took a bus from there to Santa Elena, Monteverde. We arrived in pouring rain and couldn't find our hostel at first, which turned out to be great luck because we saw an armadillo cross the street in front of us when we turned to go back the street we came from. Very cool! We wanted to do a lot of things Dirk had recommended but we had only one day so we missed some things. In the morning we had a not so great but expensive breakfast in our hostel and booked a night walk for the evening. We wanted to take the bus to the Cloud Forest at 9:30 am. But when we arrived at the bus station a nice old lady explained to us in Spanish that the bus does not drive at 9:30 am in low season. Hm. We decided to walk the 5 km to the Cloud Forest, because the next bus would take off in four hours. The walk was actually very nice and we had the first feeling of really being in the country. The Cloud Forest itself was nice and had some easy walking trails. Unfortunately half of the area was closed. The highlight was for sure to see a Coati, first in the trees near the trail and then actually on the trail to change trees. After 2 1/2 hours of walking we went to the Colibri Cafe next to the Cloud Forest. Hummingbirds surround the cafe, because they have some kind of water hung outside in little containers to attract them. We got back by bus the way we had walked and had fancy lunch in the Tree House Restaurant which says it is in the Top 10 of the most bizarre restaurants in the world. It is pretty cool. The roof is just the tree top. The building is built around the tree.

We relaxed a bit and then were taken to the night walk office by a van. Our guide explained some rules (stay on track, no direct lights on frogs because you blind them, watch your step, don't touch anything...) and off we went. I told Marc after 5 minutes that the Marlene from 6th grade would not believe her eyes. We did a night walk through a forest back than and I was scared to death. This time - not a problem. We saw a lot of insects like phylliidae (leaf insects), phasmatodea (stick insects), ants on a large trail collecting leaves to make a fungus they can eat from and spiders and a scorpion. We also saw an Orange Tarantula, one opossum and three Kinkajous. Everybody hoped for some kind of wild cat. They have 5 different kinds in that region but they are not likely to be seen. We also saw a stick which had a fungus on it which glows in the dark. Magic stick. He he. After 2 hours of walking we were brought back to our hostel. It only rained like 2 minutes during the night walk. The rest of the day was dry! It hasn't been that dry for weeks we were told. Lucky us.

The next day started for us at 5:20 am to catch our bus to Puntarenas. It was a nice slow drive on which we could enjoy the countryside. And listen to the Dark Tower audio book. After 3 months of constant car driving I enjoy the bus a lot. Most of all the view. Puntarenas is more a place to go through because the ferry is located there. There is not much to do. We had lunch and relaxed the rest of the day because I had back pain from not carrying my backpack correctly. But we went out to see the sunset, according to a guy from our hostel it's a Top 10 sunset. He didn't say out of what but hey, it was a nice sunset because the sun goes down behind some mountains and there is a great pink glow behind them. We used the second day in Puntarenas to walk around this land tongue - it took us two hours in slow speed. We checked out the ferry for the next day and absorbed more of the Costa Rican atmosphere which is so relaxed and happy. And I had Patacones for lunch, which are the same as Tostones in Puerto Rico - plantains (sort of green bananas) smashed and fried. Om nom nom. Pura Vida! That's what you read here all over the places, a great motto. The sunset was not Top 10 this day but again no rain which was nice.

We took the ferry to Paquera at 9:00 am. On the ferry was again an atmosphere of joy. Loud good mood Spanish music and friendly laughing people. From the ferry we went straight in bus no.1 and from 1 in 2. No problem. Bus no. 2 was shabby but it brought us to our Ecolodge. We had booked two nights in an old bus but when we arrived the owner told us there was a problem with the water in the bus so he upgraded us to one of the apartments. Whaaaaaaaaat? The apartment was hugh with a terrace as big as a large living room. And on it a table, two chairs and two really stylish hammocks. The apartment itself was hugh with a fully equipped kitchen and the bathroom had a wall out of glass in the shower from which you could see only jungle. Stunning. The bus would have been a cool experience I guess but AC, warm water and hammocks for free? We take it.

We had two very relaxing nights in Santa Teresa with nice sunsets and hammock chill time. On the second night there was a thunderstorm from 8 pm to 8 am and it rained straight through. We had booked another hostel 2km down the main road at Playa del Carmen. As it had stopped raining 3 hours ago we wanted to walk the 2 km. What a shitty idea! The main road, normally a dusty sand road, was a muddy mess. We came as far as 800 meters before a car stopped, a guy asked where we were headed and then invited us to ride with him. His name was Andre and he came from Canada 26 years ago. It was a nice ride and we were very well met. He saved us a lot of trouble! There was really nothing to do but surfing at Playa del Carmen. Although I was uninterested in surfing we gave it a try, because what else could we do. (we couldn't stay inside our hotel room, sorry to say but room 1 at the Hostel Dos Monos smelled strongly of mold and we needed days and for some things more than one laundry to get the smell out of it.)

We rented a beginners surfboard and went to the ocean at 6 am. The board was way too big and I could not handle it, neither outside nor inside the water. But Marc helped me big time and that's why I even got to my feet on the board once. Hehe. On the second try in the afternoon however I hit myself twice with the board. That resulted in some bruises and one laceration under my right knee. But the times I was brought back to the beach on the board actually were more fun than I would have ever expected. So I'll guess I will give it another try. Perhaps with a smaller surfboard. That might be more difficult to climb but as long as I can handle it in anyway that's worth it. We left to Montezuma the next day and two busses later found ourselves in the perfect environment for relaxation. We wanted to go diving first but skipped it because of rainy weather which could easily influence the visibility under water. We had booked three nights and decided to stay one more after the first. The Hostel is called Cabinas Mar y Cielo and it is made of wood, with a terrace and a little garden surrounded by palm trees, in which you find hammocks. And it is in front of the ocean. We relaxed once more. I guess this might be the theme for most of the rest of our trip as we've seen a lot and were busy seeing the world so we kinda forgot to relax often enough. We are still exited to see things. But not in the high frequency which found its peek in the USA, where we drove 200 miles per day to see the most of it. But the last day in Montezuma we decided to see at least the waterfall nearby. Because of the rain the water was higher than usual and we only saw the lower part of the waterfall because to climb it would have been a very wet experience at best and a probably very dangerous. As we came back we remembered another German couple told us about a nearby beach where you can see turtles. We decided to go at sunset. And we actually came exactly in time. As there is a hatchery and they release the new hatched turtles to the ocean every day. We witnessed 76 baby turtles making their way to the water. And yes, they are sooo cute. The hatchery seems to be more natural than the one we visited in Bali, because in Bali they keep the turtles for a longer time before they release them. That might give them a better chance to survive but it is not the natural way. Which method is better is up for discussion.

We learned that there is actually no great way to get to Tamarindo by bus and decided not to go. Which was for the best, because Juliane (a nice German girl who was our neighbor at Mar y Cielo) told us later the main street in the area is shut down and you have to drive a mayor detour even by car. We decided to skip this part and go (over a night in San José) straight to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, from which we wanted to cross the border to Panama. Puerto Viejo is a wonderful little place! It's a great spot to chill. Unfortunately snorkeling isn't that much fun (at least from the beach) because there are a lot of corals and waves that push you against them. Our accommodation was also very pretty. Super large with a kitchen and a table and a bathroom. The only downside were the animals. A lot of ants and insects much bigger. You had to store away everything eatable. We had great days there and then made our way to the Panamanian border. One bus took us there. Then you had to pay an exit fee in one place, get to another to get your exit stamp and fill out some paperwork, then go further and cross the border to pay an entrance fee and fill out the same paperwork for this office and from there go to the last office to get your entrance stamp and let them take your picture and fingerprints. Aaaaaand that's that.

Similarities to South East Asia:
*Broken streets
*stores with loud music that sell this and that
*cilantro in almost every meal
*wild animals crossing the streets
*relatively cheap public transport
*gravel roads and honking in turns to let people know you are coming
*friendly people (although we experienced Costa Ricans to be even significantly friendly, however that is possible)


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