Costa Rica (2/2)

Alajuela, Costa Rica - 17.12.2016

We went to Puerto Viejo the same way we had come. The only difference was that we booked the whole trip in advance. The advantages of it were local help at the border and a van to Puerto Viejo instead of the bus. At the border we had a great guy named Cesar, 24 years old, works at the border for 12 years. He was super funny and well organized. Although you don't really need help. As you can see from our border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama. As we walked across the bridge to Panama Marc pointed out that this was our last border crossing on land during our trip. Oh God, the last things have begun. So sad.

We arrived in Puerto Viejo, had a good lunch at the Hotrocks restaurant and went to our apartment. Which was of course not only a bit cheaper but much bigger than the one in Panama. But no air conditioning and no warm water. So I guess we could have stayed here the whole month. But hey. It was also good in Bocas del Toro. But if you want a place to stay longer Puerto Viejo would be my recommendation.

On our way to Puerto Viejo we brought two girls to Cahuita. It seems nice but more or less like Puerto Viejo. We decided to make a biking tour to the Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC) and Manzanillo, which is 12 km from Puerto Viejo. The JRC is on the way, 5.6 km from Puerto Viejo. And it is amazing. The founder is a vet from Spain who specialized in monkeys. She came to Costa Rica to retire. But as the locals found out about her profession more and more people brought their sick animals, or animals which they found wounded or abandoned. The first two animals to stay at the vet's place were jaguars. That's where the JRC got its name from. But it is actually a place for a variety of animals. We saw a pelican, sloths (adult and babies), a margay, an ocelot, snakes, a brain damaged anteater named Tamy who has his own volunteer to follow him around because otherwise he would walk only in circles and climb up on branches and then most likely fall off. He walks around the whole center, the animals are mostly free. We also saw spider monkeys, white face capuchin monkeys and wild howler monkeys up in the trees above the center. They have a female who used to be in the JRC and she leads them back from time to time because she knows that there is food in the center. Furthermore we saw a baby kinkajou (the cutest thing in the world), parrots, a tucan, jaguarondi babies (4 month old), spektakeled and striped owls, broadwing and black hawks, a crocodile tree, which has spikes on it (see pictures), leguans in the trees, a crocodile, caimans, the famous red eyed green leaf frog (it is on a lot of merchandise in Costa Rica), an hour glass frog (very seldom) and deers. The JRC tries to get every animal back into the wild but there are exceptions. Like Tamy, who could not survive in the wild. But they do a lot to teach all the animals. The volunteers go into the jungle every day with all the monkeys not too ill to climb. And in the evening they get back to the JRC. The monkeys follow because the volunteers are seen as the alphas. When the monkeys are ready to get back into the wild they challenge the alphas by staying out for one night. Or longer. Until they just don't come back. With the birds they just open the cages and give them the opportunity to fly away. Which most do slowly. First for a couple of hours but close to the center and they come back in the evening... and so on. Our tour guide named Sky explained a lot of things to us and we were lucky to see all sloths awake as they sleep 15 - 18 hours each day. It was a great day and I even found a good way to support the center despite the tickets by buying a patch. (They only run this whole thing by the money they make with the tickets, the two tours per day and donations and the small shop, the volunteers don't get food or housing, but a grant experience).

After the JRC we went further to Manzanillo. It was nice with a small beach but the journey was more interesting. On the way there I lost one of the keys to the locks of the bike and we went back looking for it as we made our way home. A worker which we had already seen on our way to Manzanillo jumped to his feet as soon as he saw us and...returned our key! Puh! It would have cost us $15 to replace the lock. Thanks to the nice guy it turned out to be a perfect day. And thanks to Tati. We made a small break at a nice beach and continued back to Puerto Viejo and to Soda Riquisimo, a small street restaurant Tati had recommended to us to try Caribbean rice and beans (made with coconut milk), plantintas (like a cake, filled with mashed plantains and spiced with cinnamon, at least our version, a little Christmas!) and Patti (like a meat pie which Marc tried the next day at a different shop and found it to be super delicious!). The food at Soda Riquisimo was the best we had so far. I had patacones (the fried plantains) instead of meat and even those were the best we had so far. The rice was very coconutty and it was delicious but nothing I would want for every meal. The salad was also the best we had, probably not a big surprise to all of you when I say: there was no cilantro in anything. I guess that's why I found it best. So gracias Tati for making us eat the best food :) The day was just perfect. All day it was cloudy. Perfect conditions when you are outside the whole day.

We spent another relaxing day in Puerto Viejo and than got back to San José to drive further to Manuel Antonio the next day. Our place to stay was very simple but the old woman who runs this place was so nice and helpful, we didn't mind at all. She cooked us an early breakfast so we would not have to rush to the bus and told us it was a holiday today where cows will be brought through the streets. We would have loved to see that. But we already had the bus tickets. Tati, if you read this please explain this holiday to us. :) The third time in San José was also the best. We arrived late, it began to darken and the streets were packed with good mood people and little stands full of food and things. It seemed so much nicer than the first two times. But it still is a capital. He he.

On our way to Manuel Antonio we saw beautiful landscape like colorful rocks, waterfalls, rivers and rain forest. And some animals like horses, hawks and as a highlight: wild crocodiles! The first thing we noticed when we arrived at Manuel Antonio was, that our hostel was right in front of the El Avion restaurant, which Dirk had recommended. It is a restaurant built around an old plane. The food was good (sadly very expensive) but the view was the best. After lunch we checked in and found ourselves in a garden of nice bungalows and 3 swimming pools, one of them right in front of our small room. The shared bathroom was only to share with one other double room. Much better than expected. And it costs even a bit less than the simple room in San José. Although I am sure that is because we are "genius customers" at (because of the many many bookings we did this year). Sometimes you get a special price or an early check-in. We had a private trail behind our house to walk in the nature. It is a really nice trail and I walked it alone very early in the morning. I crossed two rope bridges on my own and even stopped in the middle of one to take a picture. So I guess I am really more relaxed with some things because of the experiences of this year. I didn't see much wild life though. But when we sat at our terrace later that day we saw squirrel monkeys, Central American agoutis (we finally found out the name thanks to a sign in the Manual Antonio National Park), iguanas and a lot of birds. The breakfast at the hostel was amazing, too. Gallo Pinto, bread, banana bread (it really tasted more like a ring cake), cereal, joghurt, papaya, pineapple, coconut cream, tea and coffee. Om nom.

We walked 30 minutes down hill to Manual Antonio National Park and took every single trail there. It's not a very big National Park. We saw white face capuchin monkeys with babies, howler monkeys and squirrel monkeys, Central American agoutis, crabs, coatis, a deer with its fawn and raccoons, who really lived up to the expectations and tried to steal food from the tourists at the beach. I need to say that I don't like to consider myself wiser than others but if you leave your bag alone on a beach full of raccoons it is kind of your own fault if they snatch it. Or maybe I was just lucky to get the knowledge of raccoons stealing stuff when I grew up, I don't know. Well, anyway. The people in the beach area also fed the monkeys. Despite all the signs that say in Spanish and English to not feed the animals. It is just sad. On our travels this year we learnt the phrase "let the wild life be wild" and because it makes so much sense to not make a wild animal learn that it gets food from humans we live by it since and keep our distance. When we went to go on the waterfall trail we actually got lucky and saw our first wild sloth! Wooohooo. At last! The nature and the trails in the national park are really cool. Marc pointed out if there would be no national park and no waterfall in Puerto Rico this might be our last. More last things. We had a great time and walked back 35 minutes all the way up hill to the Falafel Bar. Trip Advicer says it's the number one restaurant in this area and I totally agree. You get a really good filled plate with falafel, hummus and self made fried potatoes and you have a salad bar (but no refill - imagine how full my plate was. Or see in the pictures. He he.). We did nothing the next day and the day after we visited Quepos to buy our bus tickets and take a look around. We saw turtles in the dirty river in town. That and the view of the harbor were the highlights. We left after approximately 35 minutes. On the way back we decided to do the canopy thing which was very near to our great hostel. When we arrived we saw that they not only had a thrill canopy thing which lasts for 1.5 minutes but also have something called the canopy bike (see pictures for best explanation) which is motorized and you can cruse through the jungle for about 15-20 minutes. We decided the bike would be worth more especially because we already had a thrilling canopy experience back in Malaysia. It was really cool. Unfortunately all the monkeys we saw were always where Marc was and I had to keep a distance of 20 meters for safety. Also my bike had hiccups and it felt like something was broken so I was a bit scared, even though I would have expected me to be much more scared considering the height. When I got back to the station the staff indeed found a cable to be out of place somehow. They didn't explain it in English but my Spanish was good enough to understand a bit from what they were saying to each other. A little proud of myself here. Anyway, I made it (like my favorite Mario Brother used to say).

After the canopy bike thing we spent time in the pool in front of our hostel room and then had another dinner at the Falafel Bar. I served myself a mountain of coleslaw from the salad bar because my mum had told me earlier that day she was at their favorite Greek restaurant and I really could have died for coleslaw and souvlaki that day. But I had coleslaw and falafel instead. Really really good, too. Marc tried the Kebab this time. It was a bit too expensive for a small portion but tasted great. And then our wonderful time at Manuel Antonio was almost up. On the last morning I sat in front of our room early and tried to absorb the atmosphere, the smells, the sounds. Most of all the sound of the howler monkeys nearby. We walked the private path behind the hostel complex and had the last great breakfast there. Our ride to San José and further to Alajuela was without complications. We listened to the Dark Tower book no. 5. I thought we would have made it through all 7 books by now but the reader is really slow. And just recently we found a way to hear it in 1.75 speed. Now he sounds like any other reader :)

We had Quesadilas at Jalapenos Central Restaurant (great place!!) and worked on the blog. The last day we would be just the two of us we spent tranquilo. Working on the blog and relaxing. We are very excited about Puerto Rico, Pedro, his family and friends and the island itself. We will fly at 2 am (Yeay) and arrive there at 2 pm. I think I quoted Pedro on one of the first entries in this blog and I also do it on one of the lasts: I'm sooo excite!!


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