Every time when traveling to a new destination I realise what a rookie I am. Yes, I’ve been to countless airports and have had my sweaty ass imprinted on millions of bus seats, but every country is a new challenge and no matter how many people tell you what to expect you will always take your first baby steps. Not to mention that naivety that always sees to come back and hunt me every time I reach a new destination. My ‘world traveller’ middle name should really be closely followed by ‘ and will believe any bullshit that comes out of your mouth’. You think you’ve done your research, but yet again I was wrong.
Like when I arrived at the airport in San Jose and thought I had reached backpacker mekka in shape of cheap transportation. Not wanting to start my Central American adventure being ripped off by some conniving taxi driver, I had made sure I knew the about price for a trip downtown and which taxi company to use. 30 minutes later I was bloody well surprised when the ride I thought would set me back 5000 colones ($10) in real life was a whooping 18000 ($33)!!! I would blame my poor math skills, but in this case I had so brilliantly mixed up the city cabs and the official airport taxis because of reading about price and cab companies on two different internet sites. After handing over 10000 colones to the taxi driver, he stared down at the money and back up at me with a face shaped as a question mark. ‘God damn it’, I thought, ‘I asked you before getting into the taxi if you had change for big notes’. When I still didn’t get it he printed of the receipt and shoved it in my face. ‘Aaaah, I see, it’s 18000 colones….’ I handed over another 10000 and mumbled my ‘gracias’ as I took my change, kicking myself realising I had done my first mistake before even leaving the airport…
As I walked down to San Jose central I could confirm at least one thing that past visitors of the city had told me; this place ain’t nice. Dirty, run down and what seemed to be impossible to get out off. I was afraid I would have to spend more than one night here if I didn’t get to grips with these buses and where the hell they were supposed to leave from. A subway later, I was back at the hotel sipping my first Imperial (Costa Rican beer) and trying to navigate the internet for a bus that would take me away from this place. I found one that was to leave San Jose for Montezuma at 6 a.m the following morning and got well exited when the receptionist could confirm that, indeed I was getting out of here! And it was all smooth sailing from there. I got up the next morning, packed my bag and took a reasonably priced taxi to the bus station and headed for the coast. One ferry, $14 dollars lighter and a bus swap later, I arrived in Montezuma 7 hours after departure.
Now, Montezuma is a small village, or should I say ten hotels, two restaurants and
an ice cream shop, on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. It was here I got ‘low season’ slapped in my face and got first hand experience that it’s not the same as Asia, well in that sense of it. Cause while backpackers flock to south east Asia all year round to go tubing, get drunk on Chang and dip themselves in paint to go on a Full Moon all nighter, things are a bit on the down low here in CentroAmerica. Like proper ghost village. I’m never been the one to complaint about the
peace and quiet of my own company, but even I thought this was a bit dead. I met Maaret from Finland as I was getting off the bus and we decided that two was better than one and found a twin room to share. Although small and almost empty, Montezuma had charm I thought. However, with wild beaches and surfer waves that made it impossible to go swimming, I was happy to leave after a couple of days. The highlights of the 48 hours covered a trip to a beautiful waterfall, befriending a Coati Bear at the Hotel and listening to Van Joyce’s ‘Riptide’ full blasting while walking along the beach having my heart exploding with a happiness that only traveling can give me.
Next stop was Santa Teresa, another surfers paradise on the Peninsula. After sharing public buses with an army full of school kids we thought this would be paradise. To me, no. Although, it had a city center, Santa Teresa was just one long stretch of restaurants and hotels and yet again the ghost village alarm went off big time. After being dropped off
far from most of the shops and eateries, we walked for 10-15 minutes to try to find somewhere decent to stay, that wasn’t either A: closed or B: high season priced. Eventually I couldn’t give a flying monkey where I stayed as I was swimming in sweat, fully padded with backpacks front and back. Ironically enough we ended up with a little dark tree hut, overpriced and a closed restaurant. Sweet deal. Had a look around ‘town’ which took 30 minutes to walk to and after yet another beach unsuited for swimmers, it was thumbs down for Santa Teresa. Getting away from here proved difficult as, surprise, surprise, this area of the country is badly connected through public transport and the shuttle service only departed if there was three or more people leaving. So at 8 at night the next day looked grim as no one else wanted to leave this place except us. However we got lucky and eventually we were 6 people that left Santa Teresa the day after. Next place was Tamarindo that supposedly was very touristic. I welcomed it with open arms, hoping I would get to a place where I would count more people than squirrels.
Tamarindo was spot on. The best beach so far and it had a town centre with lots of restaurants and shops. Although quiet, it was a great place to chill out for a couple of days, with nice people and good vibes. Due to an excessive amount of rain, I spent most my days hanging out around the hostel reading sappy novels (which I throughly enjoyed) while having a balanced diet between cervezas and Doritos. Life was good. However, every good thing comes to an end, as they say, so after four days it was time to move on to the next good thing in shape of a new country, my second home Nicaragua. The last day in Tamarindo I woke up to brilliant sunshine and got my ass down to the beach asap to finally enjoy good weather. After spotting a crocodile along the river bank and waiting an hour or so for the beast to get close enough for an okay picture, we headed back down to the beach and enjoyed a first day of swimming in the sea and drying up in the smashing sunshine. My time in Costa Rica was so brilliantly finished that day with a stunning sun disappearing into the pacific ocean. I think I’m gonna start measuring my life in awesome sunsets.
The next day me and Maaret headed for Liberia, which is pretty much the last stop before crossing the border into Nicaragua. We both had tickets booked to go with buses the next day and spent our last hours in Costa Rica eating questionable McDonalds, using the rest of our colones and getting stuck on some side street when a sick rain shower came and almost washed away my precious computer as it came as much horizontal as it did vertical. The skies were barking so loud I could hardly hear myself think how much I love these showers. I just wish I didn’t go sightseeing during hurricane season with a MacBook on a leash.
As my 8 days in Costa Rica was drawing to and end I couldn’t help but think the unthinkable, that I was a bit underwhelmed by the things I had seen and massively overwhelmed at how much lighter my wallet was after hardly doing nothing. Maybe my laid back week was a reason for my lacking enthusiasm for the country or maybe I was simply having expectations that didn’t measure up to real life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time and to be fair I didn’t see much of the country. Costa Rica gave me my first experience at solo traveling in a foreign country and in that sense it exceeded my expectations in all the right ways as well as massively improving my confidence and ease of being able to handle myself alone in my quest to conquer the world.