After three weeks in Nicaragua it was time to catch our final chicken bus out of the country. We boarded the first bus for a brief ride before being dropped off on the side of the road to catch and the second bus taking us to the border. En route my friend Thomas discovered that he was missing his phone and tablet, and after furiously searching through his belongings we surmised that the very helpful bus attendant most likely liberated his belongings while his backpack was sitting in the storage area behind him. As we exited the bus we were swarmed by locals screaming at us to buy border passes, insisting that we needed them to go through. I had to to yell at everyone in Spanglish to let go off me and my backpack, it was one of the most intense things that has happened on this trip. Finally we passed through immigration and jumped on a bus bound for Tamarindo where we would meet up with our Swiss friends who we had traveled with in Guatemala.
We finally arrived in Tamarindo after an exhausting day of four bus changes and eight hours in travel. We dropped our bags and went in search of some food, and found first hand what everyone had been telling us in Nicaragua – Costa Rica is freakin expensive, regardless we spent a lovely few days hitting the beach, cooking BBQs and chatting with old and new friends.
After four days we traveled with some new American friends to the mountain town of Monteverde. Although Costa Rica is considered to be the most developed country in Central America with a reasonable public transport system it still had terrible roads, and so we spent another day bumping up and down on a sweaty and dusty bus. We arrived and checked in to a hostel for a bargain price of $7 a night, which turned out to be not such a bargain when days later we discovered that our room had bed bugs.
Nightmare room aside we had come to Monteverde to seek adventure, hiking and animal watching. We booked in to go zip lining for the following day, even though I have what I thought was a mild fear of heights. The first couple of zip lines were a piece of cake, they were not so high and fairly short, but then we came to one of the more extreme zip lines where I started to get a bit anxious, but tried to push thoughts of my impending death out of my mind. When we came to one of the longest lines we had to buddy up, and as I was the smaller of the two I was at the front and my buddy who was in the back was supposed to break us when we approached the end, unfortunately he must have gotten lost in the adrenaline of the experience because he failed to break us and so instead of gently approaching we slammed in to end of the line. This was the first time I burst in to tears. I tried to calm myself down but my anxiety rising, and when we got to the next platform and I discovered it was a free fall abseiling of 30m I couldn’t bring myself to go, so I stood aside and sobbed while I let everyone else go ahead of me. Finally I calmed myself down enough to try again, asking that the guide to lower me down slowly, which he did up until the final 10 metres where he dropped me quickly, and you guessed it I burst in to tears again. Facing your fears is hard, and sometimes it is in fact too much to handle. I walked up to the next jump called the tarzan swing, where you had to jump off a huge platform and free fall for several metres before the rope picks you up and you swing out in to the jungle like tarzan. Nope, no way, I opted out of that one. Finally we hiked to the top of the hill to the 1km long zip line where you would be harnessed to fly like superman, launching yourself from a 30m high platform overlooking the valley. I tried but eventually bailed on doing the superman style ride and opted to go sitting, which was still plenty terrifying as I flew hundreds of metres up in the air for what felt like an age. On the final line I did get to do the superman speeding through a dark tunnel emerging to my cheering friends. Although it was much harder than I anticipated I am glad that I did zip lining, even if I will never do it again.
After consuming a million glasses of wine the night before to calm my nerves we decided to do a less exhilarating activity and went walk high up in the Forrest through canopy bridges. Monteverde is considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and I saw trees that I have never seen before or are likely to see outside Costa Rica. I was also able to see local animals that look like a cross between a racoon and a wombat, and a couple of rather large tarantulas in their hole. Turns out they are not quite as scary when they are not crawling down the wall next to your bed!
The number one reason I had come to Costa Rica was to see a sloth, the adorable slow moving mammal that is so lazy they sometimes die of starvation. Having yet to see a sloth we decided to rise for an early morning hike through the Forrest, hoping to catch one waking up. Although we did pick up a dog (or the dog picked us up) who hiked all the way to the top (and back to our hostel) we didn’t see any sloths or monkeys. In a last ditch attempt to see a sloth we signed up for a night walk through the Forrest where we finally found sloth success! Although they are quite high in the trees we could see two moving slowly through the canopy, as well as seeing toucans, Forrest frogs AND I finally saw a snake in the wild; a beautifully vibrant green pit viper.
Having ticked all the animals we wanted to see off our list we boarded another early morning bus ride to the capital of San Jose where we planned to have a final meet up with our Swiss buddies before they headed home, and we left for the southern Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo. For the first day on the coast I travelled to the small Caribbean town of Cahuita to visit the national park, and after a delicious Casado lunch (its called a husband special) of slow cooked Caribbean chicken and fried rice I set out to hike the national park. The reserve snakes around the Caribbean ocean offering both sea and forest to spot animals and within 5 minutes of entering the park I saw a low hanging sloth napping in the tree. Throughout my 3 hour walk I saw monkeys, racoon, kinkajou, and what looked like a prairie dog (essentially a large rat). For my final day in Costa Rica I cycled down to the Jaguar rescue centre (featuring zero Jaguars) to see sloths, monkeys, owls, ant eaters and many other animals being rehabilitated. My friend Reut arrived from her sojourn to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast, and would you believe it she was robbed on the bus also. Tomorrow another border crossing to Panama and Bocas Del Toro for Christmas, fingers crossed we all arrive with all of our items!