San Jose, Costa Rica

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 06, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Heredia,
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The flight from LA to Guatemala was a bit bumpy, probably the most bumpy we have had so far and although SJ was a bit scared she was not as bad as she has been. We are not sure if it was because she was tired or that it really is getting better! One thing that did make SJ feel better (and AK but he wouldn't admit it!) was that a whole extra flight crew was on the plane too, probably going home after work! The two pilots were sat just behind us so SJ kept looking over to see if they looked nervous and to her delight they fell asleep without a care in the world. This made SJ very happy and proceeded to, along with AK, fall asleep for most of the 5 hours to Guatemala!

When we arrived at Guatemala most people got off the plane but a few, including AK & SJ, had to stay on as we were continuing to Costa Rica. It was a bit weird and we felt like we were on a bus or a train, especially when the cleaners came on and just cleaned the plane around us! We were so tired by this time that we just slept until the plane started to fill up again. The new passengers included the entire Costa Rican soccer team. Now SJ couldn't have cared less but AK was fairly pleased and tried to talk to one of the guys who was sat next to him but they only exchanged a few words as AK doesn't speak Spanish and he didn't speak English.

We again slept most of the way to San Jose, Costa Rica and after a bumpy landing we had arrived! We passed through customs fairly easy and got another stamp in our passport.

As we left the airport we were confronted with the Costa Rican paparazzi and SJ thought wow this is an amazing welcome but she quickly realised that they were there for the Soccer team, not for two British backpackers!

The lady from the hostel was there to meet us and our first impression was that she was lovely and friendly. She didn't speak much English but then we don't speak much Spanish!

After a fast car ride we arrived at our hostel. Manfred and Meylinge had basically opened up their home as a hostel. The house is big and like a tardis with doors and rooms everywhere. Manfreds son Javier, also lives there and they are a lovely family. Our room was tiny but clean and we got settled in and promptly fell asleep for a few hours. We really needed it.

We went downstairs to talk to Manfred who speaks excellent English. Meylinge speaks very little English but you can tell that she is a lovely kind person and wants to do anything to help make your stay better. We booked dinner at the hostel and headed out to the supermarket for something to eat for lunch. We came back with eggs, bread, water and skittles!

AK made himself and SJ the best tasting scrambled eggs on toast they have ever had!

We chilled out in the hostel as the rain was coming down pretty heavy. It is the rainy season in Costa Rica which means that it is really hot and sunny in the morning and then in the afternoon the rain comes always around the same time.

Our dinner was typical Costa Rican food and consisted of rice that was lightly spiced, Mexican style beans, chicken with vegetables and tomato, fried plantain and avocado. It was delicious!

On Sunday we decided to head into downtown San Jose. We met a Australian girl called Pricilla who is also staying at the hostel and we headed off to catch the bus with her. We eventually got to the right bus stop and got on the bus to San Jose. It's difficult when you don't speak the language, even catching a bus is hard! Down town San Jose is what we expected. It was busy and hot and at times a little dirty. We felt a bit nervous at times because we stood out as tourists! We walked around and eventually found the gold museum so we went in and looked around. It gave a bit about the history of the country and the indigenous people and it was really well set out. AK & SJ being slightly geeky loved it. There was a lot of gold to be found in Costa Rica so the people made a lot of jewellery and other items from the gold. The designs were very intricate and detailed and did not look hundreds of years old!

After the museum we had a walk around the city centre but we were not too impressed. We stumbled upon a park and sat down watching some locals street dance. A homeless guy came over and told us a story about how he had HIV and needed money for his medication etc. SJ felt sorry for him but we made a decision not to give to homeless people as there are so many do we didn't. You are never sure if the story is true or not but there is definitely extreme poverty out in the world and we are sure we have worse yet to come.

It started to rain so we headed back to Santo Domingo. By the time we got off the bus the rain was torrential! And typically we got lost! We had a map from the hostel but there are no street names in Costa Rica, other than the city centre, so it made it difficult. We asked a few people directions but they all told us different directions. The map was getting wet and AK & SJ were soaked right through to their underwear. Eventually we found the hostel by using a church as a point of reference on the map but we were thoroughly fed up! It is so hard to dry your clothes during the rainy season and everything feels and smells damp.

We stayed in and chilled in the evening and had a Costa Rican style dinner which Maylinge cooked and it tasted great. The flavour was amazing and this is where SJ started her love affair with avocado and plantain!

We booked to go to Arenal volcano with Pricilla and Manfred the following day so we popped out to the supermarket to get supplies - cereal bars, wine and beer!

We had an early night and after a decent sleep we got up early, had our pancakes for breakfast and set off out of San Jose and into the jungle. The countryside was breathtaking, rolling hills covered with exotic trees, plants and flowers. Manfred told us that the fields full of flowers are for export to the European flower markets. AK and SJ have visited the flower market in Amsterdam, little did they know at the time that they would be seeing the place where the grow and they never would have imagined it was such a beautiful and tropical place!

As we were driving SJ seen a small creature moving in the trees, it was small very hairy and slow. Manfred said it was most likely a sloth. It was a shame we didn't stop and take a closer look.

After a few hours driving we arrived at our first stop. It was a mountain river that was very fast flowing and had a small waterfall. It also had a rope swing. SJ quickly got the idea that it was swimming spot. AK was out of the car pronto and was excited to get in the water, as was Pricilla. SJ was less than excited and after some consideration decided to put on her swimming costume and just see what happens. It was here that we first came across leaf cutter ants. As we got out the car there was a large procession of these fairly large ants carrying bright green leaves 4/5 times bigger than them. They were amazing and there was a long line of them all making the trip to their nest.

We headed down to the river and AK and Pricilla jumped straight in. SJ was stood at the edge giving it some serious consideration and then she just jumped in! The current from the waterfall swept you towards the rocks as soon as you landed in the water but as long as you got yourself in the correct position you were ok.

After we had jumped in a couple of times AK and Pricilla decided to swing out on the rope swing and jump off from there. After watching everyone, including the locals, jump off the swing SJ decided to give it a go. After a few ailed attempts she swung out and jumped off the swing. It was good fun and both AK and SJ.

We got back in the car and headed out to our next destination and after a fairly short ride we arrived. We were going to walk down a lot of steps to the bottom of a waterfall in the middle of the rainforest. The Forrest was amazing and the walk down was tough but we knew the walk back up would be tougher! When we got to the bottom we were faced with the full force of the waterfall hitting the pool at the bottom. It was great and the force of the waterfall took your breath away. A little bit further down from the waterfall there was a place with still water and fish that you could swim in but as it was a bit cold SJ and Pricilla decided to sit it out. As usual AK got straight in and swam around like a fish. After AK had a quick dip in pool beneath the waterfall we decided to start the ascent out of the rainforest. As it was so hot and the stairs were at time steep it was a tough climb but we eventually got to the top.

Next stop was lunch at a little local cafe that Manfred knew of. We had fresh fruit juice which was the tastiest and sweetest we have ever had! The food we ordered was also very good and tasty. We are not sure we would have had such nice food without the knowledgeable of Manfred.

After lunch we headed to the hot springs which were separate from the tourist hot springs and were very natural. We had to walk through a tunnel nod then we were at what looked like a river with a little waterfall. It was not the cleanest hot springs but it was certainly better than the sulphur rich pool that AK, Hayley, Jelle and Jonas got in during our pacific coast road trip.

The water was really hot and SJ had to ignore the various things under the water that kept washing past her as she really could have freaked out! It was nice and relaxing and we spent about 90 minutes there. Eventually as it was getting dark we had to start our journey back to San Jose. We dried off and got back in the car for the 3 hour drive home. There was an amazing thunder storm as we were driving home with massive bolts of lightening. It was great to watch and AK and SJ loved it.

We didn't get chance to see the top of the volcano as there was too much cloud cover and it hasn't erupted since 2010 so you can only see the lava flow at night which apparently glows red bit we had a great day anyway. We got home very tired and had an early night.

The following day we got up to catch the 6 hour bus to Limon. We were told hat we could catch a bus on the corner by our hostel. As the bus left the centre of San Jose at mid day we left at 10.45 thinking this was plenty of time. At 11.25 we were still stood at the bus stop and were panicking a bit. A really friendly local girl told us the bus was due any minute. We explained we didn't really know where to get off the bus so she asked the driver and he said he would let her know so that she could tell us. We got chatting to her and she told us she was studying medicine at university. She seemed like a lovely girl. So we arrived at our stop which was a little bit away room the bus station and it was 11.55! We got off the bus a made a run for it!
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