On the Road Again...

Trip Start May 07, 2010
Trip End May 16, 2010

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

At about 10AM, we got back to the hostel and immediately jumped into the car.  Before heading down to the reserve, we had loaded the car up with our baggage to save a little bit of time.

Travel Tip:  One should never ever ever leave things in a car, especially in a rental.  Rental cars and their contents are prime targets for thieves in Costa Rica.  Cars should always be parked in a secure location.  In our case, the car was parked right next to the hostel lobby in clear view of the guys working there.  We did take the extra precaution to "hide" our packs a bit, plus it was complete daylight by then.

Leaving Santa Elena, I was somewhat expecting gravel roads since we had driven on gravel roads to get there.  About an hour into the drive we hit the Pan American Highway (Hwy 1) again which meant that the roads were paved.  I was getting a bit better at dodging Tico traffic too and was humming along with the Battle Tank and its nuances.  For example, 4th gear was always sticky and needed a bit more finesse to get it in. 

Not much more excitement except for the time a Costa Rican highway patrolman stopped me for speeding.  As I was trying to maintain my speed with the Ticos, I rounded a bend and in front of me was the Cost Rican law enforcement dude with a speed gun pointed straight at the Battle Tank.  He waves me over and I park the car.  The conversation went something like
this...  in broken English on the Officer's part, and very, very pathetic Spanish on mine:

Jeff: "Hola Officer.  Anything wrong?"
Officer: "You were doing 60kph in a construction zone.  You were speeding.  Please give me your passport for identification."
Jeff: "Um, okay, but the guy behind me was up my butt (not in those exact words) and I
was just trying to keep up with traffic."
Officer: "Everyone speeds in Costa Rica.  Look at all these tickets I gave out today. *flip, flip,
flip, flip*  No one cares about their speed.  They just go fast fast fast.  Look at these tickets." *flip, flip...*

At this point, I'm thinking why not write up the ticket already?  Shall I throw him a few colones?  I didn't only because in the guidebook they recommended not to.  There are some rights of the driver, like asking the Officer to settle the ticket at the police station, etc.  I stuck to my guns as a dumb tourist.

Officer: "Do you know how much it costs for speeding? (He breaks out a laminated paper with all the fines detailed out, pointing to the speeding line item).  240,000 colones for speeding (that's over US$400 fucking dollars!  I start to shit in my pants but still stick to my guns.).  You must pay this fine at the Costa Rican National Bank before you leave.  I'll be write back."

At that point, I resigned to the fact that I was screwed and just waited sick in my stomach.

The Officer come back.
Officer: "How long have you been in Costa Rica?  Do you like it?  How many days left on vacation?"
Jeff:  "9 days total, Officer.  And es muuuuuuy bueno!  Only a few more days left, Senior."  I thought to myself that he was easing up.  His face looked less tense...
Officer: "Okay, no ticket for you today as long as you visit us again.  No more speeding.  Everyone speeds in Costa Rica, see? *flip, flip, flip*

I almost hugged and kissed the dude.  "Si Officer, muchas gracias".  He hands me my ID then he stops all traffic, so that the Battle Tank can ease into the road.  That folks, was a cool cop.  Some might think that he was waiting for his palm to be greased, but I'm willing to give him
the benefit of the doubt that he was a cool dude.  It's a better attitude to think that way anyway.

And so about 11:30AM we arrived at the city of Puntarenas.

Puntarenas (or Pointsands) is a port in the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Geographically, it looks like a finger jutting out of the mainland to the west.  There is a main road that runs right through it and is thee stopping point for ferry transportation to Playa Montezuma.  With a population of about 100,000, I'd consider it one of the larger towns in the area.  The weather in this city is always hot, humid and muggy.  A quick flip of the A/C and that problem was solved.  We continued along the main street until the road ended at the very tip of Puntarenas.  Just around the corner was the ferry station that was able to transport Rowena, myself, and the Battle Tank to the notable beaches in the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Montezuma and Playa Mal Pais.

Playa Montezuma as a choice of destination was a last second decision.  Rowena and I were debating back and forth if we should proceed to Manual Antonio as originally planned (an excruciating 10+ hour drive) or hang a left and visit Playa Montezuma.  Manuel Antonio is another top destination in Costa Rica, and has become highly developed to accommodate the droves of tourists that visit that area every year.  Manuel Antonio is popular for good reason as it's one of the premier places to view wildlife regardless of its ever expanding urban presence.  Playa Montezuma, on the other hand, was an off-the-beaten-path destination frequented by budget backpackers and rastafarians.  Due to time constraints (we wanted to limit the amount of drive time we had to do) and the lure of alternative types of destinations, we chose Playa Montezuma.

Arriving at the ferry station, we soon realized that we had just made it in time to catch the next ferry scheduled to leave at 12PM.  We basically got lucky since I hadn't done any research regarding the ferry schedule.  We paid our dues (US$16 for the two of us AND the Battle Tank) and we were set.  Before we left the port, Rowena and I did try a couple of kabobs from the nearby street vendor.  Chowing down on a couple pieces later, I noticed that the next piece was a little on the raw side.  For fear that it would spoil our stomachs, I told Rowena that we shouldn't chance it and ditch the remaining pieces.  It was a safe bet since the vendor didn't have any sort of refrigeration and his grill had been sitting out directly under the afternoon sun.

Around 1PM, they unloaded the ferry and we were back on the road, passing through Paquera and eventually Cobano.  Most of that road was surprisingly paved.  From Cobano, we headed south to Playa Montezuma, arriving at that place around 4PM.  Total drive time? 6.5 hours pretty much non-stop (with the exception of the one hour ferry ride)!
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