Long and Crazy Trip

Trip Start Nov 26, 2008
Trip End Dec 07, 2008

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Saturday, November 29, 2008

What a crazy trip it's been! 

I arrived in Costa Rica on Wednesday night exhausted. I'd been traveling the better part of the day from Rofo to Philly, then taking the train to Newark, then the plane to San Jose.

When I got through immigration at the airport, something much easier than I expected, I was bombarded by the unexpected sight of hundreds, literally hundreds, of taxi drivers strongly encouraging everyone to let them drive us.  The throng felt like a packed subway car during rush hour and I had to struggle and push my way through to get ouside. 

Outside it was night, around 10 pm, and very humid.  But there was air, fresh air, and it was wonderful!  There is no air conditioning in Costa Rica, at least none that I've found as yet, and it was great to have a breeze on my face.  A very nice taxi driver, after realizing he couldn't talk me into taking his cab using his pigeon English -- and my pigeon Spanish -- kindly found me my driver, a little man shorter than me, holding up a sign the size of a postcard.  He spoke no English, but we communicated with a few English words, a few Spanish words an a lot of pointing.  He had to wait for a few more people, so he directed me to a bench and I waited there, eating my first Costa Rican food, a cookie with the consistancy of shortbread with coconut in it. Yum!  Fanta is the soda of choice here so I had an orange drink too. 

After gathering everyone together, we got in his van, and drove and drove and drove.  The websie for my first hotel, Hotel Buena Vista, says it's 10 minutes from the aiport, but it was more like 40.  I was the second dropoff and when I got to Hotel Buena Vista, it was about 11:30.  My hotel room was massive, nearly the size of my entire living room and dining room at home.  I had a small balcony and as we were up in the hills outside of Alajuela, you could see the lights of the town.  I was dead on my feet, so I did little more than shower and go to bed.

The next morning I was up at 5:30 as I had to be on the bus to Cahuita at 7:20. I had a rude awakening when I went downstairs: they told me there had been landslides due to all the rain and the road to Cahuita was closed.  I grabbed some toast and tea and waited for my car as the hotel had a bunch of tourists they were taking somewhere so the van was not available.  I waited... and waited... and waited.  At 7, I asked when my car was gong to arrive and the front desk clerk called him again.  Finally, at 7:15, he got there.   The front desk people called Interbus but couldn't get through, but they said they would keep calling to let them know I was on my way.  I think they felt bad for me; they were so nice.

The kid that came to pick me up was about 20, and he drove an old Toyota from the late 80s or early 90s.  We drove down the steep roads down to Alajuela at breakneck speeds, me clutching the dash and him calmly singing along to the radio. When we got to the pickup place, I was surprised to see the Interbus van still there.  Yay!  

My driver helped me load my luggage and off we went.  It was rush hour in Alajuela/San Jose and we were bumper to bumper for a while.  San Jose is in a deep, hilly valley and steep mountains rise up around it.  It was a sunny morning that turned to misty and as it did, the clouds dropped low and we were driving in them or past them.  We stopped in Heredia and picked up some passengers who spoke Spanish. There the driver told us all that as the road to Limon was closed, we would be going the long way. My 3 1/2 hour bus ride was going to be 6-7.  Sigh. 

It was a pretty drive, up through the mountains to Turrialba where river rafting is a big tourist pull. They have Class 5 rapids so apparently it's a big rafting place.  The clouds were hanging very low and it was raining and misting off and on.  The van was packed with a mom, grandma and georgous little 1 1/2 year old girl and 3 other tourists.  Tourists aren't very friendly here in CR, actually.  They sort of keep to themselves, which is fine, just surprising to me. It was impossible for me to sleep, so I read... a lot.

At what must have been the halfway point, we got off our bus and switched to another bus where there were two more tourists.  Now we were packed.  I had the mom lay her little girl across all 3 of our laps so she could rest.   We went higher and higher and finally at a cute little open-air Soda, we stopped for a rest break.  I had my first meal of gallo pinto (rice and beans) and then we were off again.  

We went through Limon and finally arived in Cahuita.  Whew!  What a relief. They had been expecting me at 11 and now it was nearly 2.  It was pouring rain and I was exhausted.  I took a shower and laid down on the bed for just a bit.  Then I woke up at 7.  It was still pouring rain and I didn't want to walk anywhere, so I had a couple of emergency granola bars -- yay for granola bars!! -- and went back to bed. 

The next morning I was up at 6:00 to have breakfast, get ready for my Sloth Sanctuary tour and to try to find a phone.  I found out that our US phone cards don't work in CR, so I asked around until someone told me where to buy a CR phone card.  I picked one up at the market and went to find a phone.

There are 5 public phones in Cahuita and 4 of them are dead.  One of them was working, but had such bad static, I couldn't hear a thing.  It was gettng close to 9:30, so I went back to my hotel to wait for the van, which was 5 minutes early and waiting for me.  The driver was a nice Tico named Luis but he didn't speak any English so we had little to discuss :) 

We drove the 15 km to the Sloth Sanctuary where I had a 30 minute private tour until a large tour bus arrive and I joined them.. The sanctuary is owned by an American (from Alaska) and her Tico husband.  They have had 230 acres of conservation land since the early 1970s but in the early 90s, someone brought them a baby 3 toed sloth and it's just snowballed from there.  They now have over 100 sloths that they are attempting to rehabilitate and put back into the wild.  The tour was led by a young kid in his early 20s who is the grandson of the owners.  He just graduated from UNLV and has moved to CR to work at the sanctuary.  It's a family run organization and they are lovely people.  I got to pet some baby 2 toed sloths -- one was fascinated with my finger and gripped it with her fingers (which are like long fingernails) and licked it.  They were so adorable.  She was about 3 months old.  I also got to hold Buttercup, the first sloth they ever had.  She's a 3 toed sloth and looks totally different from the 2 toed sloths.  They are in the same category of animal as Armadillos. Who would have thought! 

After the sanctuary visit, Luis took me to a BriBri village. BriBri are one of 3 of CR's indiginous indians.  The village he took me to was small, about 3 families, and was near a river.  They live in mud huts with walls and roofs made of banana leaves.  This particular village makes chocolate.  They have cacao tree groves and make it all by hand.  I had never seen a cacao tree so it was fascinating to hear about what they do.  They use all hand made tools and cook the cacao over a wood fire.  It's pretty amazing. 

When Luis dropped me off, the weather had cleared a bit so I walked into the village to have lunch.  Cahuita caters to tourists and the only place that seemed open was a pizza and italian place.  I went inside and had a pretty decent Margharita pizza since I ddn't want to wait for dinner for the other restaurants to open.  Then I went to the store, bought some post cards and tried to buy some stamps, but the PO was closed.  It was closed today too.  I don't know when it's actually open.  The two internet cafes were closed as well.  I tried the phones again but they wen't working, so I went back to my hotel to beg their phone to call Michael, as he hadn't heard from me in a few days and was probably worried.  They let me use their personal phone with my calling card and Myke was very happy to hear from me!  Who knew it would be so difficult to contact home when I was here!  After we chatted and I told him the situation, I walked into town to get a snack and something to drink.  They very nice guy in the market recommended some Chilean wine, so I bough a bottle of Cabernet and he opened it for me. I also bought some crackers and cheese and, as it was getting close to dusk, I walked back to my hotel.  I went for a short swim to get the worst of the sweat off me, as all I seem to do in this humidity is sweat.  I read for a while and had some crackers and cheese and went to sleep early.  Maybe it's the heat or maybe I'm just getting into the groove of gettng up early and going to sleep early, but my eyes were drooping at 9.

I woke in the middle of the night because there was something scurrying over my roof.  I hoped there was no way for whatever it was to get inside and tried to go back to sleep.

This morning, I woke up and didn't want breakfast.  The heat was already intense at 7 AM. The poor girl who cooks breakfast must feel like I hate her cooking, she was so worried I didn't eat.  I finally had some toast and a pot of hot tea and a bottle of water and read in the zen garden in the hotel.  I took a short dip in the pool to cool off and went back to my room... and feell asleep again!  It has to be the heat.  I got up around 11:30, took a quick shower and walked into town.  As the day seemed to be nice, I rented a bicycle and rode the dirt rode past my hotel and on the coast.  It's sunny but hot and very humid.  The breeze from riding the bicycle felt very nice. The storms have just wrecked the beaches.  There is driftwood and assorted leaves all over them and they are talking about the cleanup everywhere I go.   The roads are a wreck as well, with huge potholes from the 3 weeks of storms.  I passed a large truck dragging the road to even it out and came to a little village where, lo and behold, there is an OPEN internet cafe!  The local bar was open so I bought a Fanta and came here to write my account of the past few days.  The computer I'm on is ancient so I can't download any pictures as yet but I will when I get back to San Jose or at another internet cafe.

It looks like it might storm now, so I'm going to head back. 

Miss you all!
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emphx on

What fun!
Immensely enjoyed reading of your adventures! Look forward to more stories. Love, Mama

lazlomi on

Great Description
It is funny how I have been to Costa Rico too but would never be able to actually describe it as accurately as you did. I can't wait to see the pictures. Have fun - Steve

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