Mythical creatures

Trip Start Jun 06, 2011
Trip End May 22, 2012

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Where I stayed
San Jose/La Fortuna
What I did
Used public transport

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Saturday, August 13, 2011

Costa Rica Part 2 – Sat 13 August

KK: We've got about three days left in San Jose, including a Sunday and a Bank Holiday Monday. The Bank Holiday is for Mother’s Day. Our prime aims at this point are not to leave the country with fistfuls of colones or to have to get any more out the bank. So we can’t really go off anywhere and we are somewhat over familiar with downtown San Jose. Even "The Worst Busker in the World" is losing his charm; a frog faced, toothless mutant who sits on the pavement bashing relentlessly at an out of tune guitar while groaning like he has been stabbed. Actually, thinking about it, I’m lying – he is still hilarious.

LK: We have seen painted and dressed up clowns wandering the streets in the early weekend mornings and somehow I have managed to resist punching them. Considering we are people without jobs, we have hit rush hour too many times which involves getting stuck behind really slow walkers while a facing, oncoming wave of Ticos rushes round either side of the dawdlers. We have had quite a nervy walk through a small scale cardboard city on the way to buy advance bus tickets; down and out people who don’t even beg, just lie flat out on the pavement in heavily soiled clothes, sometimes with the luxury of a box over their head. We returned through the wholesale fruit and veg outlets on the next street along, and were reminded to always wash your fresh produce before eating it as it may have been rolling about on the road before you bought it.

KK: Similar city annoyances plague us; like people with umbrellas walking under shop awnings when it is raining with no regard for non-umbrellered pavement users’ eyes. “You are already sheltered – you don’t need to be under here!”  -  Like LK sez we have been hitting rush hours, for the last two Fridays evenings we have been caught in slow traffic, this is because we have been much more adventurous since last we wrote and two of our trips have seen us crawling back into San Jose aboard buses while developing a post-work style thirst.

LK: The first was a day long trip which included a visit to Cartago (former capital of Costa Rica; the grand Catholic church there was beset with earthquakes so they gave up re-building it after the second devastation); a quick look at the Irazu volcano; a hearty breakfast of rice and beans, with a picturesque hummingbird background; a drive on the road to the Caribbean coast which cuts through the Braulio Carillo  national park (provided the aerial shots for Jurassic Park); er, then it kind of stopped delivering on what we expected. Yes, we did get in a boat to take a trip down the Sarapiqui river, but at full pelt so the tour company could maximise its income on its canopy zipline activity, and creating such a disturbance that wildlife viewing was pretty unlikely. Also, the evangelical pastor and his congregation from Texas with whom we were sharing the Lord’s beautiful day didn’t preach at all, which was even more unexpected.

KK: Like a mug I did the zipline while LK refused. I and 15 others climbed high into the tree canopy strapped into a harness with any number of safety buckles. In the UK they teach you how to do this yourself but here it was higher and we are dealing with Americans so nothing is left to chance. Unfortunately the idiot boy who buckled me up must have been new or having a laugh because no matter what I did I always ended up hurtling towards a tree trunk backwards. I spent an hour happily crashing into the poor lad designated to stopping me. We became firm friends. This was as nothing compared to returning to camp to discover that LK had been horse riding and was being called “Caballero” (Cavalry) by the tour guides. “Yee” and, indeed “Haa!”

LK: “Who would like to go for a horse ride?” asked one of the guides. “Yes,” I blurted out, without considering that I have only ever been on a horse once before (6 or 7 years old, on a pony from the neighbour to my Yorkshire grandparents’ farm, and the saddle slipped) and Russell Brand’s mate, Matt Morgan, so accurately described the beasts as “skittish ninnies”. I got on; I got nervous. I kicked the docile nag’s sides to make it walk and it wasn’t going anywhere. So another of the guides took the reins from me and led the horse for our 20 minute walk. It went well having someone else steering. But aren’t horses just weird?

KK: Our lovely guide Juan Carlos assured me LK had “tamed a wild stallion” – truth be told if it wasn’t for him the day would have been a bit disappointing. Still no scarlet macaws or toucans but he did provide the vocabulary I needed to get a haircut and shave which was also an adventure -  as well as being a necessity. I was developing the look of a man imprisoned in the Bastille for ten years. LK armed with nothing but hope, brilliant Italian (but inferior Spanglish), and good pointing skills also attempted a haircut.

LK: Well, a quick scout on the internet for haircut and colour related words didn’t hurt either, but I will certainly be putting this on my CV as one of my year-out achievements: “Yes, I feel it demonstrated my communication and negotiation skills in a clearly successful way” ie. I didn’t come out with an orange coloured basin haircut. My male hairdresser was fabulous, in a dancing around the salon to Kylie sort of way, and spoke no English, but a succession of smiles and frantic gestures resulted in a short spiky cut and a dark blonde all-over colour (shade 6, for Nina and Gabi!!) He was like Edward Scissorhands – not with blades coming out of his hands, that would be grotesque – but he cut my hair so quickly it was amazing.

KK:  Looking suitably groomed and gorgeous we caught the bus to La Fortuna. This took four hours and when we got there all the cheap hostel rooms were taken. I say “all” there was one room left at “Gringo Pete’s” - bunk beds in a wooden room small enough to make Lord Longford write a stiff letter to parliament. There is an active volcano that looms over Fortuna but most of the time we were there it was shrouded in cloud. Never more so than as the rain started battering down as we, homeless and snippy, went from door to door in search of lodgings. We found hotel on the edge of town that had the most luxurious shower we have come across to date. That and a clean, firm bed it was remarkable we went out again. We had beer in an open fronted bar on the main street then dinner in a volcano/reggae themed restaurant that housed many sleeping dogs, one of which jumped up and ran down the street barking every time somebody went past on a bicycle.

LK: During our escape to La Fortuna from San Jose, we visited EcoCentro Danaus which was certainly a good decision, although the “1km” (tourist info) / “3km” (guide book) / “5km” (staff at the centre) walk along a main road could have been interpreted as a little ill-advised. We got there with all our limbs intact. It’s a small managed area of habitat which is suited to numerous species of native wildlife and the guides, if Cristian Ronaldo lookalike guide Elias is typical, are well-informed and clearly love their job. He came to see how we were getting on after 45 minutes, and suddenly our animal count rocketed. He called a caiman out of the lagoon; he showed us the most gorgeous red eyed frog (unofficial symbol of Costa Rica); he made noises to provoke a mannequin bird to do one of those crazy jumping from side to side displays (if you’re David Attenborough fans you’ll have seen it); he poked a sloth in the stomach so he could smile at us in the attached picture; he spotted a male basilisk lizard, agoutis, and the most brilliantly coloured birds (no scarlet macaws or toucans though).

KK:  I’m starting to think they don’t exist, that they are photo-shopped or something. But Elias did tell us that toucans use their big funny beaks to break up other bird’s nests and to eat their young which shines a different light on them. It started raining hard so we took shelter with some Americans on a tour, one of whom spotted a massive iguana right at the top of a tree – which lead to one of LK’s best photos yet. We stayed in Fortuna for another night during which time we finally saw the top of the volcano. It looked like a volcano. We went back to San Jose and got up early enough the next day to do our shopping then see Newcastle v Arsenal at our hostel (10.30 am kick off). We have also seen Costa Rican League football live. I rattle on at length about it at so those of you not interested don’t have to burden yourselves with reading about it.

LK: So, thoughts now turn to our Chile/Argentina/Uruguay leg of the trip – I see there have been plenty of student protests in Santiago, so tear gas will be a new experience for both of us. Yours chokingly, Lynn and Kriss XX
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