Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Trip Start Apr 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Thursday, May 4, 2006

We left Bocas via an amazing boat trip through a jungle canal. It was small and narrow and shallow with the jungle encroaching on each side, brown water and the occasional rough-built shack on the bank, complete with naked children and hand made canoes. We were lucky to have been on the boat with two young women who spoke Spanish as there were no buses from the boat dock and no information on how to get to the border. (They were from Switzerland and Portugal and didn't speak English but did speak French so I had the chance to practice!) The four of us spent the rest of the day negotiating the border crossing into Costa Rica. We took a mini-van taxi from the Changuingola boat dock to the Costa Rican/Panamanian border. It was a long, bumpy ride on dirt roads through banana plantations and small towns. The border was really a bridge and the immigration office was nothing more than a shack on the side of the railway tracks/road. After clearing Panamanian exit immigration we walked over the border bridge into Costa Rica! Far below us was a river separating the two countries; the bridge was shared by trucks and trains as well and the space between many of the planks was substantial so we were careful not to trip or fall!
After passing through Costa Rican immigration (where they wanted to see our onward tickets from Mexico - if you don't have proof of an onward ticket, as our friend Florence didn't, the immigration official makes you buy a bus ticket out of the country for $15 at the local drugstore around the corner from immigration).
From here we all walked into the "town" (more like a few buildings on the side of the road) and convinced a jeep taxi to give us a ride to Puerto Viejo. The driver was nice and ended up taking us on a "short cut" through the jungle passing small villages on the way. The road was dirt, mud and rocks with steep uphill and downhill sections. Big leaves and beautiful flowers encroached from both sides and occasionally the jungle would open up to reveal a small community or a lone-standing shack.
Having survived the ordeal of our first border crossing, we settled in to Puerto Viejo in a nice place right in town. Unfortunately while we were there, the weather wasn't great and the sun didn't shine brilliantly, but we still enjoyed exploring both the white sand and black sand beaches and watching the surfers out on the waves. One night, the power went out and it was eerie and romantic to wander the streets as locals lit candles and gas lights to lead the way to their establishments.
From here we head to San Jose next...
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