Costa Rica finally!

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Where I stayed
Casa Buena Vista

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Monday, January 27, 2014

 


Costa
Rica 16th - 27th January, San Jose and Cerro
Lodge (Carara National Park)



It seems a life time since the last blog. We left Sri Lanka in December and after three nights in Beeston with Anna we flew to Lanzarote. It was a strange feeling when we arrived there, almost like going home. As we had stayed there longer than anywhere else over the last 3 years ( 9 months ) perhaps it is not surprising. We had a lovely Christmas with the girls and Nick and even managed to walk up Montana Blanca.




On 13th January we returned to England and stayed with Gilli and Nick in Windsor. They had only moved in 10 days earlier so it was very kind of them both to put up with us so soon after the move. I have to say, with travels in mind, they could not be in a better location for us, so close to Heathrow. With Windsor town centre only a few minutes walk from their house they might get to see quite a lot of us in the future.




So now we are in Costa Rica, arriving in San Jose on the 16th January. We flew with Iberian, now part of B.A. I have to say the food was the worst I have experienced on a plane and, as the standard is generally poor, you can imagine how bad that was. Jim and I had different choices for the main meal and they were both inedible! Two smaller meals consisted of sandwiches on bread so dry that it was impossible to chew.




Within an hour of touchdown we pulled up in front of our accommodation, Hostal Urbano. I had been very impressed by the efficiency of their team when replying to our emails. They provided a lot of useful information about which currency to use when, (US dollars and Colones are both used) and security at the airport. But when the car stopped and I saw the smallish building  totally covered on every top surface with electrified barbed wire I wondered what I had come to! I needn't have worried. Inside, the Hostal is very comfortable and clean and the team of young people running the place is wonderful. They all speak excellent English (well, US English but can't blame them for that) give as much info as you need and are always happy and cheerful.
Within 2 hours of touchdown we were in a local bar where we ate very good fajitas, an old man was playing his guitar, and the local train was passing 10 feet in front of the bar door, without any kind of barrier or protection. Not a good idea to have too much to drink here!





I soon realised that many of the buildings in SJ are covered in barbed wire. Whoever produces it must have made a fortune.





As many of the 'ecolodges' here are expensive but the only option in some more remote areas we had decided to use cheaper places where we could to balance our budget Hostal Urbano was 20 per night total including breakfast, and a really good deal. Our room was large (could be a dorm for 6, 2 sets of large bunk beds and a double) with good sized ensuite. We really
could not have asked for more.




The next day we took a bus to the National Museum and spent a pleasant morning there, and the following morning, again by bus, we went to the Museum of Costa Rican Art. I found that a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. It is housed in the original airport building complete with control tower which is attractive itself, and in the garden are a number of sculptures. The exhibits cover from earliest times to present day including pre-Colombian gold, so something for everyone. Outside the museum is Sabana Park which we circumnavigated (didn't take long), watching local people enjoy their weekend activities, including football, American football (I think?) and most enjoyable for us was watching small groups of teenagers  choreographing and practising dance routines. What was especially pleasing was that they were mixed groups, males and females of all shapes and sizes, all working together and fully engrossed in the task.




Apart from the two museums there is not a lot of interest in San Jose.





After 3 nights we took the shuttle bus to as near to Cerro Lodge as it would go, Crocodile Bridge. This is a busy tourist stop by the bridge with a few stalls etc as most visitors stop there to see the huge crocodiles basking on the banks of the Rio Tarcoles. We had to call the Lodge and they came to collect us as the Shuttle Bus would not go up the 3 kilometre dirt road to the Lodge.




Cerro Lodge (nearly 4 times the cost of Hostal Urbano!) is beautiful, originally a farm until the owner decided to build wooden cabins or 'bungalows' and encourage and protect the birds. It has lovely views down to the Pacific across forest. If you have ever seen those softly coloured animated advertising videos set in a rural idyll with trees, shrubs and flowers, colourful  butterflies, birds flying overhead and insects humming, then you know what Cerro Lodge looks like (and maybe much of Costa Rica but we don't know that yet).  What they don't have on the
videos are the numerous iguanas, not sure why they are left out, it seems rather discriminatory!




There are so many birds here that the first day I suffered from cognitive overload and a stiff neck. It is impossible to spot everything despite trying very hard. So much is moving about that it becomes overwhelming. Now we have learned to pace ourselves a little better.




One night we sat at the table for dinner and I thought there was an insect on the cloth but when we looked closer it was a tiny frog, the size of my thumb nail. Then when we went to bed a huge toad was on the bedroom wall. What do you do when it is time for sleep and there is a large amphibian on the wall? - Switch off the light! He had disappeared by morning, but
did wake up another morning to wonder what we had spilt on the wall opposite until I put on my glasses and realised the 'stain' was ourfriendly toad again.





This may sound strange but I felt that all the insects and wildlife around were more friendly than we have experienced in other tropical areas. I am not sure how or why I came to this conclusion but there seems to be an overwhelming sense of benevolence at Cerro Lodge that is shared by the creatures of all sizes. Perhaps it was simply because I didn't get bitten!





The star attraction of this area is the Scarlet Macaw. We have seen them in the garden here and groups of up to 20 flying overhead. They always announce they arrival with lots of chatter and when the sun catches them in flight they are spectacular, up to 3 feet long, bright red, blue and yellow. When they fly in formation they look like the Red Arrows team but after a
heavy paintball session.




One morning we had an interesting walk to the Crocodile Bridge, only getting a little nervous as we realised that the last stage of the path ran very close to the riverbank.




On the 24th, we moved to Manuel Antonio by the sea, to stay at Casa Buena Vista. This is run by an American woman ( approx. our age) who came here after graduation and stayed. It is a Spanish style complex of rooms and a couple of semi-detached cottages, painted white but in need of a fresh coat of paint. There is a small passage between the main house and other rooms where a colony of bats live. They look quite cute during the day but at night they race about as you walk through getting so close you can feel the draft from their wings.




Our room has 2 fans and a bathroom but no air conditioning. Neither do we have glass  windows or curtains, only insect mesh over large 'window' openings to two walls.Because the room is at the top of the hill no-one can see in (I hope!). The bonus is that we are woken by the sun rising over an amazing view.




Breakfasts are good and very sociable as there have been a few people from the US who have been very entertaining and good company.




Manel Antonio itself is more like a village than a town, very hilly, with beautiful sea, beach and island views and containing many lovely restaurants, although we are trying to be good and self catering much of the time. We are going to the M A National Park on Tuesday when we hope it will be quieter but we have already snorkelled in the slightly murky sea, and seen  Squirrel and Capuchin monkeys and heard the Howler monkeys. The fourth type of monkey in the area, Spider monkeys have escaped us to date.




We have now managed to book some accommodation in Panama for Carneval so we are presently working out how to get there and what we want to see in Southern Costa Rica on our way. See where we get to in the next blog.

ps Apologies if the text is strange - a few problems with wifi and blog system.









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Comments

Silvernomads on

Hi you two - so lovely to see you back on the road again and finally arriving in Costa Rica. Reading your blog brings back all our happy memories when we were there - it was such a shame that we could not do it together but glad you finally made it. I just knew you would love the birds..........Happy Travels - Love Paul and SheilaX

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