Costa Rica, Pura Vida! (Part 1)

(January 2014)

5 hours of interrupted sleep was definitely not the best way to start the epic travel day ahead. I rose at 4am, quietly shuffled out of my room in Antigua and tiptoed to the lobby to meet Greg and Phillip who were also heading to the airport.

After waving goodbye at the departure gates as they headed on to LA, I boarded my flight to Costa Rica ready to begin my solo travel adventure…

Just a couple of hours later, I touched down in sunny San Jose and grabbed my suitcase to find that the padlock was missing..not a good start. I quickly rummaged through my luggage and it didn’t appear that anything was missing so I dragged myself wearily to the bus stop.

When being a ‘planner’ backfires

Months before I even set off on my trip, I’d already researched and planned exactly where I wanted to go, going as far as booking accommodation in each location and plotting how I would get from place to place (I’m not an event manager for nothing you know!) But during my travels, through talking to various people along the way, I had discovered that a lot of the places I’d planned on going to, didn’t necessarily live up to their hype. Arenal Volcano in particular was one place that I had been very keen to see but with such a limited time in the country (I had just one week), I was advised to skip it and explore other areas. So, before I departed Guatemala, I sat down with Kaylie our tour leader and asked her opinion. Knowing my love for the sunshine and nature, she advised heading to the Nicoya Peninsula to take in the beaches; Montezuma, Santa Theresa and a couple of others in between.

Thankfully, I’d had the good sense to book my accommodation through HostelWorld and so I was able to cancel all of my bookings and throw away the itinerary.

Back to the bus stop

As I approached the bus stop, I spotted two girls who looked like they’d also just landed. Despite my tiredness, I decided to strike up a conversation and soon learnt that they were also planning on heading to Montezuma that day, perfect! Now in England, especially in London, I wouldn’t dream of chatting to random people at the bus stop and asking to join them on their trip but that’s the beauty of travelling and when you’re travelling solo in a not-so-safe country, you have to put any awkwardness aside and just embrace pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

So, I asked the two girls (Lisa and Catarina) if I could travel with them for the day and lo and behold, they were more than pleased to have another travel companion. With a 6 hour bus journey ahead, another person to talk to was welcome indeed. We caught the local bus into central San Jose for around $1 (US) and lugged our cases and backpacks around the dusty, tired-looking streets until we finally reached the bus station. San Jose is the central hub for any journey around Costa Rica and so there are two main stations in the centre and it’s not that easy to find out which one you need, as we soon discovered!

I realised that I’d been spoilt in the rest of Central America, having a tour guide to organise all of our transport and liaise on our behalf, so it was a bit of a shock to suddenly have to fend for myself again. Luckily one of the girls (who were both from Germany) spoke a little Spanish and so once we found the correct station, we also managed to figure out when the bus was leaving that day (10am and 2pm daily).

For the first couple of hours, I attempted to catch up on some much needed sleep but once we arrived at the port in Puntarenas, I was ready to chat.

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Sadly for me, the girls had already picked up another German along the way and so were busy chatting along in their native tongue whilst I looked on blank-faced. Now I must admit that I am a little ashamed of the fact that I only speak one language (and am currently working on rectifying that!) but when it’s clear that I can’t communicate in another language, and they are clearly all fluent in English,  I do find it a little rude for people not to adapt. Ah well, a bit of peace and quiet gave me some time to read up on Montezuma in my chunky ‘Rough Guide to Central America’ book.

The hour long ferry ride from Puntarenas to Paquera flew by as we watched the sun setting behind the mountains. As I stood watching orange fade to pink and turn into the deep purple of the night, my excitement grew for the unknown that was my final week in Central America.

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By the time we arrived in Montezuma it was dark. The bus dropped us into the centre of town and unluckily for me, my hostel was back up the hill. One final lug of the case and I’d arrived in my new home for the week…Luz en el Cielo hostel. Finally the long travel day was over and I had just enough energy to climb to the top bunk of my bed, before I was out like a light at 8pm. The adventure would have to wait for another day…

One thought on “Costa Rica, Pura Vida! (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Central America: Guatemala, Guatever! (Part 3) | Only Chasing The Sun

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