Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Costa Rica

Up through the Costa Rican countryside.

This is going to be a very short entry, only because we didn’t spend much time there at all. Not because it’s a bad place, merely because it’s expensive and touristic. And we hope to see more volcanoes and jungles and beaches and, well, everything, further up in Central America.

We entered Costa Rica via the northern border crossing at Guabito in Panama. It was memorable not for the usual long queues and painful heat, but for the single-lane wooden bridge spanning the river Sixaola, over which all traffic must pass. We squashed ourselves against the side as lorries trundled past, terrified that either they wouldn’t fit or that the structure would collapse from the weight. We made it across intact and continued on to Puerto Viejo.

The tiny wooden border crossing into Costa Rica from Panama.
It’s a small town along the Caribbean coast, very set up for tourism but with a certain peace lacking in Bocas del Toro. The buildings are spread out along the water, separated by thick trees. The crashing waves on one side and the woodland on the others make for a protected, isolated environment, despite the number of tourists around. Of course, the very centre is still full of hostels, agencies and overpriced restaurants, but they’re well thought-out and all have an air of class, rather than an air of faux-hippy vacuous-ness. The beach by our hotel was black due to its being volcanic. It was deserted because up the road are stretches of tourist-saturated white sand. What’s the problem? It’s all going to get washed off anyway. They’re sand racists. Not that I’m complaining because we had it to ourselves!

The black volcanic beach in Puerto Viejo.
We jumped on a direct bus to San José, the capital. I will go so far as to state that it is the worst capital in the world, with almost nothing to see and a persistent scent of danger. We wandered its most central streets attempting to head for the bus station, but we gave up after getting shouted at several times and stared at by countless thuggish youths. We instead had dinner in a restaurant on the main square where the waiter shouted at us for being stupid tourists who didn’t know where the nearest bank was. San José: not recommended.

San José: worst capital ever.
We got out of the city for a day trip to Volcán Poás, a volcano with a huge crater that one can peer into. Or at least one could were it not completely and utterly enveloped in fog. We looked at where the crater should be and saw only white. There was a lot of white though, so I reckon it’s quite a big crater.

We decided to make our way to Nicaragua via the lesser-travelled crossing at Los Chiles, a plan which frightened and confused a lady working in our San José hostel. Apparently Nicaragua is very dangerous. (This coming from a Venezuelan woman living in San José.) Funny, because people in Panama said Costa Rica was dangerous, and people in Nicaragua say Honduras is. Apparently, the next place we’re going is always dangerous, though we have yet to experience any evidence of this (except for the shady streets of San José). We took the 5am bus up to Los Chiles, stamped out of Nicaragua with ease, then tried to work out how we were supposed to get into Nicaragua. A man stood on the street selling tickets for something, whom we somehow managed to offend after questioning him in bad Spanish. After many apologies and por favors, we were sold seats on the boat to San Carlos, up the Río Frío, the only way out of there and the first time I’ve ever crossed a border by river boat. Next stop: Nicaragua!

Boarding the boat down the Río Frío from Costa Rica into Nicaragua.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to visit Costa Rica one day. The volcano sounds cool. You've been a lot of places, I'll have a look around your blog.