Once again this blog comes to you from a bus, my second one of the day and it’s only 9.20! We are heading back up to the Nicaraguan border after a whirlwind two weeks in Costa Rica but this post will take us back to when we arrived.
As the month went from November to December we went from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, more specifically to the town of Santa Elena, famous for cloud forests and cheese. Interesting combination, I know. Before we got there we had a border crossing which is obviously our favourite part of travelling, especially when we get conned into spending $10 on an immigration form and then ripped off when we had $20 of change stolen from us. Good times.
Costa Rica is a richer and therefore more expensive country than either Nicaragua or Honduras. It has a much stabler and stronger economy resulting in higher employment and higher living standards. Ticos (the Costa Rican people) are some of the happiest people in the world to the extent that their army was abolished in 1948. You can’t go anywhere without hearing the phrase ‘pura vida‘ (literally pure life). It’s used as hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome and in a hundred other ways and is the best way to summarise and understand the tico view of life.
As Costa Rica is expensive and we are extreme cheapskates we were looking for as many free activities in the area as possible especially if we were going to spend $20 on entrance to the Monteverde cloud forest. This lead to what we ended up doing on our first afternoon.
A bit of cultural trivia for you here. Before I arrived in Honduras I was a hitchhiking virgin. However in Honduras and Central America hitchhiking is much more common and possibly even safer than it is in the UK. To be fair it’s much harder to be kidnapped when you’re in the open bed of a truck, all you need to do is jump out at a red light. Anyway, back on topic, hitchhiking is something we’ve come to do more and more in effort to save money wherever we can.
On this particular afternoon we decided we wanted to go to Monteverde’s famous cheese factory, set up by the Quakers that first founded the settlement. According to our bible (Lonely Planet’s Guide to Central America on a Shoestring) it was a bit of a walk away from where we were staying so why not hitchhike? The only problem was that with six of us and the fact that the trucks from Nicaragua and Honduras had been swapped for bulky 4x4s most people are usually put off straight away. So we decided to make it more interesting – two teams and a race to see who got there first. Winner gets eternal bragging rights.
My team was Amy, Lucy and me and we decided to keep walking so that even if it took ages to get picked up at least we were making progress. What actually happened though is that after a while this car passed us with a speccy face and a head of curly hair peering out the back. Jesse, Tom and Calum had passed us. We got picked up a minute later though and not two hundred metres up the road we saw them where they’d been unceremoniously dumped on the pavement.
We made it the whole way to the cheese factory in our ride and had time for a celebratory selfie, to peruse the cheeses on offer and pick out ice cream as a prize. The others eventually made it with their new friend Jeff in tow. Jeff had followed them from where their second ride picked them up, running alongside the car and barking away.
We got another ride back, all of us together this time and got talking to the American lady whose car it was. She was even nice enough to show us something free we could do the next day on the way back. That evening we were joined by Lucy’s friend Mac who was going to spend about 10 days slumming it in Costa Rica with us.
It’s hard to top a hitchhiking race to a cheese factory but we tried the next day with a trip to the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde. We wanted to see some animals but were told it was unlikely because of the time of day. We must be the next David Attenboroughs though because we saw a monkey badger thing! Yeah I don’t know what it is either… If anyone does please let me know!
In the afternoon we set off to find the free sight we’d been told about yesterday – the ficus tree. There were actually several within ten metres or so of each other and they were like something out of a fairytale. It reminded me of reading the Faraway Tree, this massive spiral leading the way into what could be another world. In reality it just got tight, damp and dark at the top but I can still pretend.
That pretty much concluded our stay in Monteverde. We left the next morning for Montezuma, a beach town on the Peninsula de Nicoya on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Santa Elena was a charming town that reminded us a lot of a European ski resort and at the end of our short but sweet stay we were enamoured with it.