11. Travel Story

Travel report 11 Costa Rica and (tourist) service.
First of all I wish you all a very Good and Happy New Year, Felize Año Nueve!
Costa Rica, from all the countries I´ve visited up till now, are Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica the most touristic ones. Although Costa Rica has the least culture identity or history, instead of that it has more beautiful beaches, lots of nature reserves and some of them provides greet possibilities to spot wildlife.
Costa Rica has no army, spends more money and time on education than the countries around and has even a drinking water distribution network that provides drinking water from the tap in most of the places in Costa Rica. It seems that Costa Rica tries to take good care of her citizens, but unfortunately, other than you would expect from a touristic country, its services towards tourists are not (yet) that good developed. Especially for
travellers who have not much money to spend. Before I mentioned already the bad bus connections and bad roads, through which you can better rent a 4x4 to travel around in Costa Rica. Now i also found out that the information services in Costa Rica and especially the parks, is terrible. It almost seems that they don´t want you to come? When you try to make a reservation by telephone, for example, they will often tell you that´s not possible and they give different reasons. But when you arrive at the park most of the time it´s no problem to stay?
To give you an impression of some of my travel experiences in Costa Rica, I will describe a trip I made to see turtles coming on the beach to lay their eggs. It starts on Monday in Montazuma. Because it was almost new moon and they´d told me that that was the best time for the turtles to come on the beach, I wanted to try to get straight to Playa Grande, the turtle nestling area next to the village of Tamarindo. The distance between Montazuma and Tamarindo is perhaps not more than 140km on the same peninsula, but because the roads are so terrible there´s no direct bus connection between them. The best way I could take now was to take the bus to the ferry, the ferry to Puntarenas, from Puntarenas the bus
to Liberia and hopefully be lucky to get there on time to take the last bus to to Tamarindo? The first 2 busses in the morning from Montazuma to the ferry were at 5AM and at 8AM. I´d like to travel early, but because of the bad connections the 5AM bus would not connect earlier than at the 11AM bus to Liberia. The 8AM bus however had a better connection, so I could leave 3 hours later and still take the bus of 12:20PM from Puntarenas to Liberia.
But when I arrived at 15:30h in Liberia I found out that the last bus to Tamarindo at 14:30h to Tamarindo went...
Because of different kinds of information, I take the next day not the first bus at 5:15AM, but the extra bus at 10AM. Unfortunately this was not a direct bus, so it took me 3 hours to get to Tamarindo. Tamarindo, up till now this is the most touristic place in Costa Rica I´ve
seen. There´s more (night)live, but it´s also more expensive. The big beach and the sea are well visited by many surfers from all over the world, to ride on the big waves and they attract lots beach-babes to the same beach...
But I came here to see the turtles on the next beach, Play Grande, separated by a small river from the beach of Tamarindo. During the night they don´t allowed more than 60 tourists with different guides on the beach and because I arrived after one o´clock, all those places were already taken. They didn´t want to take me on the tour tonight, but for tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I had already made a reservation to celebrate it at the nice hostel of Gringo Pete´s in La Fortuna, so tonight was my only chance... I tried to explain that, but in the end it took me some bragging to join one of the tours ;-)
Some travellers told me that I was crazy to go through so much travelling and so much trouble to see the turtles, but now I can say that it was all worth it. The glowing plankton on the beach, the beautiful night sky with some shooting stars and of course, to see the big leatherback turtles (more than 200 kilo!) coming on the beach. It was amazing to see how these big turtles gently dig a hole, lie their eggs and cover them again. It was also amazing that we were able to see that without disturbing her. After that
moment we heard that they´d already seen 21 turtles coming on the beach and
because the water was still high, they expected to come more. Yes, this experience was really worth the travelling.
One more thing, ones again, don´t believe everyone, because now I heard that they´d even seen about 20 turtles coming on the beach with full moon...
After this I spend I spend a nice Christmas Eve and day in La Fortuna, in good company, but unfortunately again without a good view of the volcano. I only heard that there had been an earthquake in Panama at the night of the 25e and that a of people even felt it in La Fortuna. I slept.
From La Fortuna to the capital, San Jose, the city most travellers seem to dislike. They say it´s ugly and unsafe, but I spend there 3 nights and think that`s just as ugly or beautiful as every other big city. I found it even easy that everything you needed or wanted to visit was within walking distance from the centre.
From San Jose I went also on a daytrip to Volcan Poas. Bad idea. There was only one bus that went from San Jose and back, so it became like a tourist tour. But still you had to wait a long time to buy your ticket separately and you had to spend as much time at the volcano as they wanted you to spend. Luckily I was in good company. The volcano it´s self is like a green crater lake with a nice surrounding, but nothing I haven´t seen before. The thing I liked most was that I could feed some of the squirrels from my hand.
Than finally to National Park Corcovado. My original plan was to hike in 3 days across the park and celebrate New Year at the ranger station in the middle. But because they told me all kind of different reasons why it wasn´t possible to stay at the ranger station in the middle and you need that one to hike to the next one across the park, I decided to stay in Carate, the village next to the park. From there I made some daytrips into the park
almost to La Sirine and back. Next tip, for everyone who also wants to hike across the park: Don´t call and don´t believe anyone who tells you that´s not possible, but go straight to the parkoffice in Puerto Jimenez and ask for a written permission to stay in the park. You will be surprised how easy it goes then...
Corcovado, one of the biggest nature reserves in Costa Rica. Remote on the Pacific, not always easy to reach, but for sure worth to visit. It offers her visitors almost everything you would expect to find in a tropical paradise. Imagine that you walk one moment on almost abandon palm beaches and the next on a small trail through tropical forest. At that moment this is something that can happen to you:
Walking on the trail you see at one side, through the bushes and the palm trees, the quiet beach with the clear blue/green water and the white waves of the sea. If you look around at the beautiful tropical vegetation, you would likely see lots of colourful butterflies, lizards, coati´s and perhaps even a unknown black animal (they thing that I´ve seen a black jaguar or jaguarondi!???) If you look more up in the trees you can see lots of different and sometimes special, birds, 3 species of monkeys or even a small ant-eater and if you hear some screaming coming from the air and you look more up through the leafs, you will have a big possibility to see a bird of prey or even the beautiful red macaw flying in the blue sky! This last one, the macaw, you will always see with 2 or more, because the male and the female stay in love for ever, till death them separate. Yes, it´s almost a real paradise...
Puerto Jimenez, a friendly village that´s not (yet) very touristic and were I had a nice celebration of the New Year.
San Isidro de El General, a quiet town at the side of the Inter Americana. It seems that this city has more women than men? But I only spend the night there because they told me that there was no bus from there to Chirripo on January the first...
Chirripo, with 3820m the highest mountain of Costa Rica and the second highest in Central America. It´s popular to visit because of the cloudy forest halfway and the greet views from higher up the mountain. A view times a year it´s even possible to see from the top both the pacific and the Caribbean ocean.
The nicest way to climb/hike up this mountain is to hike the first day 16km from the village (at 1450m) up to the hostel at around 3400m, spend the night in that hostel and hike the next day early the last 5.5km to the top of Chirripo, to see sunrise and/or to have the best opportunity to have a good view without clouds. Only it always seems to be difficult or not possible to get a place to sleep in that hostel, but this time we went just to the office at the entrance. Now we got permission and heard even that we can be one of the last persons
who are allowed to sleep in that hostel before they´re going to renovate the roof :-)
Especially for this hike I´d bought a rain-jacket and after the first day of hiking in a beautiful surrounding with greet weather, I was wondering if it was a good idea? But next day when we went early to the top it was windy a raining a lot. So we had no nice view, except from the rough landscape, but now it was a bigger adventure to go up and down the top and after try to get warm and our clothes dry in a cold hostel without heating or fire...
Next day, when we had to walk down again, the weather was beautiful again. Perhaps it was asking for rain to buy a rain-jacket?
At this moment (Sunday 4-1-2004 at 22:00h) I´m writing this report in a apartment in San Jose, from a friend I met earlier with travelling and with who I conquered Chirripo. After a fresh shower and change of clothes I feel satisfied about the hike, but also a little sad that I´m now already halfway my journey.....

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