Thursday, 14 April 2011

Coast to coast

For two weeks I hanged out in El Coco and life was good and ever so slightly alcoholic...great times! Sadly, just like my 40th year on planet earth it had to come to an end and so I found myself on my 41st birthday standing at a bus stop in the morning waiting for the 8am bus to arrive.

A few hours later I arrived at the small town of Canas, straddling the pan American highway somewhat indiscreetly. A wait of an hour followed whilst I hanged around for another bus to come along and take me somewhere else. That somewhere else was the small town of Tilaran halfway between here and there. A short ride of 30 or 40 minutes or so up and over the terrain and I entered the town of Tilaran. Yet another wait of just over a hour followed and then I was on my 3rd and final bus of the day.

Leaving the town behind the bus headed towards Lake Arenal and the town of La Fortuna. It was about 40 miles or so but the road was tight, twisty and had many many changes in elevation. On the plus side the lake was pretty and at the end of the lake was the monster that was the Arenal Volcano and yes it is active! The sky was clear of clouds and even at this distance you could see the grey slopes of the volcano where the lava and pyroclastic flows tumbled down.

Arriving in the town I got a place at “Gringo's Pete's” which depending on which review you read is either a “really great place to stay” or “ a place with a very rude man who just doesn't care”. As I'm not some stupid dumb gap year “traveller” it was a great place to stay.

The town itself was nowt special, well except for the prices in some of the restaurants! Usually I don't cook in a hostel kitchen because most of the times they ain't that clean and the fridges are are just to scary to open. Gringo Pete's was the exception because if you didn't wash up Pete would let you know straight away and the fridge was cleaned and emptied of unwanted food everyday.

There is a fair bit to do around the place but I've done it all before at least twice and I am now up to volcano number 15, so I just chilled out for 6 nights whiling the days away.

On Thursday 20th of April I left la Fortuna and travelled to Monteverde. The easiest way of doing this is by “Jeep boat Jeep” so that's what I did. The ride across the lake was enjoyable but as the sky was mostly full of clouds the views of the volcano weren't as awesome as when I first caught sight of it (and yes I know I have just used the word “awesome” but it there). The boat ride lasted less than an hour and after that it was a 90 minute ride along dirt roads and gorgeous scenery to Green hill, or Monteverde as the Spanish call it.

Because it was Easter week I had pre-booked a place in a hostel in Santa Elena and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had been “upgraded” to a en-suite room. In the early evening I was outside the hostel watching the sun set and enjoying the chill of the air as the temperature dropped. Now I know why there was a blanket on my bed...fantastic!

The next day I did what everyone who comes to Costa Rica does...Zip-lining!! The place was a few miles from the town of Santa Elena up steep dirt roads with the views of the countryside lost in the swirling dust. After the usual safety introduction everyone was whizzing between the trees. On two occasions the zip-line left the trees and travelled across the valley, it was like paragliding only safer. After about 15 different lines the next thing to do was a “Tarzan swing”. It was cool but most people did scream during the initial 10 foot drop!
Having paid the extra $5 I got to do the “superman”. This was a 1000m zip-line across the widest part of the valley. It's different to a normal zip-line because you hang underneath the line with your feet and back hooked on and your arms out wide!

The next day was Good Friday and as Costa Rica is a good catholic country everywhere was shut.
On Saturday I got on the bus to travel the 5 miles up the road to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Because the number of visitors are limited each day the paths were mostly empty and birdsong filled the woods. As I'm not a “twitcher” I didn't see many of them. After 3 hours of walking around the forest I had run out of paths and so I left the reserve and walked back to the hostel.

The next morning I hobbled to the bathroom...

At 06:30 Monday morning I got on the bus to San Jose. By midday I had arrived at the Hotel Morazan located deep within the “gringo gulch” of down-town. I had booked the room for a week whilst I waited for my new debit card to courier its way from England. Within a 3 minute walk from the hotel lobby were several sports bars, so I was spoilt for choice.

“what's the definition of an idiot? Me, this morning...what a twat”

well that was my facebook status update on Tuesday afternoon. The reason for it was this....

On Tuesday morning I needed to replenish my wallet. Since the lost of my debit card I have been going into the bank with my credit card and passport and getting a human to hand me the money. However after seeing the queue in the bank I used the ATM. The 1st transaction just didn't happen, so I tried again and this too was unsuccessful. Sensing things weren't going to plan I went to a different ATM to try my luck for a 3rd time. This time my finger slipped whilst typing in my pin number and the transaction was cancelled by my bank!! At this point in time I was thinking the worst....(and using the “F” word quite a lot)

Rushing back to my hotel I got online and called my bank. After speaking to the fraud department my worst fears didn't materialise and they instantly took the block of my card. After 30 minutes of queuing at the bank I finally got my hands on some money.

Right now it's Sunday afternoon on the 1st of May. Tomorrow morning I am getting on a bus at 6am, heading to the Caribbean and the Panamanian border.

(Jackanory: every once in a while the universe, in its infinite wisdom, decides to put you in a certain situation and then sits back and watches you just to see how you handle it. For me it happened two days in a row. Turns out I am an emotionally stable well rounded individual…………………...............The universe is in shock!)