25th November 2018 - 2nd February 2019
Well I know the way to San Jose, (the one in Costa Rica not the one in the song) but as somewhere to stay the winter it is not much fun. I am not impressed. My apologies to all of you who love this place and we have met many people who return here perhaps a holiday in a hotel is not so bad. We have enjoyed our two trips away.
The place we could afford is so far out of town and on a hill. The positive to this is it is cooler than the coastal regions. The nearest shop is not very good and a 20-minute walk up hills in both directions. We gave up and hired a car.
This place does not have any post I think the owners have a mail box somewhere, but I would only use that in an emergency.
Costa Rica is a 3-star and I am definitely a 5-star girl. It is probably not the country for me, jungle and beach and a bit of poverty while at the same time nothing is cheap. I do not know how people manage they must live on beans. I love the toucans, humming birds and sloths. Not enough to really love the country though.
It is expensive compared to some of the places we stayed in Europe. The decent supermarket is very expensive. A shop that might cost $200 in Australia is costing $400.
Medicine can be cheap but vitamins etc are very expensive. My glucosamine tablets are 4 times as expensive as in England!!
It is a bit dangerous.
Everyone we meet warns us about not stopping if we have a flat tyre as we will get robbed. When the people who we are renting from, who live downstairs went out for the night they can up to us and left us their gun!!! I mean to say we would probably have killed each other.
The people who showed us around the first month (Prior to car), were paranoid they would not leave their car unattended. Having said that the Budget man said we had to have the car in a secure car park with guards and locked up at night or we void the insurance!!!
When we took Caleb and Jessie out for Christmas lunch Jessie could not come as she mother had gone out and they would not leave their house empty.
A trip by bus to Sabanilla, turned into a nightmare we went to the supermarket (very small but something of everything) I decided to get cash out of the ATM, and it gobbled up my card. Total panic. Into the pharmacy next door, the lady was so nice, she had no English, but we used google translate on the phone, (thank you Google). She phoned the bank and said I could pick up my card in 7 days in Alajuela. The biggest town in our area, at the bank she wrote down all the details and still in shock we went shopping. I was trying to work out what to do about my card. If I cancel it, I have no way of getting a new one for months as the place we are staying has no mail service and our next place is a cruise then some very short stays. What a nuisance.
While we were shopping a voice said “I hear you guys need some help?” Phil the local American had been given a call by the Pharmacist to come and help us out. Phil has lived in the village for 20 years (why I will never know but he does). He explained the card is only held out for 5 seconds this is to stop it getting grabbed by someone else. He also said it has happened to him about once a year and my card will be quite safe, I do not need to cancel it. Relief, Ross had also stopped humphing at me!!! Phil was a great help and gave us his phone number if we ever needed anything else.
Danny and Caleb, back at the house, were of course not so optimist being sure someone would take all my details and use my card. I decided to transfer all my money to Ross until I got my card back and check it regularly to see if it was used. A stressful week went by. Caleb and Jessie took us not Alajuela, Caleb of course had to stay with the car s it would not get stolen. Ross went for a walk around town and Jessie and I stood in a queue outside the bank. A few people came out, a few went in. Jessie found out we could get in the short queue for old people (oh well if it helps, I will be Old People). Soon as we got int hat queue it stopped moving and after 45 mins the original queue was almost ahead of us. I made a fuss hoping the security people did not understand English but wanting to know why the other queue was going in first. We were then let into the bank. There we join another queue – the wrong one. Another queue and I got to see a nice lady who could speak English. ( Jessie was there if she couldn’t). I explained what had happened and she opened a drawer full of cards, then another also full of cards, but eventually found mine. Photocopies of identification a couple of signatures and I was reunited with my card. What an experience. Oh, it was never used and Ross spent all my money 😊
Queue for the Bank
We went up to the active Volcano at Poas. The first time we went up we had not bought tickets and the shop selling them could not connect to the internet so they could not get them for us. We went to the Waterfall park instead. It is a bit of a sanctuary for animals that have been rescued or hurt. They had humming birds everywhere, my photos were of where a humming bird had been, the toucans were trained to have their photo taken with tourist, but one was more interested in eating my shoes. I wonder if it was because they were my Portuguese cork sneakers. There were also a few of the wild cats of the region very regal in their cages. We then walked around the rest of the area which encompasses 7 waterfalls all different and very beautiful. We meet a couple of English people now living in Florida and out visiting their son, amazing how people spread through the world. Caleb and Jessie took us to the strawberry shop, we got strawberries and chocolate for everyone. Later I the week we saw toucans in the backyard. Danny feeds them bananas and they come in regularly. Danny has a banana plantation to feed the toucans.
Jessie got us tickets for the volcano, we returned the next week. Disaster it was so cloudy we were walking through cloud for the last 10 mins, for your information cloud is cold and damp. We got to the look out and could see..…Cloud of course! So that was a good expensive day for nothing!! We may try again, now we have a car. We can see the volcano from our balcony so can check for cloud and hopefully the shop will be selling tickets on our next try.
Our last week here I checked the volcano all clear and off we raced without any breakfast. The shop was connected to the internet first win and we got in a group with Korean’s very funny. They asked how old we were!! The volcano was clear and a great view. It is a bit of bubbling mud and a sulphur steam vent or two. I was impressed. We stopped for lunch on the way down and had empanadas’ very tasty.
I hired a car. Very cheap $9 a day, automatic and air conditioned. The website would not let me buy the insurance. Danny downstairs said this was so I would have to buy the hire car insurance and it would be very expensive. He was right $48 a day!!! So, the car is costing as much as a hire car in Australia. I had to get insurance the drivers here are crazy and its all on the right-hand side of the road, my driving is even less confident than normal. I had a good chat with Ross about how he has to pretend not to be nervous and be very supportive (and he was!!!!)
Armed with a car we took a two-night stay on the Caribbean Coast. What a good idea a 4-hour drive on only a couple of roads. After a lecture from Danny about not leaving the car unattended and not stopping if we got a flat, how it would be very hot and …… you get the picture. He does not get out much. Picking us up at the airport was his fourth time he left the house in 2018!! We set off with "Doris directions" on the phone telling us where to go. Not too bad we navigated Alajuela, its very busy and all one-way streets and very narrow streets. The we navigated around San Jose. I am beginning to get confident. We got on the main road to the coast and straight away took a wrong turn and ended up in an industrial area. Doris got us out and back on the main road after a bit of stress from you know who!!! A lovely trip though the national park a few sharp bends and some amazingly fast drivers overtaking on corners etc. We ignored them and drove at our own speed. Then everything went downhill literally we ground to a halt on a corner not many cars ahead and one truck. We waited and waited. Sirens, Ambulance’s, police, rescue vehicles. Eventually we got moving we were flagged past the truck which was too large to get past and saw everyone staring over the very steep cliff. No one seem to be doing anything. We then realised someone had gone over, it was very steep. We went slowly on our way. Out of the National park the road works started. Every mile or so. After that the roads became choked with container vehicle. Big and fast and scary. Limon is the container terminal for Costa Rica and there is the one road from Limon to San Jose, hence the traffic. The road was awful dusty and potholes everywhere. Eventually 6 and a 1/2 hours later we arrived!!!
The hotel was quite nice small and adults only, so the pool was not full of children. There were fans but no air conditioning a breeze from the beach helped keep us cool. The sea was very misty and the beach black volcanic sand.
The next day we visited Buttercup the Sloth at the Sloth Sanctuary. We learnt a lot about Sloths how the 2 fingered and the 3 fingered are as different as a cow and a horse!! I will not bore you with the rest of it I am sure it is on the internet somewhere. After seeing and learning about Sloths we were taken on a river cruise. We saw many monkeys, birds, crabs and flowers the original philodendrons, were pointed out proudly by our guide (not sure what that was about) as a black thumb I was not sure which of the profusion of greenery I was looking at so took a few photos in the general direction and thanked him (it was the first and last information we got!!!). After the river cruise we were happy to return to the hotel for cocktails and swims.
The trip home was equally awful another 6 plus hours this time in the National Park there was no accident, but the cloud had come down and covered the road. It was the thickest fog I have been in since Scotland. I could not pull over as the lane was close to the edge and the Costa Ricans kept overtaking me!!! I was petrified until we came out of the cloud at the other side of the mountain. Ross was very good as a passenger!!!!
Our next trip was to Dominical on the Pacific Coast and I was not looking forward to the drive. We started off badly with Doris directions trying to take us along the road that had collapsed it is about a 30-40 meter drop and no way for a car to get through. We drove to a place we thought was past the drop and started following her directions. This took us through a nicer area of Costa Rica. The houses were nice, not some much rubbish around. There were gardens and the roads were very good. We had a pleasant trip to Dominical, we had been told it was nice and it was. The beaches were golden with palm trees and lovely coves. The turn off to our hotel was a dusty road but we followed the signs around a small village and on to a pot holey road that turned into a very steep and winding road, very narrow. We crept up the hill at some corners I had to stop to get my breathe back on particular corner very sharp on a hill with a deep crevasse and of course an enormous pothole was particularly fun. We got to our hotel and it was lovely. Very small, great pool and a French chef, who only cooks at breakfast and at night. Back down the hill for lunch Bugger. We had a nice lunch in Dominical and checked out the beach. Yep there was one!! Back up that awful hill and a swim in the pool. Dinner was amazing!! It was set by the chef, who had asked us in the afternoon our preferences etc. To much to eat (a big call from me). I just had to force the chocolate fondue down!!. Our waitress was the wife of the chef and could only speak French. We had a good chat with my few words and lots of smiles and sign language. She met Fritz the travel Bear and was very impressed.
The following day it was a 3- course breakfast!!! We did not touch the toast. Then off down that hill, it is not getting easier, to National Park Manuel Antonio. When we reasonably close, we got flagged down and told to park 5,000 colones and a walk to the park, so we walked a long way past the National Park car park and many other closer car parks, we were conned!! We got our tickets at the bank (as you do). Had a rest after our long walk and entered the park. We were very impressed. It is all set out along boardwalks and there are lots of animals to see. We did not use a guide, but there were so many of them pointing things out we hardly needed one. We saw deer, mother and 2 fawns playing in the stream. Lizard’s, they might be iguanas here, Monkeys howler and another smaller type. Lots of birds but no sloths. They are hard to see in the wild being very high in the trees. The beaches were lovely. Back up the hill no easier and a swim in the pool. Outside our room was a small boat with Fritz on the sail, so Fritz went for a sail which turned into a swim when the boat capsized. Dinner amazing again (no potatoes as they noticed we left them-too filling). We were joined at dinner tonight by 4 other guests (no intimate dining tonight) and had to take a walk half way through to check out the toucans. We never saw the resident sloth it stayed high in the tree we saw photo’s instead.
A farewell breakfast no toast (we did not eat it yesterday – they are good here!!) and down the hill for the last trip. I loved the hotel but not the driveway!! The people in the hotels have been lovely and Fritz has a new follower. We had to leave his yacht we do not have room for it. The trip home was uneventful until we turned up at the wrong side of the collapsed road!!! How annoying we could see the house, but it was miles away. We managed to negotiate around the collapse and get back home
We are had a couple of days in San Jose when we return the car, I enjoyed San Jose. I am definitely a big city person. We saw a lot of the town and I really enjoyed the gold museum. It had the most exquisite pieces and so old. The original Costa Rican Pottery was also in the museum. The girl in the shop told me how the original Costa Ricans are very proud of their heritage and that she is proud to have some original Costa Rican heritage.