To the caribbean!
It appears we’ll be backpacking costa rica. Well...not really backpacking- we didn’t even bring one of those. In fact we almost gave our only suitcase to Brock and Kelly and asked them to take it back to portland before leaving New Orleans. Turns out its a good thing we decided to hang onto that... We haven’t tracked down a room yet, but we did decide to get the heck out of Alajuela first thing in the morning. There’s nothing within proximity other than the airport and the texmex restaurant we ate at last night... so we were left with three options. We could head back to the pacific and to Jaco or Dominical but we’ve explored that area and while its gorgeous, we also know it’s pretty expensive and pretty touristy....not great especially for semana santa. We could try to avoid the crowds and head north. About 2 hours away is a national park in the mountains with what is supposed to be costa rica’s most beautiful lake and volcano. Attractive, and that sounds good for many reasons, but when it all comes down to it- the only part of returning to costa to deal with the bus that we could get excited about was the beach. We miss the ocean.
We decided instead to head for the caribbean side. The distance is greater but also presumably a bit less hot and a bit less hectic. Both sound pretty good right now. We had read a good deal about the southern caribbean coast before we drove south last year. There was something about the description of a few towns that really caught our attention. The name cahuita stuck out to us... according to a few things we read it was supposed to be less touristy than anywhere in costa rica. A slower pace and lifestyle. The ability to surf and snorkel in one place and a large nature preserve to keep things that way. An influx of caribbean culture, meaning spicy food instead of bland gallo pinto and reggae music instead of banda.
It sounded perfect to us and we joked about the fact that (if we ever made it that far south) that we would probably never leave. Sadly, during our trip south everyone we talked to that lived in the area or had spent any time there only had negative things to say. Crime was high, prices had skyrocketed and it simply wasn’t safe...that was the overall mantra. I don’t know why we listened or cared- we weren’t exactly in the habit of changing our path based upon others feedback. If so, we certainly wouldn’t have spent 9 months driving around mexico!
Regardless...we never quite made it that far south. By this time last year we were exhausted. We missed family and friends back home and we were tired of waking up in pools of sweat and dealing with mechanical issues each day. We talked about pushing on and seeing all of costa rica first. Of finally checking out cahuita and the southern towns on the caribbean- but we just needed a break first. It’s now been a year, and while it wasn’t part of the plan- i guess we’ll be going to see it after all.
The local bus leaves at 10am and we were standing in line with the locals and a handful of backpackers by 9 to make sure we didn’t spend all day in the bus terminal. It’s a 4 hour bus ride one way, but the tickets were about 8bucks each, so it wont break the bank.
We grabbed an empenada in a bag and off we went. Out of the city and into the dense hills that weave their way down out of San Jose and eventually to sea level. The view out the window isn’t much to speak of (it’s too dense to see), but we got a few hours to talk about things. Jen had already started one of her patented “big picture maps” before we even left the terminal. This one was pretty much just the big empty sections of “unknown” we have these days... but always interesting to look back and see how far away we are from any other “plan” we laid out 5-7 years ago. Seriously, why do we even try??
The road eventually bottoms out at scores of banana plantations and then at massive graveyards of shipping containers waiting to ship cans of Dole fruit to your neighborhood grocer. Not long after we made a quick stop in Limon for some passengers to get off while a few others boarded. We notice in the transition that in a bus of 50 people; our bags were the only ones headed for cahuita. The stop allowed us to grab a snack ad we were pleasantly surprised to find out that (opposed to all of our other costa rican meals) the hot sauce was fantastic and the veggies came with a real kick! Apparently the caribbean flare was already here....a pleasant surprise.
We finally pulled into the cahuita terminal (not much more than a dirt pad) and set out on foot dragging our rolling backpacks behind us. We hit an ATM, then spent some time inside the bank behind it trying to retrieve the debit card it ate...and then finally rolled on toward town.
We hit the first bar with wifi and sent a few emails to other airbnb hosts. Within no time we connected with someone and had secured our bed for the night. A block from the bar we see the ocean for the first time and our spirits rise. Another block in and we meet our host, load our bags onto his bike and walk over for a tour and to get the keys.
After the tour, he stopped to point out the sloth hanging out in the tree just off our porch and and hands us a towel for our first dip in the ocean. Looks like our trip is going to turn out okay after all...