24.07.2012 - 26.07.2012
A frighteningly early start was in order to catch our bus from Monteverde to the capital, San Jose. It was 4 hours through some stunning scenery amongst the Costa Rican central valley area. When we reached San Jose we hailed a taxi to take us across town to the correct bus terminal. Cue the most dishonest and despicable Central American cabbie we have encountered. He seemed thoroughly pleasant at first as he helped load our bags and claim the journey would be nice and short and inexpensive. Then came the lies... first he told us the bus terminal was closed due to a festival tomorrow and so he wanted to take us all the way to a further bus stop (at greater expense of course). We were unsure of this sudden change of plan but he claimed it was not too much further and so we agreed. Moments later he had a conversation with his mobile (fairly sure there was no one on the other end) and declared that it would actually be best if he drove us all the way to the next city because of the traffic. Despite the relative emptiness of the roads we were nearly taken in by his cunningness but decided that no we would like to be taken to the closest bus stop instead. He agreed but through a mighty sigh he left no mistake that he thought we were making a poor decision. We settled in for the short trip which curiously seemed to be a fairly non-direct route involving many turns. Sarah turned to Joe and pointed out that the meter was already pretty expensive – Joe then studied the meter for a while and noticed a slight twitch in the cabbies hand and an extension of a long finger which pressed a button and miraculously sped up the meter. Unable to comprehend that this was really the case, Joe locked eyes with the driver in his rear view mirror and then watched the same thing happen again. No mistake, he was pressing a button when he thought we weren’t looking to increase the price of our fare! Incensed, Joe burst into an English tirade of ‘Hey, why is the price going...’ only to be told to settle down by an equally angry but far more polite Sarah. We then reached our destination as the cabbie pressed his magic money button once more for luck. Seething with anger but unable to articulate our feelings in Spanish we unloaded the bags and reluctantly paid the amount... before the little devil tried to short change us as well. In unison we laughed and said ‘No’ at which point he quickly produced more change than we were due. We reckon we paid nearly double what we should have paid and to top things off we realised that the bus terminal we originally asked to be taken to, was in fact open and very close to where we got in the taxi. We are more than a little fed up of being easy targets for these annoying plonkers.
On board our bus and thieving taxi driver behind us, Joe enjoyed a beautiful journey through more of Costa Rica’s central valley, whilst Sarah got to know the back of her eye lids a little better after only about 43 minutes sleep the previous night.
We arrived in Turrialba and found our hotel which is one of the cleanest places we have stayed in. Fresh towels and a very nice owner with far too much time on his hands but a passion for deep conversations with people he has just met. Joe (or John as became the hotel owners choice of name-calling) enjoyed a lengthy discussion on the fate of Costa Rica’s tourism industry (declining, as they live off their reputation whilst neighbouring countries are trying much harder), the invasion of Chinese into the area (how they are throwing money at the country but he is very unsure of their motives), and ‘what do you think about the Falklands situation John?’ (John Joe needs to do some further reading on this subject as he had not revised the topic beforehand). After the quizzes and dishonest cab drivers we were tired so had an early night to prepare for our rafting trip tomorrow!
We awoke a little emotional for our last full day in Central America and very excited about the rafting trip. We were rafting with a small company called Tico’s River Adventures on Rio Pacuare, known to be one of the top 5 rafting rivers in the world! Tico turned out to be a great guide and so enthusiastic about the river (‘I love my job!’) and we were also lucky to have a great rafting team of ourselves, 2 nice American lads and a nice Canadian couple. After a safety and instruction briefing, Sarah immediately found trouble whilst attempting to use the “ladies” in an apparent snake-infested natural lavatory. Luckily the guides were on hand to point out a more suitable and safer spot.
In the boat we headed off with Tico explaining we had 4 hours on the water, starting with some gentle class I and class II rapids, before heading in to some class III and class IV rapids later on. The first hour or so was a peaceful raft through stunning scenery only accessible by rafting or kayaking. Trees and jungle stretched out in front of us, hundreds of meters high, whilst the river snaked calmly down the mountain in the general direction of the Caribbean coast. After an hour or so we started encountering some class III rapids which were very exciting and brought about some very wet splashes – many of which successfully homed in on Sarah. Then came the class IV rapids which were incredible. Some very quick sections and 1-2 metre drops providing a great adrenaline rush each time followed by a relaxing float amongst the jungle to recover.
At half way we stopped and had an unbelievable buffet lunch of burritos with all the fillings you can imagine, plus drinks, fruit and biscuits. Buenísimo!! After lunch we rafted a small way to a 5 metre cliff jump which Sarah tackled (twice!) without hesitation demonstrating her new-found jumping bravery! This was followed by a lovely float in our life jackets downstream through a beautiful natural canyon before rejoining the boat and rafting through a further 2 class IV rapids to finish. A truly brilliant trip and such a nice way to spend our last full day in the region – we toasted it with an ice cold beer before returning back to the town to pack.
We are now sat in San Jose airport awaiting our flight to New York (via Orlando).
We caught a mightily early bus to San Jose before getting a taxi with the friendliest (and extremely honest) taxi driver we have met. A nice way to banish the former taxi memory! We are sat here with mixed emotions – we have had such a great time in Central America and are sad to be leaving, but we have 5 days in New York to look forward and are getting very excited about returning home and seeing everyone again.
A brief summary of our favourite Central American destinations:
1. Volcan Telica, Nicaragua – sticking our heads inside an active volcanic crater and seeing magma
2. Semuc Champey, Guatemala – caving with a candle, rope swing, bridge jump and swimming in natural swimming pools
3. El Tunco, El Salvador – relaxing on the beautiful beach and swimming in the rough surf
4. Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica – white water rafting amongst the rainforest
5. Tulum, Mexico – white sand beach and turquoise sea on the Caribbean coast
6. Caye Caulker, Belize – snorkelling with manta rays and nurse sharks