A Travellerspoint blog

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Days 50 – 52: San Juan del Sur – Monteverde, Costa Rica

semi-overcast

We bid farewell to the lovely San Juan del Sur and the warm seas of Central America and jumped aboard a chicken bus towards the border. Again super busy, our bags were thrown on top of the bus within a blink of our eyes. After 6 weeks of bussing it we have become considerably less concerned about the whereabouts of our large rucksacks as they are taken from us so speedily it’s often difficult to keep track of where they stow them – I think sometimes it’s best not to know! They are always returned to us in the end!

We arrived at the border and swatted away the annoying touts like flies, negotiating the border crossing on foot alone (we are pros!). It was particularly hot so the 1km walk between the border posts was not the most enjoyable but we soon found ourselves out of Nicaragua (a sad time) and in Costa Rica – exciting!

Another two very hot buses we arrived in Monteverde, in the Costa Rican cloud forest! The second bus was a very dilapidated old coach, with panels falling from the sides, holes in the floor and light fittings dangling from the ceiling. After the 1 and a half our journey it was clear why – we took a very bumpy, steep and windy road that really no coach should be subjected to! As we climbed the mountains the views across to the Western peninsula and Golfo de Nicoya were stunning – it was all very lush and green, and much better maintained than other countries we have seen. The temperature also dropped by about 10 degrees which was a very welcome change!
Canopy Tour, Monteverde (5)

Canopy Tour, Monteverde (5)


Our main reason for visiting Monteverde was to do a Zip lining canopy tour which we did the next day! Despite joining a whole school of American children we enjoyed flying through the trees on 11 zip lines, a 15m rappel and finally a “Mega Tarzan Swing”.
Canopy Tour, Monteverde (3)

Canopy Tour, Monteverde (3)


Canopy Tour, Monteverde (4)

Canopy Tour, Monteverde (4)


We both felt there wasn’t quite enough speed or adrenaline involved although some of the lines were very long and gave amazing views across the trees. The last line we were able to do Superman Stylee – and flew down the zip line headfirst. Well, Sarah flew - at great speed, but Joe ground to a halt before the end of the line, dangling over the trees below and had to be rescued! Rather disappointing if a little embarrassing! The best was saved until last – the Tarzan Swing involved jumping from a 50 metre platform, free falling and then swinging back up the other way. Sarah was more than a little terrified especially as we first had to walk about 20 metres out onto a narrow, very bouncy suspension platform to get to the jumping spot.
Canopy Tour, Monteverde (10)

Canopy Tour, Monteverde (10)


On arriving she announced to the two staff she was “rather nervous, and not sure she was able to do it”, legs wobbling manically. They reassured her this was optional and suggested she just wait a metre or 2 back from the jump. Then within about 10 seconds, harnesses were attached, the edge suddenly became very close, a small gate was opened and Sarah was off the edge of it, letting out an almighty scream! They clearly have no time for wimps! It must have been pretty scary as even Joe let out a ‘manly’ roar when he leapt.

The next day we got an early bus to Monteverde Reserve, a huge area of protected cloud forest (apparently) full of wildlife. After a slightly embarrassing scrabble around in our wallets for enough money to enter (Costa Rica is muy caro!!) we set about exploring the cloud forest. Eyes peeled for wildlife we walked every track we could – it was very beautiful, jungley and cloudy – but the wildlife appeared to be hiding. After five hours our list was as follows: a large black bird, a small black bird, a small green bird, a blue spotted beetle and numerous colourful butterflies. All very lovely, but where were the monkeys and jaguars?!? Hiding in the 97% of the park that isn’t open to visitors we imagine! Despite the lack of wildlife it was still amazing and very tranquil. We then followed the five hours walking with another 8 km walk as we had no money on our persons to take the bus! After all the time we have spent sitting on buses it was a lovely change to be using our legs. We are both very unfit!
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (8)

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (8)


Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (7)

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (7)


Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (21)

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (21)


Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (34)

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (34)


Hummingbird Garden, Monteverde (2)

Hummingbird Garden, Monteverde (2)


Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (31)

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (31)

A lovely time was spent in Monteverde; Costa Rica seems a nice country but much more developed and very set up for tourists. It was a big decision to only leave 5 nights here but we feel we made the right decision – especially as a bottle of water costs $2!! Tomorrow we head to our final destination, Turriabla for a spot of rafting!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 16:12 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Days 53 -55: Monteverde – Turrialba – San Jose Aeropuerto

Costa Rica

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See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.


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.
Turrialba (2)

Turrialba (2)


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.
Rio Pacuare Rafting

Rio Pacuare Rafting

Rio Pacuare Rafting

Rio Pacuare Rafting

Rio Pacuare Rafting

Rio Pacuare Rafting

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.
Packing begins, Turrialba

Packing begins, Turrialba

We are now sat in San Jose airport awaiting our flight to New York (via Orlando).
Last bus journey, Turrialba Bus Station

Last bus journey, Turrialba Bus Station


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

Posted by Joe and Sarah 10:30 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Days 56 -60:San Jose Aeropuerto, Costa Rica–Orlando–New York

THE FINALE!

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View Central American Adventure on Joe and Sarah's travel map.

After a pleasant flight from Costa Rica we arrived in Orlando where we were due to spend about three hours before our connecting flight to New York. Unfortunately as we arrived we learnt all flights to New York were delayed due to bad storms – particularly a lot of lightening and even some small tornadoes! In the end we were only delayed and hour and a half, and were quite happy to wait rather than be struck by lightening. Boarding the plane we were quick to realise we had a slight loon sitting in front of us who was being very rude to the staff and going on about his luggage they had taken off him. After about 10 minutes of disputes his luggage was found a few rows behind, where he had put it, and due to his behaviour he was escorted of the plane! It was like being in a soap opera as our fellow passengers applauded his departure! Despite it being the middle of the night neither of us slept and we arrived in New York at about 2am rather sleepy. Being budget travellers obviously we had no accommodation booked until the following night so we found a comfy spot on the tiled floor to get forty winks. We loitered around the baggage claims area for a good seven hours before heading to the city centre to find our hotel! Arriving at the hotel we were informed we were unable to check in for another four hours – oh good! – so we left our bags and wandered the hot streets of New York in our rather hot walking boots and jeans – always sensible in 30 degree heat!!

Coming to New York at the end of the trip was, in hindsight, perhaps not the best idea (Sarah takes full responsibility for this decision) – being a very expensive city and our funds generally being very low. So, prior to arrival a lot of research took place on “free things to do in New York” and we successfully saw New York on the shortest shoestring possible! Here are a few things we managed to fit in to our New York experience:

1. Central Park – a lovely free place to spend time

2. Free music – we saw a great band called The Givers, playing in Central Park
Free music, The Givers, Central Park

Free music, The Givers, Central Park

3. Queuing for free theatre tickets – we queued twice to see a free show in Central Park, unsuccessful both times although very close! The second time was exciting as an un-claimed rucksack was noted on a nearby bench and we the whole queue had to be moved whilst the specialists were called in to assess the situation!
Queueing again, Central Park

Queueing again, Central Park

4. Museum of Moving Images – free! – an excellent museum where we learnt about the history of TVs, video games, film making and such like! Followed by an amazing(ly cheap) Italian meal nearby!
Museum of Moving Images, Queens

Museum of Moving Images, Queens

Italian Restaurant, Queens

Italian Restaurant, Queens

5. Staten Island Ferry – free! – a boat trip across to Staten Island passing the Statue of Liberty and taking in excellent views of Manhatten Island
Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Manhatten

Manhatten

Manhatten from Staten Island ferry

Manhatten from Staten Island ferry

6. Visit to Wall Street and the new World Trade Centre buildings

7. Brooklyn Bridge – a night-time wander across Brooklyn Bridge to take in Manhatten’s impressive skyline
Brooklyn Bridge night stroll

Brooklyn Bridge night stroll

Batman NYC

Batman NYC

8. A spot of window shopping in Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s – we weren’t made to feel overly welcome in any of the posher stores – potentially a little underdressed and Joe’s flip flop kept breaking every five steps so he had to stop, take it off and fix it! Not sure this is a normal occurrence in Bloomingdales!

As well as the free activities we also sampled some of New York’s excellent food, notably a wonderful Japanese meal, a very tasty Italian, a huge bagel and lots of good New York coffee.
Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop Salami Bagel

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop Salami Bagel


We were also very lucky to see Warhorse (thank you!!) at the theatre which was excellent although contained some very dodgy British accents.
Warhorse tickets

Warhorse tickets


After major concerns regarding our pre-booked hotel (terrible reviews) it turned out to be everything we needed complete with very rude staff, but with free soap and towels (luxury!), actual air conditioning, an adequate room and amazing location – views of the Empire State Building just out of our hotel! We can only assume other visitors had not spent seven weeks travelling Central America prior to their stay!

Times Square

Times Square

In was very strange to be back in such a developed place after our time in Central America but potentially a good transition prior to coming home. We can’t believe we are at the end of our trip – but here we are sitting at the airport in New York, awaiting our British Airways flight Olympics Bound!!

We have had the most amazing trip and can happily say it has not gone by quickly – it seems such a long time ago we were rafting in Costa Rica and that wasn’t even a week ago! New Zealand is a distant, but amazing memory and Bangkok must have happened a few years back! If anyone is still reading our blog - Congratulations! - Give yourself a pat on the back, and breathe a sigh of relief – this is the end! You have done well!

We look forward to seeing you all!

PS. We do have an exciting August coming up so do let us know if you require any further reading....
Don't Honk, NYC

Don't Honk, NYC

Posted by Joe and Sarah 05:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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