Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Costa Rica, the story so far

Crossing the border
Well, that was an adventure in itself. All started pretty well, we got a taxi from San Juan to the border at Pinas Blancas without any trouble (unless you count having your teeth shaken from your skull on the appalling Nicaraguan roads.) We even managed to negotiate the 'leave Nicaragua, enter no-mans-land' part of the journey without too much back-tracking - we've noticed that border crossings in this part of the world are amazingly bereft of signposts, hence it is very easy to walk across a border without getting the necessary stamps and paying the necessary fees for who knows what. Anyway, we finally found the Costa Rican immigration post due to the length of the queue outside the building. This was a bit of a shock as until now we have pretty much breezed across all borders (which probably means we did something wrong somewhere, no doubt we'll find out what when we try to board the plane home.) It turns out that there was a power cut at the immigration office (hello, get a generator), hence things were going somewhat slowly. And all the tour buses that turned up were getting priority ahead of any independent travellers. Great. Still, with our limited Spanglish we weren't exactly in a position to argue with anyone and we always follow the advice of the Lonely Planet (stupid damn book) to "dress smartly and be polite" at border crossings. Well, we can manage polite, but smart clothes are a thing of the past. Anyway, finally we were forced to just give our passports over to someone and trust in their promise that we would get them back. EEEK. Well, we did get them back, and all in all we were probably only at the border for a couple of hours, which wasn't too bad I suppose.

The town in CR, not the African country. We shared a taxi from the border to Liberia with an American chap called Mike. The taxi drivers at the border had told us there were no buses, which is an age-old scam, but one which actually turned out to be true in this instance. You see we had foolishly chosen to travel on Holy Thursday. Holy what? Yes, Holy Bleedin Thursday when CR shuts down. Hence, when we got to Liberia it was like a ghost town and, true enough, there was not a bus to be seen. We managed to find a Chinese restaurant which was open (you can always guarantee on a Chinese restaurant to not be observing the holidays) and I looked forward to tucking in to my 'arozzo y verduras'. Now, even with limited Spanish, I was confident of tucking into a plate of rice and vegetables, so imagine my surprise when a plate of rice and various off-cuts of meat along the lines of Spam, turned up. But, who was I to argue?

Our room at the hostel in Liberia was really horrid so we wanted to spend as much time out of it as possible, which was tricky since everything in town was shut. Mike suggested a walk to the Best Western which has a casino. He was going to gamble while we sat in comfort and sipped drinks. So, off we toddled to the BW and, guess what, the casino was closed. Even worse than that, when we did find a bar, Mike & hubby were distraught to discover that Holy Thursday means NO BEER! In fact, no alcohol at all. We had a walk round the supermarket (which, miraculously, was open) and all of the alcohol was shrouded in black plastic, and the fridge doors all had official looking stickers across to prevent them being opened. All except for a fridge with some Guinness in it...

Playa Samara
We had a room booked at this lovely beach town (more like village, or even hamlet) for Easter Friday through til Sunday. Silly us. Holy Friday also means no buses! So we were forced to shell out $100 for a taxi from Liberia - ouch, that hurt. Although the blow was cushioned somewhat when we realised that the somewhat pricey hotel we'd treated ourselves to in San Juan, had only charged us for 3 nights instead of 4. Result.

Playa Samara was lovely but, OMG, was it ever hot. And our room only had a fan, no a/c! Sweaty betty. We liked it so much we decided to stay an extra night. On Monday we hired a car (for the duration of our visit to CR); we drove approx 7km along the coast to Playa Carrillo which was a huge, extremely shallow beach. And it was pretty much deserted - there must have been no more than 10 of us there. I'll post photos soon.

I hope you are all sitting down cos this might come as a shock to those of you who know me
I went boogie boarding. Twice! I loved it! I might go again! Enough exclamation marks.

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