Sunday, August 16

Costa Freakin' Rica Day 1-2

This was our first vacation alone together since having kids, and I'm pretty sure our travel tastes have changed. Before kids, we always stayed away from the tourist traps, or we tried. We enjoyed local favorites and cheap hotels.  In preparing for Costa Rica we followed this same train of thought.  We booked our Airbnb places, we knew a couple of things we wanted to do, but mostly we planned on asking our hosts for their favorite spots and restaurants and taking it easy.

Day 1
After traveling for about 12 hours, we arrived in Costa Rica at 9:00 on a Friday night. "Oh look- an ATM! Let's get our money real quick.  [Insert debit card] First problem to figure out: Enter the amount you would like.  "Um... I don't know if they want dollars or colones!" What do I do? I get my debit card back without getting any money and walk away from the ATM. They check our bag real quick at customs and I realize I just left my phone on top of the ATM! Kenny went back, it was still there, thank you Jesus, and we met our hosts outside amid the hoard of 50+ taxi drivers trying to get us to pick them for a ride.  Our hosts drop us off at the house we are staying at, but there is no street address and we are trying to get to the bus station the next day.  Next problem: How do we get there if we can't get a taxi because we don't know where we are and there is no address? Our hosts ensure us it is relatively easy to catch the bus a block to the right.  "Good night!" and they were off.  The smart Chelsea picked this place because it was minutes from the airport.  The naive Chelsea found herself laying in a room with screened-in openings below the roof - no air conditioning- to allow for air flow -and plane after plane landing throughout the night.  The tin roof rattled each time those jet engines disrupted the air all around.
Day 2- the longest day of my life
After very little sleep, we set off to a nearby Walmart to get colones (our host's recommendation for the closest place to get money), and after walking for 30 minutes we find it closed and doesn't open until 8:30.  Problem: How do we get colones so we can take the bus that only accepts colones? We see a Mariott and find an ATM, get out our phones to use precious international data to find out the conversion rate.  We bravely enter that we want 100,000.000 colones.  I'm a little freaked out that I'm going to seriously overdraft our account, but sure enough it was about $200.00.  On to the bus, oh, but wait, we have to go back and roll our suitcase to the bus stop and figure out how to get to Puerto Viejo, more specifically we were staying in a little town next to Puerto Viejo called Cocles.  We were told to get on the bus that said San Jose, and we did.  There was a little pastry shop by the bus stop and my first Costa Rican coffee was a push-button cappuccino from a machine.  And my little pastry? It was terrible, it tasted like pizza on a donut.  Pizza donut for breakfast with sugared milk in a cup.  Off to a great start.
We get to San Jose about 45 minutes later and are told we have to go to another bus station to get on a bus to Puerto Viejo.  Problem: How do we get to the other bus station? We ask a taxi driver to take us (remember we have the rolling suitcase this whole time) and he tells us to walk 4 blocks to the bus station in that direction.  We stop another taxi because we won't want to walk 4 blocks rolling a suitcase, and he tells us the same thing! We pressed on and Kenny pulled that suitcase over many gutters and cracked, trashy sidewalks until we get the OTHER bus station.  It was SOLD OUT for the next bus to Puerto Viejo.  (You can have a ticket for the 12:00 bus and wait 2 1/2 hours.) We waited in a little cafe until I looked around and saw several dead cockroaches and baskets of rotting fruit. Then we waited in another little cafe and tried to remember how to say, "How much?" in Spanish as we paid for little taquito things.  We finally board the bus for our 4 1/2 hour journey to Puerto Viejo, and I thought I was going to pass out because it was so hot on the bus.  Seriously.  OK, here's where I try to remember really cool things like driving through the cloud forest.  It looked like heavy fog.  And all the terrain of jungles, banana farms, and miles and miles of what looked like construction supply places along the road to Limon, and then all along the coast to Puerto Viejo.
OK, on to figuring out the next thing- how do we get to Cocles? We found a cab, but there was no driver, but there was a car next to the cab asking if we needed a cab.  He did not have the yellow triangle on his car.  I read that you should only take cab rides from the yellow triangle cars, but I really just wanted to get to our house, so we accept his ride for 3000 colones, about $6, and praise Jesus- we did not get robbed or anything, we made it to our next Airbnb house- a small bungalow in the jungles of Cocles, about 200 yards from the beach.  Yes!!.... Er, I think I'm excited until I realize that we are basically glamping.
There is an enclosed bed and bath, and the kitchen and dining are on the porch.  The bed is OK, and it's hot and stuffy inside the room.  So after 2 days of traveling, I just want to sleep , I just want to be hot and sticky and lay in a hot stuffy room.  Oh, did I mention it's hot and so humid that our passports curled up with moisture? Any paper we had was limp with moisture.  Geez Chelsea, it's like you picked THE RAINFOREST for a relaxing vacation and were semi-disappointing when it turned out to be THE RAINFOREST.
Day 2- not over yet.  Dinner.  Another thing to figure out: Where do we find food, and how to de get there? What, no room service?  Oh yeah, because I PICKED this off the beaten path- middle of nowhere place to stay.  We rented bikes from our host and biked to the closest, decent place we saw- only a 5 minute bike ride.  It was called Yare. I ordered a Mojito, and like I said, I only had a pizza donut that morning, a little taquito, and some vanilla wafers- you do the math.  I was not exactly ready to ingest alcohol and Kenny had a time seeing me a little tipsy.  The food was good though and at least I could be back to our bungalow soon and sleep if off.
But wait, Day 2 is not over yet!  I remember that description I saw for our bungalow, called "The Wild Side" on Airbnb, bragging about being in the jungle and all the jungle animals and sounds that come to life at night.  Well, I asked for it, and I got it.  A loud cacophony of noises to keep me from precious sleep.  And then the rain, you know, cause we're in  THE RAINFOREST, came pouring down most of the night, on another tin roof.  Sleep alluded me once again.

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