Rancho al Mar, Progreso, 27.05.16 – sometime between 12 and 1 PM.
My days here are so full of emotions that I hardly find the time to sit down and write.
I have been in Bahía Drake for three days now – how misleading can first impressions be! The colectivo ride from La Palma de Osa to Drake took me to an empty-looking beach village through stunning jungle landscapes. The driver, Don Alberto, had me sit next to him and accompanied the ride with stories from the area and information about the surrounding nature.
The village didn’t impress me though, and I already thought about leaving with the 4 AM bus the next morning. I took a stroll by the beach checking for a place to camp, until I found the Fundación Corcovado information center. I left almost one hour later with Marvin, who took me to the foundation’s hostel together with Marine, a 28 year-old French solo traveler.
I immediately fell in love with Drake Bay Backpackers and felt I would spend way more time in the area. Marine and I took two of the hostel’s salt-eaten bikes and cycled to the closest beach to watch the sunset. We rode our bikes on the airstrip (!) and through a narrow path, then walked on a stunning hanging bridge and chatted while the sky turned pink and finally dark.
Not without accidents (salt had its best on my bike) and after having a delicious casado from the local soda, we cycled back to the hostel and stayed up till late playing cards with the other travelers. It feels so good to be surrounded by other backpackers just like me, either it’s twenty-year-old Swiss guys traveling during school break or someone like Marine, who quit her job in multimedia production, cycled from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and will now cross the Atlantic Ocean by boat with a couple of people she randomly met.
I am back at the beach now, letting these strong waves accompany my writing. I’m with Gaby, a Dutch nurse without a stable job traveling from Curacao, Cuba, Costa Rica, then Peru and Brazil. Once more, I was supposed to leave this morning to Manuel Antonio, but yesterday’s hike to Río Claro had the best. Marine, Gaby and I crossed the jungle alongside the beach, collected delicious mangoes from the floor, swam in the ocean, got attacked by white-faced-monkeys and hitchhiked back to the hostel.
Montaña Linda Hostel, Orosí, 30.05.16 – around 6 PM
On Saturday, Gaby and I traveled together to San José. I got off the bus in Cartago, where I met Mapi, David and their family. We spent hours chatting, eating and playing table games. I found myself in a totally different environment (nice houses, clean laundry, familiar faces, stable jobs and a lot of babies), and I spent a couple of days with them – Doña Marta doing her best to get me fat.
There was once a time in my life when all I wanted were a family and a stable job, but that moment is now locked in the past. All I want to do now is travel and get experience, know people and places. I feel like I got more and more selfish with the years or, to say it in a different way, more independent. Still, it felt great to be with my friends and their family.
This morning I left my camping gear – the waterproof test sadly failed after the second night in Bahía Drake, as I had to run to the dorms in the middle of the night when the water started to pour in – lovely. Bringing a tent in “green” season definitely was not my brightest idea.
After spending a couple of hours in Cartago (not really worth the visit, but you can keep yourself busy shopping or having a look at the ruins if you have to wait for a connection here), I left Mapi and David and took the colectivo to Orosi.
The hostel here is lovely, immersed in a luxuriant green valley, but deserted: I am the only guest. I am looking forward to exploring the valley by bike tomorrow, because since I have arrived, it has barely stopped raining.
I was starving, so I finally went out to eat in a small soda. I sat by the bar devouring my fish casado and talking to Doña Paulina, a lovely elderly woman who only opened the soda a couple of years ago. Although the country’s educational system is really great – free education is granted to all and the country has a 95% of alphabetization, it is the second time I am facing that 5%.
So far, I had talked to educated people who have traveled the world, speak two languages and have a wide knowledge of the surrounding territory. But today I explained to Doña Paulina that Latin is not used anymore, that it evolved into romance languages such as Spanish, Italian and French. I told her that in Brazil people speak Portuguese because the country was colonized by the Portuguese the same way Costa Rica was colonized by the Spanish.
I told her that in Puerto Rico and Nicaragua people speak the same language as her but with a different accent, and that Italy is in a different continent 15 hours away. She was really interested and at the end she thanked me for the good conversation. A young girl sitting next to me was impressed when I showed her how the different languages sound like and was curious about flying – she asked me how I didn’t get lost.
My last night in Bahía Drake I had some beers at the hostel with Gaby, the volunteers and a couple of local boys. Naia, from Spain, was telling them how cold it can get in Europe and explaining what skiing and snowboarding were. She was opening a whole new world for those guys, and seeing that light shining in their eyes and hearing their “oooh”s and “aaah”s was priceless. I usually feel so miserable compared to other people who have the money and time to travel for long periods, but today I felt the luckiest and richest girl in the world.
Soda Valencia, Turrialba, 31.05.16 – around 7 PM
Waiting for my tacos cooked by the rudest man I’ve met since I arrived in Costa Rica (probably the only one), I think I can call it a day.
The 6 AM alarm woke me up to a new, sunny and beautiful day. I took it easy, chilling in the hostel’s veranda and enjoying my Costa Rican black coffee. After the usual gallo pinto, I went to the Panadería Suiza, where a smiley Francesca rented me a bike for 8$ for half a day. Exploring the valley by bike was a great idea – it’s really beautiful and incredibly green.
I stopped at La Casa del Soñador, where Don Miguel showed me his beautiful crafts made from coffee trees. I then cycled until the Ujarrás ruins and got fascinated by Don Edgar’s excited way of describing his village, the different taste of the Caribbean cuisine, and the different names of cattle. I left Orosi after a great morning of sport and nice talks with locals, and headed to Turrialba for my first white-water rafting.
Soda Riquísima, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, 01.06.16 – around 7 AM
The Caribbean. Laid back, chilled, relaxed village by the beach, packed with backpackers. I have mixed feelings: on one side, I really love it and it somehow reminds me of Grand Baïe; on the other hand, it’s way too touristy and pricey for my taste.
I’m waiting for my pinto with Caribbean-style chicken in this small and nice soda – it’s even hard to find sodas here! –after an early-morning walk by the beach. There’s a big difference between the Pacific coast and the interior of the country. There’s a predominant reggae culture, people’s skin is all shades from pink to dark brown, they have dreadlocks, and they speak patois.
Hostel Hakuna Matata, Cahuita, 05.06.16
Traveling and writing don’t go together as well as one expects. You’re so immersed in the places and the people that you barely find time to write. Places are too beautiful and moments too intense and neither my writing skills are good enough to reproduce them. Like last night in the swimming pool with Garrett and Martina, drinking cold beer while immersed in warm water lit up by colorful lights – and this hostel is like – WOW.
Costa Rica Backpackers, San José. 10.06.16
Tortuguero was amazing. The village itself was worth the long journey consisting of 4 bus and one boat ride. With its 700 inhabitants, Tortuguero is a small, colorful village built between the salty ocean waters and the canals of Río Tortuguero.
We stayed at Hostel Aracari (totally loved it) and when going for dinner we met the German couple that was also on the sloth tour in Cahuita, Theo and Luna. We then figured out that she’s Swiss but from Italian family – communication problem solved, me trying to speak German was simply too painful to see -and hear. We ended up spending most of our time in Tortuguero with them.
I woke up at 5 AM to see the sun rise on the ocean with a cup of coffee in my hands. It was a fresh, beautiful morning. Then, together with Garrett, we managed to join Theo and Luna on their canoe ride in Tortuguero canals. A beautiful 3 hour ride, with great opportunities for wild life spotting. We saw caimans (one from really close) and a bunch of birds. It was fascinating to observe them from so close and I’m glad we opted for a guided tour this time.
It was really a great morning. After a pinto, we went to the Turtle Conservancy Center, where we learned everything about sea turtles. I left the others to their siestas and I went to hike in the park. I saw a snake attacking and eating a lizard – both very cool and disgusting- and I hiked the way back via the beach. So beautiful! How am I going to miss all this!
Soda Víquez, La Fortuna de San Carlos, 14.06.16
Day 27 of 28. One more to go, and then home. I have mixed feelings about it. It is going to be really hard to go back after a month of backpacking. I am curious to see my reaction this time: whether I will quickly get used to it again, back to my office job, closed in four walls while life goes on out there, or if the struggle will last long enough for me to quit and go even with no plan.
Now that the date is really close, I realize what I missed these days. I am excited to go back and see my friends, and I miss my family, too. Always running from home, and at the same time always so homesick, but only when I stop and allow myself to realize that. Because most of the times I’m the brave girl who’s been living far from home since she was 19, the girl who travels and explores the world alone with her backpack. But I’m still daddy’s girl, and I miss my family’s warmth and care.
Catarata de la Fortuna, 15.06.16 – day 28 of 28.
The power of Nature is incredible. Last day, mixed feelings. I didn’t want to wake up to this new and last day. I wish I could stay here longer, maybe I even wish I could stay here forever. I just don’t want to let go, so I’m sipping my last drops of freedom and nature.
DE 2235 Condor flight San José to Santo Domingo, 16.06.16
I have had an amazing month in Costa Rica. I am flying over the ocean and I can hardly distinguish the sky from the sea. In front of me, the screen shows the itinerary of my plane. We are between Panama and Colombia, flying over the Caribbean Sea. Latin America is so big. There are so many countries, so many cultures and different accents to be discovered. A life is not enough to travel.
Freedom is what I feel when I do it. My feet need to walk new paths, my nostrils need to smell new perfumes and my heart needs to keep beating hard every day. I am longing every day to be a surprise, to wake up every morning at sunrise with excitement and to go to sleep every night with a smile. I want to meet new people every day, and to learn new things. I want to open my mind, to get experience and wisdom. I want to squeeze every country and every person and get the whole gist out of them.
Tuesday was an interesting day. I wanted my last full day in Costa Rica to be an intense day. So I booked both a canopy tour and a canyoning, finishing my last colones. Both were quite disappointing though. The Tarzan Swing was really cool, but the canopy was slow and didn’t give me the adrenaline I was looking for.
The canyoning was packed with Americans staying at fancy all-inclusive resorts and I felt out of my environment again. It was nice, but nothing compared to my previous experiences in Réunion, Spain and Hungary, both in terms of rappels and price.
But then, when I thought the whole day would be a disappointment, I met Jeahnneth. I was just having a look at a hand-made jewelry stand on my way to have dinner, when the old tooth-less street vendor convinced me to go have a look at his shop around the corner. I was looking for a way to avoid the touristy souvenir shops, so I went to have a look.
I spent over one hour and half talking to this young lady that looked nothing like, but that at the same time had so much in common with me. She looked older than her 27 (maybe because I knew she was married to the old man?), but she was indeed born just a few days before me. She simply started to talk about life in such an excited way that it was hard to say anything. Her lips were always smiling and her eyes were shining with joy and life was flowing in them.
We talked about… I would say, about change. Actitud Mental Positiva Permanente. A positive approach to life brings positive changes. People don’t like changes. People like stability, because they think that changes are scary. But changes are not scary: they are exciting.
After buying a couple of items from Jehanneth’s shop, I went for dinner in a soda and when I went to pay I started to talk to Mary, the owner and sister of the owner, and I ended up having beers at her place.
This was a very different conversation than the one I had with Jehanneth. Mary’s eyes were as shiny as Jehanneth’s, but while the young girl’s were full of love and passion, the middle-aged woman’s eyes talked about sadness and fear. Sadness for the loss of her husband, fear of flying, fear of even walking 500 mt from the soda to her house at night. Hopefully she will soon manage to overcome her fears and discover the joy of traveling.
I guess you don’t really miss something if you have never experienced it, or even are aware of its existence. That’s why the more you travel, the more you haven’t traveled enough. So is someone who has never left their country happier than those who travel, just because they don’t know what they’re missing? Because I am missing so many things, just because I am aware of their existence.