I’d never hitch hiked before (or since). But for some reason, in Costa Rica, I felt emboldened to try it not once, but three times to get from place to place.
Montezuma is one of many beach enclaves strung along the Nicoya Peninsula’s gorgeous coastline, a part of the country renowned for sunshine and great surf. The area was understandably popular with surfers, and we spotted many with board under arm on the day-long bus/ferry/bus combo from Quepos to Montezuma.
Montezuma, a spreading community of colourfully painted hotels and restaurants are decidedly tourist-oriented, hawkers sell cigars from their car boot, T-shirts for sale saying ‘Montefuma’ are self-explanatory after a handful of hustlers try to sell weed. The attached beach next to Montezuma’s bars is littered with cigarette butts; more of a boat launching beach for the many snorkeling day trips that depart daily.
Outside of the town, however, are some great beaches with white sand, crashing blue waves, and white throated magpie-jays frolicking in the palms. The area is cool and relaxed, and Cindy and I became more and more confident with hitchhiking, so we travelled to Cabuya, not far down the road, with a few more things to see.
The quest took place in the Osa Peninsula, a jungle region sprouting off the south west of Costa Rica’s slender frame. Cindy and I arrived in gateway town Puerto Jimenez; getting here took two buses from coastal surfer town Uvita, a 3 hour stop at a petrol station (where we ate some kind of cold roadside fish soup), and a many hours sweating it out with the locals on their bumpy bus routes.
However, when National Geographic dubs a place as ‘the most biologically diverse place on earth’, you know it’s going to be worth it.
The hostel was Celvante Jungle Hostel, 5 kays out of town, surrounded by rich, green jungle, drowned out by the string instruments of insects and throating squawking of birdlife. No bedroom walls, just mosquito nets. A large, relaxed common room brought travellers together over communal dinner as pet cats hunted psychotic, dive-bombing cicadas. The cicadas were crazy, yes, but in the jungle I knew there was even more lucrative wildlife to be seen…
The sun set on just our second night in Costa Rica. The air was cool and peaceful, but something dramatic was happening to the treeline. A fiery crimson sunset had set the sky ablaze, darkening the surrounding clouds and turning them to plumes of purple smoke. The highest peak on Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripo, cast it’s intimidating shadow upon the base camp town. Tomorrow, we would attack it head-on.
We were three; Cindy, myself, and Rachel, a solo-travelling Canadian from Montreal who we met at the bus stop the previous day. She spoke Spanish and helped us find the right bus. From San Isidro de el General, the local bus painstakingly crawled uphill to tiny, dusty San Gerardo de Rivas at the mountain’s base, barely a town, more a loose straggle of houses along a stretch of dirt road. Here we bought permits and reserved our base lodge accomodation.
We began at 5am. Our torchlight played tricks in the trees and shadows danced and stretched on the hard clay ground, whilst tropical birds performed their morning songs from unseen stages. The world was pitch black. The way was steep but I was so full of energy I barely noticed. Crestones base lodge was where we were headed, a 15km hike away, 1350m to 3400m in elevation. As the sun rose and the mountain ranges revealed themselves in dark shades of blue, we saw just how brutal the incline actually was. The first few kilometers ribboned upwards through hillside farmland, cow pastures and past barbed wire fences, eventually giving way to gigantic jungle trees, blotting out the mountain views and sunlight. Read more
Where are Cindy and Derrick?
It’s been quite a while since my last blog post and I apologise!
Wi-fi has been patchy and a proper computer to load pictures has been difficult to track down. Our time in Costa Rica is drawing to a close, and in a few days we return to Montreal and to the madness of the snow. But don’t worry – I’ve been writing. There is a small archive of posts eagerly waiting in line to post, complete with pictures of colourful parrots, mountain climbing and turquoise waters.
Expect all these in the coming days and weeks!
Cindy and I are glad to return to an apartment we’re subletting in Montreal, where the bathroom is not an optional extra, and hot water is guaranteed. After so long backpacking, the promise of mod-cons, comfort and working/job searching is leaving us foaming at the mouth.
Check back soon for the Costa Rica blogs!
The winter air in Montreal had been colder than ever this week. Cindy and I had errands to run around town, which meant braving the sharp clutches of the almighty cold. Every exhale was a spear of white frosted air, our noses were frozen with crystals of frozen snot, and my breath condensed into icicles in my moustache. This was crazy. This kind of cold, around -20 degrees, gets uncomfortable very quickly. Even the warmth of the subway system is unpleasant when you’re in-and-out of the hot and cold conditions all the time.
Last weekend was Igloofest, a night-time music festival held at the Montreal old port to celebrate DJ sets and embrace the winter. It runs for a few weeks during January, and attracts hordes of Montrealers eager to dance under coloured lights and drink hot wine in their bulkiest jackets and beanies. A strange experience, knowing that Big Day Out back home was positively sweltering. The stage is ringed by bonfires and small igloo castles, some big enough to climb and slide down. I even found myself in an official game of tug-of-war-on-ice, one of the many mini-games on the grounds. Wear good boots; you will get muddy.
With the prospect of an equally cold February ahead of us, and nowhere to live during this month, Cindy and I are about to unleash the ace up our sleeve, our escape plan, a ticket to Costa Rica for a month. “We’re in this part of the world, why not!”. It’s 3am and we’re at the airport waiting for our flight, eager to spot macaws and squirrel monkeys, trek jungles, lay on sunny beaches, run from biting ants, climb volcanoes, and swim in the ocean for the first time since Cambodia last August…