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From the sound of things, I might soon re-join the employed, making me the Number 1 Sucker. I blame you people. I guess not you people, but all the other people who don’t read my blog, keeping it from being widely popular and allowing me to become a professional blogger.
Your probably thinking, “You know, if you’d write about something people gave a pig’s ass about, people might read it…” well, that might be true, but that would’ve been helpful advice two months ago. Hopefully some paychecks will allow me to be a bit more adventurous in my new home town and allow the blog to return to its traveling glory days.
So looking back at my previous advice on the trip I promised to tell you were to stay, what to bring, and how to make friends.
I’ll start with the easy one. I’d never traveled alone before, and I’m not the most outgoing guy in the world, so constantly making new friends came with a little bit of pressure for me, didn’t turn out to be a problem. The most important thing is to find a social place to stay, if you get a room at a place full of honeymooners or families, you might want to try a new spot the next day. Now that you have a home base, you might make friends right off, keep an eye out for somebody else who looks like a little lonely and/or desperate for conversation. If that doesn’t work, go buy some beer and sit in the common area. Soon you will have friends.
For places to stay, I’ll throw out the spots that I enjoyed. I don’t want to hate, so some towns I stayed in will get no mention.
- Montazuma: Luna Llena. Nice clean place with a great view. Its back up the road to Cobano when you get off the bus in town.
- Monteverde: Monteverde Backpackers. I think this place is new, it isn’t in the guidebooks (2006 ones anyway). Kind of small, free internet and breakfast. One of the owners, Diego spoke excellent English and bent over backwards to help you have a good time in Monteverde. They also had a really nice tv with direct tv. Normally this wouldn’t be much of a draw for me when traveling, but I got pretty bored in Monteverde.
- Jaco: Hotel Kangaroo, I didn’t stay here, theres a story behind that. In the time I did spend there, the staff was super friendly and helpful. They had a pool, free internet and its on the edge of town, which I liked. I met an Aussie who’d traveled with the owner and had good things to say about the guy.
- Manuel Antonio/Quepos: The Widemouth Frog. In Quepos, which isn’t all that nice, but right next to the bus, which can take you to the Manuel Antonio park every half-hour for about 20 cents. They have a pool, free internet, free breakfast, tv with free dvd rentals and one of the best book exchanges I saw. The owners were nice too.
- Bocas Del Toro (Panama): Hotel Hiejke. One of the two really popular hostels. I stayed at the other one, Mando Taitu which was a lot of fun. But if I went back, I’d stay at the cleaner and slightly quieter Hiejke and go to happy hour at Mando.
- Puerto Viejo: Everybody under 30 seems to stay at Rockin J’s. It was fun, bar on site with an entertaning British bartender who seemed to enjoy passing out free drinks to the prettier girls. Choose between a hammock and tent for sleeping (they give you a backpack sized locker). I also spent a few nights at Hotel Puerto Viejo, which was nice and not too spendy, but not all that social.
- Cahuita: There was nothing that I would consider to be a good place to stay and the cheap places the guidebooks recommended weren’t up to my standards, but after looking around we settled on a spot that was a house converted into a hotel/hostel ran by some friendly locals with limited English. Unfortuanetely, I don’t remember the name. To find it go to Restaurant Tipico Cahuita walk down the side street going south (towards the national park) and I think its on the right.
What to bring? I sure didn’t need my jeans. If I went back I’d take board shorts and find some light cargo shorts (mine were heavy and got pretty hot). In Monteverde I could’ve used a sweatshirt, but otherwise t-shirts are great. I’d probably only take two if I went back and buy some for souvenirs to complete my traveling wardrobe (figure $5 each). I never used my bug spray. I took pepto bismo tablets but only used them after nights of heavy drinking. The food didn’t bother me, but I talked to people who it did. Flip flops and running shoes took care of my feet (and I only wore the shoes a couple times). The one time I would have used the bug spray I took I’d left it in the room, definitely isn’t a necessity.
One item I got a lot of use out of was my REI Flash bag. Its a little backpack made of light material, cost about $20. Its useful cause you can stuff it inside your bag and it takes up no space when traveling, but gives you a nice small day pack for the beach or hikes. I used it so much that I think it only ended up in my other bag three or four times.
More pics from my trip. These are from the week I spent in Dominical, although I took no pictures during said week that I would deem to be “blog worthy”. I went to Dominical with the hopes of doing some surfing, but the surf there was a bit beyond my level of expertise. I did meet a couple of guys from South Carolina who had spent lots of time there, and some Germans who had a car. This pleasent combination led to a couple of roadtrips to some picturesque spots near by. So here are the pictures.
We went to a beach that might have been the second prettiest one I saw on the trip. Nice crescent with palm trees lining the beach and cliffs on both sides. We were about the only ones there to boot. On one side there were some caves me we swam out and back into. Picture of one of those caves inluded. Thats were I learned swimming in heavy waves sorrounded by rocks might not be that safe.
The German guy claimed he had “forgotten” his swimsuit and was forced to swim in his bikini-briefs. Very unfortunate. In retrospect we should’ve chipped in a bought him some bored shorts. Other than that he seemed like a decent guy. I posted a pic of the whole crew, indecent German and all. This was at the formerly mentioned pretty beach, unfortunately I did not get a picture of the whole beach.
When I got back from Costa Rica, I was overflowing with advice for would be travelers. I was going to spit it all out on my trusty blog for all to see. I put it off a bit, and I think I forgot most of it, but I’ll see what I can remember. If you had the misfortune of finding my blog through a search engine, or insomnia-fueled-random link-clicking, you should know a bit about my travel agenda; my goals were to do some surfing, see some monkeys, and spend as little money as possible. If you have other plans for a trip to Costa Rica, some of this might be useful some might not.
Espanol: It’s what they speak down there. Don’t worry if you don’t. It’d be nice to be able to converse with the locals, but you don’t have time to learn a new language you’ll be fine. I would recommend a phrase book. Lonely Planet’s has such vital phrases as “What time does the bus come?” ” What sports do you enjoy?” and “Yeah, tiger!”
Getting around: The buses are hot, they stop for anyone standing on the road, there’s no leg room (if you get a seat) and if you aren’t careful somebody might steal your backpack. They are definitely the best way to get around the country. If you’re having trouble finding you’re bus, you can usually donate a couple hundred colones to the local bi-lingual bum. He gets some mota, you get a cheap translator, everybody wins!
Were to go: Not Costa Rica. That is, not just Costa Rica, I spent a week in Panama and wish I’d spent more. I also heard great things about Nicaragua, Guatamala, Belize, El Salvador, etc. If you’re American, you probably want to tell me that you heard Costa Rica is a lot safer than the rest of Central America. Based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence, I would say that the only big difference between Costa Rica and the rest of Central America is the prices (everywhere else is cheaper).
More specifically were to go: Mal Pias was great, but if you don’t like surfing (or otherwise playing in waves) it might not be your cup of cerveza. I also really enjoyed Bocas Del Toro, just across the border in Panama. Manuel Antonio is full of monkeys, and everybody likes monkeys. Corcovado, a place I did not visit, is supposedly equally stocked with monkeys, but not so much with people. I didn’t go but heard it was great. I really like monkeys.
Next installment, what to bring, my favorite hostels and how to make friends…