Peñas Blancas/ Monteverde, Costa Rica: Day 1
I get the award today for being a grade A dumb a$$ but now can share with you wonderful folks what NOT to do when traveling. Here’s what goes…
I followed like a puppy dog instead of doing my own research, doing my own preparation or formulating any kind of plan when heading to Country No. 65 – Costa Rica. I warn you this can happen when you go all of a sudden from traveling solo for the majority of your world tour to traveling in a country or two with a friend who has already been to that country or two. You let your brain turn to mush as you become so unbelievably grateful that for once you aren’t doing the planning! Today I learned that perhaps a little planning goes a long way. Admittedly this is not my motto. Generally, the only planning I do is to check the weather before picking the part of the world I want to head to next and that’s only because I don’t like to be cold (unless I’m skiing or in the polar regions and even then I pray nonstop for sunshine). The only other thing is I generally try to implement a safety measure or two like, I don’t know, having a place to sleep for instance! You figure I would have learned that lesson in Fussen Germany. Guess not… 😉
Anyway, we landed in Managua and took a private taxi to the border at Peñas Blancas for $60 USD. If there are no chicken buses running or you actually prefer to spend money on a private transfer, make sure to take an official airport taxi. Look for the orange shirts with Aeropuerto Taxi on the chest. This may be the one and only time you are grateful to see a man dressed in orange but if you go with the pumpkin you may actually arrive at your destination robbery free which is a huge bonus when in certain parts of Central America especially at night. So on this part, thumbs up Suzanne and Amira.
Also, thumbs up Suzanne and Amira for knowing how to implement some common sense measures to protect against being robbed which I learned in route through Austria on my way to Lichtenstein such as don’t put all your money and various forms of identification in the same place. Put some money in your bra ladies, some in your shoes gents, perhaps, some in your aspirin bottle and even consider having a “faux” wallet with about $20 USD you can hand over if you find yourself in this situation. And guys don’t put your phone in your back pocket and then let a hooker hug you. Ask my friend Nick how well that worked out for him!
Also, thumbs up on the easy crossing as we arrived before the 10:00 p.m. border closing, we had our documents in order and had our 20 cordoba for the Nica side and $3USD for the CR side. Remember on CR side, like in Cambodia, it should be USD. No USD no entrada. In fact, our crossing via foot was so laid back that I received a proposal of marriage from the immigration officer. Don’t ask me how the heck I remembered what casarse means in Spanish but I will tell you, had I known we had no transportation or accommodation over the border in Costa Rica I might have accepted said proposal!
Yes. That’s right. This whole blog post is leading up to our first grade roll call. Amira? Here. Little Johnny? Here. My new fiancé? Here. Grade A dumba$$? Here. Yes that’s me in the back with my hand waving in the air.
Monteverde was our final destination and it was 3.5 hours or more away from this uninhabited border and all the way at the top of a mountain some 1400 meters up in the mystic cloud forest so big question was how did we expect to get there in the middle of the night? And better yet, how did we expect to get there safely? Both very good questions.
Moral: We took a HUGE risk both in connection with transportation from the border to Monteverde as well as with accommodation. There was little if any internet or phone service, no buses running, no taxis, no open rental car agencies and no hotel or hostel willing to keep reception open for us given our 1:00 a.m. or later arrival. Fortunately, God was shining down on us as there was one man still there closing up his little border shop who called a friend of his, Miguel, who had a car and was willing to pick us up for $140USD. Under normal circumstances, I would not recommend this course of action but we had no choice and as there were two of us and I was armed with a knife and a way with people and Amira was armed with her fluent Spanish and an attitude that shouted “oh you did NOT just go there”, we took the risk and managed to get delivered safely to our lodging.
What lodging you ask? Yea that’s a good question too. I remembered I was able to switch out SIM cards to my US SIM, turn on that frighteningly expensive cellular data roaming feature and book a hotel online with booking.com. As I have mentioned in the past on a previous post, booking.com doesn’t require a credit card to reserve and often times you can find a place on this site where you can cancel at no charge. In our case, the hope was the hotel would feel compelled to stay open or at least leave the key to the door at the room if they accepted the reservation. It worked out that way thanks to Christina at Hotel Atardecer and thank goodness because when we arrived in Santa Elena at 1:30 a.m., it was a ghost town and Lubbock Texas kind of wind and cold to boot. While perhaps an adventure, I was so not looking forward to sleeping outdoors on the concrete or, alternatively, purposefully committing a crime so the policia would offer me some concrete indoors to sleep on 😉
That’s all for now my friends. Lots of woeful sighs and gratitude from wherever the heck I am in Costa Rica 😉