Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is a town on the southeast coast of Costa Rica which looks out onto to Caribbean. The name translates to Old Port and there is another further north. This one is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
I visited for three days again though this time Martin, my volunteer buddy, joined me on the second day. 

The Caribbean!

I had a great time in Puerto Viejo but I didn’t love it in the way I’ve valued other places that I’ve visited. To be fair, I don’t think that is the fault of the town. The hostel I stayed at had private rooms rather than dorms and a much more separate atmosphere which meant I hardly met any of the other guests in a meaningful way. The heat, as with Montezuma, was stifling, but because the excitement of visiting a beach town in Costa Rica for the first time had been used at Montezuma, I was much less tolerant to being constantly sticky. It’s also a bit of a party town as far as tourist destinations in go, and with my self-imposed sobriety while traveling alone in a country where I don’t speak the language I probably didn’t get out of it what many other tourists do. I also had a mishap with a bike on the last day which probably didn’t help impressions. 

All of that said, it really is a cool place and I did enjoy myself almost the entire time (the exception being the bike mishap which I’ll get to). 

I was planning to go to La Fortuna/Monteverde in the mountains at Eleanor’s behest right up until 10pm the night before I departed when Martin told me he was heading to Puerto Viejo on Tuesday if I was going. As I’d been planning to head there the next week anyway I quickly changed track and caught a bus in the morning.

The bus ride was much more beautiful than the one to Montezuma. There the land was quite dry. Not so en route to Puerto Viejo – we went through hills of Costa Rican rainforest/jungle/something very green. I’m not sure of the correct term but it was lush and green and dense and we had a vantage point down into the valleys! I, of course, had left my phone and camera in my checked luggage like the competent traveller that I am so I don’t have any photos to share!

I got there about 3pm and was pleasantly surprised by the heat. Or rather, the lack of it. The afternoon was shockingly bearable. I had made friends with an American on the bus called Jake who used to lead tours in the area, so after checking into a hostel I followed him down to the beach where he showed me a good spot to swim. I grabbed some food with him (my first pasta while in Costa Rica – pretty good!), we caught some live music at one of the many bars then I headed to bed. 

After waking up the next day I made my way down to Pan Pay, a little bakery-cum-café on the waterfront for a light breakfast of pastries and piña con leche (pineapple juice with milk – surprisingly delicious!) Then I wandered to the bus stop to meet Martin who had caught the 6am bus so was arriving at 10.30am. Once I’d met him and got him a bed we jumped on the bus to Cahuita where there is national park. 
The view from my breakfast table

Waiting for the bus to arrive

This was super cool though I got eaten alive by mosquitos! We walked about 4km along a trail that bordered the sea, under tangled vines and playing monkeys - careful not to let them steal my camera! At the end we took a dip in the Caribbean which was unsatisfying at first as it was as hot as a bath! But we swum out a bit farther and found the cold spots. We read on the beach until we'd dried off a bit then wandered back - this is the point at which I suspect I was made into a meal by local insects! 

"Put your arms up!"

Our first sight of Cahuita National Par

Watch out for crocs!

How's that for a view from the office - reflection in the glass

The littlest palm tree

Tangled vines

Blue crab

I thought this looked like an anteater, maybe one wearing a gas mask, and was very amused.

Tiny but colourful crab

Trying to sneak up to steal my stuff!


Martin owning the world...

... and reading in the ocean

I liked the roots of this tree...

We bumped into some squirrels


My battle wounds

That night we cooked some pasta at home and just relaxed in preparation for the next day. We rose early and ate at a local cafe, then headed to a place we'd seen the night before to rent some bikes. Once set we cycled to  Punta Uva for a swim and some snorkeling. It was beautiful if boiling. The coral was monochrome which was a little boring but the fish were exciting and the water was clear and edged by palm trees. 

The beach!

It was hot and he didn't have a hat...


Look ma! No hands!

When we went to ride home however we realized that my bike had sustained a flat tire. And not just low on air but completely punctured and irreparable on the spot. It was about 1pm and very hot but I had a bus to catch at 4pm and we had to get 8km back to Puerto Viejo. So we started walking. After we were good and disgusting and overheated a local pulled over and offered us a ride 1km up the road which was some help at least. Then he told us to just call a taxi as it was too hot. We ended up doing this and got back on time for my bus. This episode irritated me perhaps more than it should have however because I was pretty sure that I was at least slightly set up with the bike - I had cycled the entire way on smooth road and the rental guy had made a point of saying that if you lost the bike or got a puncture you had to pay extra. I'd also heard about scams where bikes were rented and then 'stolen' forcing tourists to pay a replacement fee of a couple of hundred. The other reason I was grumpy was because I was hot, tired, itchy, late and had to pay extra for the taxi and the bike which is frustrating when traveling on a budget. 

However, the bus was air conditioned and I was soon calm again. I arrived back in San Jose and after a shower was in much better spirits! I'm actually writing this from La Fortuna so expect an update soon. I've been trying to blog more but the internet I have in San Jose is really patchy and uploading photos hasn't really been happening! 
Puerto Viejo had the biggest selection of pipes I have ever seen - this is only one example of one of the more elaborate ones. I also got offered weed more than I have been at any other place - I'd say it's likely there's a connection.

This sign made me happy but then I'm a bit of a nerd - E, I figured you'd appreciate it.

Nice scenery on the bus home

Boats in Puerto Viejo with children swimming.

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