Living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica

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Welcome to Costa Rica… On October 3rd, we crossed the border from Nicaragua to arrive in this place which looks similar at first glance but very different at a closer look. Border formalities were a pain. We had to fill in a form, pay some cash at three different places, scan our bags and walk quite some distance through nomansland in the heat. The most annoying thing was the ATM. After calculating the currency wrong (we forgot a 0), we only took about 3 Euros in cash. This resulted in the bank blocking Jenny’s credit card as they thought it had been stolen and used for a test withdrawal… Chris could get cash from the slowest teller in the world about 2 minutes before our bus left.

Anyway, we managed to get on the bus, with cash, and made it safely to Grecia, our destination. First difference to Nicaragua: The buses. Here, it is all standard overland buses with the small difference of seat sizes. Chris doesn’t fit into them, his legs are too long. Still, these buses are way better than the chicken buses in Nicaragua as they drive at normal speed! Huge improvement.

In Grecia, we were welcomed by Javi, a friend of Chris who did his AFS year close to Lippstadt. His family hosted us for two days, cooked amazing food for us and took us on a day trip to Puntarenas. It was really great with them, also for Jenny’s Spanish. After getting used to the different accent and especially the speed (still not quite used to that), she managed to follow at least parts of the conversations.

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With Javi in Puntarenas

On Monday, we went to San Jose with Javi where we met Kevin who had been AFS student in Turkey together with Jenny back in 2009. It was cool to see him again and we spent a relaxed few hours with him, eating lunch, having smoothies and chatting.

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We also met Luis, Chris former host brother, for about 10 minutes only, though. He had to work and only came out of parliament, his place of employment, for presenting us the key and the details for his family’s beach house in Jacó, Pacific Coast!

That’s where we went the same day and where we are still now. It is not exactly on the beach but situated about 15 minutes walking distance from it in a small resort with some 100 more small houses situated around a garden with a pool! It is really great to have this place; we can cook for ourselves, chill at the pool and explore the area.

Our version of local cuisine, Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) with fried banana.
Our version of local cuisine, Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) with fried banana.

On Thursday, we went to see National Park Manuel Antonio. This, Luis told us, is a place we simply HAVE TO see. And he was right, it was amazing.

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There are a few short trails in the park on which we wandered through the rainforest, always looking for animals. And we saw quite a lot of them: A poisonous frog, several lizards, sloths (“Faultier” in German), red crabs, interesting insects, birds, a lot of monkeys and even a fight between an ant, a mantis and a gecko. Unfortunately, our phone camera was not sufficient to take good pictures, but at least some animals were close enough:

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At the end of the main trail, there are several amazing beaches to enjoy. It was really great to swim there, especially since rip currents and high waves make this dangerous in Jacó. There going in further than the hips is not advised (and already that is very scary). The only problem in Manuel Antonio were the racoons and monkeys trying to open our backpacks…We enjoyed the day in Manuel Antonio very much.

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In general, Costa Rica is really nice. It is a way richer country than Nicaragua, something that is visible everywhere. It is also unfortunately very noticeable in the prices which are way higher than we were used to from Nicaragua, actually most stuff here is more expensive than in Germany. For this reason, the beach house is all the more amazing.

An astonishing detail is how correct everything is done here. One example of this is the fact that water and electricity meters have to be outside the house so that they are visible to everybody. Another interesting situation was when we wanted to take the bus to a beach close by. The correct bus was already at the station, but everybody waited with boarding it until the correct departure time. And a last interesting observation is the light barriers in the buses to count the number of passengers. They ensure that the bus driver does not take money for himself, Javi told us.

After Manuel Antonio had been that great, we decided that we also wanted to see Carara, another close by national park. This park really is the rain forest, even more impressive than we had imagined. The trees are 50 meters tall and have huge trunks.

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There, we saw less wildlife than in Manuel Antonio but it was far less crowded and the noises of the forest were truly impressive. Howler monkeys actually sound quite scary from afar. In addition, there is a bridge located next to the park on which there are constant traffic jams. The reason is this view:

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It is called the Crocodiles Bridge!! Very scary..
In a restaurant close to the bridge, we met some German tourists who are on a three week vacation. “You’re doing the right thing”, they told us when we explained our trip. They are probably right. We are so happy that we can see so many amazing things. And do so many activities!

Jacó is a place with endless opportunities for adventure seekers, if you have the cash. While at first, we thought we would skip these rip-off tour agencies, we couldn’t resist anymore and decided to go ziplining! For 55 dollars, we rushed through the forest on long metal cables which was exhilarating! We needed to try that out so we did. And we didn’t regret it, Costa Rica is the place to do this.

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Yesterday we were lucky and saw our first Jacó sunset because we were at the beach at the right time and it didn’t rain. Normally it rains every afternoon around 4 until later into the evening/night. Rain is actually an understatement, usually it storms and the rain pours down with a lot of force so that we were often surprised that our roof didn’t leak.
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Tomorrow, it is time to leave Jacó and move forward again. We definitely had a great and relaxed time here.

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