Mark arrived last week for a whirlwind 7 days in Costa Rica. We had planned basically nothing prior to his visit but he said he wanted to move around, see a lot and camp. Mark landed around 9 pm the first evening and the Szymanski’s had gifted all of us a stay at the airport Marriott. It was awesome to sleep well in a room with A/C, use speedy Wi-Fi, and do 4 loads of FREE laundry (with a dryer!). We spent the night talking about a rough route for the next week. Mark has a good friend who had told him that the Nicoya peninsula was a life changing experience, so whether that was an exaggeration or not, we had to check it out. Rather than driving the whole way we took the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera. We had heard horror stories about the roads in the southern tip of the peninsula but after disembarking we were pleasantly surprised and easily made it to Montezuma within an hour and a half.
Montezuma was a cute little, touristy town absolutely geared for the backpacker type. We found an awesome room with an ocean front balcony where we could cook on the grill, read trivial pursuit cards and fall asleep to the sounds of the sea. There is an easily accessible waterfall near the town, so we walked up along the river to the swimming hole and witnessed some amazing and terrifying dives by two local guys. They didn’t hesitate to jump head first into the cold, murky water from at least 30 feet up the rock face. We didn’t attempt the same. The last night in Montezuma we sat on the porch as the most intense storm of the rainy season rolled in. Eventually we had to go inside and sit in the back of the room as the rain was coming across the balcony, inside the room through the window at least four feet. The winds and the lightening were impressive to say the least. The power was out about 20 minutes into the storm in the entire town. Needless to say the only thing we could do was finish all our imperials and fall asleep to the storm. Luckily in the morning, Pedro was as dry as a bone which was a miracle after the intense leaks in Nicaragua. Eric’s mad silicon skills had worked wonders.
We decided to head towards the west coast of the peninsula for our last day off the mainland. Here’s where the rumored terrible roads appeared. The road was dirt washboards the entire way from Montezuma to Santa Teresa which is usual. In addition to the slow, dusty drive we experienced a small muddy river crossing, a bridge so narrow we had to turn back to find a new way, and arrived to the town via a road not even on the map. We stocked up on groceries, explored the area and camped a little outside of town in between Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. The beach at the edge of the camp area was really rocky and the waves were massive. We wandered both directions that afternoon and ended up finding beautiful tide pools and a huge rocky point which we could walk further on as the tide went out. Our night was spent cooking, talking, and watching the tide come in.
The goal was to leave Santa Teresa early on Wednesday, take the ferry back and have two days near Fortuna and Arenal. As we drove out of the area we encountered the first problem, a small roadblock. The man explained to Eric that the ferry workers were striking and there was no way to leave the peninsula. Well, we detoured around him and made it back to the highway. We stopped and asked about the strike and the ferry closure at the police station in the closest town and they confirmed that we would not be taking the ferry or driving up the east side of the peninsula. They told us a back way, so we turned around and went back the way we came only to be blocked by a river further down the road. We watched a Toyota Hi-lux cross from the other direction and all he could tell us was the next river crossing was worse. So back we went the other direction, retracing our exact route again. We decided just to go to the main roadblock near the ferry terminal, and indeed we were turned around there as well. At this point we wanted to stay close to the ferry area but had no options except to just wait. Trapped in paradise is still trapped.
After a day of driving aimlessly, feeling a bit helpless and being frustrated by the whole culture that surrounds strikes and roadblocks, we splurged and got a little cabana with a pool. We said it was for Mark but I think we all needed it. Plus Mark was there for some vacation time, so as we sipped on our cocktails and Eric hogged the pool toys, we felt that relaxed vibe of a worry free holiday.
Our Canadian host at the B&B woke us with the news that the ferry would be now running every other day for an unknown amount of time and today was the day to get back. We scarfed breakfast and 2 hours later we were safely aboard our boat. We were relieved that Mark wouldn’t need to use the backup plans we had discussed of a flight or shuttle service to escape the peninsula. Once back on the mainland we were on track to actually make it to see the area around Volcano Arenal. We booked it to the higher elevation and welcomed the cooler air with sweaty, open arms. Our only stop on the way to Fortuna was at a little stand for empanadas. These fried cheese and bean filled crescents were huge and delicious and the epitome of unhealthy but we all could have eaten one more.
We had about 24 hours total in the area and took part in a foggy, hike around the base of Arenal. While the weather didn’t participate and we never saw the top of the volcano, we still had fun hiking through the old lava flows and running through the sporadic rains. Mark only allowed us three geology questions, so we used them wisely. It’s pretty nerdy to be walking through a lava field with a geologist.
On our last night we discussed the trip over an enormous pizza and the remainder of the Polish beer Mark and Eric found (of course). Mark kindly named his vacation, the Pedro experience. While he saw a lot of Costa Rica, it was still a tiring way to spend seven days. He was definitely worn out by the heat and the driving but he said he was happy to have been the one visitor who will actually get a taste for how we are currently living. He was the navigator for Eric, we asked him to help find places to stay, and he saw and ate the scrounge meals we make before a market trip. He witnessed the recent ant invasion in Pedro, watched my stress levels rise on Costa Rican roads and saw all the types of accommodations we use. We were so thankful he took the time to come down and hang out with us during his busy summer and had the chance to see our crazy world!
Eric and I are now waiting and relaxing on the west coast, near Manuel Antonio National Park waiting for the Nelson’s to arrive at the end of this week!