So after an eventful week touring Nicaragua, we were on our way to Costa Rica. One week here was never going to be enough, but as always, we made the most of it.
Our first stop across the border was Liberia. We had to hold up here for a night due to the bus schedule. There is nothing here but road construction so we won't bore you with the details, instead join us on our whirlwind tour of this incredible country as we visit Monteverde and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
With only two buses everyday into Monteverde, we'd spent the previous night in Liberia at a crappy hostel eating fried chicken and watching movies on the laptop. The next day we caught our bus, arriving at the connection point 4 hours before our next bus would arrive.
Four hours is a long time when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and it's raining. As we sat there, we watched countless people come and go and while we were offered several taxis, the fare was exuberant, and we agreed to sit it out and wait. When the bus finally did arrive, it was crowded and it struggled to make momentum on the unpaved roads. After a few failed attempts up one particular hill, which saw us make it only as far as half way with every passenger standing at the rear, jumping up and down, a friendly local used his ute to tow the bus to the top.
By the time we arrived at our hostel it was FREEZING! Jeans, jackets, beanies and scarves were quickly unpacked from their stuff sacks after months of not being required in sweaty Honduras. Even the sleeping bag made an appearance as an extra blanket on our gigantic bed.
Monteverde, or green mountains, is a beautiful town surrounded by cloud forests and lush, rolling green hills. There is a myriad of activities to complement every traveller's desires including the Monteverde Cheese Factory tour (USD $12), a one hour guided excursion of the cheese making process, including a historical video and my favourite - cheese tasting. After the tour, Justin indulged in an ice-cream before we set off on foot to visit the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens (USD $15).
Tours of the Gardens are available in English or Spanish and last for around an hour. We highly enjoyed our tour which allowed us to hold different bugs and insects, and even release butterflies into one of the conservatories. Our experience wasn't entirely without a hitch, as half way through the skies opened up and it didn't just rain, it poured! Leaving us wet and soaked through, but still in good spirits.
The next day, we got our adventure on with The Original Canopy Tour and Finca Lindora Horseback and Hot Springs package (USD $70). Once again, I was attempting to overcome my fear of heights by ziplining hundreds of meters above the ground. I was physically shaking as they strapped me into my harness and while I was trying to make light of the situation with a few jokes about my predicament, I was absolutely shitting myself!
The first section, aptly named Tarzan's Swing, involved climbing a rickety platform where our harnesses were attached to a rope and we were literally released, swinging up into the trees and back. I screamed and swore my little heart out! I was terrified. Luckily by the time we arrived at the first zip-lining platform, I had calmed down and I actually managed to enjoy flying through the canopy.
With 5 or 6 lines under our belts, it was time to rappell down a giant tree. After giving strict instructions that I wanted to go slowly, the guide released me, sending my vocal chords into another screaming frenzy, before reigning me in at a slower pace. The cheeky bugger had the biggest smile on his face, he had just wanted to make me scream again.
The scariest part was now climbing back up to continue zip-lining. Steps had been built in to a hollowed out section of the tree, after which you climbed out on to a wobbling rope ladder back to the top. I took my sweet ass time, freaking out of course, the entire way, trying my best to not look down.
From there it was a straight run home, flying through the tree-tops once more, completing an 800m and 500m cable before arriving back at the start point.
After a quick lunch, we headed out to Finca Lindora for the second part of our package. Our guide spoke only Spanish but we enjoyed the peaceful ride through his farm, down into a valley where a short hike later, we came to the hot springs. Two beautiful, warm pools with the river as a backdrop and the trees as a natural umbrella from the sun - which had finally decided to come out and grace us with it's presence!
We soaked in the pools for an hour or so before changing and heading back to the farm house. Here we received coffee and a snack before being taken back to town. This was probably one of my favourite days during the trip, it was adventurous and relaxing all in one. It was just incredible.
Our next stop in Costa Rica was Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, right up in the north-west of the country along the Caribbean coast. We didn't have much luck here either when it came to weather, but at least it was hot and we could thaw out from our time in the mountains.
The number one reason we made this stop was to visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre, a facility designed to rehabilitate animals and educate the Costa Rican community on animal awareness. Tours are run every day except Sunday, at 9.30am and 11.30am for USD $18 per person. Here, you can get up close to jungle cats, monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Our guide was knowledgeable and the centre is well maintained, making it one of the better tours we've done.
We were lucky to see a baby sloth, red-eyed tree frog and some jungle cats. Unfortunately, the centre doesn't currently house any jaguars, but this is a probably a good thing, as most of the animals that come here, are injured in some way.
While we were here, we also headed out to Finca la Isla, a botanical and permaculture farm offering self-guided tours of their nursery and garden. At the farm you can see both indigenous and imported plant varieties and it is here that we also found the Red Dart frog, a poisonous little guy that liked hiding when the camera came out! As we walked through the orchards, we sneakily sampled some of the fruits that had fallen on the ground and swatted at mosquitoes that did their best to sample us! Back at the reception area, we were greeted with fresh juice, more fruit samples and some homemade chocolate before we headed off, back towards the other side of town and to our hostel.
If you're visiting Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, we would also recommend a visit to Tasty Waves, a surf inspired bar and restaurant to the north of town. Run by an American and his lovely Aussie wife, we enjoyed cheap, cold beers here and a riveting game of trivia that had everyone on the edge of their seats, even if we did get stood up by all our mates, two eventually showed up and we took out 2nd place and a round of free drinks!!
While we only had 3 days in this beautiful little town on the coast, we had a great time and have even added it to our 'return to' list for the future.
Next up, Panama and the final destination on our Central American adventure.
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