Tamarindo, Pacific Coast, Costa Rica

My journey down the mountain was a bit laborious, but I guess that’s what I get from trying to use the public bus system in another country. A lot of the towns in Nicoya Peninsula are very similar – set on a grid much like San Jose. The temperature difference is very apparent having been up the mountain for so long, as was the oxygen levels – you feel like you can do anything after coming down from altitude!

Anyway, I finally made it to the Pacific Coast. I have never actually seen the Pacific Ocean before, and yes, it did look much like any other ocean, but it was the symbolism that mattered to me.

IMG_2624
Beautiful Pacific beach at Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo is very much a beach town which seems to thrive on the surfing industry. Every second shop is one renting boards and there are plenty of very cool looking people riding the waves at any time of the day. I have stuck souly to swimming so far – I had a debilitating shark phobia which meant I used to have little girl tantrums whenever my brother swam away from me in deep water, and I am still getting over this, but maybe at my next stop up the coast I might give it a try. Come to think of it, I would really love to be a surfer girl!

IMG_2639
Classic VW Campervan – a must for this surfer beach

I’m staying at Hostel Selina, which I would recommend as it is cheap with very lovely staff and a beautiful little pool and bar with fairy lights. There are plenty of seats made in broken down cars as well, and swings! A lot of the bars are right on the beach here and offer 2 x 1 Happy Hour deals for considerably longer than an hour. I haven’t had the chance to sample one yet – a side effect of travelling on one’s lonesome – but maybe tonight I’ll push the boat out and get two just for me…

IMG_2641.JPG
The pool and bar area at Hostel Selina, Tamrindo

One last thing to say is that yesterday I literally saw the most beautiful sunset. The picture does not do it justice; it was so beautiful. Veins of red on a background of orange which resembled capillaries going through eyelids. So beautiful…

IMG_2631
A stunning sunset

So tomorrow it’s onward and upwards to Nicaragua. Wish me luck!

Monteverde and Santa Elena, Costa Rica

I have just left Monteverde after being up the mountain for 6 and a half weeks!

IMG_2377
View of the beautiful Monteverde Reserve. Only about 10% is open to visitors and it is thought that at least one jaguar lives in this area

First and foremost I must recomend the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens – My residence throughout my time there. The place is full of so many self-confessed bug nerds who are all amazing people, know their stuff on our six-legged friends and always give enthusiastic and worthwhile tours. Not only will you get to see some of Costa Rica’s beautiful native butterflies, but you’ll also learn some interesting facts and even get a chance to get up close and personal with some non-lepidoptera parts of the insect order – a cute giant peppered cockroach or zebra tarantula anyone? Well worth a visit!

IMG_2363.JPG
Sign for Monteverde Butterfly Gardens

Aside from the butterfly gardens, there’s plenty to do in Monteverde. The world famous Cloud Forest Reserve draws thousands of visitors each year, and rightly so. I had a wonderful day trekking the trails, seeing waterfalls and spotting wildlife such as capuchin and howler monkeys, agouti and coatis. If you manage to spot the rare Quetzal bird, any naturalist will be extremely jealous of you.

IMG_2369
A coati sniffing around at the reception of the Cloud Forest

The Bat Jungle on the way to Monteverde from Santa Elena is also worth a stop with detailed exhibitions and a stunning bat cave. When I was there, there was even the most adorable baby bats clutching onto their mothers tummies! So cute.

IMG_2388
Suspension bridge in the Cloud Forest

In Santa Elena itself, I would recommend the Chococafe to sample some of the country’s prized coffee, or fruit smoothies if you’d prefer. The staff are wondrously polite and their veranda is a great place for productivity – many pages of my ongoing novel have been composed there. Furthermore, there’s the Orchid Cafe just a little bit down the hill which does great vegetarian food, and also Taco Taco which does great take away tacos, quesadillas and hibiscus iced tea and also has a nice veranda to sit on and use the wifi. Note also that if you see a butch looking blonde chihuahua hanging about the town with a black cross on his head, his name is Taco and you call it enthusiastically enough, he’ll come running up to you tail wagging.

IMG_2416
Smoothie at the Orchid Cafe

For nights out, there’s the Taverna near the Orchid Cafe which has a fire pit outside and does reggae night on Fridays which are always enjoyable. A weird mix of locals and tourists turn up here, but there’s a ping pong table with occasional games of beer pong! Otherwise the town’s discoteca goes via the name Bar Amigos. It does cheap food and has a mix of general club music and reggaeton. Remember to sample the local spirit shot, chilli guaro, which honestly tasted to me like a shot of spicy soup and gave me acid reflex after my fifth one. Consume in moderation, you have been warned, and it’s also most likened to a Bloody Mary in its essence.

IMG_2412.JPG
Mint chocolate coffee frappe from the Chococafe

If you’re feeling really adventurous, Cerros Amigos is the highest peak which can be reached from Monteverde. Head towards the posh Belmar Hotel (great for a girly cocktail on the balcony overlooking the extraordinary view of the Nicoya peninsula) and follow the track round. It should take you about an hour at good pace – all up pretty steep hills mind – and be sure to say hi to the bees living on the path when you’re about two minutes from the top. Go on a nice day, or you won’t be able to see anything when you get up there!

IMG_2468
Capuchin chilling in the trees of the Ecological Sanctury

So that pretty much sums up my six weeks, though I guess I left out getting a lift in the back of a pick-up truck from a drunk driver, stealing the Bob Marley flag from Reggae Night when the DJ played his version of reggae and refused to change it and that time when I found a scorpian in my bed. Not to mention I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time, attended multiple Zumba classes (which is hilarious if you know me) and learnt what an empanada was. I could keep on going, it has been an eventful few months, but I would really recommend that you get on up the mountain and experience it for yourself!

IMG_2516
Me looking a bit disgruntled next to a waterfall