San Juan del Sur to Playa del Coco

The sun came streaming in through the window at 5:30. We managed another 90 minutes of tossing and turning before the alarm went off. This was the first day since we left where an alarm clock was needed. Despite my stuffiness from the night before, I slept well. Waking…well i hoped i might be magically cured by the mysterious sweaty salt lamp in our room, but no…still really plugged up.

We got ready. Tidied up our carry on size bags and made our way to breakfast. Our usual housekeeper and cook was off today, which was disappointing because we were ready to give her big thank your and at least a goodbye. No matter, we sat down for breakfast and had the simple meal of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola. Probably a perfect travel meal…but not one to keep that belly satisfied for long. We finished up and I got to chatting with a Swiss couple that arrived last night. Young, but with their priorities straight. Head home to work, then travel for extended periods. They are now 5 months into an 8 month stint. They were also looking for tips on how to cross the border the same way we were planning on today. I had nothing more to tell them, only because we didnt know what we might be in for. Then the cabbie pulled up. 20 minutes early, which is really early for Nica time…perfect for us.

We grabbed our bags, said a few goodbyes. Clementine hangs out at the place during the day, and her chihuahua greyhound face always makes her look a little sad to see anyone go. Our driver Miguel was happy to see us. We were going to be his first fare of the day and he likes making those dollar bills. Bags in the trunk and the doors were held open for us. A perfect gentlemen. When those doors closed though, the door handles on the inside were missing. I think i remember hearing stories of people being kidnapped this way. On closer inspection, it appears one of the door handles might be functional by tugging on a red shoelace that snaked inside the door. Really, this guy seemed like he was just interested in driving. We didnt have to test the red shoelace escape plan.

Miguel speedily moved us out of town, through La Virgen, and towards the border. His english was very limited and my Spanish is marginally better…but enough to fill most of the drive with a few questions and answers. He pulled over to the side of the road for us to snap a quick picture of Ometepe, which had been shrouded in clouds for the last few days. He then made his way down through the queue of trucks to put us right next to the entrance gate to customs. The guy also made it clear that we should not take any forms from people selling customs forms.

The car was swarmed with people. A moment of uncomfortableness as I pulled out a 20USD bill with bodies around. We agreed on $18 for a fare, but being as it was his first fare of the day, and I had read cabbies are known for not having change, we parted ways with the 20. I wasn’t looking for the 2 bucks back, if anything i was going to offer it as a tip since he was already ground down from the usual price of $25. We grabbed our bags and headed to the blue gate, fending off form sellers and bus ticket agents. To the gate, passports out for a quick show, and we were in to the customs area.

Two fees to pay here. A single dollar per person as a zone fee. Another 2USD per person after getting the stamp. Exact change in the morning is recommended as these guys did not seem to want to part with any singles. They also were not too interested in the US dollar coins we still had from El Salvador, but took them anyways.

Out of the customs building and Melanie had a pee break. Melanie reports the pay to pee situation was a very clean and freshly mopped floor. Good to know. Change was given in Costa Rican Colones though, which was interesting. While waiting, I chatted briefly with a gal waiting for the Tica Bus. Apparently she bought a ticket from the vendors on the Nica side of that blue gate. Now she had to wait for a bus to take her to the Costa Rican side, then on to San Jose. Good to know there is a bus coming, and something for us to get in front of if we want to beat the line. Melanie arrived and we set off.

There is only one way to go. Me with both suitcases in tow, i lead the charge down the roadway. Melanie had the passports to break out for any inspections. We had 2 passport checks, one from a fully uniformed immigration official and another from the Policia. Easy. We walked another 5 minutes, found the Costa Rican Immigration office and lined up. Only 4 people in front of us…which meant we were through in about 5 minutes. Awesome.

On exit, there are bus ticket sales right there. A cab driver, who apparently spent time in Abbotsford and Whistler was trying to sell us on a $90USD fare directly to Coco, but that seemed a bit steep for us. Tickets to Liberia were 1635 colones each, less than 4 Canadian dollars and departed in 10 minutes. Bus arrived, we got on, and at 10:30 the bus departed. No messing around. Yes we did a bit of a milk run through La Cruz, but we got too see a little some of the smaller places an express bus would have just blown by. We arrived in Liberia just after 12 and dragged the bags a couple blocks to the second terminal.

That second bus we had to catch departed at 1PM, so our timing was pretty good. Melanie stood in line while I tracked out the bus and bought tickets. This stretch was 1300 colones for the two of us. We piled on and this old city bus departed from Liberia on time to make several roadside stops over the course of 70 minutes. We made it to Coco without an expensive shuttle, or even pricier taxi! It is the little wins that add up. When checked in, I counted under 5.5 hours and compared to Google maps estimates of 2.5 hours…we did damn good.

In need of a drink of water, and some food, we found a little coffee shop around the corner. The lady behind the counter made us up a sandwich and handed over a bottle of water along with a small pastry for us. With our reserves low, we savoured that sandwich for all of 30 seconds. Pastry…gone. Water…we will need to find more soon. We did ask though…is the water from the tap safe to drink. Her answer was that she drinks the water in her place, and that is just a block away, but she was not sure how safe it might be in the building she worked in. At the equivalent of $2 for that bottle of water, I now understand here answer. The water in Costa Rica is safe to drink, but uninformed gringos coming in are ripe for taking advantage of. I don’t want to go into details on how we had to pay for the bread separately from the sandwich. Let’s just say we might not be going back there tomorrow.

We walked the rainy beach. Found a spot offering happy hour drinks. Fed Melanie a very large Pina Colada, garnished with a side of chips, guacamole and salsa, then found some groceries for breakfast. Tomorrow we will dine on cereal and oatmeal with our morning coffee.

We are now in for the night, and fading quick. A busy day is now in the books, and I still have this cold to contend with. Let’s see if a strong cup of coffee in the morning can scare the remaining phlegm from my lungs.