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2017 FEB - ON TO COSTA RICA (CARIBBEAN COAST) PUERTO VIEJO!

We changed countries, traveling to neighbouring Costa Rica from Panama.

sunny 30 °C

DAY 21 SUNDAY 26TH FEBRUARY

Today we changed countries! Crossed the border over into Costa Rica. We again decided to pay the money and go with a shuttle service that included a hand holding over the border and drop off directly at our accommodation on the other side. This was for US$28 each.

Set the alarm so we had enough time to finish packing our bags and have some breakfast. It was only a quick walk to the ferry station from our hostel so after getting our US$10 key deposit we left, dragging our luggage up the road.

It was only a few minutes before we were all squeezed into a boat and then farewell to Colon Island. We had a great few days here in the islands of Bocas del Toro and our skin colour now reflects the fabulous weather we have been having.

A 20 minute boat ride and we were back at Almirate where we were loaded into 2 minivans and set off to the boarder which took about 1.5 hours drive. Along the way the other minivan had pulled over to the side of the road and our driver stopped to assist. We then found out he had stopped because there was a sloth on the side of the road. As I said in my last post, Humans are one of the biggest killers of these animals, not necessarily from them going out hunting these hairy creatures, but because a lot get killed on the roads. Their slow pace and lack of road crossing skills make them easy if not intentional road kill targets. The van driver stopped to assist this one and after we had all snapped up as many photos as possible he picked it up by the scruff of the neck (like you would carry a cat) and carried it to the other side of the road near the bush. That apparently is another way they inevitably get killed, people trying to help return the animal to where it has come. But if it wants to be on the other side of the road for whatever reason (usually the call or smell of a female on heat) then they will unknowingly risk their life to get to their mate.

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So cool to see a sloth so up close, this one was a 3 toe adult, he looked as happy as Larry.

At the border we all had to line up for exit stamps out of Panama, then collect our luggage from the vans, pay US$4 exit fee to get out of Panama then walk across an old, now pedestrian, bridge.

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Once on the other side of the bridge we had to line up again to get an entry stamp into Costa Rica. I had been told that Costa Rica requires you to prove you have an exit ticket out of the country when you get to the border. We did not have a ticket out of CR but do have one out of another Central American country which we were advised would be enough. After waiting in the hot sun, when our turn finally came up the only question they asked was where we were going to now. Puerto Viejo was all they needed to know. Stamp, hand back passport, have a nice stay.

So we entered Costa Rica without a hiccup. There was a minibus waiting for us all just past the stamp office, they had already collected our luggage while we waited in line so now we just had to squeeze in and we were off.

There were a couple of drop offs before our accommodation, but they definitely dropped us at the front door, even having driven down the 100m driveway. We had gained an hour crossing the boarder and unfortunately our room was not yet ready. The occupants had not yet vacated the room. Check out was at 12 and they were using up every last minute. We left our luggage and decided to take a stroll into town to have a look around.

TROPICAL PARADISE 5 NIGHTS @ US$202.75

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We are right on the beach here, although our accommodation is set back behind the 100 meter driveway, our sea view bungalow is sea view if you had some binoculars. hahaha at least it was right on the beach. Playa Negra - Black Beach, named for the black sand which we discovered was very hot underfoot as we walked along the beach into town. It was only a short distance and we spent most of the walk in the waters edge to save our feet from frying.

Puerto Viejo is small, only a couple of streets which seems to have a lot of bars, so again its nice that we are staying a bit away from all the noise that these places like to fire up at night. Found a supermarket and instantly noticed the difference in prices of those in Panama. I knew Costa Rica was going to be more expensive than Panama but it's still a bit of a shock when you first see it. And we need to get our head around the local currency, gone are dollars and now we are in Costa Rican Colon. 100 Colon = AUD 23c, so there is going to be a lot of zeros on the money that we are going to have to take note of. We were able to purchase a few things at the supermarket using my Citibank card as we had not yet found the ATM.

Back at the accommodation our room still was not ready, occupant had only just left and we were told the place was a mess so needed to be cleaned. Lyn sat reading a book while I had a power nap. Finally we were able to settle in our room, with kitchen - home for the next 5 days.

Next up, a stroll down the driveway, cross the road, and into the sea. At first the water did not look as appealing as in Bocas due to the black sand, but once in the water we could see that it too was very clean and clear. A little more of a wave here than what we were in yesterday.

Today is Sunday so there were a few families on the beach sheltering from the sun under the palm trees. After our swim we (well Lyn mostly) did some washing. We had not been able to do any clothes washing in the last hostel so we had a bit of a build up. Found an outside sink, strung up some lines and hung hangers from the tree - instant Chinese laundry.

Now it was later in the afternoon and cooler so we again headed back into town to find ATM and get some local cash. Well it seems there is only one ATM in town and 20-30 other people had the same idea as us. I counted there were 18 in line in front of us, I said to Lyn lets just get supplies from supermarket and pay on card and worry about getting cash tomorrow.

This we did and again were shocked by prices. Meat was not so bad, but the distinct lack of vegetables forced us to buy overpriced tin corn which cost more than the meat (well almost anyway). The worst item was water, we bought a 6 litre bottle that cost just over AUD$6.00. We have been drinking boiled tap water along the way mostly so have not had to buy water, but the tap water at our accommodation has that distinct bore water smell and although its ok for hot drinks ie coffee & tea it's not much chop to drink.

Dinner of chorizo sausage, mini potatoes and the million dollar corn was cooked in the kitchen.

We are thinking of hiring push bikes tomorrow to have a bit of a look around - seems to be the thing as there were lots of tourists on bikes today.

DAY 22 MONDAY 27TH FEBRUARY

We did bugger all today. Chillaxed around most of the day.

Went for a swim in the afternoon. Walked into town, managed to get a turn at the ATM but could only draw out a maximum of 50,000 colons = about A$120, that is not going to last very long. But we are able to pay at the supermarket with MasterCard and we still have a bit of US dollars that we can use also.

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Had a wander around town, stopped for a beer at some beach side bar that had beers for C1000 = A$2.35 and tried our first Costa Rican beer called Imperial - it was ok too, served nice and cold. Found another supermarket and bought some supplies.

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We found a hostel that we can rent bicycles from which had a sign reading rental US$5 per day, but this was the price for the day only, not a 24 hour day, just the part of the day that is light. 24 hour rental was US$7 so we ended up taking that for 2 days. So now we have wheels to go exploring - but that will be tomorrow as today is almost already done. We can go cruising on our cruiser bicycles.

On the way home we stopped and bought a coconut to drink, very reasonable at C300 = A$0.71c.

We seemed to have missed lunch today, too busy doing nothing. Lyn cooked dinner in our bungalow while I rode back to show my passport to the rental guy.

Another hot day in Costa Rica! I saw an agouti run out in front of my bike as I was riding up the long driveway today.

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DAY 23 TUESDAY 28TH FEBRUARY

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We were a bit more energetic today. Rode our hire bicycles 12 km to Manzanillo. The morning was overcast so it was quite a nice coolish ride, mostly flat, just a few hills near the end. On the way we saw some howler monkeys in the forest along the road, with a very cheeky baby one that was happy to pose for us.

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Named for their throaty howls that can be heard for up to three miles, howler monkeys are the loudest of all New World monkeys. There are nine species of howler monkey, and Costa Rica is home to the common mantled howler, which inhabit parts of southern Mexico, Central and South America. Howler monkeys usually vocalize at dawn and dusk by passing air through a specially-adapted hyoid bone in their large throats. The result is a deep, grunt-like call that resonates for miles. These vocalizations are used to mark territory and communicate with others within the troop. -

We also saw some black vultures eating something very smelly - looked like a bag of prawn heads.

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Black Vultures are often seen hovering in the sky looking out for carrion. With keen eyesight they can spot carcass from a very large distance but the scavengers have a poor sense of smell (maybe for the better).
Vultures are beneficial for performing sanitation duties but they also kill newborn or weakened animals, including sea turtle hatchlings.

At the end of Manzanillo is 'The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge' so we parked up the bikes, locked them up (apparently theft is rampart along this coastline) and went for a bit of a walk through the forest. We did not manage to see any wildlife except for a hermit crab that was crossing the path in front of us.

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It's supposed to be good surfing around here but we didn't see anyone in the water trying to catch a wave. Apparently it's pretty unforgiving and if you fall off your board there is a good chance you get smashed into the rocks and reef, so only for advanced surfers.

We walked to the lookout which displayed a rock formation in the water that we dubbed the 'One Apostle of Costa Rica!'

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The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is situated in one of the most stunningly beautiful regions of Costa Rica. Located just a few kilometres north of the Panama border in Talamanca County, this wildlife refuge protects some the region’s most endangered flora and fauna. Lying on the Caribbean coast of Limon province and bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east, this refuge is classified as a humid tropical rainforest and also looks after the only natural mangrove oyster beds found along the reefs of the coast.

Encompassing several rare habitats like a lowland rainforest, a wetland and a mangrove swamp, the Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo also safeguards the only orey and jolillo palm swamps in Costa Rica. This wildlife reserve is very important from an ecological point of view because it contains the only intact mangrove swamp in the Atlantic, and the primary lowland small rainforest found here is the only one of its kind in the region. A unique habitat, this reserve includes a 10 kilometre beach strip, a 740 acre forest, a coral reef and 2 swamps. The Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo is also the nesting area for several species of turtles, manatees, crocodiles, caimans, tarpons and dolphins. The turtle nesting season here lasts from March to May.

After our little walk there was not much else to do but start to head the 12km back to Puerto Viejo. The sky had cleared a little and now was showing blue and sun was beating down, so we thought a swim was in order before we started to pedal again. The sea was a lot more rough here than near where we are staying, but as I said this is a surf beach. We just went in deep enough to cool off but could already feel a bit of a rip dragging us out. There were signs everywhere on all the beaches we rode past warning of rips.

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Cooled off, we unlocked the bikes and set off back at a leisurely pace, no need to rush back. It was a lot warmer going back and we stopped several times to have a drink of water. By the time we reached town again it was mutually agreed a beer was in order and we stopped at nema bar again for an icy cold beer C1000 = A$2.35. Tried a different flavour today Pilsner, and not sure if it was because of the 12km we just rode in the heat but that beer tasted bloody fantastic! Oh yeah and we stopped on the way and bought a pineapple for C1000 = A$2.35.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing (ie recovering) and at 5 o'clock I made some cocktails with our freshly purchased pineapple, fresh coconut water, orange juice and some local rum that we bought yesterday at the supermarket. Gotta love an accommodation that supplies a blender!

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As I was on a roll I even cooked dinner, yes I know amazing! We had smoked pork chop with pineapple couscous!

Another good day, lets hope we can still both walk tomorrow after our big cycling effort today!

DAY 24 WEDNESDAY 1ST MARCH

pinch and punch for the first of the month!

We had a quiet day today, after breakfast we went for a bike ride in the opposite direction to yesterday which ended up going nowhere but to roads out of the area. We stopped at a supermarket and had an ice cream cause we had cycled 5km and I don't know about Lyn but I was feeling a little tender and leg sore from yesterdays effort.

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The road was scenic enough, forest on both sides, no sloth sightings, they are eluding us now. We did see lots of giant trees with birds nests handing from them. Mr Google advised me they belonged to Montezuma oropendola birds.

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We cycled the 5km back and went for a swim on our black beach to cool off. The waves were a lot stronger today, and the pull was pretty strong. We stayed in water shallow enough to be able to stand and tried not to get bowled over by the incoming surf. It was still nice having a swim in the sea but we both came out a kilo or so heavier with a load of black sand caught in our swimming togs. Ah well, good exfoliation for the skin, right?

After lunch we rode into town to the super market to buy supplies for the next 2 days as we are returning the bikes today. Since we have ridden in both directions it is not worth having them for another day. And to be truthful just those little rides I was saddle sore enough! We dropped the shopping back home and then returned to town to have a ride around the back streets. Puerto Viejo is a nice little place with only a handful of gridded streets. It has a hippy / surfy / trying to be rasta type vibe and the smell of cannibis hangs heavy in the air almost every where. I even noticed it in some of the cars that passed us on the road today while we were bike riding, some of them could have been straight out of a Cheech & Chong movie. Apparently there is a big drug culture here, not just marijuana but heavier stuff too, although we have not been approached. There is also a pretty high crime rate too, but thankfully this we have not encountered either. Maybe the fact we are not out at night or just that we are old, and too straight looking? who knows.

Riding around town took all of 15 minutes so then what better than to have a cold beer while looking out over the sea.

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After the beers we returned the bikes and walked back via the black beach. Stopping for another swim before heading back to our bungalow for showers, cocktails & chicken dinner that Lyn cooked.

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DAY 25 THURSDAY 2ND MARCH

Happy birthday Patrick.

It was raining when we woke up this morning. Not heavy rain, just a gentle steady shower - more a sprinkle- that lasted a few hours. No idea if it had rained during the night as well.

By 12 noon the sun was back out and heating us up as we walked the short distance into town. The ground did not even look wet anymore, the only evidence of any rain were a couple of shallow puddles by the side of the road, which I'm sure will be evaporated and dry before the late afternoon.

We walked to the bus station as we needed to purchase our bus tickets for tomorrow. The sneaky guy behind the counter tried to short change us C1000 but I went back and challenged him. He was too quick to get back the extra money so it was obvious he was trying to scam us. Mate you need to get up earlier than that to cheat us out of a price of a beer.

Speaking of which, it was time for a coldie and we found a nice seafront bar, the crazy lobster, that was advertising beer the same price as our usual so we thought we would enjoy the better view. Again we were served an icy cold beer, but when it came time to pay, pay we did. They added tax? and service charge so we figured we paid for the nicer view.

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Last visit to the supermarket for lunch supplies and we walked back home.

Late afternoon swim was our last dip in the ocean for a few weeks as we will be travelling inland for the next part of the itinerary. It was again a bit rough, actually surf was up and we only just managed to remain standing while collecting sand in our togs. Shower, last of our cocktail mix and Lyn cooked pork chops (my fav) for dinner. Bags repacked sometime before bed.

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We have had a great time here in Puerto Viejo, nice relaxing, as well as a bit of cycling. Swim in the sea, cold beers and home made cocktails. Tomorrow we have a 5-6 hour bus to San Jose and then another 1 hour on to Alajuela where we hope to meet up with our good mate Dolly who is flying in from the UK. You know, Lyn and I travel a lot together and inevitably spend a lot of time together, and it is amazing that we still have things to talk about. Most of the time it's just shit and sometimes we don't talk at all, which is ok too. But I think we will both agree it's nice to have another person along who can add to the shit we talk, so we are looking forward to seeing Miss Dolly.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:00 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged puerto viejo Comments (2)

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