A Travellerspoint blog

Costa Rica

To Costa Rica

the worst 48 hours in a city ever!

I feel as if I really did not do any justice to Nicaragua or to Costa Rica. I saw merely the tourist attractions in my time in Nicaragua - volcano boarding down the active volcano was amazing, but it wasn't exactly an indigenous pastime, neither was Sunday Funday! I had plans to go to the cloud forest in Costa Rica after my time in San Juan del Sur but the bus drove us right on past and straight into the capital city of San Jose! When I say 'us', I am referring to a couple of kiwi boys I met on the bus that took us over the border. And whoaaa, what a border crossing too... After being stripped of our passports, we were left standing on the side of the road for hours...and hours... Thankfully, I met a local guy who helped me rig up my phone to get free internet for my entire time in Costa Rica which certainly kept me entertained... and able to help everyone to find accommodation since our arrival time to the big city was no longer mid afternoon and would be closer to midnight.
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He also entertained me (and the others with me translating) by telling crazy stories of all the drug busts and raids that happen at the borders. He couldnt understand our disappointment at not seeing anything exciting when he told us that just the day before, 18 Mexicans had been involved in a shootup with the immigration police when they were busted carrying 16 kilos of cocaine strapped to each of their bodies. He laughed and said how he had heard people from New Zealand were crazy, but that we needed to trust him it was lucky we were crossing on a good day. It felt like we were waiting forever out in the hot sun for someone to stamp the huge pile of passports. Everyone was freaking out and nobody seemed to speak Spanish as we were all traveling across the border in the VIP way - the expensive intercity bus rather than by local transport. I didnt want to have to pay the intercity bus price (nearly $50USD) but I had heard it was safer when traveling alone across central American borders so I followed the advice and did it anyway. And jokes aside, I was glad after hearing all of the scary stories from the locals I spoke to at the border!
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Finally we got our passports back and were then delivered to a different immigration building where there were actual x-ray scanners and officers who seemed official - Welcome to Costa Rica. The difference between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was very obvious. The landscape did not differ so much, but the official-ness, the quality of the roads and buildings was far more 1st world, and there was very very little trash anywhere. The Kiwi boys and I found a hostel and checked ourselves in for the night. We went and grabbed a midnight feast for dinner and I was up early the next day for an adventure around the city of San Jose.
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I managed to find two girls at the hostel who were keen to go on an adventure. They needed help with Spanish to get simcards for their phone and to organise a few things as they had both just arrived from overseas. So off we went together and explored a little bit of the capital city.

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I was constantly impressed by the lack of trash everywhere, the trash cans for recycling, and the almost 1st world like functioning of the city. However, with these things also came the 1st world attitude that I had forgotten existed after a year in the 3rd world. Why couldn't I get a free cup of coffee with my breakfast? Why can't I cross the street whenever I want and just blow a kiss at the traffic who all stop to whistle for me as I pass? Why can't I get two for the price of one because you like my smile? Why must I follow the hostel rules and take my luggage with me for the day? In fact, this last problem caused me to have a screaming fight with reception as the WORST hostel in the history of my travels refused to watch my luggage despite saying they have a store room on their website. I was so mad. I ended up having to pay a separate hostel to watch my bag and to take me to the airport in a private tour shuttle to avoid carrying my bags around for 16 hours. They offered me a night in their hostel at an extortionate rate and then almost scoffed at me when I said no, I would prefer to sleep on the airport floor than pay $30USD to sleep in their hostel for 5 hours. Ooooh was I mad! I just couldn't understand why everything was the price that the sticker said. Or why the receptionists could not break the rules. I have not been met with such ridiculous rules and stubborness over following the system in... well, a year! And it was awful! Everywhere I went, people were in lines and the men would not let the women in front. Shops closed at closing time and not when there were no more customers (I tried to get my hair washed and blow dried but noooooo, no more customers after 30 minutes before closing time) and buses counted exact change and said no if we didnt have the right change! I couldn't believe it, and felt myself desperately missing the wave of a kiss and a giant smile bringing happiness to myself and people around me. I missed the slow pace of life, the easiness of waiting in a line when everyone around becomes an instant friend.

Anyway, we found ourselves walking through art galleries and eating in overprices cafes where we had real coffee (without UHT milk and 5000 teaspoons of sugar), and in our destination of the Costa Rican butterfly sanctuary. The butterflies were so pretty and of all different shapes and colours.

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We saw giant turtles and watched movies about how the wildlife in Costa Rica is so cared for and how they would be the first country in the world to close down every single zoo. I found myself suddenly wishing desperately that I had more money so that I could see more of Costa Rica and it's famed wildlife, but i knew it would just have to wait. I figured it wouldn't matter that it was expensive and a country that followed the rules of society - it was clean and it was beautiful and they followed environmental procedures that I truly believed in.
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We headed to a mall - that turned out to be the largest mall I have EVER been to in my life. It was absolutely huge, and 4 hours was not enough to do even a lap of the entire place! I picked up a few 1st world things that I knew I would want from. I just remember feeling lost and afraid by the extreme consumerism that accompanied living in 1st world conditions. My credit card was trembling with desire, and I was trembling with fear so we made a hasty exit to where I fare-welled the girls and found refuge in a local market where I binged on street food and squabbled over prices of second hand goods - felt like home again!
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I managed to get out of the city and to the airport in my overpriced shuttle, where I then had my final fight with the Costa Rican system - and lost. I was forced to buy an exit ticket out of the Dominican Republic or they wouldn't allow me to board my flight. Oh how I tried to fight, I tried to flutter my eyelashes, I tried to scam and show a fake ticket, but there was nothing more that I could do - I was forced to charge my credit card with a $250 flight to Puerto Rico that I knew I would never use. After more research, I have descovered that Costa Rica is the only airport in Latin America that does this to everyone and the way to get out of it only requires simple pre-planning... I stormed through immigration, realising that I had wasted the money I could have used to see sloths and gone ziplining in the cloud forests, drank all the free coffee and ate the free chocolate in the gift shops, and then refused to spend another cent in the extortionately overpriced country that seemed to want to do nothing but suck up to the man himself.

I'm sure the country is lovely out of the city, and I wish I could have had the opportunity to find this out for myself. I have never been a fan of any cities, and it was a shock to be thrown into an (almost) 1st world lifestyle without warning. However, it was most definitely time to return to my Caribbean island, with all its charms, flaws, and 3rd world problems - and to my Billy.

Posted by chasingsummer 14:04 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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