Playa Del Cocos, Costa Rica
Saturday 5th May to Wednesday 9th May 2012.
Saturday 5th May
Our journey started at 8.30am with a bus from Altagracia to Moyagalapa (ferry port for Isla Ometepe). Caught the 10.30am ferry, which was cheaper than before and a not as new. The seats were old bus seats upstairs and just wooden seats downstairs. It was also fairly empty considering it was a Saturday. Next a taxi from San Jorge to Rivas, where the taxi driver sold us great deal, a taxi from Rivas directly to Penas Blancas border for $5 each and which would cut the journey down to just 30 mins instead of 90 mins.
Penas Blancas (white willy) is the most confusing and chaotic border we have so far been to, it looks like a market with no clear directions of what to do or where to go and lots of people being helpful if you trust them and pay them. Our taxi driver was quite helpful and pointed us in the right direction, we also seemed to hook up with a money changer lady who spoke some English and guided us to the correct forms and direction to both Nicaragua immigration and Costa Rica. There is along walk between the two so we took a rickshaw. All in all the border took us about 90mins to get across.
So we are back on our way, this time on a very nice public bus from the border to Liberia. There is a marked difference in the houses, people and cars. Costa Rica obviously has a better economy.
The journey took about 90mins and then the last change form Liberia to Play Del Cocos. Liberia has two bus stations with about 500 meters between them one for long distance buses and the other for local buses. Something we struggled to get our head around with our limited Spanish.
We eventually arrived at Playa Del Coco at 4.15pm in time to check out the dive shop and get to our accommodation. We were both very tired and aching from trekking yesterday.
The difference in the cost of living and standard of living between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is astounding. You can tell that Costa Rica has had a lot of American influence and input. We were paying about 2 and half times more for meals etc. in Costa Rica.
Booked into Hostel called Cabinas Coco Azul, Private double with fan and TV. Cost of $31 per night. The room was very stuffy even with the fan on, so didn't get much sleep. The bed also had a plastic mattress protector which didn't help matters when already feeling very hot.
At the dive shop we met up with a Dutch lady called Susan, who is also diving tomorrow so went to dinner together. We found a very nice and quite expensive fish restaurant.
Sunday 6th May
Andy diving today, it was 2 local dives i.e. near to the shore. He saw many reef sharks both large and small, Eagle Rays, Sting Rays and a turtle. I stayed at the hotel and just chilled, not coping very well with the heat today. There was a triathlon taking place on the beach so I had a wander down to take a look - rather them than me, swim, ride and then run in this heat Phew!!
We tried to find something typically Costa Rican for dinner but to no avail, we had a good Chinese.
Monday 7th May
Andy diving again today, this time to Catalina Island and hoping to see some very big fish. He returned very happy as he had managed 3 dives for the price of 2 and had seen a large Manta Ray, a Devil Ray, more Sting Rays and reef sharks. Visibility was sometimes poor but he had enjoyed himself.
I on the other hand had to sty near our room and wait for a plumber to arrive as the toilet flooded overnight. Just a simple replacement ball c*** is all that was needed but for some reason it took all day.
Tuesday 8th May
Andy was due to dive today but decided against it as it was expensive and the visibility not always good. I walked from one end of the beach to the other and swam in the sea, this took most of the afternoon.
We managed to find a local restaurant tonight for dinner and had some very tasty pork chops.
Tomorrow we travel to San Jose, the capital.
Wednesday 9th May 2012
We caught the early bus at 8am to San Jose, it takes about 5 hours and arrives at 12.45pm. It was a very comfortable journey with a different standard of coaches. The journey is very pretty through the mountains, the area is very fertile with many plantations and some wealthy people.
On arrival at San Jose we took a taxi to Hotel Casa Leon, where we had booked a double room ensuite at $30 per night bed and breakfast. The hotel is run by a Swiss man, it is very clean and comfortable with an orthopaedic bed - we are both looking forward to a good nights sleep. Although the hotel is right next to a railway line, we are assured the trains stop at 8pm and do not start again until 5.30am.
The hotel is about 10minutes walk to the centre of San Jose so we take a walk around. There are some pretty buildings but on the whole it is a very modern city as the old buildings have been destroyed by several earthquakes over time. There are several interesting museums, but we do not have the time or inclination today to visit them.
We manage to find a local restaurant or Soda as they are called and have the Dish of the day, quite reasonable and tasty.
Thursday 10th May
Breakfast the next day at the hotel was very good and set us up for the day ahead.
We had originally planned to stay for 2 days but San Jose has nothing to hold us and we decide to get further down the road to make life easier for ourselves in reaching Bahia Drake (Drake's Bay).
The Tracopa bus leaves at 8.30am to Palmer Norte and takes 6 hours. It heads through the Tolamanco Mountains, the Pan American Highway runs for 352km from San Jose to the Panamain border and reaches the heady heights of 3335m at 89km point. On clear days you can see views of the Pacific 50km away and the Atlantic 80km to the East. Unfortunately for us it was a cloudy day, but this in itself offered some astounding views driving through the clouds and out above them, it was very eerie at times.
We arrive at Palmar Norte at 2.45pm in between heavy rain showers. Check into a motel type accommodation called Cabinas Tico Aleman at $29 per night ensuite duble with A/c, TV and hot water showers. It is only 5 minutes walk from the small bus station too which is very handy.
We have a wander round the very small town and suss out where to eat tonight and where to get breakfast from in the morning before our next leg of the journey.
We both slept very well and actually didn't use the A/c during the night, in fact for the first time I needed a blanket.
Friday 11th May
Caught the bus at 9.30am to Sierpe, the journey takes 45minutes and crosses the Rio Grande de Terreba - which starts in the mountains and leads to the sea. At this point it is very big, with mangrove swamps and crocodiles. Sierpe is a small fishing town nestled on the River Sierpe, from here we take a river taxi for 75mins out to sea and to Bahia Drake (Drake's Bay).
Bahia Drake provides an entrance to the Osa Penisual and Parque Nacional Corcovvdo, famed for it's rich diversity of flora and fauna. In March 1597 Sir Francis Drake careered his ship here and so the bay is named after him. It is a popular destination for divers because of the nearby Isla Cano - good for sharks and Manta Rays.
We are dropped off on the beach and from there transported to our hotel 2.5km uphill and further into the rain forest. We stay at Finca Maresia for $40 per night B&B. The accommodation consists of luxury cabins on the hillside overlooking amazing views of the rain forest. We can hear Howler monkeys and see all manner of birds and creatures by day and night. There is a short cut to the beach down a muddy track which takes about 15minutes, but not advisable in the rain.
We took a walk down to the beach to orientate ourselves and find the dive company.
Dinner at the hotel 4 courses for $15 each and very high quality, tasty food and freshly cooked.
Rain and thunder storms - I guess we are in the Rain Forest at the beginning of the rainy season so we will have to get used to that.
Saturday 12th May
Andy Diving and Wendy snorkelling near Isla de Canos. I was a little nervous to start with as the boat dropped the divers off first and then us and was then going back to the dive site. There was a guide on the boat and he reassured me that everything would be ok and to take my time. Once in the water I gained my confidence again and was well away. I saw a White Tipped Reef Shark and an Eagle Ray which was very exciting. We also followed a large school, about 200 of Green Jacks. The water was warm which makes life better..
Andy had two good dives but he said visibility was not always so good.
We then had lunch and back to shore. Just as we were getting off the boat the heavens opened and we got wet. Luckily there was a taxi waiting to pick some other guests up from our hotel so we grabbed a lift.
We ate at the hotel again tonight as the food is good .
Sunday 13th May
Andy diving all day, as this is the low season he had to buddy up with other dive schools which took a little organising and they were all crammed into a small boat with equipment. This turned out to be the best diving yet in Costa Rica with numerous big oceanic Manta Rays in the water both above and below.
I went for a walk round the headland to find several bays. Some had very rocky shores and no ability to swim safely. The last one was good but the waves were very strong and caught me unawares and knocked me off my feet and I banged my leg and arm, a little scary as there was no-one else around and it could have been so much worse. I waited for Andy for a while but the weather was threatening rain and storms so headed back to the hotel.
We ate Sail Fish at Gringo Kurt's fish restaurant tonight. The food was very good but far too much of it.
Monday 14th May
Andy diving - two good dives to finish off our time in Drake;s Bay. The highlight being swimming over the top of the reef and finding 2 turtles and 5 sharks swimming around.
Wendy catching up with the blog etc. Rain on and of all day.
Tuesday 15th May
We were supposed to leave today but decided to stay a day longer to give us time to chill and plan our next journey. We spent the day watching the rain clouds and listening to thunder.
After dinner we had an impromptu nature tour and saw a poisonous snake eating a frog, red eye tree frogs and little spiders in the grass.
Next stop Boquete in Paanama