28. Aug, 2015

Adios Costa Rica

Last few hours in Costa Rica. 

We put the river incident slightly behind us, although it still haunted our daily thoughts, the what ifs and thank god fors...and headed for the dizzy heights of Costa Rica's capital San Jose in preparation for our flight to Ecuador.  

San Jose had an interesting feel. Busy, chaotic, industrial and full of people trying to get somewhere. Many U.S.  businesses, such as Panasonic and Chevrolet, had invested in Costa Rica along with hundreds of others,  http://costarica.com/documents/pdf/AmBusinesses%20inCR.pdf and as a consequence had flooded the city with many ex pats and some of their favourite places to eat and shop at - McDonald's and Walmart, to name a couple, advertised their wares on huge billboards.  This was not a city to visit unless you had business to do, as we later found out. Few museums, parks, lakes etc. and their national game of football was not really evident, except for the two huge stadiums. You would normally find children and adults alike playing it at every street corner, but not here.  

We had arranged to visit the British Embassy to relay our river incident in the hope that the risk of our incident happening to someone else was minimised. We learned from the Embassy that the same weekend we had capsized another boat too in the same region had hit a rock and one of the passengers was not so lucky and died as a result of their injuries and a child had been savaged by a crocodile, again in the same region as us, but the child's mother had managed to save them by distracting the reptile. It was important that our story was recorded given that BA and Thompson Holidays had just began to travel direct to this side of Costa Rica, meaning that Tortuguero was likely to increase its intake of visitors substantially. With no island official police or security, we believed things had to change quickly. Security into the embassy was very tight. Once through we arrived outside a door manned by a fully armoured guard who let us in. Both nations' flags and a recent picture of the queen adorned the walls of this sparse room. 4 handshakes, a statement and some light hearted talk later and we were on our way to our hotel - well ranch.  

Costa Rica really did costa lotta. We had paid more than $105.00 for just two short taxi rides, something that in the UK would have cost no more than £50.00. It wasn't just taxis that were expensive it was everything. Food, drink and activities would be price matched by any expensive UK vendor. Had the presence of the American's and their mighty dollar increased prices so much that they were out of the reach of your average Costa Rican?  One thing was for sure there was no obvious sign of wealth amongst the citizens of San Jose. There was the odd shabby or shiny new mall selling nothing of any use to anyone, no smart neighbourhoods or restaurants and people wore shabby casual clothes in the main.  

We always tried to get underneath the skin of a town or city by riding the local buses, eating at local restaurants, attending local events and activities and walking as opposed to getting a taxi. However, we never compromised on our accommodation. Our accommodation on the outskirts of San Jose was typical of what we had been staying in. Presented with a large beautifully furnished suite, a soothing jacuzzi for 2 and friendly front desk staff was Costa Rica's way of apologising for some of its abusive inhabitants. We instantly forgave them as we lay under a blanket of bubbles. We played tennis, used the gym, ate typical CR breakfasts and wandered the blocks in search of some local cuisine in the daytime or early evenings.  

Just around the corner hidden behind a car park lay a little known cafe where we could buy hot food. The bar tender was amused by us as we practised our Spanish. John fancied sampling a well known Latino drink called   Cachaça,      but could not pronounce it accurately. The barmaid giggled and giggled at us as we tried to explain his wish. Finger gestures, doodles, finger pointing at the bar and still we were out of luck. That was until a smartly dressed man appeared at John's side and explained in English that the barmaid wanted to get him a drink on the house, such was the entertainment we had provided. This gesture was relatively typical of many Costa Rican's. It was just unfortunate that the odd Costa Rican had forgotten the importance of putting people and not money first; especially taxi drivers!

Whilst in another local restaurant there was a lull in the music, so I played Duele el Amor, a song I had downloaded the night before and all of a sudden over the waves in the restaurant comes the same song! We did speak the same language!  http://youtu.be/Rwx9dl0p_cs All the Latino songs  are worthy of a hip shaking, shoulder hugging dance. I defy anyone to remain still upon hearing them. I was even moved to start dancing on the bus when played, much to the amusement of the passengers! Latin America = the home of dancing in the street, on the bus, at school, at your desk, in a queue  - you just can't be here and not dance. It reminded me how much I was  looking forward to returning to Argentina where dancing and music are so obviously in their blood. 

Beating John at pool was one of the highlights  of our stay at the ranch along with just lazing around and planning the next part of our trip. We headed towards the airport 2 days later. We hoped that the immigration and check in would be painless, unlike the previous one in Mexico. It was, in fact it was almost a pleasurable experience. You quickly gain confidence when you have you boarding pass in your hand and have cleared immigration. We joked and laughed about our recent adventures and fantasised about the next.  

Our Avianca flight took off on time. As someone who needs to be constantly occupied my iPad and computer were never far from side, but I also like to take advantage of anything else that was on offer to keep the twiddling thumbs at bay. I would read, listen to music, search for new music, blog,  listen to audio books, watch downloaded programmes from BBC Iplayer (I had subscribed to an identity cloaker which hides your location on the Internet so you can watch programmes from around the world)  and of course take advantage of  anything that was on offer that would entertain us. Avianca proved to be a better airline provider than AA in my opinion, efficient service, clean planes and smartly dressed hostess/hosts on the ground and in the air. I watched an episode of Friends on the plane The One Where Ross Gets a Tan.   http://youtu.be/1Qhj8TDAuKg.  I don't think my rip roaring laughter was appreciated, particularly at 12am! One thing we do in our family a lot is laugh and giggle. You will not be in my presence or John's or that of our children for more than 15 minutes without hearing laughter! However, this I understand is not always appreciated.  

We flew into Columbia and were met with a large and efficiently run airport. Naturally I looked for a decent camera as CR did not easily provide - food and travel to observe the ecosystems are the main source of income in CR. I tried to carry out a quick survey on which was the best camera to buy but the connection to the Internet was practically non existent. I had to take a risk on a well known brand for what I believed was a very good price. I hoped to at least have some memories of our visit other than the blurry ones my iPad was currently making. Onwards to Ecuador to snap away.