Untouched beauty of the Pacific
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
I was picked up at exactly 8.35am!
Wow! And began the drive out of the city, past the airport and industrial areas and into the winding roads of the countryside. Over countless rivers, past small fruit stalls, small wooden reindeer-type-animal stalls and through small villages. It took two hours to reach the seaside town of Puntarenas.
The town was bustling with people, lots of shops and people catching buses! To get across to the Nicoya peninsula, you can drive all the way around, or take a short ferry across the water. So onto the ferry!
It was a large car ferry, but not too busy. We pulled away from the dock at 11am and began our way, slowly across the glistening flat water.
Large pelican type birds were circling and diving into the water, small fishing boats zooming around us and the small islands of the peninsula gradually got closer. The peninsular was covered in small, secluded beaches, deserted, covered in forest and with palms hanging over them – so beautiful!
It took just over an hour to get to the other side and then back into a new van for the last part of the drive.
This drive was so beautiful. Untouched forest. Flowers absolutely everywhere. Cattle fields. Papaya, mango, coconut, guava, so many tropical fruits. And I spotted some bright orange squirrels sitting up in a tree. Hardly any people around – just small villages. Amazing.
It was 2pm by the time we reached the small town of Santa Teresa. This is quite a hippy, backpacker town and is famous for surfing. The small row of shops were quite telling – some banks, a pet shop, a couple of surf shops and a load of vegan restaurants! Yay!
Here I am staying with a friend that I lived with in Borneo. The same girl that I stayed with last time I came to Costa Rica! We met for lunch at the bakery. Wow the food was amazing! I had a green juice – with lime and mint – delicious. And the best salad – beetroot, carrot, coriander, cranberries, walnuts and sunflower seeds – it was just so good!! We then drove about 20 minutes north of Santa Teresa to the next beach area of Manzanillo.
Here there was just nothing. Jungle. Beach. Amazing.
There is a rule that you cannot build within 50 meters of the high tide line. And people obey it! So from the beach all you can see is jungle. No hotels, no beach bars. Just trees. It is so untouched. And it is so beautiful!
We wandered along the beach for ages, across sand, rocks, small rivers. The sun was beginning to set and we could see a storm approaching! I had only brought my camera and nothing else – so wasn’t too happy when we were suddenly caught in a downpour! So we ran back up to the road, soaking.
Their house was a further couple of minutes up into the jungle. In the middle of the jungle, with the most amazing view, through the trees, out to the ocean. The rest of the evening was spent sitting out on the porch, enjoying wine and cheese, and the sounds of the jungle.
Sunday 2 November 2014
I woke early this morning, 6am and I had just missed sunrise. But the garden was glowing green and I had a wander around.
Banana trees, papaya, mango, hibiscus flowers, passion flowers, green orange trees…the list is endless. It was so beautiful. Parakeets flying overhead, a toad living on the porch and the jungle sounds. Like a dream. After a lazy morning, eating granola and fruits, playing with the baby, we headed off for a long walk.
It was about 10 minutes downhill to the beach. The view across the forest to the sea was amazing. As we came up over a small hill, it became visible and I cannot describe how beautiful it was. Miles upon miles and miles and miles of untouched, pristine sand, jungle and mountains.
No man made structures in sight. The tide was high, so not much beach. Instead we walked (slowly as I kept getting stuck in the mud!) along the dirt track road. A couple of people passed us. But no cars. Palms lined the beach, mangroves and small streams, large trees and flowering buses. Just everything so green.
After a while, we turned off onto the beach and then into a jungle walk! We saw so many amazing trees, some covered with spikes, some with luminous green veins, fungi and mushrooms, fruits that I have never seen before and several different types of Gapacho tree. The fruits of this tree seem to grow right out of the trunk and large branches, and are various shapes from perfectly round, to teardrop shapes and are used to make maracas!
At every turn there was something beautiful to look at. A peek through the trees to the ocean, amazing trees, driftwood, mangroves. Just never ending, untouched beauty. I cannot describe it. The jungle path opened out into a larger dirt track and we headed through a small village (village being about 5 houses!). Everyone was friendly and offered a friendly ‘hola’ as we passed by.
One more turn and we were back on the beach. Playa Hermosa. This is where a lot of people come to surf – and it was certainly a lot busier! Still, can’t have been more than 50 people there. But even despite the people, it was still beautiful. And it was here that I had my first swim in the Pacific Ocean!
It was fairly wavy and not conducive to swimming! So we just bobbed around, getting knocked over by the large waves! It was fun. After a while in the water, we continued our walk down the beach. After passing the small number of surfers, again it was just us, no one else around! We spotted some howler monkeys up in the trees, one had a baby! But no loud noises from them today!
We had been walking for about 3 hours when we decided to turn around and head back. It was getting pretty hot, and I was quite tired after such a long walk! But after about 20 minutes of heading back, a friend drove past and we managed to get a lift into the main town of Santa Teresa!
As it is low season, a lot of cafes and restaurants are closed. We popped into the organic supermarket and picked up some pipos frios (cold coconuts!!) 500colones each (60p) and enjoyed those whilst looking for a restaurant! I also bought a mango (huge!), avocados and the most delicious smelling sweet pineapple and was so excited about trying that! We finally stopped at a burger place – I had a vegetarian ‘burger’, which was more like a falafel – but it was tasty!!
Then we headed back to the house (in the car!). We watched the sunset tonight from the terrace.
The colours were amazing – pinks, reds, purples. The whole sky was lit up like fire.
And again, rather than any dinner, we sat on the porch and cut up the pineapple! I’ve never had a pineapple like it! So sweet and tasty. Costa Rica is famous for its pineapples! But they taste nothing like the imported ones that we get in England.
After a long, tiring, but amazing day. Time for bed!
Monday 3 November 2014
I managed to sleep until 8am this morning, that kind of caught me off guard! The latest sleep I’ve managed so far!! I made some porridge, topped with some many tropical fruits, I missed the kitchen (for that whole week that I’ve been away….), so that was fun! And we sat outside (as usual!) in the beautiful jungle.
We headed out for a walk again, this time going in a different direction – North up the beach. It was the same. Just amazing. After about half an hour, we ran into a river and could go no further.
The river just popped out of the trees, with shallow mangroves and looked so clear and refreshing. We spent a while sat on the sand, watching hermit crabs swapping shells and vultures swooping overhead. Until it suddenly became dark and began to rain! That was the signal to return home! Half an hour later, we were back. Soaking and covered in sand. A quick shower later and we made a late lunch.
This may sound odd. But I have never made guacamole. I’ve tasted it, pre-made in a packet in England and it tastes awful. So today I was taught the correct way of doing it. And wow it was delicious!! Avocado, tomato, chilli, salt, pepper and lime. So simple. And with some lentils and rice. Yum!
After our very late lunch, we headed down in the car to Santa Teresa for a wander around and to watch the sunset from the beach. This beach was a little bit more busy than the northern beaches, I could maybe see a total of about 20 people…! The sunset was lovely. Not as good as yesterday, but I always love a sunset!
After that, we headed to a beach bar – banana beach for some mojitos! We had dinner at a pizza restaurant – you can be miles and miles from Italy and still get delicious pizza!! Time for bed. My final evening in this amazing place.
Tuesday 4 November 2014
So sad to be leaving today. But after making some mango porridge, we headed off at 7am for the 90 minute bumpy ride across to the eastern side to the peninsula to catch the 9am ferry back to Puntarenas.
We were so close, one final turn in the road to reach the ferry terminal and the road was blocked. A lorry and a car had crashed into each other and were refusing to move. We couldn’t get past.
So we missed the ferry. Frustrating. The next ferry – 1pm.
A 4 hour wait!!
So we made the most of it, we sat in (basically someone’s front garden!) under a mango tree watching the chickens run around. Then moved to the small beach. Then further up the hill and found a small cafe on the water. On the way we spotted the smallest little bright green hummingbird – so cute!
At the cafe we shared some chips and black beans – typical Costa Rican food and were so good! At least the view was nice and it was such a small area that we were still in the middle of the jungle. A turkey vulture was sat in the trees right next to us – and actually had a head that looks like a turkey!
And finally it was 1pm and time to be heading on to the ferry. It was an hour back to the other side. I thought I saw a whale. It turned out to be a whale shaped log… It was 2.30pm when we were finally driving off the ferry. (We should have already been in San Jose by now!!).
Driving out of Puntarenas, the sky was full of magnificent frigate birds – with their split tail fins. Enroute we stopped off in Orotina – along the sides of the roads were stalls upon stalls, seemingly forever, of fruit!! Mangos the size of my head, avocados a similar size (!), rambutan (my favourite!), pineapples, water apples, guava, guanabaya, fruits I’ve never seen before. Wow. It was amazing!!
Here they are also famous for a sugared grapefruit. I didn’t try that. And dehydrated bananas – literally a whole banana dried, but still very squidgy. They were delicious!! I bought a few things – couldn’t resist, but really should have got more!! The last section into San Jose was slow. So much traffic.
We stopped off in the suburbs in a really nice shopping and restaurant area for a while, before continuing. By now it was dark. The roads are scary enough in the day time – seemingly no rules, cars undertaking, overtaking, making up a third lane along the middle of a two lane road, driving so close to you. At night, it was even worse!!
But we made it unscathed, finally at 6.30pm. Almost a 12 hour journey for what should have taken just 5 hours!! Tonight I am staying in a hotel and joining a tour group which runs down to Panama City. I was late. But never mind.
I had to wave goodbye to my friends and baby and meet all the new people. We headed out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant (!).