This past weekend I was finally able to experience a bit of the Costa Rican culture I have been looking forward to for months. I traveled with a group of students from my university to the little beach town of Montezuma on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It was the Friday after our first set of exams and we were all ready to set the books aside and hit the road. So we grabbed our backpacks and taxied to the bus station.
The first bus ride was just over three hours and the next step was to get on a ferry. We passed several beautiful islands and had incredible views of the mangroves, of which none of our pictures did justice. Part three of the journey was to get back on the original bus for an hour and a half, then transfer to a final bus for the last half hour. By the time we checked in to the Pura Vida Hostel, it was past 9pm and we were so glad to be there. I fell in love with the place before I even saw it in the daylight.
Day 1: We woke up and went to the beach – of course! We didn’t get there until 9am so we only had a bit of time to enjoy the sunlight before the clouds rolled in, but even then it was beautiful. But come 11 we were ready for adventure. We grabbed some food, put on our hiking boots and headed toward one of the waterfalls for which the town is well known. We’d known it was going to be a challenging and slippery hike, but what we weren’t expecting was forging through a raging river, waist deep at points, to get there. But we made it! And when we got there we swam, or tried to, and took too many pictures. There’s something so wonderful about sitting on a rock, surrounded by jungle with the sound of a pounding waterfall the only thing you can hear. It reminds you how amazing and powerful the world is and you can’t help but smile.
Day 2: Because the sun rises earlier here and the mornings are the best weather of the day, I got up at 6:30am and got started walking around and exploring past the main street into the surrounding village. With local fruits in hand I walked until I felt I should probably go check in with my friends since no one was up when I left. After lunch, however, came the highlight of the weekend. Three of us took a 3 1/2 hour horseback riding tour led by a 19 year old Tico (the word used to describe locals) along the beach. We were galloping along shores that were nearly untouched besides the occasional backpacker who made his way out that far. Only three houses exist on this part of the peninsula and the only way to get anywhere is by ATV or horse. We made it down to another waterfall and topped off the break with fresh pineapple. Galloping full speed ahead along the ocean was quite possibly one of the happiest moments of my life. So freeing, exhilarating, new and beautiful.
Day 3: Another early morning wake-up call and we were heading to the beach at 7:30am. One of my favorite things about traveling is I end up surrounded with like minded people seeking the same sense of adventure. We met two German guys in Costa Rica to surf, and three German girls backpacking through Latin America. So our six German friends and the three of us became best friends for the day and ventured on a thirty minute walk to a different beach.
The waves were giant – great for surfing, awful for swimming. We spent the morning relaxing and enjoying our last day together on the stone clad beach. Some were doing Acro Yoga, some were reading, some were dozing in the hammock and then a Tico man climbed up a palm tree, chopped off some coconuts and brought them over to us. We cracked them open on trees and drank the coconut water from inside. I can’t imagine a better way to end the weekend. Unfortunately it was time to pack up and head out.
Our final stretch to get back to San Jose was much more of an adventure than we had anticipated. Bus one was a success. Bus two was full so we had to somehow find a way back on bus one to get to the ferry. Because we weren’t on the coach buses we took to Montezuma, we had to carry all of our stuff all day as well. Bus three was also full so we took a taxi to another bus station to catch a different one. When we finally made it to San Jose, our last step was to take a taxi home. By the time my housemate and I got back, our host family was in bed, but our Mama Tica left us two plates of dinner on the table to heat up because she is the kindest Mama Tica there is. A perfect example of the people of this culture.
It’s safe to say my time here has thus far been a great cultural experience and leaves me hungry for more adventure. Stay tuned!