What a crazy day! Yes, again.
I knew it was time to go back to Costa Rica. I had been everywhere I wanted to go in Nicaragua and with a week left to go, heading back South made sense since I am flying out from San José.
I just didn’t know where to go in Costa Rica. I didn’t want to go to the highlands where the weather is cold and I didn’t want to go anywhere remote because traveling around is a pain in the butt in Costa Rica. I kept on reading my travel guide but I simply couldn’t make a decision.
“I’ll figure it out after crossing the border,” I thought.
I got up early in Granada. From there, I took the bus to Rivas, the local hub. From Rivas, I shared a collectivo with two backpackers from Austria and we arrived at the border around 10:30 a.m. I went through the usual process: paying the first exit fee ($1), the second exit fee ($2), filling out the immigration form, getting my exit stamp from Nicaragua, walking to the other side of the border, filling out the other immigration form and getting my entry stamp to Costa Rica. Fortunately, this time no one noticed that my passport didn’t have the required six-month validity period but I was asked to show my plane ticket out of the country.
All that took about an hour and I still wasn’t sure where to go. The easy Plan A was to head to Liberia, Costa Rica’s first big city and bus to the Pacific Coast from there. Problem is, the only beaches around are expensive and mainly cater to gringos—yes, Tamagringo… ahem, Tamarino, I mean you. I could live with it—a nice beach is a nice beach, right?—but I wasn’t too excited by the prospect of staying in an expensive part of the country.
That’s when the two Austrian backpackers mentioned that they had enjoyed Montezuma. Montezuma? Hey, why not?
Montezuma—or “Montefuma” as locals call it, from “fumar”, “to smoke” in Spanish—is a laid-back beach town at the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Feng and I were there in 2001 but I didn’t remember it much (no, we didn’t partake, it’s just that it’s been a while!).
I didn’t have the time to think much. The San-José-bound bus was about to leave. “How long to Puntarenas?” I asked the grumpy driver. “Tres horas,” he said. I mentally completed the sentence: “… Más o menos.”
Three hours. Okay, it was 11:30, that would mean the bus would drop me off in Barranca, at the junction of the Panaméricana and highway 23, around 2:30. Then, I had to take the bus to Puntarenas, jump on the ferry to the Nicoya peninsula and take a bus to Montezuma.
Doable. Long, but doable. My main worry was to arrive early enough to find a place to stay for the night. Worst case scenario, I thought, I’ll spend the night in Puntarenas and take the ferry the following day.
Off I went. I didn’t even have the time to use the bathroom or eat anything before boarding the bus. Fortunately, I had some water with me and I had brought a few empanadas (I have a slight empanada-addiction problem…) and sweet breads from Nicaragua.
I dozed on and off on the bus, only waking up for the various police checks to show my passport.
At 2:30, we weren’t even close to Barranca.
The bus finally dropped me off at 3:45. I waited for another ride to Puntarenas on the side of the highway. At 4:30, I was downtown Puntarenas.
“What time does the ferry leave?” I asked around. 5 p.m. Could I make it? I didn’t feel like wasting the night in Puntarenas since I had made it that far.
I bought my ticket and jumped on the ferry, where I watched the sunset from the upper deck, perfectly aware that I was committing the number one travel mistake backpacker make—arriving in a new place after dark without a plan and without a reservation.
The bus to Montezuma met the ferry at 6:30. “Alright,” I thought. “It’s not so bad. Only 25 kilometres or so to the village.”
But I had somehow forgotten that here, in Costa Rica, actual distances don’t really matter. It can take two hours to drive 20 kilometres—and it did.
At 7:50, the driver decided to stop in some small town along the way. “A ten-minute stop,” he said.
Twenty minutes later, we were still there and three different people had asked me if I wanted weed. “Dude, I want a shower, a meal and a bed, in that order!” I wanted to scream.
Finally, the bus driver showed up again and asked us, the four remaining passengers, to switch bus. I’m still not sure why we did and at this stage, I didn’t give a damn.
Thirty minutes later, we pulled into Montezuma’s parking lot. It was 9 p.m. and it was pitch dark. I bolted off the bus and almost ran to the first hostel I saw and, lucky me, they had one room left. Food was a bit more problematic since most places were closed (Montezuma is a tiny village) but I managed to find a restaurant opened and I had fajitas.
On the way back from the restaurant, I couldn’t help checking out the beach, just a few meters from my hostel. The moonlight was reflecting on the sea—the scenery was beautiful.
Maybe Montezuma was a good pick, after all.
You can see the complete set of Costa Rica on Flickr.