Travel Days and Hostel Challenges

We’ve discovered the hardest part of traveling. Turns out it’s the part where you actually travel.

Travel Day- Punta Uva to Monteverde (12 hrs)

I don’t remember which day it was last week that we left Punta Uva (on the east coast) to head towards the rain forests of Moneteverde, but I do remember us standing on the side of the road at 7 am and flagging down a bus headed for San Jose. The trip to San Jose was 4 1/2 hours on an exceptionally warm and rickety bus. Once back at the San Jose bus terminal we waited 2 1/2 hours for the next golden chariot that would take us another 4-5 hours to Monteverde.

“How is it possible for a bus to go any slower than this?” is what I was thinking as our bus ached up the mountain. Sure the bus was packed to capacity, but I thought those big diesel engines had a little more umph. We started this day’s travel shortly after sun-up. The sun was now setting and we were still inching up this beautiful, but painful hill.

I understand that bus drivers are not eager to race around on these unpaved and rocky streets. Charging through the streets too aggressively would surely take precious years off of the life of their mealtickets. As it is, these buses seem to last for decades. One bus we took had a Ghostbusters II sticker on it right next to the Gracias Por No Fumar sign.

Here in Costa Rica, we have yet to travel on a bus with a/c. Okay, I’ll admit it’s not truly needed, but I still thought we might find a chilled bus every now and then. Leg room has been similarly hard to find. Bus seats range from forever-worn fabric to hard-plastic school-bus style. Some buses have been standing room only while others almost vacant. Any of these combinations of discomforts makes traveling by bus arduous at best.

Travel Day- Monteverde to Santa Teresa (9 hrs)

Getting from Monteverde to Santa Teresa made for an even more entertaining travel day than the last. We came down the green mountain slowly, but slowly, starting this time at 6 am. We boarded a “public bus” which meant frequent stops as locals commuted to and from their jobs. Our stops and starts ended 3 hours later when we arrived into Puntarenas and were dropped off near the ferry that would take us across the Gulf of Nicoya. I said the bus left us “near” the ferry. We still had to grab a taxi from the bus stop to the ferry port. It was only about a mile, but it was also humid-hot and we were loaded down with 25 lbs (each) of our worldly possessions.

The hour and 45 minute wait for the next ferry was a sweaty and gritty affair. Thankfully, once on board we enjoyed some cool-blowing a/c. The ride across the bay was about 1 hour and 10 minutes long and very enjoyable. (Ferry rides are always awesome!) 20130819-194558.jpg

Waiting for us on the other side was….wait for it….ANOTHER BUS! Two hours later we exited that bus only to board our third bus for the day. This last was a 30 minute rib cage rattler for sure.

Here’s the recap: bus, taxi, ferry, bus, bus. Oh the joys of traveling the world (on a budget).

By the way, not all travel days are created equal. Our most recent travel day was close to glorious. The highlight was a 1 hour water-taxi ride from Montezuma to Jaco. It was a perfectly beautiful day and we couldn’t resist smiling the entire time.

It’s a Hostel Life

As Jessica and I laze around our present hostel, we see a sparsely appointed row of single-level little rooms. The motif is country-Spaniard (I just made that up); mustard-colored walls with white trim are accented by barred windows. There is a garden area in front of the rooms that is pleasant enough- trees and bushes with 5 or 6 hammocks strung between them and big reddish-black squirrels occasionally scampering about.

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Our room has two beds in it. There is nothing on the walls except for two crudely assembled wooden shelves. Our original room (the one we had reserved online) did not have a/c, but we decided to splurge an extra $5/night and upgrade to a room with a/c. Best decision we ever made, btw.

One of the least attractive aspects of this hostel is the short walk from the main road to the hostel’s entrance. It feels like you are walking down a back-alley. There is trash littered about. Once you enter the hostel compound, you’ve made it.

It’s the Little Things

Almost every hostel we’ve been in has been lacking in some key way. At the Walaba hostal in Punta Uva we were thankful to have two electric fans in our room. However, one of the two (the one I nicknamed The Red Baron) was so loud (like an airplane) that it drowned out virtually any other sound in the environment…including the howler monkeys.

In our most recent hostel, I was using the stove to warm dinner when the propane gas went out. I notified the staff and he promptly ran down to the corner store to buy another tank. I saw him return with the good-sized white canister hoisted onto his back. Within 15 minutes I was back in business. The below picture is from a previous hostel, but the kitchens look roughly the same in all of them.

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With the exception of the water in Monteverde, we have not been drinking it from the tap. This means we’re spending at least $3/day on water alone. We ARE assuming the tab water is fit for brushing our teeth, but not always. At the Walaba Hostel, we were at least provided bottles for that purpose.

I wanted to divulge these travel challenges not as a matter of complaint, but because if you only see the romance and glamour of the photos, the total picture is incomplete. We are enjoying ourselves. We know that every bus ride, every annoying delay, and even every lumpy hostel bed is all part of the greater experience. Believe me, we are grateful every single day that we are able to do this.

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