Saturday, 25 March 2017

Tortuguero, Costa Rica – Days 188 to 191

Enjoying a fresh juice in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan
So three one night stands are now over, thank goodness. The first doesn't really count as it was back to Panajachel and our luggage, so it felt quite comfortable, our beer was chilling in the fridge ready for our rooftop drinkies, so just to get a packet of crisps then!

Our Canadian friend was being cooked for by some fellow guests who were also plying her with wine, so we had a very entertaining conversation. In the process discovering she had dollars but no quetzals and we had far too many quetzals left. 
Euro Hostel inside the gated area at Guatemala City Airport
Storing away this piece of information till the following morning after dinner, breakfast and planning lunch we offered a currency exchange. This was fine till B counted the dollars in his wallet and found 280 not 180, had she given him too much or was the 100 not in his case as he thought but in his wallet? I left him very grumpily unpacking while I dashed off to get lunch. She had given him $100 too much, so really glad he checked!

And they had parrots that would say 'Hola' beautifully!
Our shuttle arrived, fortunately, as we'd booked it with the man in San Pedro we booked sunrise with, well he threw in the price of the launch across the lake making him by far the best deal, sadly going via Antigua, they all did, until we stopped at a fuel station and palmed off the only girl going to Antigua onto another bus behind us so we could go straight to Guatemala City. Much better!

View from the aircraft as we flew over Antigua and could see Volcan Fuego erupting below us
The cathederal in the main Plaza at Alajuela, Costa Rica
The hotel there was as expected, on a secure gated community, man with big truncheon on the door, but what we wanted. A shop round the corner sold a beer and an onion to go with the last tin of tuna we were left by Roxanne and Darrel (thanks guys) and we got a good nights sleep. Till the morning when we put a random assortment of clothes in our hand luggage "just in case". We don't normally do this, though perhaps we should, but B had got me really wound up about this flight! I watched our cases being loaded onto the plane so at that point we could relax. 

Inside the Cathederal
Huge queue at immigration in Costa Rica mostly comprising US teenagers, hope we don't see them again! Luggage, ATM, taxi, hostel. Great. Until B went to open his case, to find the padlock missing. On opening it up it was obvious that the whole case had been gone through. We have everything in drybags, for the obvious reason, and to keep things segregated and compressed. These had all also been opened and carrier bags that were in them, left out and tied up. So far he hasn't found anything missing, so our suspicion is that something about the bag of leads and GPS upset somebody watching the X-Rays so they thought they'd have a look! Shame they didn't have one of the special keys to allow them to open and replace the lock rather than chopping it off and throwing it in the bin, but as we'd both assumed the worst, that that is all that is missing is a huge relief!

The dome of the cathederal. From the outside it looks like corrugated iron
Another slightly strange hostel, but very friendly people. We thought we were going to miss out on breakfast, but due to a planned power outage, they were starting early  at 06.30 so we were in luck? Our host had suggested that to get to the bus station in San Jose for our 09.00 bus we would be much better off taking a taxi, rather than a bus and then a taxi between bus stations, so after a sharp intake of breath at the quote of $30 we agreed, and left with his mate at 07.00, despite work on the bridge we got to the bus station at 07.50, but much better early than late, bearing in mind that to get to Tortuguero involves two buses and a boat, so missing the bus would have been a real problem. 
Loading the luggage onto the boat at the dock
The two buses and a boat, with a journey time of just over five hours cost less for the two of us than the 45 minute taxi ride, but that's so often the way. It all went remarkably smoothly and we didn't even have to walk the 500m between bus stations as they have worked out many tourists do this journey so he stopped there first. We arrived at the dock and there was my name on a board, I was expecting this when we got off the boat, but very nice to see it then too. An hours boat ride along canals through the jungle, seeing two crocodiles on the way brought us to our destination, a tiny village with fresh water canals on one side, the Caribbean on the other and jungle all around.

Heres an empty boat, like the one we were on
It's hot and sticky, though does seem to be cooling for evening, the jungle noises are amazing and we don't seem to be plagued by mosquitos. It's going to be a hard 4 nights 3 days!




Reflections on Guatemala:

Felt safer and more comfortable than I expected, but we did only go to the tourist hotspots.

Wasn't as cheap as we expected.

Got a bit fed up of people trying to take advantage, the lovely lady with the tiny kittens who wanted 15Q for a juice, until the raised eyebrow when it went to 10Q and the man in the shop who wanted 15Q for a packet of crisps we'd paid 4Q for on the other side of the lake who also got the raised eyebrow and dropped to 5Q.

The fantastic textiles and beadwork in the southern part of the country.

Loved the cooler temperatures.

And heading off down the river in the rain
And in no time we saw a crocodile

It really was!!

 A short video of the river trip
And then there was another crocodile

This was our route down the river out to the Caribbean Sea
And this was the road journey from Alajuela, through the Capital, San Jose and out to La Pavona, where we left the bus and followed the river route above
And here it is a bit further out just to give it some clarity
Finally arriving at out destination after a really nice little adventure
The balcony of our hotel room for 4 nights, surrounded by jungle on an island with no cars
With a little swimming pool that we've yet to try out (it was raining when I took this photo)
And just outside is a team of very industrious ants chopping up leaves and carrying them into a hole in the ground - constantly, all day and evening. How big is the hole under ground?

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