So a few months ago I noticed that plane tickets to San Jose, Costa Rica were pretty cheap- $250 with taxes from Washington, DC. I figured why not, I could go for a few days over Thanksgiving break. I was in Costa Rica with my family for 10 days in December 2006, and had a great time, save for getting a pretty serious food-borne illness at the end of the trip. Nonetheless, I wanted to go back and practice speaking Spanish since, after all, I am going to be living in Equatorial Guinea next semester. To make a long story short, a friend agreed to book the tickets with me on short notice and I pretty much forgot about it until the week before we left.
The capital city isn't very spectacular and I would imagine is pretty tame for Central America. However, it is still a developing country and there are constant reminders of this- prostitution, homelessness, drugs, petty crime, etc. For that reason I didn't really wander around with my extremely conspicuous camera taking pictures of everything. Not that I didn't feel safe, I just thought it would be a bad idea to call attention to myself. Plus, there wasn't too many picture-worthy scenes to be found- San Jose is pretty much an urban hellhole, although it does have a few decent parques and an avenida central with shops and whatnot. I was particularly disappointed by the presence of KFC, Papa Johns, Etc. The following picture sums up the downtown area of the city.
We stayed in a hostel that was nothing short of a military compound, as almost every business or household is barb-wired to the teeth. Seguridad is a serious issue throughout Costa Rica, especially in urban areas. One thing that did surprise me was the existence of a vegetarian restaurant (one of three supposedly in San Jose) with excellent jugo de guanabana y hamburguesas vegetarianas. Cheap too- about $3 for a meal. It kind of blew my mind that there was a market for vegetarian cuisine in Central America.
Anyways, the next morning we left for San Isidro de El General where we ate excellent authentic latinoamerican food while waiting for a connecting bus to San Gerardo de Rivas. No pictures of San Isidro although there was a huge two-towered cathedral in the middle of town. Not a very charming town but it served its purpose as a transportation hub.
San Gerardo de Rivas was awesome. Neat one-road town next to cerro chirrippo, at 12,500ft, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica that we tried to ascend but were denied by the park service because we didn't have reservations. Soon we teamed up with a fellow traveler from Slovakia who was also denied trail access and spent the next two days exploring, eating delicious food, and checking out a nearby private reserve, Cloudbridge to be exact. The temperature was perfect, there was an abundance of birds, and plenty of friendly people. The setting was relaxing and the company very entertaining/interesting. I will let the pictures explain.
Rio Chirripo Pacifico (?).
More later. I haven't slept in two days so I am going to work on that. Enjoy.