Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….
We have now entered day 11 of our trip, and I can honestly say that we finally feel like we are unwinding a bit. With the constant moving around at the beginning, we found it difficult to establish any sort of routine, or to feel like we were able to relax at all. However, now that we have been in Samara for 4 nights, we really feel like we can just chill out a bit. We will be here for 2 more nights, and then will be making our way down to Quepos. There, we will stay for 2 nights, and will be united with the couple that have been housesitting on the property where we will be housesitting for the next two months. We are really looking forward to just getting there.
Back in April, we found out that we had secured the house sitting gig on Playa Matapalo (read that post here). This housesitting job is the reason that we choose to make Costa Rica the beginning of our one way trip. I guess you could say that Costa Rica found us. Originally we had planned to fly to Southern Mexico and just travel south from there. But when the homeowner messaged us to see if we would like to housesit for her, it was an offer that we simply couldn’t refuse.
If you would like to learn more about housesitting opportunities, please click here.
Back in 2004, when I spent 4 months living in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I did a bit of travelling through this area. However, I only hit Tamarindo and areas south of here, Montezuma, Malpais and Santa Teresa, on the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. I had heard of Samara, and was curious about the area. I also knew that friends of mine, from Canada, that I hadn’t seen since 2008, had recently bought a bar down here, and I felt like it would be a good opportunity to pop in and say hey.
Well, I can say that we have not been disappointed! It’s low season, which means that we have a private room and bathroom in a hostel for $20/night, a kitchen we can cook in, and vast expanses of the beach to ourselves. Samara is touted as a sleepy little beachside town, mostly full of surfers. We have found it to be just this, and the lack of extra tourists, makes it even more sleepy than usual, I am imagining.
Our ride from Monteverde, high in the mountains, to here, was no joke though! We spoke with our hostel front desk staff and asked them when the bus left Monteverde to head this way. They told us that the only one going back down the mountain (yes, we went back down the crazy road) was at 6:00am. Yikes! We had been happily sleeping in until about 9:00 most mornings, we’re sure still recovering from our hectic life before departing Powell River. However, there was no other option, and despite it being my birthday that day, we really felt like we needed to get out of Monteverde. Although spectacularly beautiful, and lots to do, it was quite expensive and eating up our precious resources a little too fast.
We grinned and bared it, and hopped on the bus out of there first thing in the morning. I barely slept that night, partly worrying about said resources depleting, and partly worried that we would sleep in and miss the bus. Needless to say, I was pretty tired when we finally got up, having felt like I had only just gotten to sleep!
Our front desk guy had also said something about the fact that our first bus would drop us off on the side of the highway, where we would catch our next bus to Liberia, the Northern Costa Rica hub city. I had imagined that there would be a restaurant or something at the stop, but no, we were literally dropped off right on the side of the highway, with about 8 other travellers also heading north to Liberia. We all stood there, standing out like sore thumbs, waiting, not to mention hoping, for a bus to approach with “Liberia” written on it. Sure enough, after about 30-40 minutes, one pulled up. We all paid the driver, stowed our luggage below and hopped on.
The sign said 85 kilometres to Liberia and I thought to myself that it would only take an hour to get there. Having barely slept the night before, it didn’t take me long to start drifting in and out of consciousness. The bus pulled over at many different spots, and after what seemed like an hour, I asked Chris if he knew how far we had to go. He told me that he had just seen a sign that said 45 km. This was the start of two VERY long bus rides, that really should have been much shorter, or at least it seemed like they should have been.
We finally reached the Liberia bus station, and I had one thing on my mind……FOOD! We had only munched on a couple small snacks, as we had thought that we would get to Liberia within the normal time of eating breakfast. We immediately walked straight over to one of the many cantinas that surrounded the station, and just ordered whatever they had. I had Gallo Pinto and Eggs, while Chris had a couple of Empanadas. It was good and cheap, perfect!
While sitting there, we saw a bus with the sign “Nicoya” on it that people were starting to line up for. I had been looking at my Costa Rica map earlier, and knew that this would likely be the next spot that we had to get to, in order to get our final bus to Samara. It was about 10:00 at this point, and I asked our cantina hostess in broken Spanish if there were more buses to Nicoya than the one that looked to be pulling out shortly. At this point, we were well into our breakfasts, and I wasn’t budging until I had filled my belly. Thankfully she said yes, there was one every hour, and showed us where to buy tickets.
We finished our food, then went to grab a couple tickets. Cool, air conditioned air was spilling from the ticket agents window, and I wanted nothing more than to just dive in and hang out in there for a while. It was now stifling hot, and unbearably muggy. Even the locals were fanning themselves, not just us white Gringos. I stuck my hand through the window and said “aaaaahhhh muy frio adentro” (very cool inside). She smiled and simply said “Si.”
I confirmed with her that we would get a bus to Samara, from Nicoya, and bought a couple of tickets for this bus. Now, I have to say that travelling by bus in Costa Rica is BY FAR the cheapest way to get around. At times, like the day I am describing, it is difficult, as you have to catch many different buses to go not very far, but the cost is so minimal. Most of these legs were $2-$3 each, compared to renting a car for $46/day plus gas, it’s a no brainer for us. I should mention though, that most people don’t have time in their holidays to spend 9 hours travelling on a bus, there are much better ways to spend your time if you are on a short holiday. But, if budget is a concern, the buses are on a reliable schedule, they are very cheap, and they go just about everywhere.
As soon as I bought the tickets, we noticed a line forming at the closest bus. After confirming that it was the one to Nicoya, we both got in line. There was no undercarriage to this bus, and we began to realize that it resembled more of a city bus than anything. We hoped that there was a place for cargo, but when we approached the bus, we realized that our massive backpacks and three carry on bags, would have to come on with us. This put us in an interesting situation as our luggage took up two seats. Being the thoughtful Canadians that we are (it’s a curse I tell you!), we both felt bad that we were taking up 4 seats, for the price of only 2. After the bus started to fill, and it was obvious that it was actually overfilling, Chris stood up and hung out by our bags, to open a seat for someone. I felt bad as well, but at that point, being as hot and tired as I was, all of my Canadian values went out the window and I hung out and stayed in my seat.
The bus was as packed as any other normal city bus you might come across. It was stifling hot, there was no air conditioning, and barely a breath of air to be had. Once we started going it became a bit more bearable with the air coming in the windows, but only a bit.
As any city bus does, this bus stopped AT LEAST every 5 minutes if not more. To make matters worse, the rope that people pulled to let the bus driver know that he was to stop, was not working. So every couple minutes, someone was yelling “Parada” (stop) up to the driver, which he in turn did not hear because of all the people on the bus, which would start a whole bunch of people whistling and yelling “hey” (or the Spanish equivalent), until the driver finally pulled over. I’m sure many people were dropped off a few hundred meters past where they were hoping. Throughout all of this, my eyelids could not help but close themselves, and I would drift in and out of consciousness until someone else would loudly whistle, or scream “parada!” at the driver, quite absurdly jolting me from my slumber.
At this point, sweaty, tired and really quite miserable with the whole situation, I started to feel sorry for myself. This WAS NOT the best birthday that I had ever spent! It was ridiculous, and obviously a very big First World problem, but I couldn’t help it. I just wanted to get to Samara so I could get off that hot stinky bus and relax on the beach……. or something. Anything but this!
After what should have been an hours drive, but was more like 2.5 hours, we arrived to Nicoya. Upon departing the bus, the driver asked me in Spanish where it was that we were going. As we were at what looked to be a small bus station, and assuming that we would be catching our next bus from there, I simply said “Samara.” He started telling me something, and from what I could decipher, I realized that the bus to Samara did not leave from that station, and that we had to walk 5 blocks to another station.
After loading our ridiculous amount of luggage on our backs, we set out to find the next station. I swear it was at least 36 degrees with the humidity through the roof. I marched along the streets, asking a few people along the way where it was that we were supposed to go. I’m sure, from the look on my face at this point, that they could tell I meant business and that they better just give me an answer!
Finally we saw what resembled another small bus station, and we walked over to it. I found out from a newspaper vendor that the bus was coming at 2, it was now about 1:30, and that we could pay once we got on the bus. I knew we only had another small leg to go, but every part of me just wanted to find a hostel in Nicoya, and call it quits for the day. I was not in a good mood, and just wanted this day to be over! We both dreaded another bus like the one we had just been on. I realized that I was the one complaining the most, but Chris was the one standing the whole way on the last bus. He said that he was tired as well. The poor guy doesn’t do well in extreme heat, and his shirt was just permanently wet as his skin just could not soak up any of the humidity that was in the air, and he just constantly dripped with perspiration.
When the bus pulled in, we were both relieved to see that at least this bus had an underneath cargo hold. I was doubly impressed when we got on and we realized that this bus had air conditioning. AND throughout the trip, we were both triply impressed that the bus actually only went from point A to point B. No stops, no yelling “Parada!”
As we stared out the windows, the landscape again changed before our eyes. We had left a less tropical plane up near Liberia, and had now, once again entered a lush jungle. We could start to tell the the ocean was near, and we started to get excited. I was thankful, after all, that we had pushed on, and we were almost at the beach!
We arrived in Samara at around 3:00pm, 9 hours after we had left Monteverde that morning. The bus dropped us off on the street, basically right at our hostels front door. We spoke quickly to the owner, and found out the price. Good enough! We had arrived. No more stinky, sweaty buses…….it was time to get this birthday celebration on the road!
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