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Some Observations of Costa Ricans…..

Published December 1, 2017 by jillamatt

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…….


There is this guy and his little puppy that are often sitting on the same log on the beach when we walk by with Omber in the morning, or afternoon. The puppy is the cutest little thing, but we can’t get near to it as it barks it’s head off and seemingly wants to tear us limb from limb. Usually we are walking down at the bottom of the beach, while they are sitting at the top of the beach. The man looks to be about the friendliest person you could ever lay eyes on, he has a huge Afro and a great smile. We always collectively laugh at the state of the puppy going crazy, and even from 50 yards away, you can see this mans massive smile light up, and he sends a friendly wave our way.

Today, I was at the top of the beach walking, and I could see from down the beach a ways that he and a friend were sitting in the usual spot. This time I decided to try and get closer to say hello. The sun is shining today, and it’s been a bit of a dismal week around here with cloudy and rainy days seeming to never end. We exchanged a few words about how nice it is to see the sun, we asked each other how we were doing, the puppy barked it’s little head off, and then I decided that I better get going.

I had a task to do, you see, I was walking the dog.

After we walked to our usual spot, and returned down the beach, we were further down by the surf, but he and his friend were up at the top still, just chilling. I kept walking and started to think about the fact that we had been passing this guy and his puppy for a month, and still didn’t know his name. I immediately started to feel bad for not asking his name, and finally getting to know him a bit. I realized that I too could have just sat on that log and chatted for a while. ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ I asked myself.

Oh right! I remembered.

I was on a mission, you see, I was walking the dog!

And in that moment, I caught myself, I suddenly, miraculously, realized that I too have all day to chat if I so desire. I too could just sit on a log and hang out for hours, if I really felt like it. Omber would be happy to just chill in one spot. There really was no rush. Besides, what could be better then practicing some Spanish and making new friends?

Hmmmmmmmmm…..

A few hundred yards further down the beach, Omber decided to run to the top of the beach to chase through the palm trees where I couldn’t see him. Of course, I walked up there to find him, and a man was doing some raking amongst the palms. As soon as he saw me, he immediately waved a friendly hello. “Hola”, I yelled.

This got me realizing how pleasant our exchanges are with the locals. Rarely do we walk by someone, whether on the beach, or on the road, where they don’t take the time to say “Buenas Dias, Hola, Pura Vida, (Good Day, Hello, Pure Life) or some combination of all three.” In fact, as we walked the road the other day to the bus stop, a man crossed the street and shook Chris’ hand, wanting to know who we were and whether or not we owned some piece of property in town. We chatted with him for a bit, then were on our way.

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here. There have been no children throwing tantrums, no people yelling at each other in hatred or malice, no aggression of any kind has been displayed, in fact.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…….

Chris had a tattoo job the other night just down the street from us. I popped over after a bit to see how it was going. It was the father that was getting tattooed, and his wife, 9 months pregnant with a second child, was busy in the kitchen. Their little girl was playing in the corner as quiet as could be, with her dolls and a handful of toys. They were not spread all over the room, they were in one spot, and she happily toodled away talking to them and playing by herself, with hardly a peep to anyone.

I asked her mom how old she is, and they told me ‘5 years old today’! You can imagine my immediate surprise as this certainly didn’t seem like your average 5 year old on their birthday, at least where I come from. There were no streamers and balloons hanging up, no huge party with a thousand other kids running amuck, no big deal was being made…….at all! I told her “Feliz Cumpleanos!” (Happy Birthday), and she turned and gave me a shy “Gracias”, then busily got back to playing. In the two hours we were there, she never once bothered her mother or father for anything, just happily, and QUIETLY played in the corner with her dolls.

When I had initially arrived to the house, I immediately walked over to see how the tattoo was going. The father said hello and asked me how my day was going, in English. Without really realizing what was going on, I just told him “Oh it was okay, I was lazy today.” Later I realized that I never even asked him how his day was………did he notice, did he think badly of me. What was my problem?

Hmmmmmmmmmmm……….

The other day, Chris and I caught the bus to Uvita. We hadn’t been there before, and needed some groceries, so we thought we would just go there and hopefully get some supplies after doing some exploring. While waiting for the bus, we sat on a bench in front of the Pulperia (Convenience Store), and had many exchanges with locals coming and going. Old or young, they all had time to say hello and ask us how we were doing.

As we rode the bus to Uvita, we sat in the front 2 seats to the right of the driver. As I watched people get off the bus, most people thanked the driver, one guy shook the drivers hand and exchanged a few words with him. The driver wasn’t in a rush to get going again, it was more important to talk to this man for a minute, then to worry about his schedule.

I watched as the driver eased his big bus through tiny communities, and yelled and waved out the window at familiar faces. Were these people he knew, or just people he saw on his route everyday? “Pura Vida!”  was yelled more than once, and the people on their porches or in their yards returned the exchange with huge smiles on their faces.

In one instance a man was standing on the side of the highway and waved the bus to stop. The driver pulled over and the man simply stood on the ground at the door and spent about 5 minutes asking the driver a bunch of questions about the schedule and where he went. Obviously gathering information for a future trip.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm………..

Our friends that moved here from Canada two years ago, told us of a time when they had first bought their property up in the mountains. For the first while, they obviously couldn’t speak much Spanish, but their neighbours would come over anyways, and just sit with them on their porch, sometime for two hours, with barely a word spoken. They just wanted to interact, to share the human experience. Words weren’t needed to be decent human beings, to show their new neighbours appreciation of their arrival onto their lands.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

All of this has me realizing that these are the sorts of things that you may not notice if you are travelling to a place for a week or two. It’s only after being in a spot for a length of time, when how a society works, is repeated enough for you to you start to notice it, and you begin to realize what really makes it tick.  We have been here now for over 6 weeks, and although it didn’t take us this long to see that people are friendly, it has taken this long to really notice that it definitely is a way of life.

In Costa Rica, it truly is the land of Pura Vida. People have TIME for each other. It isn’t normal to just say hi quickly, and then be on your way. What’s normal is stopping, and actually talking. Looking people in the eye, and asking them how they are doing, asking them how their day was or is. Taking the time to connect with each other and respect and appreciate each other.

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As of today, I am making a commitment to myself to really start to notice when I rush myself, when I push myself to “get going” because I think I have something important to do. When I start to think that ‘getting the dog walked’ is more important than stopping to meet somebody and learn about them, I will stop myself. I will stop this habit of being on a mission, of being in a hurry. As of today, I will stop to connect with people better. I will take the time to learn their names, I will spend the time learning about them, and finding out who they are and what they do. I will make TIME for them, because, this is truly the way it is here. This is what people do here. This is literally how their society functions, and I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than that!

Pura Vida to you all! I hope this inspires you to take a moment to reflect on what you spend your time doing.  And is it meaningful, after all?

NOTE:  Of course, this is our experience of Costa Ricans outside of heavily trafficked tourist zones.  In places where we have noticed that many tourists go, the Pura Vida mentality certainly does not extend as far as it does in these smaller more remote areas.  But it is in these places, where you truly get a sense for how people actually live.  

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

Current Location: We are housesitting until December 30th at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical.  If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch!  We would love to connect with you.

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

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Wandering in Varna, Bulgaria – Guest Post

Published November 8, 2017 by jillamatt

A few days ago I found a request from a fellow blogger on one of the traveller Facebook pages that I follow. She was looking for people to contribute to her blog and write guest posts on one of their favourite travelling spots.

In 2015, my partner and I did a six week trip to Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. Although, we didn’t spend nearly long enough in Bulgaria, it was actually our favourite country to visit out of the three. I’m not sure if it was the laid back pace, the beauty of it, the friendly people, or the fact that it wasn’t on the Euro yet (which made it much more affordable against our Canadian dollar), but we absolutely fell in love with it, and long to go back someday.  Next time it will be in the summer months!

When I saw Emily’s request for posts on a favourite travelling spot, I couldn’t help but recall our experience in Varna.

Feel free to check out my guest post on her blog here.  Thanks for this opportunity Emily!

Also, if you would like to read more about our trip to Bulgaria, the first post is here.

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

 

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica – Destination Guide

Published November 8, 2017 by jillamatt

I have noticed that the title “Travel Blogger” can have many different connotations. Some travel blogs simply tell of the travellers experiences. Some travel blogs tell people how to travel; ie. what to pack, how to secure medical insurance, what kind of currency to bring etc. Some travel blogs tell people about locations and destinations, specifically how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and all the ins and outs of each spot.

As I do with how I live my life, I like to think that I don’t necessarily fall into any specific category. My ultimate joy is to share my experiences, those that I feel are WORTH writing about. They might be inspiring, they might make people laugh, they might bring insight into the places that I am visiting. But above all, they are what make me WANT to write. They give me great joy in sharing them with the world, which in turn inspires me to “put pen to paper” (I do try to still do that once in a while!), and to just get them down and out of my head.

However, I too realize that there is also great value in me sharing the things that I learn along the way. By sharing a few local statistics, information about where we stayed, what we did, and where we went, I may be helping those out there that are just getting started traveling, and who may need a nudge in the right direction. Or I may be helping those that feel like my information helps to give them a little insight into a place, which will make them more comfortable with going there. After all, there IS a reason that the website Tripadvisor is so popular. It’s because people can either recommend places, or not. In the grand scheme of things, all information that a person can gather before heading out, helps them to have the best trip possible.

But don’t forget one important thing! Some of the best experiences do not come about from sitting in front of a computer, doing hours of research about a place. They come from just TRYING it, from just DOING it, from just LEAVING your house, and heading out into the world! The beautiful thing about travelling, is that it is absolutely impossible to plan for every eventuality that you may encounter. That is the exciting part! That is what makes it so much fun! That is why we keep doing it over and over and over again. We get away from our day to day, predictable lives, to places where anything can happen, at any time. It sends our endorphins into overdrive, alerts our senses, and makes life adventurous. Humans are adventurous by nature! It is in our genetic make up that we want to see new places, explore different horizons, try new experiences. We wouldn’t have spread ourselves all over this planet, in every nook and cranny, if we didn’t.

So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there, have fun and explore!

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Manuel Antonio

To read about our interesting arrival to Manuel Antonio, please click here. 

Manuel Antonio, best known for it’s National Park, is located just south of the larger city of Quepos in the Province of Punteranas.  The town mostly services the National Park, and is heavily populated with hotels, restaurants, gift shops and other tourist amenities.

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The Air BnB we stayed at in Manuel Antonio was a great find, as it was located in a Tico neighbourhood, a little off the beaten tourist track, but accessible to all the amenities as well. (Email me at the address below if you would like the Air BnB link to this place, it cost us roughly $20/night, but prices may increase during high season.) Just a 5 minute walk from our place, got us to the main road leading down to the beach, and the National Park. For only roughly 350 colones (roughly 75 cents USD), we could ride the bus down the hill, and check out whatever was down there, then could catch the bus back up again. In fact, that bus came all the way from Quepos, and runs constantly throughout the day.  Even if you have your own vehicle, I would recommend this option of getting there as parking is limited.

As we were only staying there for 2 nights, our main priority was to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. Chris had yet to see wild monkeys, and I knew that this was the place to be guaranteed a sighting. However, much to our surprise, we did manage to see them swinging from the power lines, and climbing on our roof and trees, at our Air BnB early that morning as well!

Home to 109 different mammals, 184 different bird species and many different reptile types, Manuel Antonio National Park is a very diverse coastal jungle. It’s one of the number one visited parks in Costa Rica, attracting 150 000 visitors a year, and was listed in 2011 as one of Forbes 12 most beautiful parks in the world.

Obviously it was necessary to go there for more than just monkeys! The scenery, the beaches, and all the other wildlife, are truly spectacular as well.

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When I was last there in 2004, the entrance was along the beach, and I have to say, much more ‘entrancing’ (pun intended) than it is now. Almost immediately, when you would walk in, the monkeys would be hanging from the trees, and you could see the beautiful beach and ocean on your right hand side.

As the park is now under some pretty major renovations, while they install miles of gangways and walkways that loop themselves through the trees, they have moved the entrance onto a non-descript roadway, where you have to walk for some time before spotting any wildlife.

I can see that these renovations are important, and will cut down on damage to the jungle floor, but in the meantime, the entrance is not what one would expect from one the 12 most beautiful parks in the world! They are also constructing a massive Welcome/Interpretive Center, which will definitely add value when it’s completed, hopefully soon.

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As we were told that it’s an absolute zoo in the high season, we were happy to have been there during the slower months. Apparently if you don’t get to the beaches by 9:00 on some mornings, you will barely find a spot. Not my idea of a relaxing day out. However, on this particular day, there were minimal people, but it was still busy enough to see that the high season would be much more difficult to even move around on the trails.

NOTE: The park is CLOSED on Mondays!! Guess the monkeys need a day off as well:)

As predicted, we saw many, many monkeys. And despite signs every 100 feet or so to NOT feed them, we did see some silly tourist throwing them an apple core! Argh! I had flashbacks of a trip that I did about 8 years ago, back to the popular tourist destination of Lake Louise, in the Canadian Rockies. My middle name is derived from this place and I grew up just down the road in Canmore. I witnessed chipmunks being fed directly from peoples hands and was thoroughly horrified by their domestication.  They certainly had never done that when I was growing up in the area, and they have now become quite the pests!

PLEASE! If you visit the park, DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!! The animals will become more and more dependant on these food sources, will lose the ability to forage for food themselves, and will eventually become aggressive and hostile if not fed. When this happens, as it always does, people will get hurt, and monkeys will be killed. It’s a cycle that, unfortunately, plays out everywhere around the world where there are close encounters with wildlife. In the end, the animals ALWAYS lose this battle!

Upon entry, we heard the distinct howl of the Howler Monkeys, and were able to spot one high up in the trees. Though we heard more howlers through the day, the White Faced, or Capuchin Monkeys were the ones we saw many of. We also saw a sloth moving slowly through a tree, a South American Coati and a cool Iguana was hanging out near us at the beach.  Of course many different birds, insects and butterflies were spotted as well.

We did a bit of hiking and hung out on one of the beaches for a bit. Our total visit was probably only about 2-3 hours long, but it was a nice day and we were lucky as it had been raining many days leading up to our arrival.  We actually had decided to cut our visit short, because we didn’t bring any food with us into the park, and we were getting hungry.  Needless to say, I think it’s proabably a good idea not to bring food into the park, as it inevitably leads to what I mentioned earlier.

After the park we gave into one of the many street vendors outside the gate that had earlier tried to sell us a fresh coconut, to drink the juice inside. However, this one came with a catch! He added a shot of Rum to it, and we happily drank our coconut juice with rum, and (sort of!) re-hydrated ourselves, after having felt dehydrated from the sweltering tropical sun.

After poking around a bit, and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed down to the public beach outside the park, beautiful in it’s own right, and relaxed until we were chased away by the rain. We were able to very quickly catch the bus heading back up the hill, and we retreated back to our Air BnB to cook some dinner and relax for the evening. Well, Chris didn’t exactly relax, as our roommate and new friend, “Aaron from Canada” (as our host had called him) at the BnB wanted a tattoo! Chris happily obliged, further solidifying his thoughts on making a living as a travelling tattoo artist.

We didn’t really experience much more in Manuel Antonio, and I have to say that as a lover of places that are quiet, and less touristy, I would probably not go back there.

Where we are now, is so much more up both of our alleys! For example, yesterday as we laid on the beach relaxing with a book, I looked in both directions and saw nothing but sand, sea, palm trees and sun for literally miles. Not another soul was in sight! Plus, we have monkeys in our trees almost every day, and Iguanas that actually LIVE on the property. We even saw a sloth today high up in a tree on the side of the road!
But, I won’t spoil it all for you, because this place surely deserves it’s own blog post……..or 6!  Stay tuned……..

Manuel Antonio National Park facts:

Park Entrance – $16USD – tickets must be purchased from a bank that is about 100 meters from the entrance to the park, on the left hand side of the road, one block back from the beach and bus drop off area.  There are guides that are available to hire, and I’m sure you will see much more wildlife than we did as they have long telescopes that they carry with them.  Only hire guides that are part of the park service! 

High Season approx. November 15 – February 28

Website: http://manuelantoniopark.com

Phone: 1-800-381 3770

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

 

A Visit to Samara, Costa Rica – Destination Guide

Published November 6, 2017 by jillamatt

I have noticed that the title “Travel Blogger” can have many different connotations.  Some travel blogs simply tell of the travellers experiences.  Some travel blogs tell people how to travel; ie. what to pack, how to secure medical insurance, what kind of currency to bring etc.  Some travel blogs tell people about locations and destinations, specifically how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and all the ins and outs of each spot.

As I do with how I live my life, I like to think that I don’t necessarily fall into any specific category.  My ultimate joy is to share my experiences, those that I feel are WORTH writing about.  They might be inspiring, they might make people laugh, they might bring insight into the places that I am visiting.  But above all, they are what make me WANT to write.  They give me great joy in sharing them with the world, which in turn inspires me to “put pen to paper” (I do try to still do that once in a while!), and to just get them down and out of my head.

However, I too realize that there is also great value in me sharing the things that I learn along the way. By sharing a few local statistics, information about where we stayed, what we did, and where we went, I may be helping those out there that are just getting started traveling, and who may need a nudge in the right direction.  Or I may be helping those that feel like my information helps to give them a little insight into a place, which will make them more comfortable with going there.  After all, there IS a reason that the website Tripadvisor is so popular.  It’s because people can either recommend places, or not.  In the grand scheme of things, all information that a person can gather before heading out, helps them to have the best trip possible.

But don’t forget one important thing!  Some of the best experiences do not come about from sitting in front of a computer, doing hours of research about a place.  They come from just TRYING it, from just DOING it, from just LEAVING your house, and heading out into the world!  The beautiful thing about travelling, is that it is absolutely impossible to plan for every eventuality that you may encounter.  That is the exciting part!  That is what makes it so much fun!  That is why we keep doing it over and over and over again.  We get away from our day to day, predictable lives, to places where anything can happen, at any time.  It sends our endorphins into overdrive, alerts our senses, and makes life adventurous.  Humans are adventurous by nature!  It is in our genetic make up that we want to see new places, explore different horizons, try new experiences.  We wouldn’t have spread ourselves all over this planet, in every nook and cranny, if we didn’t.

So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there, have fun and explore!

Samara

Samara is a very cute little Costa Rican town, located about half way down the Nicoya Peninsula (see map below.)  It’s home to about 1500 full time residents, but services about 4100 people that live in outlying areas.  After travelling around in Costa Rica for about a week.  We choose to make a visit to Samara, as I had heard some really good things about it, and because friends of mine from Canada, had just moved there last spring, after purchasing shares in an established bar.

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If you would like to read about our bus adventure getting there, click here.

When we first arrived, we weren’t sure how long we were going to stay.  We promised the man at our hostel we would be there for 2 nights, and just left it at that.  However, he offered us such a great low season rate, and the town turned out to be just the chill vibe that we were looking for, that we decided to stay for the 6 nights we had left before we had to go down to Manuel Antonio to get ready for our house sitting gig.

Because we had friends there that are from Canada, as mentioned before, they were able to take us out of Samara for a day, to have a bit of an adventure at what Nicki said was a ‘secret beach’ nearby.  It was past Playa Carrillo, a vast beautiful white sand beach itself, south of town.  We brought their two new dogs, and they promised a Tico (Costa Rican) style bar-b-que on the beach.  The beach was spectacular as was the bar-b-que.  Eron brought an actual BBQ grill to place over the briquettes, but the Tico style is to weave barbed wire back and forth until you create a grill like surface for cooking on.  Although the cove was a bit rocky for swimming, it had a fabulous waterfall spilling onto the beach at one end.  A perfect place to rinse off after our sandy, beach day.

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Notice the waterfall spilling down at the far end.

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A standard Tico BBQ built with beach rocks, and briquettes to build a fire. Most Ticos use barbed wire woven in and out until they create a grill out of it.

 

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Walter, one of Nikki and Eron’s Dogs wanted a rinse off as well!

We spent the next few days just bumming around Samara, not really doing that much.  We spent some time at the beach, but the weather actually got pretty nasty for our last couple days, and we spent much of our time there inside.  We were happy to just relax for a bit anyways.  The time before leaving Canada was hectic, to say the least, and we were still in recovery mode.

We did, however, take a walk out to the point at the far left hand side of the bay on one day.  It took 2-3 hours, round trip, but we didn’t hurry.  We dunked in some of the tidal pools, and found another cool spring dripping from the cliff walls.

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We walked out to the point behind me in the background.

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Tidal pool dunking!

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A freshwater spring falling from the cliff

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Looking to the island off the point. Apparently when the tide is right, it’s possible to swim there.

All in all, we were pretty happy that it was quite overcast, as it gave our pasty white Canadian skin time to acclimatize and not get completely fried on our first days.

We also spent some sunset evenings on the beach sipping tropical happy hour drinks.  And Chris got to tattoo one of the locals, which really helped him to streamline his portable process, and made him feel good about doing his first international tattoo!

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Sunset from Chicos at Happy Hour!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the main drag of Samara, but it’s lined with many little shops and restaurants and leads all the way to the beach.  We enjoyed hassle free travelling here as there were no hawkers or anyone trying to sell us anything.  Not sure if that is a low season thing, or if it is the norm, but it was nice!  The beach stretches a really long way in both directions, and is wide and expansive.  The swimming is safe and there were no rip currents or undertows to note.

All in all, I highly recommend a visit to Samara if you are looking to experience a more laid back, funky little beach town.  There is good surfing in the bay, and you can ride horses and do tours from there as well.  It’s cheaper, overall, then places like Tamarindo and points south such as Santa Teresa and Mal Pais.

Accomodation – We stayed at El Dorado Hostel.  We really lucked out with this place as the only reason that we chose it was because it was the closest hostel to where our bus dropped us off.  It was located off the main drag, making it less noisy at night, and we had a quick and easy walk to the beach from here.  Larry, one of the locals, was living at the hostel when we were there, and he speaks good English, and gives surf lessons if you are interested in that.  We paid $20/night ($45 in high season) for our own private room with a little bar fridge, and a personal, locked bathroom just down the hall.  The kitchen is good, with more fridge space, and the common area is nice with a big table where you can meet new people and make new friends.  The owner is Italian (with a Tico wife), and they live right across the street and are easily accessible if there are any problems.  Highly recommended.

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The road from our Hostel to the beach.  A five minute walk at most.  

Restaurants

Bar Arriba – This is the bar that our friends have bought shares in.  It is located on the main strip, and is on the second story.  There is a great sitting area against the railings, and you can look down on the town, people watch, and witness the world go by all day if you want.  Tip:  The Mojitos are large and to die for!  We were told that this place is the top night club scene after 10:00 (much too late for us, and it sounds as though every patron at that time is half our age!). It also doubles as a sports bar and is THE place to be on game day!  Although we didn’t eat there, we were told that they also have an extensive pub type menu, and do specials for different occasions of the year.

Flying Taco – We went here one night for happy hour from 5-7 and enjoyed 2 for 1 drinks.  We also had some appy’s that were half price for happy hour.  Unfortunately, we were the only people in the place, but I think that was more of a low season thing, then a problem with the establishment.  The service was good and the food was good.  We also noticed that even outside of happy hour, the prices were very reasonable compared to other places in town.  There was a stage and a ping pong table, I’m sure both would be hopping in the high season.

Gusto Beach – This was a great spot to sit and relax at the end of the day.  We spent 3 evenings here for happy hour, enjoying an extensive menu of tropical favourites for only 1990 Colones.  It was great to just sit and watch the surfers in the bay as the sunset started to form behind them.  As it got darker, the fireflies would start to flit about, and the ambience became very romantic.  We didn’t eat there, or look at the menu, but I can imagine the food would be pretty good, as they have put a lot of time and attention into the ambience and decor of the place.

Coco’s Mexican Restaurant – We went to Coco’s on our first night, as we didn’t know where else to go, and it is located on the main drag.  It was my birthday so we splurged a bit, but even with a pitcher of Margaritas, the bill only came to about $55 USD.  The food was good, and they had an extensive menu.  There was a cat that seemed friendly at first and just wanted to be pet, but after we didn’t feed it, it bit me! (It didn’t break the skin, but it was a bite none-the-less.)  Be careful!

Supplies & Shopping – Samara is well supplied with anything that you may need.  There is a large, well stocked PALI grocery store (which was almost right across the street from our hostel) and some pharmacies and hardware stores.  There are many little boutique shops and a strip by the beach where local artisans sell their goodies every day.

Getting There and Away – 

We arrived to Samara by bus coming from Liberia.  If you do this route, be forewarned that you will have to catch 2 buses, the first to Nicoya, and the second from Nicoya to Samara.  The first bus is more like a city bus, and left the Liberia station every hour or so.  There is no place to store luggage, so you must bring it inside, and it stops at what felt like, every km or so.  It is very busy but very cheap.  I think it was about 2000 colones for both of us.  To connect to Samara, you will need to walk about 5 blocks to another bus station.  This bus is less frequent, and you will just have to ask when the next one is.  It was a direct route with minimal stops, had storage under the bus for luggage and was air conditioned!  A much more comfortable ride than the previous bus.  This one also was about 2000 colones for both of us.  Alternatively, there are many taxi drivers at the Liberia station offering a direct ride for $80USD.

To leave, we had to prepay on a bus that goes directly to San Jose, a 7 hour ride, for about $9 USD each.  (Read about that post here if you like.). We were only taking it to Punteranas, but it cost the same regardless.  There is a ticket booth at the entrance of town, and we had to make sure that we bought our tickets in advance, on a specific bus.  Any hostel or hotel front desk will tell you how to do this.  Coming from San Jose, I can imagine that it is the same bus, but I have no idea where to get it from.

Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 1

Published October 20, 2017 by jillamatt

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 are on day 4 of our trip, and I can honestly say already that if we had to return home for some unknown reason, that I would be content with our experience. Today was everything that I had hoped to achieve on our travels, and more!

We are currently in Monteverde, a mountaintop community, located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. “Green Mountain”, the translation of Monteverde, couldn’t be more accurate. Every direction you look, there are plants of seemingly endless descriptions and green mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. We know this for sure, as the Air BnB that we booked is perfectly perched on the side of one such mountain, and the vista below is absolutely breathtaking. We can see all the way west to the Nicoya Peninsula, and in the right light the “Golfo de Nicoya” (Gulf of Nicoya) in front of the peninsula, dances and sparkles in the sunlight.

Read on to hear about our experiences so far…….

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After spending 2 nights in Alajuela, the neighbouring city to Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and feeling that we had recovered sufficiently from our dreaded red eye flight from Calgary, through Toronto, we decided to head into the interior of Costa Rica, instead of hitting the beach. We will be house sitting right on the beach for 2 months at the end of October, so we will have lots of beach time to come. The mountains were calling us.

In 2004, my last visit to Costa Rica, I had visited a small mountain town called Monteverde. I had very fond memories of this place, but such as it was back then, our main motivation was to get to the beach, so we only spent a night or two. I longed to come back to explore more of this area, and to try and get a better feel for life in the highlands.

I did a search for Monteverde on my Air BnB app, to see what would come up. There were many options in many price ranges, but as I scrolled the list, one caught my eye. “Paradise House Monteverde #2 – Farmstay”.  The description definitely called to my yearning to learn more about the Costa Rican life.  Check it out below:

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Turns out that as it is the low season, and the internet had been washed out with the latest Hurricane, we got a discount and only paid $68 for 3 nights!

I quickly read it out to Chris and he said “Yes! Book it!”

Our plan was set! Here was our chance to learn about a traditional Costa Rican way of life. My goal with travelling is always to connect with locals, to see how others are living, to learn their way of life, and to share it with others. This sounded like a perfect fit! I booked 3 nights, knowing that would give us 2 full days to enjoy ourselves in a lovely, peaceful location.

3 nights = $68 CAD

With the help of our host in Alajuela, we booked a bus trip up into the mountains. Costing just $15 US (including a $5 booking fee for booking online), the bus would leave Alajuela at 3:00 and arrive at 7:00pm. In the tropics, every day of the year, it is dark by 6:00, so I knew that it would be dark when we arrived at our location. I messaged this to Orlando, our farm host, and he assured me that since they were located well out of Monteverde proper, he would arrange a transport to pick us up at the Bus stop.

The bus ride was a typical one, driving quickly down paved highways, weaving along the coastline of the Gulf of Nicoya, until all of a sudden we took a sharp, right hairpin turn onto a gravel road. After 2 hours on the road, we were finally headed into the mountains. Immediately there was a sign that said Monteverde 35km. I commented to Chris that surely it can’t take 2 more hours to go 35 kilometres. However, I was sorely wrong!

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Note:  It took us almost 4 hours to reach Monteverde.  Mind you, we were on a large bus, a private vehicle is likely quicker.

Within minutes, make that seconds, I could see that YES, this definitely could take 2 hours! The road was windy, narrow, steep and seeming impossibly small to accommodate the bus that we were riding on. As we were seated in the front two seats to the right of the driver, my favourite spot to “see it all” we got a full spectacle of what was to transpire. Corner after corner, sharp curve after sharp curve, we wound our way up the tight mountain road. With the recent rains of Hurricane Nate , having wreaked havoc with many mountain roads, we witnessed a few places where part of the road was washed away down the mountain. In these instances, the bus would slowly but surely, squeeze itself down the inside lane, hugging as close as it would dare to the inside ditch, without falling into it. We also watched the Humidity indicator that was located at the front of the bus go from 50% to 90% as we approached the clouds and entered an area aptly known as the Cloud Forest. We watched numerous small frogs leap across the road, scurrying out of the way of the large bus wheels, some we knew made it, others we weren’t so sure. Never the less, we cheered them on as we saw them.

Many times we would come across another vehicle going down the road, each time both of us would squeeze as tight as we could to the opposite shoulders of the road, literally inching past each other. However, in one instance, we came head to head with a driver of a commercial utility truck. It was now dark and drizzling rain and there was clearly no way for both vehicles to pass each other on the current stretch of road.

After both vehicles flashed their lights at each other a couple times, the driver of the truck finally realized that if anyone was to back up, it was him. He jumped out of his truck to survey the situation around him, and to come up with a solution, a way to pull over so that we could pass each other. After realizing that the other driver needed assistance in backing up (so that he didn’t drive off the road and over the cliff side) our driver jumped out to direct him. The amusement in the bus was hilarious as the locals chitter chatted back and forth laughing and carrying on about the situation. I couldn’t help but think about if the same situation would have happened in Canada; Number one, there would not be a public bus driving on a road such as this in Canada (unless of course it was guaranteed to be the only vehicle driving back and forth), and Number 2, if a bus load of people were held up in this way, there would be more than one very unhappy person. However, the mood was jovial, and everyone was just happy to have the entertainment.

Finally, as our driver helped the other driver back up down the windy road, and into a slightly wider section, another man, that we had picked up at a rest stop, and who had been chatting with the driver at the front of the bus ever since, jumped into the drivers seat and started driving the bus down to meet him. Chris and I burst out laughing, as we had no idea who this guy was, but trusted that he knew what he was doing either way. What little choice did we have after all? Thankfully, he safely drove us the couple hundred meters forward to pick up our other driver, but not before passing the transfer truck and another vehicle behind it on the cliff side of the road, with mere inches to spare between us (and I’m sure mere inches to spare with the side of the road, and in turn, the cliff as well.)

I mentioned to Chris more than once that I was thankful that it was dark because although we knew that we were driving up the side of the mountain, we were unable to see just how perilous and treacherous that it was if we were to simply slide down into the abyss below.

As we started to approach a more populated area, made obvious by the lights that now lit the road ahead of us, many locals would signal to the driver to be let off in various areas. Again, NOT something you would necessarily see in Canada.

Despite all of this, we arrived in Monteverde at about 6:50pm. We departed the bus and stacked our luggage against the wall. Other travellers scampered around grabbing taxis or staring into their iPhones to figure out their next move. Nobody approached us about a ride, so I poked my head around the corner and locked eyes with a man standing next to a van. He gave me a look of approval so I walked over to him to show him the address of where we were going. Before I had a chance to do that, and much to my surprise, he showed me a picture on his phone of Chris and I! I realized that it was our Air BnB profile photo, and that our host must have sent it to him so that he knew who to pick up. “Perfecto!” I announced and patted him on the shoulder. I ran off to grab Chris and our luggage, and we were whisked away into the darkness, along another bumpy and washed out gravel road.

Unfortunately, I never did get our drivers name, but he quickly realized that I spoke a bit of Spanish, and we were able to carry out a simple conversation. He explained to me that the reason the roads were so bad was because of the extensive rains that the hurricane had deposited on the area. There were many more washed out areas along the next section of road that we travelled, and even a couple of crews working late into the night to repair them.

After about 15 minutes, we pulled into a tiny gap in a fence, and his headlights illuminated our home for the next few days. It was absolutely pitch black, but we could tell by the lights in the distance and below us, that we were perched on a hillside of sorts. He helped us with our luggage, found the key and opened the door, and then wished us well. I asked about when we would meet our host, Orlando, and he said something about “Manana”. Good enough, we would see him tomorrow.

We quickly unpacked our food and got busy with making some dinner. The house was simple, with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen where we could make our meals over the course of our stay. We took turns running in and out of the front doors, both ecstatic with our location, and wanting desperately for it to be the next day, so that we could see the fantastic view that we knew was spread out before us.

But alas, we knew that we would have to wait. In the meantime, we ate our dinner, sat on our front porch, and stared off into the vast unknown. Tomorrow would bring the light and a whole new adventure!

** Thanks for reading! This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling. If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our page.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

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