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…….
Well, we are currently stationed at our house sitting job, and we couldn’t be happier. The house is located in Matapalo, more appropriately ON Playa Matapalo (Matapalo Beach). From the house sitting description that we got, there was no direct mention of it being on, or not on, the beach. I had this feeling that it likely was, but we weren’t positive.
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However, sure enough, we are RIGHT on the beach……..set back only about 30 meters in a grove of Palm Trees. The palm trees have fun little monkeys that come cruising through, and we get entertained by the iguanas flitting here and there, all over the property. At any given moment in the day, we can hear loud crashing noises on the roof, and we can be sure there are either a couple iguanas having a hay day, or a troop of monkeys jumping around. Most of the time it startles us, but we are slowly getting used to their antics, and are less jumpy now than we were when we arrived last Sunday.
Matapalo is located in the South West corner of Costa Rica, between Quepos and Dominical (see map below.) We will be here until the end of December. I will be posting more about our stay here, but for now I need to tell a different story.
Now, with this blog post, and my last blog post referencing our experiences on getting TO our destinations, I am reminded of the quote “Life is a journey, not a destination.” On this trip so far, we have found that many of our favourite travelling stories (as annoying as some of them have been), are happening when we are moving from point A to point B, and don’t necessarily happen when we arrive to our destinations. This is reminding us that it is in the actual motion of traveling, where we can have the most rich, and truly exciting experiences. The places that we visit can be the icing on the cake, but we must also remember to look around us at any given moment on the journey, and embrace that experience as well.
I guess for me, I find excitement in the challenge of getting from one place to another, it’s in the figuring that part out where I feel fulfilled. Sure, the destination is the bonus at the end, but it is in those moments of not necessarily knowing where I am going, or how I am going to get there, that life feels exciting. We must use all of our senses to find our way.
If you have been following my blog for some time, you will know that I am not a fan of routines. I get bored easily, I don’t like doing the same thing all the time. I need variety and spice to keep me on my toes, and to keep life interesting. This is why I LOVE to travel! Every day is literally different. Every day offers new challenges and new opportunities. Every day I am given the chance to put my skills to work, to trouble shoot and problem solve. Every day, I feel fulfilled!
TRAVEL (verb) – to move or go from one place or point to another.
We left Samara on October 27th on the 9:00am bus. After the last crazy trip with buses, we were mentally prepared for what could become another full day of travelling.
We had pre-purchased bus tickets a couple days in advance, being told that our best option would be to buy the tickets all the way to San Jose (as this was the most direct option, it seemed like the best one), but get off early near Puntarenas, so that we could then catch a bus to head south to Manuel Antonio, our final destination.
Bus to San Jose from Samara 4500 Colones = Approx $9 USD.
PLEASE NOTE: On most buses in Costa Rica, you are able to just pay the driver wherever you are going. In these cases, the drivers ALWAYS have change! You do not have to have the exact change, as you do in Canada or the US. You simply hop on, pay the driver, and they give you change. You can always tell them where you are going, and they will always keep an eye out for you and make sure that you get off at the right spot.
This route took us in a MUCH better direction than the previous one that we had taken from Monteverde. We skirted the edge of the Golfo de Nicoya, making the trip a much more direct route, rather then heading all the way up to Liberia, and then back down again.
We were told that we would have to catch a bus from Punteranas to Jacó, then Jacó to Quepos. We would then take a short taxi ride to Manuel Antonio to get to our Air BnB that I had booked before leaving Samara.
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On our first bus leg, I told the driver that we needed to get off at Punteranas. As has been the case with most buses (I did say MOST) that we have caught, we have transferred at bus stations, and we assumed that it would be the same with this one. However, it was totally NOT the case this time. As the bus pulled over to the side of the highway, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with not even a bus stop to be seen, the driver yelled “Punteranas!” Chris heard it first, and I didn’t believe him, but the driver said it again, and I heard it that time. I had a flash thought of ‘what a strange place to be dropped off’, but then almost immediately noticed a taxi driver pulling in behind the bus, obviously aware that somebody was going to need a ride from that point.
In broken Spanish I told the taxi driver that we needed to get to the bus to Jacó, the next leg of the journey. After offering to drive us there, for about $100 USD, I insisted that the bus was much cheaper, and that we needed to go that way. As requested, he whisked us away towards the bus stop. After what seemed like a while, I kept feeling like I should ask the driver if he is taking us to a bus station, but I let it go and trusted that he understood. It was getting to be lunch time, and we were both a bit hungry. Despite packing a few snacks for the ride, we hoped for a bus station where we could get a bite to eat.
However, today was not our day to get food when we wanted it. We were again dropped on the side of the road at what looked to be a typical city bus stop. The driver assured me that a bus to Jacó would be along shortly. Since it was now starting to rain, there was a bunch of people crowded under the tiny shelter. As it had rained for the last few days that we were in Samara, we weren’t surprised by this. However, it is never a pleasant experience to have to travel in the manner, such as we were, in the rain. We did the best we could, and tucked our bags under the tiny awning as much as was possible.
After only about 30 minutes, a bus pulled up with the name Jacó on it. We were able to stow our luggage under the bus, and hopped on board. We rode the bus to Jacó, with minimal stops, and hoped that this time we would be dropped off at a station, where we would make the transfer.
HOWEVER, this was not the case again! It was like déjà vu all over. It was now about 1:30, and our snacks were not sufficing anymore. We needed to eat.
Thankfully, though, this time I spotted 2 restaurants across the road. We decided that we would sit down and eat some lunch, before heading off to Quepos. I was sure that there would be frequent buses, as has been the case most times, and that we could get one whenever we were ready. We figured we were only about an hour to an hour and a half away from Quepos, so we still had plenty of time left in the day.
Actually, lunch was farther from our minds then the fact that we both needed to use the bathroom! There were no bathrooms on the buses, and in this climate, we are constantly drinking water, and welll……..you know how it goes! Thankfully, like any good restaurant, they had sufficient facilities to accommodate us.
After a while, I decided that I should ask the waitress if she knew when the next bus to Quepos was. It was about 2:20 by then and we hadn’t gotten our food yet. She told me that the next one was at 2:30, obviously one that we wouldn’t make. Four O’Clock was the next one after that, and I realized at that time that because the days are very short down here, we likely would not be arriving to our destination in the light of the day. Not my favourite scenario when travelling. To make it worse, it was now not just raining, it was seriously monsooning out…….again, NOT the best travelling conditions.
Before we left the restaurant, and it’s wifi connection, I double checked the directions to our Air BnB, and took a screen shot of them. This is something that I started doing in Europe. Whenever we are headed somewhere uncertain, I take screen shots of the locations. Whether it be a map, or directions of where we need to go, the screen shots create a photo of whatever I am looking at in that moment on my screen. As there is no need for an internet connection to access photos, it is a simple way to quickly reference where it is that we need to go, without having to try and find a place with wifi when we arrive at our destination. Technology is grand! I honestly can’t imagine what we did before!!!
We also had a nice surprise when I went to pay the bill for our lunch. I knew we were getting VERY low on Colones (Costa Rican currency), so I figured that I would just pay with our VISA instead. However, the hostess told me that we couldn’t do that, and we needed to pay with cash. I sheepishly handed over my last 10 000 Colones bill (approx $20 USD), for our 9000 Colones lunch, and asked the lady if she knew how much the bus was to Quepos. She had to phone a friend, and they decided that it was only about 3000 Colones for both of us……I had 5000 left. Phew! We were a little bit outside of the town, and seriously nowhere near anything that resembled a bank or an ATM. My heart skipped a beat!
Now, I have to say that I have learned this lesson a very hard way before. Because of this, one of my ultimate traveling mottos is to NEVER be short of local currency, because you just never know what’s going to happen at any given time where you may need some. However, as sometimes happens, I simply had forgotten to go to the bank the day before to pull out more from the ATM. Whoops! At least we knew that we could get to Quepos……from there we would have to figure out a way to get more cash, even if it meant getting our taxi driver to Manuel Antonio to take us to an ATM first.
We hung out in the restaurant as long as we could, then threw on our rain jackets, and trudged into the rain. Just as we were arriving at the bus stop, that was full of people, literally taking up every inch of space under the awning, a bus arrived, and they all cleared out and onto the bus. We had the whole place to ourselves! Thankfully the rain was mostly coming straight down, and we managed, we thought, to keep our luggage reasonable dry.
The red bag USED to be waterproof! So we thought that we would stack other stuff on top……not so much! Unfortunately, we didn’t really realize how wet it got until we pulled it off our bed to go to sleep that night! Whoops!
Of course, our bus didn’t arrive at 4:00. It was more like 4:30. We both hopped on board, feeling extremely tired with traveling AGAIN. We had to sit in the middle of the 5 seats at the back, because there were no other seats. One of the locals sitting beside us kept asking us questions, obviously wanting to know where we were going, and where we were from. We both just gave him one word answers, and although it was a good opportunity for both of us to practice our Spanish, we just didn’t have it in us anymore. The poor guy gave up eventually, and actually moved seats when others became available. We felt bad, especially since we had told him that we were Canadians. I’m sure he expected better of us. HA! However, I did at one point confirm with him that it would take us 1.5 hours to get to Quepos. Yup it was already starting to get dark.
While on the bus, I was replaying the whole ‘short on cash thing in my mind’ and rehearsing what I would tell our taxi driver in Spanish, to get him to take us to an ATM, before taking us to our Air BnB in Manuel Antonio. As I was thinking this I distinctly remember saying to myself ‘You know, the best case scenario would be that wherever the bus drops us off, there will be an ATM near by. That way we can get cash, and not worry about the taxi driver and what I need to tell him.’
Well, sure enough, after pulling into downtown Quepos, and realizing that this was where we were getting off, I spotted a bank literally right across the street. Yay! What a relief!
After securing our precious funds, we jumped in a cab, and I showed him the picture that I had of the map where our Air BnB was. He said that he understood, so off we went. As we were driving, I reviewed the walking directions from a specific Hostel in town, that was provided to us on the Air BnB booking page. I started keeping a lookout for landmarkers as well, just to make sure that we were headed the right way.
After a few minutes, I spotted the grocery store that was mentioned in the directions, and knew that the house was just up a nearby alleyway from there. I told the driver to stop, even though he figured that we needed to keep on going down the road a bit farther (google maps aren’t always right!). After a bit of back and forth with him, I insisted that this was close enough, and he let us out.
I have to say though, at this point, I was a little sceptical that we would find this place at all. It was dark and raining, and we were supposed to be looking for an orange house down a dark alleyway. Alternate scenarios danced across my mind of having to go find a hostel or something else, until we could find our way in the morning. However, we at least had to try! And so, in the pouring rain, we set off with our ridiculous amount of gear mostly on our backs.
We entered the tiny little alleyway with every building looking exactly the same. It was a tiny little Tico (Costa Rican) neighbourhood with all houses made of concrete, some of them seeming to be attached to the next one. We walked up and down a couple hills and I started to think that this was futile. How were we ever going to distinguish an orange house in this maze? Suddenly, a small “Pulperia” (Costa Rican name for corner store), popped up on our right hand side. I figured that since it’s such a small little place, surely everybody knew each other! ‘Someone in the store MUST know this guy and where he lives’ I thought.
As I approached the door to step inside, there was a small boy guarding the entry way. He looked to be about 4. I squeezed past him with my huge backpacks still on, and asked the boy behind the counter (who looked to be about 15), if he knew of a guy named Charlie that lived nearby. Right away he said “No”……it’s a universal word, and I knew what it meant. But before my heart totally sank, the little 4 year old, who was now inside and standing next to me squeezed out “Si, Charlie.” Both of us, the older boy and myself, looked at him astonished. “Si, Charlie” he said again, this time pointing unassuradely, the way that little boys do, out the door and across the street. To confirm I crouched down to his level and said “En la casa naranja?” (In an orange house.) Much to my amazement “Si, la casa naranja” he said.
Wow! If I didn’t have so much luggage attached to me in every direction, I would have picked that little guy up and swung him around. I thanked him VERY MUCH, knowing full well that he would never know how much he had helped us that night.
We left the store, crossed the street, and headed down a tiny little steep hill that took us down to an orange house at the botttom. The hilarious part of it all, is that at the top of that hill, there was a super bright yellow fire hydrant that we had failed to notice. This was the next part of our directions……. ‘turn left at the bright yellow fire hydrant.’
It was like a shining, bright beacon in the night, but in our haste to find the orange house, we hadn’t seen it, and I had honestly forgotten about it. However, our little hero saved the day and sent us off to our salvation for the night.
We arrived to our Air BnB, knowing full well (because of previous conversations) that our host would not be on site when we got there. However, “Aaron from Canada” was staying there at the time, and as promised, he was there to greet us. He was happy to have some fellow Canadians staying with him (he is from Vancouver), and we were just happy to have finally arrived!
Here are a few pics of the neighbourhood that I took the following day in the LIGHT!
The entrance to the alleyway.
Further down the alleyway.
The yellow beacon! The Pulperia is just behind me.
Looking down the driveway to the Casa
La Casa Naranja!
I must say that although I find much value on reporting about our actual “traveling” experiences, I do realize, however, that there is great interest out there about destinations, and I should probably not call myself a “travel blogger” if I’m not reporting on the places that we are visiting. And so, my next post will be about our stay in Samara, and Manuel Antonio.
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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