The cat’s out of the bag now – we made a surprise trip home! Yes there was a reason we were heading to Costa Rica with quite some pace and that was specifically a 1st of January flight from San Jose to London. So on Boxing day (not really celebrated in Central America) we headed straight to the border nice and early.
Having had the pretty poor experience coming into Nicaragua we weren’t too excited at the prospect of approaching the border to exit Nicaragua, and in some ways we were right but for different reasons than we first thought! We’d read about the procedure online which was hugely counterintuitive and we were super grateful we did. It involved parking in a huge car park and then going to the border agent to get an exit stamp. First we had to pay $1 for a small ticket to join a non-existent queue then it was a $2 exit fee each. Although as we went to pay the border agent asked for $10… As it happened Mikey had just overheard someone one booth along paying the $2 so we refused to pay anymore and the agent quickly resigned. Our second attempt at extortion on our whole trip – not too bad!
Then we had to get a form from a ‘man in a green T-Shirt’ and then hunt down a police officer to give it about 3 stamps, and finally join a large queue to exit the country. It didn’t seem to be overly busy so actually we did the whole process in under an hour – a pleasant surprise! Crossing into Costa Rica, it felt like crossing into such a vastly different country instantly. Rather than stuffy worn down buildings with employees asking for more money than they should we found clean air-conditioned buildings with smiley border agents (what a rarity!) who were more than happy to answer all our questions. We had to make sure the legality of leaving Betty in the country while we flew home was fine and were assured as long as we returned before our temporary import permit expired it would not be a problem.
So as we drove through the beautiful countryside of Costa Rica we enjoyed roads which rivalled the quality of the B roads winding through the English rolling hills. Pulling up at our first stop was a beautiful vista restaurant in a small town, and while the food was definitely more than we were used to paying the exchange rate of 800:1 made us merrily ignorant. Also the view was plenty enough to distract us, over Bahia Selena where we decided that would be where we’d spend our first night. It’s famous for having huge gusts of winds on water as flat as glass so we had high hopes for windsurfing!
Unfortunately when we got there it turned out the trendy ‘kitesurfing’ had overtaken any availability of getting hold of windsurfing equipment. We did deliberate for a good hour over whether we should take some lessons in the new sport but it would have been so expensive and realistically we wouldn’t have used it again any time soon! So we headed to ‘playa negro’ a coastal tourist town with beautiful waves.
Pulling in late at night is something we’ve managed to avoid since Mexico but we did end up doing it as it was a good 4 hour drive on from where we’d had our lunch. This was made worse by the fact the place we were hoping to camp was actually shut and all the hotels were full – it turns out the whole of Costa Rica heads to the coast over Christmas and so we spent hours driving around! Eventually we found a surf shack type of place and spent the night pretty uncomfortably on the neighbouring field. The next morning we went to the beach, realised the surf was super crowded and so made a move by 10am!
It was time for a break from the coast so we went into the mountains, where there are hot volcanic thermal pools. We could camp outside and enjoy the gorgeous venue – but one thing to bear in mind is that while thermal pools are usually the perfect temperature they aren’t what you need when it’s already 30 degrees! Lesson learnt, we still got a fantastic nights sleep as it dropped to a much cooler 20 for the evening.
Our last port of adventure before the capital was Jaco – a very touristy surf town. We thought this would be a perfect place to pick up a surfboard but unfortunately they were all too short (and far too expensive!). So instead we souvenir shopped and it was the perfect place for it, as we wanted to make sure we had everyone covered before we went home. We also needed pretty unique present for a special occasion…
After Jaco it was on to San Jose – the capital city to meet Ana! Ana is an ex-colleague of Mikey from Costa Rica whose parents still live in a lovely suburb of the city. Ana gave us a whistle stop tour of the city and we had an absolutely lovely family lunch with them! They were so sweet and took us in as their own! We were invited to spend new years eve with Anas sister at a party but we had to politely decline as we had an early flight! As most of you reading probably already know we had a return visit to the UK on New Years Day for Annie’s brother’s wedding!