Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Down in the Banana Republics

After a great  few days with my sisters, Kym and Katrina, I had to say good bye. As they hopped on a plane bound for Miami, my dad and I headed towards the Banana Republic or in other words the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

Getting through San Jose is always awful, but doing so during rush hour without a plan is a nightmare. After  circling the city, getting lost I don't know how many times, asking directions on almost every corner and finally resorting to calling my mom in the states to give us directions, we made it out of the city and on our way in just over an hour.

We serpentine mountainous terrain  for the next 4 hours  only stopping for a bank and a snack a local bakery. Yes, we later found out we took one of the longest ways possible. Since  we knew we couldn't cross into Panama at night because the boarder closed at 5 and we wouldn't arrive to the border until at least 10PM, we needed to get a hotel.

We had hoped to stop driving at 8PM, but hadn't found a hotel to stay in. So we drove all the way to Limon. Limon is the one city most people will tell you to stay away from due to the large sailor and shipping industry and when we arrived, we agreed that we were better continuing closer to the boarder. We stopped just outside of Limon in a cute little bar to grab a beer and go to the bathroom. When we asked for our tab, we were pleasantly surprised it was only $1 a beer compared to the average $2.50 on the pacific side of Costa Rica.
We got back on the road and drove another 20 minutes and arrived in the little Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo. As we drove through we noticed all the street sellers and cute bar/ restaurants, but having traveled all day we could only think about a place to sleep. We ended up finding the Lotus Garden Hotel. It was nothing fancy, but the price was right and it had A/C, WiFi and hot water.

Playa Negra on the Carribean side of Costa Rica

Goat sleeping on the side of the road

We woke up around 8:30 ready to get back on the road, but first we drove around the small town of Puerto Viejo. Unlike the Pacific side of Costa Rica, everything was not yet opened and we were informed that the day didn't begin until 10AM. When we arrived at a cute little breakfast joint, we walked in and nobody even acknowledged us. We walked over to an empty table and waited another 10 minutes before walking to the bar and asking if they were open. The waiter said yes and that he would be over in a minute to take our order and went back to reading the paper. After taking a cursory look at the menu and realizing it was nothing special, we decided not to wait until the waiter was ready to serve us, but rather just get on the road.
Made a stop by the fire dept. for my cousin KPP

Driving towards the border town of Sixaola, there was nothing but banana trees, banana factories and plantation owned track homes for the workers. After an hour and a half of nothing but bananas, we finally reached the border which took forever to cross.

Bananas as far as the eye can see!
 First we had to officially leave Costa Rica which means waiting until they feel ready to stamp your passport. Then we had to carry all our luggage across a rickety bridge while carefully watching the ground for stray holes one  might fall in. After which we waited in a line of 5 people which took another 2 hours. When we finally got to the front, they were even in less of a hurry that the border guards in Costa Rica. We were ushered to a taxi , which ended up being a shuttle, and waited until all 10 seats were full. Again, time was not of the essence.
Looking towards Panama

woooo made it across!

First we needed to stop at a gas station because filling up while we were all in the border line apparently would be too practical. Then we went next door and the driver put air in the tires, but it didn’t seem to fix the problem. The next thing we know we are at a tire shop and the driver gets out and the car is jack up. With all 10 people inside the shuttle they replaces the tire! Finally we were on our way again but not without dropping someone off, picking up the drivers friend, and almost t-boning a car. But all the craziness lead to some great bonding among the shuttles patrons.

When we arrived at the water taxi place it only cost $4 a person to bring us from mainland to the Bocas. The ride was beautiful ; Caribbean blue waters and mountainous views.  Once we caught glimpse of the Islands we knew we were in for a treat!

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