In the few weeks that preceded the trip, we emailed back and forth with L, putting together an itinerary. We wanted to see and do as much as possible but we only had two weeks to do it all. And there was a lot to fit in.
Since the volcanoes , rain forest and cloud forest were high on our list, we decided to forgo the Pacific Coast. Costa Rica is bordered both by the Caribbean and the Pacific. Very high hills, almost mountains, run down the middle, forming the Continental Divide and separating the country into very different climatic regions. There is also a hot, desert section that borders Nicaragua on the north, as well as a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific. This peninsula is hard to get to but a favorite with surfers due to the huge waves found there along the coast. We were not going to go to either one of these regions either.
Many hours were spent pouring through our guidebooks and we eventually came up with an itinerary. Since L has led countless tour groups all around Costa Rica (hereafter called CR) , we wanted to include some places and activities that would be new to him also. We finally decided to start our adventure in San Jose (since that is where the airport is and where L ended his tour!) and then travel to the Caribbean coast, then back inland and do the volcanoes and cloud forests.
There are eight states, or regions, in CR and we would be visiting only four of them.
One thing kept coming up over and over in all of the guidebooks about CR that was causing me concern. It wasn’t that they have 35,000 species of insects, or that there are 220 species of reptiles, half of which are SNAKES!, including the most deadly, the bushmaster and the fer-de-lance. And all this in a country about twice the size of Vermont. It was the warning about pickpockets, thieves and just rascally people in general. The guidebooks make it sound like you have to watch your back every single minute that you are out and about. I was really nervous about this because I was bringing a digital camera and binoculars and needed a way to carry them that would be safe but convenient. Anything worn around your waist like a fanny pack is subject to any numbers of knives. Anything thrown over one shoulder is subject to the same number of knives as well as just a good old fashioned push and jerk. Plus the warnings go on and on about one person will try to distract you somehow while the accomplice steals your stuff.
They also tell of my most dreaded one. Someone “accidentally” squirts mustard on you and then tries to clean it off. All the while the accomplice is going through your pockets and snatching your stuff. I could just smell the ripe odor of French’s mustard in the hot sun all over my clothes just reading about it. Ick. And I knew that when L first hit Central America, he had had his day bag stolen by somebody coming up to him and distracting him with conversation while somebody else reached from behind and stole his unprotected day bag. Thus loosing his camera and passport. No way did I want something like this to happen to me.
I discussed this concern with L and he assured me that it was all true in San Jose but elsewhere, one only had to exercise due caution as any traveler would. He did advise us to bring our day backpacks to wear when we were out and about. Since they are worn backwards, or in front of you, they are very hard to steal without you noticing!
So, we finally knew exactly where we were going, when we were going there, how we were going to get there and even where we were going to stay. The night before we were to leave, we finished packing our backpacks and were quite proud of ourselves. We were finally joining the backpackers of the world club! We truly felt like we were off on an adventure like no other. And we were!