Category Archives: San José

¡NO HABLO ESPAÑOL! Learning to survive in Central America

After being back home and randomly around different parts of the UK since my return from Thailand in April, my feet were getting itchy and I had to leave.
There was no purpose; no need for me to be in England, apart from being here for family who are getting older. However, after a long internal battle with myself, I realised I’d done all I could and I had to think about my own happiness; my own state of mind. Which, as it stands at time of leaving, is a bit of a mess.
I perused the SkyScanner website, and found an incredibly cheap ticket to Costa Rica.
I said my goodbyes in a matter of weeks, I packed my bag, arranged travel insurance and boarded my flight to San José. Via Frankfurt and Dominican Republic first; obviously a cheap ticket means putting your body and mind through the ultimate test of time travel.
So wearily, I arrived around 5AM Thursday morning, having traveled for about 24 hours, and left the airport with the name of a hostel I had booked, to be greeted by a swarm of excited taxi drivers wanting to take me to “the best hotel in San Jose”.
I picked one with a relatively friendly face and he took me to one of the many approved, orange licensed cabs parked outside the airport. 


 As he showed me in and took my bag, he suddenly shouted “oh no no no no no” and started pulling my bag back out the taxi.
Confused and slightly worried, due to the fact it’s dark, I have no idea where I am, if this guy’s legit and why he’s put me in a taxi only to take me out again, he starts laughing and pointing me towards a different taxi. He’d told me to get in the wrong one, but I laugh this off due to the fact they are all the same shade of orange; anyone could make that mistake.

He drives me away from the airport and to a town just outside of San José itself, called Alajuela. I’d emailed the guy beforehand to tell him I’d be arriving at an insane hour. We’ve got our AMs and PMs mixed up.

 I stand outside a barred gate with barbed wire on top, ringing on the doorbell until I see a man sleepily rub his eyes, and start struggling with about four locks to let himself out and me in.

 This process takes about ten minutes; I kid you not. All I can think is “I hope they never have a fire”.
Finally I’m in and am shown straight to my room. There’s some kind of dropping on the pillow but I don’t care. I brush it off and pass out for a couple of hours.

That day I spend my time relaxing by the pool, and practising my very poor Spanish.

 Friday morning comes and I’ve packed up my things again, and head out to reception to ask them to call me a cab. I’ve told the guy I want to go to Quepos, so the taxi adamantly assures me he’s going to take me to a bridge where I wait for a bus that’ll take me on the 5 hour journey to the small Pacific town.
I get out the taxi with all my belongings, and am literally left on the side of a highway. Another man is stood there, I ask him “Quepos?” and point to the spot in which I’m stood.
“¡Si!” He exclaims, showing me all his teeth in a wide grin. 

Two minutes later he flags down a bus headed somewhere else and I’m left at the side of the road, alone and clueless, but kind of feeling proud at the fact I’m in yet another stupid situation.

Eventually I see a blue bus on the horizon and wave it down.
Thankfully it’s going to Quepos, so I board, enthusiastically, whilst bashing other passengers accidentally with my oversized backpack.
I sit by the window, spending half the journey leaning out like an excited dog, snapping pictures of the towns we pass through and the leafy forests surrounding us.


The draining system is somewhat hazardous

Eventually we make it to Quepos, where I meet up with one of the most beautiful and fabulous women I’ve ever met; Amy, who I met on my travels to Thailand.

We spend the weekend bathing in the sun, checking out the markets, spotting monkeys and drinking cocktails. I get to see her humble but cute house she lives in, via the charity she is working for here.

 We catch up and we offload, and I feel that both of us have come away from this weekend feeling a lot brighter and more positive about life. How could we not? We are both now so fortunate to call Costa Rica our home.

On the Sunday I board the bus back to San José, where I’ve booked a different hostel; Costa Rica Backpackers. 
 After a not very nice experience with a touchy taxi driver, I’m relieved to get to my room. Its such a shame that girls are encouraged to travel alone, and men act like they will give the best advice and support for them to do this confidently, but then take advantage by having a disgusting grope.
The same taxi driver who told me to look out for myself and to not be alone at night as there are nasty men in this city, and I shouldn’t be without a friend seeing as I’m a woman. After appreciating his words of advice, he then took an opportunity to slide his hands up the back of my shorts and grope my ass, and as I moved away he tried to follow me. If this was in the UK I’d have said something / offered a firm slap around the face; however having just been warned of the “dangerous men” I would be encountering, I was scared so kept quiet, only able to mutter the words “dirty pervert” under my breath as I ran to the gate of the hostel and quickly rang the doorbell until I was buzzed in.
Having a word with myself and self reassuring that this was an isolated event, involving a man who’s prick was undoubtedly the size of a peanut, I took a deep breath, pulled on some jogging bottoms (which enraged me that I felt I had to; however I wasn’t going to get too brave) and went for a walk into San José.

I was quickly cheered up the by sight of a cockerel pulling a chariot (see below) and found a place to enjoy some pasta and read my book.

I rushed back to the hostel before the sunset; I’m sure I would have been fine, however San José just gave me a general feel of discomfort. I felt like I was in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, however less snogging Leo, and more feeling the sense of an impending gun fight at any moment.
However, waking up this morning and having the loveliest guy taking me to the Bus Station, who genuinely seemed to care, and didn’t try any funny business, reaffirmed that actually it’s only a few individuals who give places a bad name, and there’s more good people out there than bad.
I boarded the bus to Puerto Viejo, and had a lovely 5 hour drive to the Caribbean side of the country, admiring more beautiful scenery and ocean views.

 I’ve now arrived at the hostel at which I am working a few hours a day at; La Ruka. I help out in exchange for a free bed. I know this sounds too soon but I LOVE it already. 

All the staff here are friendly, relaxed and easy to talk to. It’s hot, and as the town is on the Caribbean side, there’s a massive sense of relaxation. People don’t bother with shoes, everyone’s on a bicycle, you can hear crickets and wildlife in the trees surrounding, and everyone has a healthy glow to them.

As I’m writing this, I keep going to brush my hair off my shoulder, it’s tickling me, which is odd as there’s no breeze. I turn my head to see a tiny baby gecko sat on my shoulder. I’m literally living in amongst a solid load of trees, full of insects, birds  and animals; but I’m not complaining, as this is their home I’m living in.

I can tell it’ll be hard to leave; luckily I don’t have a clue when that’ll be yet.