Day 53. Off You Go!

A great nights sleep and I head to breakfast. Its one of my favourite times at a hostel because its when you get to meet everyone. Sure you can talk to people at any time but at breakfast everyone is the same, not yet ready for the world and no one has their guard up. 

I sit down with Amanda and there are some others already at the table; Chloe (brit), Duncan (brit), Nathaniel (US) and a couple others whos names i may have forgotten..

Everyone is making their plans for the day and talking about what there is to do in Banos (which turns out is a lot). Everyone has been here for different amounts of time so done various things which is really helpful. 

Me and Amanda decide to go to Casa Del Arbol, its a viewpoint and swing that goes over the mountain and its on my ‘Must See’ list for my trip. There are loads of agencies that offer tours but its really not necessary. You can catch the bus for $1.50 and the stop is only a few blocks away. 

The bus journey is slow, the roads are incredibly windy and the cars do not slow on corners but we make it in one piece. Its a short up hill walk to the entrance and when we make it im blown away. 

Its more than just the treehouse and swing that i was expecting, it has been made into a park on top of the lush green mountain with bridges, swings and tyre lines. The views are incredible and the weather could not be better, blazing sunshine with just a slight breeze. 

A view from the mountain

We make our way to the treehouse/ swing and wait for our turn (it isnt quite the tranquil, undisturbed place its depicted as). People are going upside down, screaming, posing in all kinds of ways and as i step up for my go im so excited. Having looked over the edge i dont think its really that high so i guess now i will find out! 

Its an andrenaline rush and so much fun though i have to admit I would have like it to be a bit higher! 

Me on the swing

After Casa del Arbol we go on some of the park equipment and also wait with the rest of the kids for the mini zipline. Then its time to catch the bus back (they only leave at certain times) and hope we survive the journey, its notoriously worse going down. 

In the dorm and Amanda is in bed while I try to search for warm clothes. Im explaining about my genius pillowcase-for-a-towel idea when she gives me one of her sarongs from Australia, I tell her I cant take it but she insists so now i have a real sarong for the beach, yay! 

Lotte messages me and suggest going for dinner so we go to meet her and a guy from Austria who is in her dorm.

We stumble on this great restaurant (for the life of me i cant remember the name!) and its reasonably cheap. The food is amazing and the waiter goes above and beyond, even giving us 4 seperate bills. We have all eaten way too much and waddle our seperate ways to our hostels.

Heading to bed very content (if not a bit too full) 

Day 52. Banos Beauty

Me and Lotte have breakfast then head to get the bus. We need to get to the main bus terminal, its about an hour away by the metro but it still only costs 25c. 

Arriving at the terminal is very strange, outside you have the traditional tiendas but as soon as you go through the doors its like another world- everything is so modern and new. 

We soon find the counter for Banos (not hard when they are all shouting at you) and buy our tickets, i then find myself running for yet another bus as apparently its about to leave. On board and the bus is pretty empty meaning me and Lotte can both stretch out. 

The journey isnt too bad and provides some stunning views of the country, vast mountains and tiny towns. 

One of the views from the bus journey

We make it to Banos only a couple of hours later than expected and head in search of our hostels. We are staying at different ones as im on more of a budget and didnt want to spend the extra £2 a night, thats an entire meal guys.

The Great Backpackers is a bit out of town and down a slightly sketch street but its great. The rooms are big, they have a bar/ restaurant, a movie area and breakfast is included. It also has a really nice atmosphere though the only downside is the staff will only speak in Spanish. That isnt a bad thing as if, like me, you need practice but it can lead to a lot of confusion when you use the wrong words or dont know how to ask for something. 

After dropping of my bags and meeting one of my roomies (Amanda from Ireland) I venture into town to explore. Its a really cute town that has kept its traditions despite having a high tourism trade, you can also see one of the nearby Waterfalls from just about anywhere in the town. 

Its a little pricey for the souvenirs and higher end restaurants but you can also eat in the market or find small stalls for what you need, knowing how to bargain in Spanish also helps. 

I lose track of time exploring ao its  a late dinner and after a brief drink in the bar and chatting to some of the others in the hostel its time for bed. 

Banos!

Day 51. Quito

I wake up to my first day in Ecuador and ive had a good sleep, the beds here at The Blue House are really cosy which is good as the city itself is quite cold. 

I head off in search of breakfast and am slightly confused when I get given a tray with 2 slices of bread on from Reception. I sit down in the lounge area not quite ready to eat and only thinking the lonely bread strange for a minute before dismissing it, its better than nothing. 

A few minutes later and the lady from reception is giving me a weird look, when i go to say im not hungry yet she explain i have to go outside for breakfast… Okay? 

Seems odd but as i go outside and turn the corner I find another building. Inside is people from the hostel and on the table is tea, coffee, juice, jam, fruit and a toaster- now it makes sense! 

After breakfast i brave a shower, its slightly hot so i dont completely get frostbite. While trying to warm up in bed i get talking to Lotte from Denmark, she has also just arrived and is trying to make a plan. For the first time in a while on my travels I dont even have a rough idea for where im heading, just a couple of things id like to see, i borrow Lottes guidebook and try to make a  route heading South though with so many options its difficult to choose.

We take a break and decide to explore the Old Town. Its a short bus ride away and one of the few things to see it Quito. The streets are busy and there are people selling everywhere, i even spot a guy trying to sell 2 tiny puppies and have to fight the urge to buy them, wanting to snatchthem off the guy as theyre clearly too young to be away from their mum let alone outside. 

We head to the main square where we see the Presidential Palace and Cathedral and there are so many museums. Further out of town (which is all very steep) we find an old Cathedral and park, it looks so odd amongst the shops and cafes.

After all the steep walking we are starving so find a little cafe for lunch. Something that should be simple turns into the most difficult situation ever, im pretty sure the waiter doesnt even speak Spanish as everything we say he just shakes his head. Even when pointing directly to the menu (which is in Spanish) he seems confused and asks again what i want. Eventually somehow we manage to order and pay, not understanding the confusion, my spanish isnt great but i know when im ordering food and speaking correctly.

More wandering and window shopping and we head back, still needing to decide on a plan. Lotte has decided to head to Banos tomorrow, its somewhere i was thinking of going but not straight away though as i dont have another idea i might as well! 

Im still tired from the long journey here so after cooking dinner (with some fresh veg i got in town) I have an early night. 

Day 50. Never-Ending Day

My first sleeping experience in an airport was okay, i managed to sleep for maybe 3 hours on and off. I would have slept a bit better had I not been moved along by some maintenance men who needed to work on the lights above my little spot. 

At 5am I freshen up in the bathroom, brushing my teeth and getting changed- trying to convince myself I had a good rest and havent spent the last 7 hours on the floor of an airport. 

I check my emails but still have not heard from my hostel about being collected from the airport though luckily have a response from Ant in the UK. He is from the agency i booked my flights with and id emailed him asking if the Costa Rica departure tax had been included on my ticket as sometimes you have to pay at the airport, to which he tells me it was.

Also why im waiting I check my bank, just to see how things are looking. I nearly have a heart attack, thinking my sleep deprived brain is playing tricks on me- one of my accounts has gone along with the £2500 that was in it, what?!?! 

I triple check to make sure im not mistaken and then message me mum to take a look on her computer, she confirms it isnt there either. Trying to remain calm (luckily the lack of sleep and dazedness helps) Mum calls the banks and tries to work out whats happened. 

In the mean time i can finally check in, using the self service machines and ensuring the details are correct- especially as i have a connecting flight and need to work out if i collect my bag or it goes straight to Ecuador. Approaching the desk i hand over my passport and bag when the lady tells me I have to pay the tax. I explain to her that i have checked and have already paid but she assures me that it has not been included and sends me to another desk to pay the $30, this country is just draining me. Having paid and been given my tickets i finally enter security and also hear back from Mum, everything is fine and the money is safe, with the person who had initially set up the account.

Whilst waiting at the gate I doze on and off, barely able to keep my eyes open. My plan is to sleep for the flight and so arrive in Dallas feeling a lot better (for some reason the only way I could get to Ecuador from Costa Rica was via Dallas, weird). 

In my seat and about to get comfy for my nap when the guy next to me decides that I look like i really want to maintain conversation. I feel bad, he is really nice and normally id be more than happy chat but in my current semi conscious state i can barely manage a sentence. 

 With the arrival of breakfast (and coffee!) im slightly more functioning and it turns out Eric is a photographer and has been on a working holiday. As if my day couldnt feel more surreal he then asks to take my portrait, just when im feeling SO attractive. I couldnt think of anything worse but what have i got to lose, hes the one with the bad photos!

The air hostess mistakes us for a couple and practically snatches the camera from him, insisting on taking a photo of us, its actually quite funny. Luckily the photo session is short and having accepted im not going to be sleeping i watch ‘Zootopia’ which has begun to play on one of the four TVs on the entire plane, its actually hilarious and by the time we land I feel much better.

I go through immigration, first having to scan my passport myself and have my photo taken (reminded how awful i look without sleep) then to the desks to be questioned and get my stamp. Its pretty quick and then Im too eager as i follow the signs for transfers/ security, not realising i dont have my ticket and having to back track to actually check in and get my boarding pass, Its very difficult to function.

Through security and Dallas airport is HUGE. I wander aimlessly and buy cheesy pretzals and chocolate, nice and healthy combo but I reason i deserve it.

I have to get a train to my gate and in the waiting area I join the masses on the WiFi. I still have not heard from my hostel and I have to board, Im going to have to figure it out when i get there- sketchy taxi again it seems.

This time I have my own TV and cannot help but laughing whist watching ‘The Intern’, so loudly in fact the old couple in the row next to me stop to ask what it is im watching as they want to laugh that much!

The flight is okay and im past sleeping now, films only being interrupted for the toilet and when dinner is served- not that I eat as suprisingly there is no Vegetarian option. When i ask for an alternative option im told to take the ham out of the sandwhich and eat it with the salad,Why dont i just lick a steak?!

After ‘dinner’ i get talking to the people next to me, its a lady and her son who are from Ecuador and they agree to help me find a taxi when we land.

Through immigration and with the help of the mother and son i get in a taxi, too tired to even comprehend if anything was to happen.

 Around 30 minutes later i arrive at my hostel and after checking in i head straight to bed, its nearly 11.30pm and ive been travelling for over 40hours. Time for sleep!

Day 49. The Longest Wait

Its my last day in Costa Rica before catching a flight to Ecuador and im sad to be leaving, our group is also splitting as we are all going our seperate ways on our travels. 

We have our last breakfast together and i head back into Quepos to collect my laundry, it really is a bit of a faff! Whilst in town i look for a beach towel/ sarong as its the one thing i didnt pack and have really needed. 

Everything in the shops is too expensive so I have the idea of just buying a metre or two of material and using that, though apparently that is even more expensive here. Im walking around, thinking ill just have to continue to make do when i have another idea- I look in the op shops to see if they have towels or sarongs (they have everything else) when i come accross a cage of bedding pieces. My genius idea hits and i buy a large pillow case which i can later cut the seam to open it into a towel- 15 pence bargain! 

I grab lunch from the bakery (they have the most amazing cheese rolls) and catch the bus back to the hostel to have a shower and pack. Its going to be a long evening.

Andrew is really nice and drops me and Henry at the bus terminal in Quepos, the two of us will make the journey together though Henry is not being as cheap as me and has paid for a hostel before his flight in the morning. I weighed it up and decided that I didnt want to spend money on getting to a hostel, paying for the night and then a transfer to the airport so instead Ill be sleeping in San Jose airport, good old google has informed me it can be done.

The bus ride goes fairly quick and doesnt take as long as we thought it would, meaning i arrive at the airport by 8.30pm- a nice 11 hours before my flight.

I explore the small terminal and connect to the WiFi, i need to email my hostel in Quito to arrange my airport pick up as i land around 10pm. The airport in Quito is a far out of the centre and i dont want to get another taxi, especially as other travellers have warned Quite is quite unsafe. 

After having my dinner (cheese wraps in my new lunchbox) I find a good spot for the night and make my camp in a small corner,i wont be able to do anything untill 6am so sleeping seems a good choice. I lay my newly purchased ‘towel’ on the tiles, strap by rucksack to my back and curl around my small bag with my scarf as a blanket. Its not the comfiest but it keeps the freezing air con out slightly and hopefully I will get a couple of hours sleep. The terminal is pretty empty apart from a few maintenance men and fellow sleepers. 

Day 47. Everybody In?!

Awake not long after sunrise again due the fact that for some reason in Central America they do not like blinds or curtains. 

As I drink my coffee and think about my chilled day ahead im joined by the rest of the group that has now formed at the hostel. Theres 8 of us who hang out together (me, Andrew, Graham, Martin, Emerson, Henry, Annalea and Cam) and today the plan is a beach trip, how can i say no? 

I quickly get my stuff together and we all head for Andrews car. With 2 in the front, 4 in the back and 1 in the boot we make the short journey to Manuel Antonio, though it takes slightly longer than usual as we are going extra careful, safety first! 

The boys head out to surf while me and Annalea sunbathe, its quite funny to watch them in their matching surfing school shirts, a girl cant complain! 

By the time their done and everyone has dried off its lunchtime, no one has brought any food so we decide we should make a picnic. Andrew/ Graham/ Annalea/ Cam head off to the shop and when they return we have a feast. As we sit on the beach chatting with our make shift lunch we all agree its a pretty good life! 

More sunbathing and swimming and a few hours later we head for the car, time to squeeze in again. As we drive past other tourists and families everyone laughs and gives is a wave, however when we pass a group of police cars a few people lie flat so it looks like there isnt as many people in the car but we are pretty sure they see and dont care.

After a shower i head into Quepos, the larger of the two towns and with a lot more in it though because its a Sunday most things are closed. I drop off my laundry (bit of an annoying journey) and look around the shops that are open. Ive also been craving chocolate since i arrived so i go on the hunt. I find a restaurant that sells brownies and to say i get a weird look when all i order is dessert would be an understatement. I dont care though as its delicious and exactly what i needed. 

Grabbing a bus and heading back to the hostel everyone is at the adjoining restaurant. The food is pretty good and reasonably priced though their cocktails arent great.

I order the nachos but get very jealous when i see everyones pizzas arriving- its a good thing they arent vegetarian otherwise id be stealing their food.

Its been a fun day and everyone is in a good mood, bad cocktails and all. 

I head to bed though not before im greeted by a little friend hiding in the light! 

 


Day 46. Dream Come True

Im up and finished with breakfast in record time, waiting at the bus stop by 7.30am. 

The bus is only about 10 minutes and then im in Manuel Antonio. Its a beach town and extrmemely touristy, with cafes and souvenirs galore. I stop at the shop before walking to the park as there is nothing once your inside, though buying food for the day is difficult as ive been told youre not allowed to take fruit, nuts, crisps or anything not pre packaged/ sealed.

Its a short walk (past some very posh looking restaurants ans hotels) and i arrive at the park. Its only just opened so the queue is short and i get my ticket, going through the bag search and ignoring the crowds of guides offering their services.

There are several paths and i follow what seems to be the main one, staring up at the trees hoping to catch a glimpse of a monkey or a sloth. There are a few tour groups and i walk slowly behind them, listening in to what they are saying and looking when they set up their telescopes- you dont need to pay if youre sneaky enough! 

Its by doing this i see my first sloth- its a little baby climbing up a tree and it is incredibly cute, i actually start crying because its so beautiful and im so happy. Couldnt be more of a typical girl if i tried- step aside Kristen Bell.

Continuing along the trail and theres a couple more sloths, but theyre incredibly hard to spot. I also see lots of different birds and   reptiles including the ‘Jesus’ lizard (because it can run accross water). If you listen you hear howler monkeys in the trees but sadly I dont get a glimpse, though as i overhear a guide its probably for the best as apparently the females can be very aggressive.

I arrive at the first beach and its stunning- white sand and lush jungle and its still quiet because its early. As i pick my spot my I see several signs saying not to feed the monkeys, something I find strange as there isnt a monkey in sight.

Im enjoying the sunshine and my book when im suddenly interrupted from my reading by lots of voices. As i look around I realise its because raccoons have appeared  and are trying to steal everyones food! They are searching through bags and undoing zips to get the good stuff, its kind of crazy to see and they are not shy, not even going when people approach or try to get the bags.

The raccoons make several advances through the morning and are joined (finally) by the monkeys. They are incredible, so agile and cute and theres so many. You have to constantly watch your things otherwise theyll be gone.

After my make shift lunch i continue around the park. There are several beaches and a trail that goes in a loop, with viewpoints along the way. Its the kind of humid i imagined- where you sweat with every step, but the views are breathtaking. You can see for miles and hear nothing but the crashing of waves against the cliffs and the animals in the park. 

Sadly i have to leave the park and catch the bus back to Hostel Plinio. Its been such a good day and ive loved it.

I have a shower and cook dinner, this time mixing it up and having potato and veg! 

A brief chat and chill with the other people in my dorm and I head to bed, one very happy traveller.