We set off from the capital city, San Jose, embarking on a 6 hour journey into the heart of the jungle on Costa Rica’s Eastern peninsula. San Jose is a great introduction to this beautiful country. But what seems to draw people here are the areas of untouched natural beauty, where we were heading.
Leaving San Jose the roads were crawling with street sellers who wound between cars on busy motorways. Jacks of all trades, they sell everything from fresh coconut water to Peppa Pig stickers. If you catch their attention they put on quite a performance to push for a purchase. Unfortunately we couldn’t indulge them for too long as we had three other yogis to pick up from the airport.
Arriving at San Jose International, we picked up Sophia, Hannah and Amy. Our group was growing and becoming more international by the day; one from Hawaii, one from Toronto, one from Vancouver, another from Pennsylvania and one from Christchurch! Everyone shared one common interest: yoga, and we couldn’t wait to share this next month’s journey together.
Leaving San Jose, we pressed on to Puntarenas and our 5pm ferry to cross over to the eastern peninsula that is home to Montezuma and a whole lot of jungle. The more we experienced of the mainland of Costa Rica, the more we realised that this country is blessed with fantastic infrastructure and order for a place that is surrounded mainly by 3rd world countries.
En route to Puntarenas our driver took a small detour to a well known fruit market slightly off the beaten track. He was excited to share some of the beautiful products that grow in his homeland with such eager travellers. As we climbed out of the car we were hit by a wall of heat, at least 8 degrees hotter than at the airport and thick humidity. Perhaps their winter isn’t so mild.
The market was full of the exotic fruits, each stand selling the exact same combinations and each seller more eager than the last to give us some tasters! Unusual tropical varieties, such as papaya and passion fruit, that you pay a premium for in Europe are the most common to grow here in Costa Rica. The market sellers were keen for us to try all of the fruits that we didn’t recognise, ‘mamon chino’ to ‘jocote’ and even ‘uchava’.
Hundreds of coconuts were lined up in rows. They happily cracked these open for us to drink the water, certainly beats buying it in a bottle! This seems to be a theme throughout Costa Rica, as everywhere you look you can get a fresh coconut for $1! When we arrived at Puntarenas we had about an hour’s wait before the ferry arrived. It was hot and humid and we were all hungry for something to fill our stomachs, however our driver had warned us off the chicken skewers which were the only thing on offer…
The port was colourful and fun, a fusion of floridian and Caribbean vibes. Just like at the airport the people here were all smiling and open to conversation. The atmosphere was convivial and young Costa Ricans were playing and laughing, they learn the joys of Pura Vida early.
An hour later we set off on the car ferry towards Paquera. Surrounded by a mixture of locals, tourists and even a paparazzi who was posted here to look for celebrities seeking a recluse. The excitement in our group was palpable, we were half way there.
On the hour and a half journey across to Paquera the sun was setting, and we could see that the landscape on this peninsula represented nature in its purest form; rugged jungle without a building in site. Accompanying us on the journey were two pods of dolphins jumping through the waves, locals barely batted their eyelids whilst the tourists cheered in awe! The further from Puntarenas we sailed, the closer to nature we became, soaking in the atmosphere we prepared for our arrival.
By the time we arrived at Paquera it was pitch black, the only light around was from darting cars and motorbikes. The contrast between this side of the country and the other was distinct. The order was gone and chaos sat mischievously in its place. Street sellers cracking coconuts milled around moving cars and busses, shouting to their friends in their local dialect. Wild cats begged for scraps and the sound of the wildlife hummed loudly in the background. Fortunately we quickly located Johanne, our driver from Anamaya, who quickly whisked us into the car and locked the doors. Travelling with lots of cash here is not recommended.
This car journey starkly juxtaposed the first. The roads leading to Montezuma instead of smooth were now littered with potholes, the terrain was mountainous and steep and around every corner were a set of glowing eyes; creatures peering out from the jungle to see who has come to visit. “Now you are in their home, the jungle, you have to live by their rules” remarked Johanne in a humorous tone. Half way to Montezuma I had my first ‘snake siting’. Sprawled across the road was a 6 foot grey and red creature that had seemingly been cut in half by a passing vehicle. Remarking the fear that had plastered itself across my face, Johanne explained that snakes mainly stick to the rice fields, and don’t bother the beach or costal areas. This was comforting, somewhat.
As we drove out of Cobano I heard Johanne say ‘Say goodbye to civilisation’. Looking at him to ask why, the sharp jolting motion of the car answered my question. Down we dove onto a dirt track road, as bumpy as a black run mogul field, that led us directly into the deep green depths of this natural paradise. I vaguely made out the faded paint of a battered road sign, reading Montezuma 6km. This was really it. Goodbye roads, goodbye reality, goodbye civilisation. It was time to dive into the heart of the jungle and a journey of discovery and reflection, and I couldn’t be more ready.