San Jose to the Cloud Forest

We’d heard terrible things about the border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica: hours spent waiting to get into the correct queue, so on and so forth, so we were mentally prepared for the worst.  One of the advantages, though, of travelling with a long-distance operator like Tica Bus is that they ease the crossing: they know the process.  They collected our passports before we arrived at the Nicaraguan exit, and dealt with that without us at all.  Here we are hanging around: there are many stalls selling food and drinks, as well as an endless supply of money-changers.  We had a coffee and got rid of our Nicaraguan money at a pretty poor rate.
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After they had handed the passports back, we drove to the Costa Rican side, where we queued to get in.  Fortunately for us, they are remodelling the building, and so have no facilities for inspecting luggage !  So, a short wait to have our passports stamped, the bags remained on the bus, and then we were off.  This was followed by six hours of tedium, scarcely alleviated by watching the movies on the overhead screens: Never Back Down, followed by Never Back Down 2.  In Spanish.  I got the plot for the first: troubled teenager discovers mixed martial arts, beats living hell out of his enemy, gets the girl.  I hadn’t a clue what was going on in the second, but there was lots of fighting.  We arrived in San Jose, capital of Costa Rica, at about 5pm, a ten-hour trip.  The San Jose Tica Bus terminal is sophisticated: it has a baggage handing area, to which all the bags are conveyed so they can be reclaimed.  This is perhaps the most inefficient process I’ve ever seen.  The two guys from the bus unload all the bags and then pile them into a big heap, literally a big heap, while passengers crowd around the counter and shout “Señor, Señor, la mochila azul, la mochila azul”, or similar, until their bag is handed over.  In practice, you have to wait until you can actually see your bag or bags: ours were off first, but they rapidly disappeared under other bags, so I had to wait until they resurfaced.  Then we hopped into a taxi and proceeded to our hostel, Casa Ridgway.
This is a combination hostel and peace centre, with each room themed for a different peace campaigner, with a big painting on the wall.  As the photo on the right points out, if you don’t have an army, you can’t have a war, and Costa Rica has no army.
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We have a couple of days here, so we wander around town.  In one of the main squares, we come across a familiar sight: an Apple dealership.  The name made me chuckle.  The ice cream shop next door was good, though.
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Costa Rica seems to be much more prosperous than most of the countries we’ve travelled through so far.  They have good roads, lots of cars and big glass buildings.  There’s still poverty, but less of it, it seems.  We walked round town with another Ridgway resident, so here’s a picture of us together standing next to a dove of peace, part of a big sculpture project which is spread all over town.  Looks more like a chicken of peace to me.
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After a couple of days, we went to the town of Santa Elena, in the Monteverde area of the Costa Rican highlands.  The town reminds me of a French ski resort in the summer: it’s at the top of a hill, has lots of concrete building and a supermarket, tons of restaurants and bars, and huge numbers of places selling zipwire canopy tours, mountain biking trips, and transfers to other tourist places.  The big draw here is the cloud forest, so we tour the reserves.  In the background here, with it’s head in the clouds, is Volcano Arenal, where we’ll be in a couple of days.  We’re standing on an observation tower which sticks up above the forest canopy.
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Amongst other things, we go on a guided night walk in the forest.  As well as a two-fingered sloth, a pit viper, leaf-cutter ants and an armadillo, we spot this tarantula.
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And we wrap it all up with a visit to the Frog Pond to look at the tree frogs.  Here’s one on the glass of it’s terrarium: it’s about an inch or so long.
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Anyway, it’s moderately cold, wet and windy here, as you might expect in a cloud forest, so we’re off back to the flat lands tomorrow.

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