Passport Checks, and Beaches, and Iguanas, Oh My

After 24 hours of cancellations, delays, and layovers, I finally made it to Coco, Costa Rica yesterday. It certainly wasn't without plenty of shenanigans and great people watching, but I'm thankful, because I had it good compared to many others who were traveling yesterday. I touched down in San Jose early yesterday morning, followed by a four-hour ride from the airport to Coco, a small beach town on the North Pacific side of Costa Rica. Within the first few minutes of arriving, I found myself already negotiating and being asked a couple times for directions. I'm not sure what makes a 6'3" saltine cracker make him look like he knows his way around, but evidently I do, because I get asked for directions frequently, wherever I go. It also reminded me that I'm going to have to do more than just brush up on my Spanish. How does the saying go? "If you don't use it, you lose it". I'm not sure, however, that that adage was referring to language.

My first real "welcome to Costa Rica" moment wasn't until about halfway through the ride to Coco. After only getting an hour of sleep on the plane, I found myself dozing off a couple times in the van. That was until we came to a screeching halt. Growing up in the deep south of America, I was expecting a cattle crossing, maybe a deer, or some vultures gnawing on road kill; but oh no, this was a family of iguanas crossing the road.

The next "welcome to Costa Rica" moment was just before we got to Liberia. I had a good idea of what it was when I saw it up ahead of us on the road: a passport checkpoint. Everyone in the van showed their passports to Costa Rica officials and within a couple minutes we were on our way. The driver pointed out that since we were getting closer to Nicaragua, there can frequently be checkpoints, that are in place to prevent people who were in the country illegally, especially Nicaraguans. If you've watched any of the world news lately, the relationship between Costa Rica and Nicaragua hasn't been great lately. Since Costa Rica is known for having a better infrastructure than Nicaragua, a lot of Nicaraguans come across the border looking for work. And no, this wasn't like an espionage thriller where we had to pay off the officials to continue on.

I've gotten extremely lucky with Costa Rica, as Abby Tegnelia (Abby lived in Coco for over a year and you can read about it at her blog, The Jungle Princess) was a big help in getting me down here, providing recommendations, and so on. She also introduced me to Cheryl, who is what I call my travel saint. Cheryl is an expat from Canada who has been in Costa Rica for several years. Cheryl does real estate and property management in Coco and the Guanacaste region and found me a great place, right off the main drag in Coco. I've not met anyone who loves Costa Rica as much as Cheryl, and she wants everyone to love it as much as she does.

Kitchen of my humble abode
Kitchen of my humble abode

I got to Coco just in time, as this little beach town hosts one of the biggest parties in Costa Rica for New Year's. Travel, New Year's, and alcohol all offer great people watching opportunities by themselves, but put them together and you've got the holy trinity. I'm off now for my first grocery run and already made my first goal to make sure I capture video of the renowned "howling monkeys", of which are saving me money so that I don't have to buy an alarm clock.

Check back frequently for a couple updates a week from my trip in Costa Rica. In addition to posting here, I'll be guest posting and writing articles elsewhere. That is one of the many reasons for my trip to Central America. As I've put it, the U.S.A. has gotten pretty-well milked as far as travel writing goes, so I've come to Central America to make and find my own stories that are off the beaten path. I'll also be adding a new element to my blog, which will include video, so keep an eye out for that. If you have any Costa Rica recommendations, leave them on this blog post. Thanks for following along.

Photo courtesy of Cathieo.