Costa Rica: The day we travelled to hell (San José)

Sunday Funday slipped quietly into Monday, we all awoke with heavy, thick heads, bruised bodies, messy hair and most of us still in our Sunday Funday Singlets. We had survived the best night Nicaragua had to offer us, now we had a bigger challenge to partake in; getting from San Juan Del Sur to Costa Rica, for a nights stop over in San Jose before Lauren and I headed to the Caribbean Coast.

I was absolutely dreading the journey, ten hours spent on a cramped bumpy bus, whilst still suffering with the remains of the previous day wasn’t my ideal way to spend the day. I tried to reason with myself, surely our pilgrimage down to San Jose surely won’t be so bad considering we’re all going through it together. However nothing could rile up our spirits, that is, until just after breakfast, Patrick announced that we should do shots, there we were, our group of friends, together for the last time, sat around the bar at 8am, with a shot; downed with one final salute to San Juan Del Sur, Casa De Olas and the amazing people we met. With that Lauren, Marjan and I collected our bags, said goodbye to the place that became our home away from home and began our journey down South.

Morning Shots

Morning Shots

We grabbed a taxi to the boarder, which was about a half hour drive and cost us approximately $20, from there we joined the customs queue, which took an hour and half to wait in and get through, the Nicaraguan sun burned down on our backs, we guzzled water and slunk into any shade we could find. However, once we were through it wasn’t long after exiting Customs before we managed to get a $12  ticket for our Tica Bus, a ticket for ten hours of absolute hell (have you guessed that bus journeys are my least favourite part of travelling, yet?). Once on board we settled down into uncomfortable, hard seats, next to a window that we immediately pulled open to try and get some air into the stuffy bus as it left the station. We hadn’t gone far before we reached a Police Checkpoint where they came on board, checked all of our passports and cast a quizzical eye over us; it was the first time in Central America that I felt aware of the drug smuggling trade and people slipping in-between countries, three more checkpoints were passed in this manner before we really got on our way. As we trundled slowly through Costa Rica I was amazed at how quickly the landscape changed, no sooner than half hour into our journey we started to see jungle, growing thicker and thicker either side of the bus, cascading up hilltops, disappearing into the hazy distance, it was a wonderful, beautiful distraction to our journey.

We made it to Costa Rica!

We made it to Costa Rica!

I was flicking through my trusted Lonely Planet – Costa Rica guide, when we realised that we hadn’t booked accommodation (bad traveller mistake) and we would be arriving in San Jose late; so guide in hand I flicked to the Hostel Section of Lonely Planet for the best place to stay in San Jose. There it was, in black and white, Hostel Pangea, the party meca of “twenty-something travellers”, sure, we didn’t want to party, but we did need a good nights sleep, it must be good if it’s the only Hostel mentioned for San Jose in Lonely Planet, right, right?! WRONG.

Upon getting to San Jose after surviving the treacherous trip, we decided to get a cab to Hostel Pangea, San Jose isn’t the nicest city to be lost in and none of us were in the mood to be wandering around questionable neighbourhoods late at night. We found a cab, upon walking over to it we were faced with the rudest man I believe I have ever met, he grabbed our bags before we could even say anything and threw them into the car; shouting at Marjan as she took her bag into the cab with her. We wanted to get to the Hostel quickly, grab some food, shower and sleep, so we went with the ridiculously rude taxi driver, the drive was only about ten minutes, for which he really overcharged us for, just before chucking our bags into the street and driving off, leaving us in the middle of a dodgy area. “Where is our hostel” we questioned? The taxi driver said it was here, we were standing in front of a bullet proof metal shutter, however every door and window along the road seemed to be made out of Cast Iron, the feeling of needing to get out of the street was paramount.

Then, suddenly a window opened in the Iron shutter behind us, “Hostel Pangea” a voice said, “yes”, we said in unison. The shutter opened with a thunk, behind it we were faced with the front of the hostel, we should have felt curious, why do they have to go through these lengths to protect the Hostel? But our tiredness has dampened any curious thoughts, Lauren and I decided that we wanted to get a private room, we were only there for a night and wanted to have some chill time. It didn’t matter that we had to pay $34 for it, we thought that it would be amazing to have our own space after sharing with the boys for a week. Well, that’s what we originally thought, until we were faced with our room, actually, cell would be a more accurate description.

Our $34 cell didn’t have a window, it only had the space for the bed and our backpacks, it was painted in a murky swamp brown colour and to top it all off it was damp and mouldy. Why would Lonely Planet suggest this place? Surely this couldn’t be the best hostel in San Jose, surely? In their defence, the (shared) showers were warm; but that’s the only good thing I can say about this hostel. Our food was ridiculously overpriced, $15 for pancakes in the morning and coffee, it was a shock from our $3 feasts up in Nicaragua. To top it all off, we felt incredibly unsafe in San Jose, as we fell asleep that night we both agreed that we were happy to be moving on in the morning, back to the coast.

Long road down Central America

Long road down Central America

Everything about San Jose wasn’t accommodating, from the taxi drivers, to the barmen, I couldn’t wait to leave the city. It didn’t take much discussion to decide that the next day Lauren and I would get an early bus out of the city. We said a final farewell to the lovely Marjan with a promise to meet in Amsterdam when we were all back (this reunion is happening next week).  So, with our goodbyes Lauren and I got a taxi to the bus station, the taxi driver however, decided to take us for a ride, take our money, and leave us at a completely wrong destination, did that seriously just happen… again?! My good mood was quickly fading… “get me out of this city!” I mumbled over to myself as I attempted to keep my good mood up. Another taxi took us to the correct station, only to find that we had missed our first (nice) bus, but there was another one heading to the coast, a Tica Bus. Wonderful. Another eight hour journey on the uncomfortable bus; as we left San Jose, I could feel my spirits lifting, we were heading away from hell, back to where my soul belongs, on the coast.

Word of advice: Don’t stay in Hostel Pangea, Try your hardest to get a decent taxi driver. Also, always, ALWAYS book ahead, it was nothing but pure stupidity that caused us to end up in the mess that we found ourselves in.

Up Next: Carribbean Coast – Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Playing on the coast.



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