We decided to chicken bus it across the border from Granada into Costa Rica. It was pretty straightforward and we didn't end up waiting for more than 20 minutes for our transport connections at Rivas or Penas Blancas. We decided to head out really early as we had heard horror stories of the crossing taking upto 8 hours. Fortunately we lucked out massively as just as we walked out of the Costa Rican side of customs 4 tour buses pulled up and all 200 ish of them piled into the line. We spent the 20 minutes waiting for our bus to leave watching the line going no-where and being very glad we had decided to be cheapskates, otherwise we would have been in that queue with them!

We had decided to stop in Liberia, as I really wanted to do some ziplining in the cloud forests. Unfortunately in my tired state the day before I misread the information about the proximity of Liberia to Monteverde (where the famous cloud forests are). It was not a mere 15km down the road but actually 115km. Doh. We had already arrived and checked into our hostel by this point so we couldn't just continue on to the coast. Liberia doesn't have a huge amount going for it so we hung out for the night and watched a movie. The next morning we caught a bus into the capital, San Jose, intending to get on the direct bus for Puerto Viejo in the afternoon. Very inconveniently San Jose has about 6 bus stations, depending on which direction you are heading in. We knew we had to change stations so hailed a cab to get us there. Unfortunately what we didn't realise was that there are 2 Puerto Viejo's and they depart from different stations, and naturally after spending the equivalent of the previous 4 hour bus ride on the taxi, we ended up at the wrong one. Weighing up our options we decided instead of another expensive taxi ride to the right terminal we would catch a local bus to a town called Limon, and then transfer onto Puerto Viejo from there. It was pretty straightforward, except for the fact that our good old lonely planet was out of date yet again when we arrived in Limon, sending us on a 2km walk in the stinking heat with our packs to the transfer bus station which was now literally on the other side of the block from where we arrived. Anyway, we finally made it to Puerto Viejo, arriving half an hour earlier than we would have if we had waited and caught the direct bus. We checked into what has probably been the nicest hostel we stayed in this trip and headed straight for the showers to cool off!
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Baby sloth
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monkey
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Baby sloth
Puerto Viejo is a really laid back surf town on the Carribean Coast of Costa Rica, and is one of those places, a bit like El Tunco (in El Salvador) where the days could easily run away on you. Barry and Kim, the Irish couple we met in Belize, had told us about an animal rescue centre worth visiting so we hired bikes one morning and rode down to it. Called the 'Jaguar Rescue Centre' its a bit of a misnomer cos theres not actually any Jaguars there (it was however named after one they tried to save), but the centre is a fantastic place and well worth a visit. It was started in 2004 by a European zoologist couple who had met and fallen in love in Costa Rica, eventually deciding to move their permanently  When the locals heard that there were 2 zoologists in their mix they started bringing them hurt wildlife and things moved on from there. The centre is not a zoo, but rather a rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction of wild species centre with the aim of releasing animals back into the wild.Its really cool to see the special bond that Encar, one of the owners, has with the animals. On the day we visited she was walking around with a baby sloth who had lost its mum wrapped into a pouch on her tummy. 

The centre allows you to get up close and personal with a lot of the animals, including chilling in the monkey cage. Depending on the mood of the monkeys you might get to play with them, but they must have all had a big night before we got there as they were all being super lazy and sleeping. Their 'backyard' is home to 2 and 3 toed sloths, monkeys, deer, snakes, spiders, red eye tree frogs, owls, birds of prey and toucans and we had a great couple of hours going around with our guide. Sloth's are really funny animals - they have a digestive system kind of like a cow, with different stomachs but their digestion is so slow that they need 18 hours of sleep a day, and they only go to the bathroom once a week. Ridiculously cute, but like Panda's I do have to wonder what the point of them is in the scheme of things!
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Hello mr lizard!
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Colourful little crab
The next day we decided to head to a nearby town, Cahuita, to visit one of the hundreds of national park's Costa Rica is famous for. The rainforest stretches down to the beautiful blue waters of the Carribean and the forest is full of animals. We spent a wonderful 5 hours wandering along, taking it all in. Apart from the 30 minute stretch where we were attacked by mosquito's that is! We had intended to walk the full trail of the park but didn't give ourselves enough time and when we made it out to the 'point' one of the park rangers said the rest of the route had been closed for the day. We saw lots of spider monkeys, heard a bunch of howler monkeys and got stalked by a white headed capuchin monkey, that reminded me of Ross's one in 'Friends'. We had learnt quite a bit about sloth habits at the rescue centre yesterday and spotted two big fat ones lazing away in the top branches of the trees. While sloth hunting I also spotted the biggest freaking lizard I've ever seen in my life. He must have been a good meter and a half or two meters long, very agile-y climbing through the branches at the top of the tree. I tried to get a photo of him but he was too speedy and got away before I could snap him. 

Costa Rica has surprised me. We had heard how crazy expensive it is here, but unless you do the 'tours', some of which really are extortionate, the rest of it really isn't much more than the rest of Central America. We had arrived expecting our budget to be blown way out, but we surprised ourselves by being under a couple of days. I never did get my zip lining, but rumour has it I might be able to in Ecuador or  Peru so fingers crossed.

Next stop: Bocas del Toro (Panama)
 





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