Next stop Santa Elena to find huge Strangler trees and zip wires. My fear of heights meant there was no way I'd be crossing rope bridges strung 400ms over cloud forest canopies but Chris joined forces with some friends we'd made along the way & super-manned his way through the treetops:
3 of us went on the Canopy, all admitting to perfectly reasonable cowardice in the face of potentially fatal heights should a harness or clip suddenly fail. Apart from a few admiration-based expletives I managed to keep my fears hidden within a Yorkshire stoic type persona I invented for the occasion. And this worked great on the zip wires, flying 400m above a cloud forest valley for a whole mile at high speed and through a tunnel of branches was calm, terrifying, beautiful and exhilarating all at the same time.
Once it came to the Tarzan swing, the devil's invention of a tree top experience, things changed a lot. After walking out on a thin platform, the equivalent of 8 stories above the forest floor, my Spanish lessons came into their own as I constantly repeated 'no feliz' (not happy) at the tour guides who were grinning ominously while they wielded ropes and clips that had to have been tested on people much smaller than me....
As it happened the rope caught me after the 3 seconds of free-falling to the full forced bellow of utter terror that shattered the character illusion I'd created completely. Once I had breath I screamed again - a noise that would have been audible some miles away. I swung to a halt some seconds later, suddenly aware of 30 other people staring at me. Cover blown.
Altitude means cooler temperatures of course so after a few days of having it wear a hoody at night we packed up & hit the Pacific Coast in a sleepy little town called Montezuma.
4 hostels, 6 restaurants, 2 beaches & more whisperingly precious yoga addicts talking about their chakras than you could ever need in one place! Thankfully the aura-botherers had plenty of floor space to out-worthy each other without crossing paths with the rest of us (& let's face it, sanctimonious as a 'spiritual journey' traveller can be, they're never going to kick off and cause a fight) so the whole place was rather nice.
We mainly loafed in hammocks reading, walked along beaches, hiked to a few waterfalls and marvelled at huge lizards who'd gather on our roof (tin therefore nice and hot for them to lie on) for fights! The loser gets chased off the roof and has to scarper into woods until the next day.
From Montezuma we made the tiny journey to Santa Teresa (just around the coast)- 11 km that takes about 90 mins due it appalling roads & very slow buses. Similar scenery but replace Yogis with SurfDudes. This place was so rad it hurt. Dude.
Other than being so incredibly ripped they make everyone else instantly body dismorphic, surfers are a lovely ecologically minded bunch who lend an air of relaxation to an already horizontal vibe. 4 days later we peeled ourselves out of the hammock, put on real clothes (not swimmies & flipflops) & started the two day journey to the opposite side of the country.
We'd seen more of the country's animal life along the beaches than we had in the supposedly 'nature rich' parks in the highlands and felt glad we'd resisted paying for a $50 guided tour in La Fortuna. Lizards (including some huge iguanas), anteaters, turtles,
pelicans, vultures, parakeets, monkeys and tons of hummingbirds. The only thing still unspotted is a sloth. Despite me pointing and shouting 'Sloth' now at both anteaters and dogs (it was dark) I'm reaching the conclusion we may have to visit the Sloth sanctuary to see some.
A bus/boat/bus combo and we moved to the capital San Jose.
Good points.: Sometimes you need to visit a city to recalibrate expectations and remind yourself how incredible all the non-city bits are.
Bad points: typical noisy, hectic city with glass/chrome corporate HQs next to tin shack houses. The vogue for putting rolls of barbed wire along every wall/fence/chicken wire panel is strong. So much it's visually confusing as to who's trying to keep who out of what.
A charmless but harmless fleeting visit and it's off to Puerto Viejo for a Caribbean Christmas.