Mandy and Jon's Journey 2005 travel blog

A break in the clouds revealed this in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Jon learns to ride a bike.... finally.

This is a Hammock Hotel. More comfortable than many regular hotels we´ve...

Before being inducted into the Costa Rican Army they insist you conform.

We were invited to create a mosaic at J's place. Here, Mandy...

The finished product.

Jon promised to protect Mandy, but he didn´t know there´d be crabs...

Playa Cocles in Puerto Viejo. Surfers hangout, but swimmers beware.


The persistent (yet beautiful) rain of La Fortuna and Monteverde was enough for us to begin yearning for some warmth and sunshine, and made us anxious to see the much talked about white sand beaches of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. We have become accustomed, while traveling and meeting countless other backpackers in hostels or restaurants and bars, to learning last minute updates from travelers about a destination that may quickly change the course of our 'itinerary.' Such was the case as we planned our day of bus travel to Puerto Viejo in a San Jose hostel. We were told that there had been significant and tragic flooding in the area, and that thousands of people had unfortunately been evacuated from their homes. The sunny Caribbean coast was experiencing a treacherous and rare dose of rain, that supposedly had even closed the border crossing in Puerto Viejo (into Panama). The two folks that had just come from the area informed us that it had been quite a deluge during the days they had been there, but, that it was supposed to clear up, hence encouraging us to go and experience the fun Caribbean town. After attempting for hours to get a phone connection to any hotel or establishment in the area of Puerto Viejo (not that simple just to pick up the phone and call someone in Costa Rica), in order to gather accurate weather information, we decided to just take the risk, prepare for an adventure and do it.

There is an invigorating feeling that is born from spontaneous travel such as this. Sitting on a bus with a bit of trepidation about arriving at your destination, not quite knowing what´s in store... but also knowing that whatever you are dealt, you deal with.

To our delight, we arrived to mostly sunny skies in Puerto Viejo, and also to the sweet sounds of reggae, smell of marijuana, and sights of rasta men with twenty-year-old dreds. Is this still Costa Rica? This country has amazed us with its diversity. We followed Jon´s tremendous sense of direction (seems to know exactly where we´re going in a strange town the minute we get off the bus) towards Rockin´ J´s- a hostel we had both read and heard great things about. A work still in progress, but well on its way, this crazy place, situated directly on the beach, expanded over a couple acres of land, and was covered from top to bottom in mosaics. We later learned this incredible artwork had been done by the various guests that had passed through over the past two years. There were several sleeping options which included the tenting grounds, the hammock hotel, several private rooms, or dorm beds, and even a tree house. Enticed by the $5 price and the notion of adventure, we opted to rent ourselves a couple of hammocks for the night. Mandy quickly inquired about the mosquito and bug situation during the dark hours, and was told by a fellow hammock hotel dweller that they had not been a problem. Fair enough.

Rockin J´s become our home for the next four nights. We toughed it out (if ´toughing it´is an appropriate term for sleeping in hammocks next to the carribean)for three nights in the hammock hotel... with no insect problems... just a bit of a crab problem in Mandy´s locker. Once again, Jon intrigued us with his heroisism of doing away with the beast without harming him in the slightest. Way to go.

During our one day of sun, we were able to fit in a fantastic all day bike ride, stopping to enjoy the body surfing opportunities of the carribean waters at the beaches along the way. We also managed to find Jon a ´peluqueria´(hair salon) strangely along our jungle-lined bike route, where he bravely shaved his hair... and now feels much cooler (physically and mentally).

The rain set in unfortunately upon our second day there. It was much more unfortunate of course for those pour locals who had been inundated by flooding over the past week. Banana plantations had been ruined, not to mention houses and livelihoods. For them, the rain had become a curse. We certainly made the most of the rainy days, exploring the village a bit, adding our own artistic mark to the mosaics of the place, and cooking our meals in the communal kitchen of Rockin J´s, where we were fortunate enough to run into Bobby and Kim, a fantastic couple we end traveling with for many days.

The rain was ultimately the deciding factor for leaving Puerto Viejo when we did, as we were in search of a bit of sun, but we also felt as though the chill little village offered little more to explore. The ex pats who have invaded the area have developed it quite well, with cute little restaurants, reggae bars, and souvenir shops... all a bit overpriced. We see the draw for them to settle here what with the laid back Carribean vibe, especially our expat waitress at EZ Time Pizza, who smoked a joint while waiting on her tables.

Having left our mosaic mark on Costa Rica, and happy to have met two traveling buddies, we felt more than ready to distance ourselves from Costa Rica and cross the frontier into Panama, and to an island we thought would bring us some sunshine.



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