|We left the sleepy village of Samara, heading north to Liberia, as this would be our resting spot before heading to the border crossing into Nicaragua. Our bus journey seemed the longest to date, as the buses were exceptionally crowded and hot. Despite the discomfort of sweat, claustrophobia, and pounds of bags atop ourselves, the bus rides have proved to be experiences in and of themselves. Women, laden with small children climb aboard to standing-room-only crowds, and simply pass their babies off to other sitting passengers- indicative of how close the communities are, and how people seem to depend on one another.
Despite how many people depend on buses as transportation, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to get a straight answer from anyone at the bus terminals as to where and when the next bus arrives. At our transition point from Nicoya to Liberia, a police officer, ticket agent and bus driver all told us three completely different answers as to where we find the bus to Liberia. Difficult to know who to trust! Furthermore, their directions are inherently: ´alla´ (over there), and nothing more. The lack of street signs everywhere we go is also a bit of an obstacle.
Liberia proved to be a decent enough city for us to get our bearings (after several hours of bus travel). Found ourselves a hostel for $5 per night (nothing glamorous about the place, but seemed to have helpful staff and a lot of good info to check out). They provided transportation to nearby Rincón de Viejo, a nearby volcano which we hiked. It was a most diverse hike, as we found ourselves trekking through desert-like terrain, and then entering lush forest, and ultimately reached a gorgeous waterfall with turquoise waters- quite lovely, and even moreso that we were able to swim a bit by ourselves before the masses arrived. The second part of our hike was scattered with sulfuric volcanitos (little volcanos) and small bubbling geysers, unlike we had ever seen. Pools of extremely hot (300 plus degrees) mud splattered, and hot pools bubbled all around us.
Perhaps our favorite attraction were the adorable pizotes, very friendly racoon-like creatures who roamed around the ranger station, stealing lunches! Photos above! Quite adorable- and we later learned from our taxi driver that they are often taken home as pets.
Covered in bug bites, (despite ample spray), a bit muddy and our heat rashes intensified, we headed back to the city with our fellow travelers, a nice couple from Toronto, and an interesting biology student-turned dentist from the states. After a pizza dinner, we walked a bit through the quiet streets near our hostel, and marveled at the intense Christmas decorations set up in several peoples´ homes. We were lucky enough to be invited inside to see one bright display- see above.
The people we have met on this two leg journey have been great. Denine and Michael, two folks from the states who have been living in a commune in southern costa rica, and Rob and Olivia, two teachers from Toronto with a serious travel bug! they seem to have been everywhere. The six of us prepare to meet at 5:00 am to catch the bus to the border. They later prove to be much needed support and companionship for our border-crossing ordeal.