Rich Coast (Costa Rica)

I was entering Costa Rica with mixed feelings. Equally strong as I wanted to go there due to the promise of new options for scuba diving, I wanted also to get it over with since I have heard from several travellers and also cyclists that experiencing Costa Rica can be expensive. It is a country with the highest standard in Central America and I soon found out that those stories were not made up. Some of the prices can easily be compared to European and that can be a considerable shock for a cyclist that got used to pay 1 EUR for a dinner at a street vendor in Nicaragua. Here the same amount of money can only get you a cold coke in a store and sometimes not even that.
And as if these kind of prices were not enough on its own, I wanted to go scuba diving which in itself is an expensive activity. Since I’m not really well stocked up on money I had to come up with a different approach if I wanted to dunk my head underwater. What I’m lacking in my wallet I can make up for with the excess that I have in terms of time. Having this in mind I headed up for Playas del Coco where I have visited several dive centres. A Swiss owner of Summer Salt was receptive for my proposal and so we made a deal (with the help of Alexis, a French divemaster intern). I clean up the back yard of all the leaves and branches and other stuff, help with everyday tasks at the dive centre and in exchange I will be able to go scuba diving. As an extra bonus I was able to camp behind the centre so I managed to save some money also on accommodation.
I’ve stayed for almost a week with Summer Salt and since I was a good helper I actually went diving twice. The world of silence and bubbles never seize to amaze me!
The first day back on the road in the evening I headed for Cruz Roja in Nicoya. There I was treated with a bed and an air conditioned room. After almost two weeks in a tent, sleeping in a bed is a special pleasure.
The next day I was stopped by the side of the road by a motorist, Elbert. A quick small talk and I got an invitation to his house in San Jose. Since I was not overexcited by the prospect of climbing to the city (over 1000 meters of altitude difference) he came the next day half way towards me (actually to the foothills of the climb itself) with a pick-up. Then he took me, Lou and all my luggage to his wife Norma that took care of me for almost a week. First and foremost she made sure that I was not hungry which is a demanding task when you are taking care of a cyclist. I have also received and escort for shopping in the city as well as many other little, important things. Incredible kindness and hospitality that will surely not be forgotten!
But I have received hospitality in Costa Rica also from Eddy and his parents that hosted me in Liberia in Cost Rica’s north-west. Eddy first overtook me on his bicycle but later I managed to catch up with him and stop him. I was in need of his help. Already in Nicaragua I lost my front breaks and I needed a replacement. Given the fact that it was Semana Santa when all is closed, Eddy’s help made all the difference. He first took me to his friend, a bike mechanic who has opened his shop just for me and fitted a brand new set of front breaks. Then Eddy came back for me and took me to his home for a dinner, camping in the driveway and I even was able to do a load of laundry.
Then there was also a warmshowers host Melany, her family and her brother Gerson. All of them hosted me in Punta Mala. And to make the experience even more family like, Melany and Gerson “sent” me to their parent’s home in Rio Claro. There I spent my last night in Costa Rica. The day after I was already headed for Panama, the last country in North America.
And yes, last but not least, there were again firemen. They hosted me in La Cruz, Puntarenas and Quepos. The kind of people that never fail to provide hospitality without any strings attached.

When I look back on Costa Rica I can easily say it really is a rich coast. Let’s leave aside all the overpriced goods and tourist places with an everpresent feeling that they want to squeeze the last dime out of you. The real richness is hidden on the sideroads and in the locals that haven’t been yet spoiled by tourism.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

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