Coming down the mountains…

I have no meas on money. It’s there to facilitate day-to-day living. I don’t aspire to great riches or a six-figure bank account (they’re easy enough to come by in Hungary, given the high denominations of the bank notes). But I loathe waste and while I might spend hundreds of thousands (of forints) on a rug, I balk at spending 700 on a coffee. But the older I get, the wiser I get. I’m finally beginning to realise the value of money.

View from the balcony

The room we’d booked in the Ceiba Tree Lodge was at the top of a flight of stone steps through a lovely jungle garden. But our cases were heavy and it was raining and we were only there one night. They had a lovely room in a separate house down by the car park with a private balcony and just as nice a view of Lake Arenal – for an extra $25. It didn’t take much thought. What good is money if you can’t use it to make life just a tad easier. I’m learning, lads, I’m learning.

I’ve never come to the breakfast table to find a hibiscus on my plate (SJ take note). I’ve never eaten fresh rose bananas, fresh pineapple, fresh mango, and fresh guava (don’t like) – all from the garden – accompanied by fresh eggs from chickens I could hear squawking in the distance. It was a glorious start to a day that would be a wash-out.

We settled up and headed out – destination Coco Beach via Liberia. The lake views were stunning but the day was overcast and the photos don’t do the 85 sq km expanse of water any justice. Although the largest lake in Costa Rica, it looks like a puddle on the map when compared to Lake Nicaragua next door. Still, the houses with the landscaped gardens and high gates that overlook the lake are quite something. It’s another world up there, far removed from the bananas and the pineapples. Another world entirely.

We stopped at the Lucky Bug gallery where I nearly bought a bathroom sink. I was a firm yes if it had weighed in under 5 kg. But it was more than 6. I know I’ll live to regret not tossing some of the coffee but hey… decision made. We travelled through the valleys, once again marvelling at the lush, green land and the idyllic setting. Judging by the plethora of accommodation and cafés bearing Austrian, German, and Swiss names, the area is now home to more than just a few Europeans. Perhaps that’s whom the realtors are targeting. The whole place seems like it’s up for sale.

Finding ourselves on Route 1 (by mistake – neither of us can figure out the damn GPS), we double-backed to Canás to see the Iglesia de Cañas . Artist Otto Apuy is responsible for covering the outside of the church in mosaic tiles. The nearly 30 m tall central tower is covered in more than a million pieces of ceramic tile. Quite something. But unfortunately closed. Even on Sunday.

We very nearly gave in to a primal urge to stop by the rodeo but good sense prevailed. I still don’t have a handle on crime in Costa Rica and the rental SUV has an open boot. I was loath to put temptation in anyone’s way, so we gave it a miss. Call me paranoid but I’d not seen a cop in San José or in Puerto Viejo, and since embarking on our drive back West, we’d run into armed duos on nearly every corner of the smallest of towns.

It being Sunday, we stopped in Liberia to check out the Iglesia La Ermita de la Agonia – a nineteenth-century whitewashed stone church that is the only remaining colonial church to be found in the region. The book said it would open from 2.30 to 3.30 so we had lunch while we waited. And we waited. And we waited in the company of lizards and iguanas. Amazing what runs across your path in the towns and cities of Costa Rica. But the doors remained shut. I’ve checked since then and apparently it’s been opening every day but Sunday from 8 to 4 since 2013.  The Frommer guy must have cheated on that section, as the 2017 book has it at the one hour per day. mmmm…. guide books… do the people who write them really go to all those places?

Liberia is home to the main international airport on the West Coast. And believe me, that’s about it’s only claim to fame. I was unimpressed.

We headed towards the coast, the rain clouds following in our wake. Not quite sure what to expect, what I didn’t plan on seeing was a resort town, complete with bar after bar advertising happy hours that run from 11 am to 7 pm. Thankfully, our hotel is off the main drag so quiet enough (man, have I gotten old). Not so great though is that the rainy season (May to December) has well and truly kicked in. The forecast for the week is rain, rain, and more rain. We’ve simply traded jungle rain for city rain. It remains to be seen what we can find to do to amuse ourselves.